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Chasing the Cup

Chasing the All-star Race

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

NASCAR is unique among all major sports. It kicks off its season with a version of the Super Bowl and places the all-star race early on the schedule. This annual event opens a week of activity that culminates in arguably the second biggest race on NASCAR’s calendar, and if the Coke 600 does not command that respect, it has always been at least one of the triple jewels of the sport.

In many ways, the NASCAR Cup series hosts an all-star race every week since the biggest names in the sport regularly battle. To make it to the top level, even the less-familiar names earned their rides by dominating lesser divisions, so the sanctioning body needs to find other ways to make this event special. One way is the shear unpredictable excitement of putting $1 million dollars up for grab and taking away any incentive to race conservatively by not awarding season-long points.

The tactic works well and provides one of the wildest events of the season. It also shows fantasy owners a different side to most drivers as hidden aggression bubbles to the surface.

Matt Kenseth
Starts: 14
Career Wins: 1 (7%)
Career Top-5s: 6 (43%)
Career Top-10s: 11 (78%)
5-Yr. Average: 5.80

One would not assume that Kenseth would be as successful as he has been in an adrenalin-packed race like the all-star event, but he has been close to perfect in regard to top-10s during his career. He enters the weekend with an eight-race streak of results ninth or better and scored thirds in two of his last three starts.

Jimmie Johnson
Starts: 13
Career Wins: 4 (31%)
Career Top-5s: 8 (62%)
Career Top-10s: 9 (69%)
5-Yr. Average: 6.40

Johnson won two of the last three all-star races to bring his total to four, but he has not always been infallible. He finished outside the top 10 in the three events previous, which is not very productive in a field of 20 cars. Johnson’s prowess on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks was proved once again last week with a victory in the SpongeBob 400, however. 

Kevin Harvick
Starts: 14
Career Wins: 1 (7%)
Career Top-5s: 3 (21%)
Career Top-10s: 8 (57%)
5-Yr. Average: 6.80

In his last four starts with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick hovered around the top-10 mark, but he failed to crack the top five. His latest result in that range was a victory in 2007, which came on the heels of a second the previous year. His move to Stewart-Haas Racing improved his efforts everywhere, including in the all-star race. He finished second last year.

Kurt Busch
Starts: 13
Career Wins: 1 (8%)
Career Top-5s: 5 (38%)
Career Top-10s: 7 (54%)
5-Yr. Average: 7.60

In an up and down career, Busch’s 13 all-star starts have come with five different owners and he has had a degree of success with nearly all. His top-fives were earned with Jack Roush, Roger Penske, and Barney Visser, but last year he could only manage to finish 11th with Stewart-Haas. He has been much better in 2015, however, and should contend for the win as long as he stays out of trouble.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Starts: 15
Career Wins: 1 (6%)
Career Top-5s: 5 (33%)
Career Top-10s: 12 (80%)
5-Yr. Average: 8.40

Junior got off to a great start in the all-star event; he won his first race in 2000 when this was called The Winston. He finished second two years later, but scored only one more top-five until 2012. He’s been on top of his game again since then with a fifth that season, a fourth last year, and a worst of seventh in his last three starts.

Kyle Busch
Starts: 9
Career Wins: 0
Career Top-5s: 3 (33%)
Career Top-10s: 4 (44%)
5-Yr. Average: 8.80

Busch finished 20th or worse in three of his first four all-star races. Often this came as the result of crash damage and trying too hard, but he reversed his trend in 2011 through 2013 with a string of top-five finishes. NASCAR is fickle and last year he crashed on lap 25 to finish deep in the order with a 21st.

Joey Logano
Starts: 4
Career Wins: 0
Career Top-5s: 2 (50%)
Career Top-10s: 3 (75%)
5-Yr. Average: 9.00

Logano was perfect entering last year’s all-star race with a worst finish of eighth in three starts. His latest two efforts ended in a third and second, but that did not protect him from the same accident that claimed Kyle Busch. Logano’s 22nd in that event spoils his average, but young drivers tend to have very selective memories and this will not slow him down.

Denny Hamlin
Starts: 8
Career Wins: 0
Career Top-5s: 2 (25%)
Career Top-10s: 5 (63%)
5-Yr. Average: 9.20

Hamlin did not have much luck at the start of his career in his first two all-star starts. He crashed in 2007 and blew an engine the next year. Since then he has swept the top-10 in all but one start. This should make him a favorite this week, but he has been unpredictable all season and that could make him risky in special fantasy games.

Tony Stewart
Starts: 16
Career Wins: 1 (6%)
Career Top-5s: 8 (50%)
Career Top-10s: 9 (56%)
5-Yr. Average: 10.40

Stewart’s all-star win came back in 2009 in his first attempt as an owner-driver. It was the middle event of a five-race, top-five streak. His last three efforts have not been nearly as good. Stewart is slipping down the grid with a best finish of only 12th since 2011 and should be overlooked this week.

