Loading scores...
Chasing the Cup

Chasing Bristol (Spring)

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

At the best of times, short tracks feature a lot of dark horses. Five of the top-10 drivers two weeks ago in the STP 500 failed to finish that well in either the Auto Club 400 or Duck Commander 500 that bookended Martinsville Speedway. The tiny track was so disruptive to drivers’ momentum, that only two racers enter the weekend with three consecutive top-10s and only one—Carl Edwards—has a streak that is longer.

Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott finished poorly at Martinsville, but their sub-10th-place results are surrounded by strong runs on the unrestricted, intermediate speedways.

Those stats are important because Bristol Motor Speedway has the same potential to disrupt the points’ standings and stall drivers before a critical period leading up to the All-star break.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 19 (Maximum points per race = 45)
Unique Winners in 2016: 5

Locked In

Kyle Busch (2 wins / 259 points)
Power Ranking: first
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 17.20
Richmond: 12.40
Talladega: 21.00

Busch went from being eligible on points only to locking in with a victory in two weeks. He swept Victory Lane in back-to-back weekends at Martinsville and Texas Motor Speedway, which gives him a ton of confidence and momentum heading into the Food City 500. Unfortunately, Bristol will not care a fig for his confidence if it decides to slap the No. 18 and overdriving this bullring is a big no-no.

Jimmie Johnson (2 wins / 253 points)
Power Ranking: third
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 14.50
Richmond: 17.33
Talladega: 14.17

Johnson should have been the dominant driver in each of the past two weekends. He finished well enough at Martinsville and Texas, but he still looked a little anemic. His fourth-place result in the Duck Commander 500 came after three other drivers dominated greater than the No. 48 and his ninth-place result on the short track was almost like a 30-something finish to any other driver.

Currently Eligible on Wins

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 252 points)
Power Ranking: second
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 23.00
Richmond: 7.33
Talladega: 15.17

Harvick has run better than his finishes show in the past two weeks and that contributes to a strong Fantasy Power Ranking, which is a combination of about 10 strength-based statistics that was created by this writer many years ago. Unfortunately, while this is a good indication of who is going to run well, it does not always point to a maximum payout unless a driver can lead laps and post fastest circuits. Harvick is solid by all measures, but he has not yet obtained the designation of a “must-have” racer.

Denny Hamlin (1 win / 201 points)
Power Ranking: eighth
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 21.00
Richmond: 18.40
Talladega: 22.83

Hamlin had a great opportunity to get a second 2016 victory at Martinsville, but a rare mistake by him on the short, flat track cost him and his fantasy owners a ton of points. He has not been quite as strong at Bristol with only one top-five in his past six attempts, but that was a third last fall. Better still, Richmond is one of his most productive tracks during his career, so he could lock into the Chase shortly.

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 201 points)
Power Ranking: 12th
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 15.00
Richmond: 13.33
Talladega: 18.17

If Keselowski does not pick up the pace soon, he will be one of the drivers very happy with NASCAR’s new format that practically guarantees a Chase berth to winning drivers. He currently sits ninth in the standings and is in no real danger of falling out of the top 16, but his Fantasy Power Ranking of 12th tells a different story. He has not spent much time with the leaders this year and that is causing him to fly under the radar.

Currently Eligible on Points

Joey Logano (0 wins / 234 points)
Power Ranking: fourth
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 14.00
Richmond: 6.67
Talladega: 21.33

Logano has been frustrating to handicap in 2016. In seven races this year, he has earned three top-fives and a sixth. His best opportunity to win came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an event taken by teammate Keselowski. Without that victory, his three results outside the top 10 loom large. Logano’s value is largely impacted by a lack of consistency.

Martin Truex Jr. (0 wins / 187 points)
Power Ranking: fifth
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 26.67
Richmond: 16.83
Talladega: 11.83

This single-car team needs the luxury of a victory more than the multi-car operations. Not only do they lack the physical resources to take advantage of a deep pool of personnel, but they also need the added boost of confidence that a win will provide. Short of that, the poise provided by last week’s dominant performance should give them added speed in the next couple of unrestricted, intermediate speedway races. Unfortunately, the series visits two short tracks and restrictor-plate, superspeedway before Kansas Speedway.