Jamie McMurray
Starts: 8
Career Wins: 1 (13%)
Career Top-5s: 1 (13%)
Career Top-10s: 3 (38%)
5-Yr. Average: 11.00

McMurray got his first all-star win last year and it ended a string of disappointments. His best prior effort was an eighth in 2013, but nearly all of his results have been in the back half of the field. Three of his efforts have been marred by crash damage and it is difficult to get any momentum that way. 

Brad Keselowski
Starts: 6
Career Wins: 0
Career Top-5s: 1 (17%)
Career Top-10s: 3 (50%)
5-Yr. Average: 11.80

Keselowski’s all-star race results resemble a picket fence. He crossed under the checkers 17th-seventh-18th-second-22nd-and 10th in alternating events and if the pattern holds he is due to score another disappointing result. Superstitious fans will want to respect that and leave him in the garage for any special all-star contests this week.

Carl Edwards
Starts: 9
Career Wins: 1 (11%)
Career Top-5s: 4 (44%)
Career Top-10s: 6 (66%)
5-Yr. Average: 12.00

It does not take a lot to ruin a five-year average. For Edwards, the stat-busters came in the form of a blown engine in 2012 and an accident in 2010. His last two efforts ended in the top 10, but he has admittedly been trying too hard this year, and that is a great way to get into trouble in this exhibition race. Players should not be surprised by a sub-15th-place result.

Ryan Newman
Starts: 13
Career Wins: 1 (8%)
Career Top-5s: 3 (23%)
Career Top-10s: 7 (54%)
5-Yr. Average: 12.00

Like Earnhardt, Newman got off to a great start in the all-star race with a win in his first attempt. He finished second two years later and fifth two years after that, but he has failed to crack the top five another time in his last eight attempts. Last year was one of his worst efforts with a crash-induced 16th.

Kasey Kahne
Starts: 11
Career Wins: 1 (9%)
Career Top-5s: 2 (18%)
Career Top-10s: 4 (36%
5-Yr. Average: 12.60

Winning the all-star race is a crowning achievement for most drivers. Kahne scored his victory behind the wheel of the No. 9 back in 2008 while this team pinballed through owners. He struggled for a few year after that until he found stability once more in Rick Hendrick’s No. 5. Only one of his last six races ended in a top-five, however, and that makes him a questionable value.

Jeff Gordon
Starts: 21
Career Wins: 3 (14%)
Career Top-5s: 6 (29)
Career Top-10s: 9 (43%)
5-Yr. Average: 15.40

To say that the all-star race has not been kind to Gordon would be a major understatement. He has finished in the back half of the field in the last 11 consecutive races with three DNFs for accidents tossed in for good measure. In his last fulltime season anything could happen this week, so he cannot be discounted, but he should be watched from a distance.

AJ Allmendinger
Starts: 3
Career Wins: 0
Career Top-5s: 0
Career Top-10s: 0
5-Yr. Average: 15.50

Allmendinger has made only sporadic starts in the all-star event is still looking for his first top-10. This is the first time he qualified based on a Cup victory, however, and that could make all the difference in the world. 

Aric Almirola
Starts: 0

Like Allmendinger, Almirola qualified for the 2015 all-star race with a victory last year. He has a much better chance of finishing in the top 10 though because he has hovered just outside that mark in nearly every race this year among a field of 43. This weekend, he needs to finish ahead of only 10 drivers to get his first single-digit result of the season. 

 

Five-Year Average Finish

Rank

Driver

Avg. Fin

Attempts

1.

Matt Kenseth

5.80

5

2.

Jimmie Johnson

6.40

5

3.

Kevin Harvick

6.80

5

4.

Kurt Busch

7.60

5

5.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

8.40

5

6.

Kyle Busch

8.80

5

7.

Joey Logano

9.00

3

8.

Denny Hamlin

9.20

5

9.

Tony Stewart

10.40

5

10.

Jamie McMurray

11.00

4

11.

Brad Keselowski

11.80

5

12.

Carl Edwards

12.00

5

13.

Ryan Newman

12.00

5

14.

Kasey Kahne

12.60

5

15.

Jeff Gordon

15.40

5

16.

AJ Allmendinger

15.50

2

Others Without a Guaranteed Start

 

Martin Truex Jr.

10.00

2

 

Clint Bowyer

13.75

4

 

Greg Biffle

14.00

5

 

David Ragan

14.50

4

 

Trevor Bayne

15.00

1

 

Josh Wise

15.00

1

 

Casey Mears

16.00

1

 

Paul Menard

16.00

1

 

Regan Smith

16.00

2

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16.00

1

 

Danica Patrick

20.00

1

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.