Carl Edwards (0 wins / 241 points)
Power Ranking: sixth
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 16.00
Richmond: 11.33
Talladega: 18.00

Edwards finally seems confident at Joe Gibbs Racing. While Busch has been dominant recently, Hamlin has been erratic, and Matt Kenseth has been unlucky, Edwards keeps clicking off top-seven results. He’s failed to finish that well only one time at Vegas. In his last two attempts, however, he has needed a “Free Pass” to  get back on the lead lap and the No. 19 team runs the risk of going to the well once too often.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 171 points)
Power Ranking: seventh
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 15.83
Richmond: 11.17
Talladega: 19.67

With only one top-10 to his credit in 2016, Kenseth is not nearly as compelling as he was at the start of 2015. Last week, he narrowly missed adding another top-10 to his total and his 11th-place result was the fourth top-15 in seven races this season. He is not a great value unless he is rightly-priced in most fantasy games. Fantasy owners looking for a bargain will almost certainly need to look elsewhere.

Austin Dillon (0 wins / 198 points)
Power Ranking: ninth
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 15.50
Richmond: 25.25
Talladega: 20.60

Dillon faced a big test at Martinsville and he passed with high marks. After getting into an accident last week in the Duck Commander 500, he faces another exam and each time he has to overcome a setback it gets a little more difficult. Moreover, Bristol is not the place a driver wants to come in need of a solid run because so much can happen in its tight confines. A slightly smaller field will help him stay out of trouble, but it is no guarantee of a top-10 result.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (0 wins / 211 points)
Power Ranking: 10th
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 17.33
Richmond: 10.17
Talladega: 13.17

In the era of "Big One" crashes and NASCAR parity, not many drivers look forward to coming to Talladega. Earnhardt is one of the exceptions to that rule and he thinks he can win any time the series rolls onto a restrictor-plate, superspeedway. There is ample reasoning behind that thought-process and if he can make it through the next two weeks with top-10 finishes, he could be a place-and-hold contender all the way to the Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 168 points)
Power Ranking: 11th
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: NA
Richmond: 16.00
Talladega: NA

Elliott improved in both the points and his Fantasy Power Ranking after a solid Texas run. His challenge is going to be finishing within at least a lap of the leaders on the Bristol bullring. That will keep him high enough in the points that Richmond International Raceway and Kansas will elevate him into the top 10 in the standings and give him some breathing room in regard to the Chase.

Kurt Busch (0 wins / 208 points)
Power Ranking: 13th
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 17.33
Richmond: 9.50
Talladega: 18.33

There are tracks one does not want to visit when they absolutely need a strong finish. Bristol is one of these, but if a racer can come to the course in a relaxed state of mind this place can be magical. That has been the case for both Busch brothers at Bristol and they share the top of the leaderboard with five wins each. The odds are good one of them will take sole possession of first this week.

Kasey Kahne (0 wins / 161 points)
Power Ranking: 16th
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 16.50
Richmond: 15.00
Talladega: 25.17

Kahne is quietly making his way into the top 16 in points. He advanced two positions last week on the strength of an eighth-place result in the Duck Commander 500. He does not want to end the regular season this year as the only Hendrick Motorsports racer to miss the Chase like he did in 2015, but he is going to need top-10s in more than 30 percent of his starts if that is going to be the case.  

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 171 points)
Power Ranking: 18
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 16.67
Richmond: 10.67
Talladega: 23.00

McMurray’s points’ position is five spots better than his Fantasy Power Ranking, which means that he has finished better than he ran with quite a bit of consistency this year. While players get points mostly for the raw results of their racers, this is an encouraging stat nonetheless because it suggests the Missouri native is poised to break out of his funk. McMurray is capable of stringing top-15s together and when that happens, he is going to be a great sleeper for a while.

AJ Allmendinger (0 wins / 166 points)
Power Ranking: 19th
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Bristol: 22.40
Richmond: 15.83
Talladega: 20.25

We are actually quite surprised that Allmendinger is still in Chase contention. He is 15th in the standings, but much more likely to fall out of the top 16 in points before the regular season is over than 16th-place Kahne or any of the drivers ahead of him. Texas was diametrically opposite of his Martinsville effort, however, and if he can dig deep one more time on this short track, he should be able cling to fantasy relevance for another week or two. 

 

Three-Year Average Finish, Next Three Tracks

Power
Rankings

Top
16

Driver

Wins

Power Avg.

|

Bristol

Richmond

Talladega

Locked In

1.

1

Kyle Busch

2

5.09

|

17.20

12.40

21.00

3.

2

Jimmie Johnson

2

5.98

|

14.50

17.33

14.17

Eligible on Wins

2.

3

Kevin Harvick

1

5.15

|

23.00

7.33

15.17

8.

8

Denny Hamlin

1

12.04

|

21.00

18.40

22.83

12.

9

Brad Keselowski

1

12.80

|

15.00

13.33

18.17

Eligible on Points

4.

5

Joey Logano

 

7.40

|

14.00

6.67

21.33

5.

11

Martin Truex Jr.

 

9.24

|

26.67

16.83

11.83

6.

4

Carl Edwards

 

9.93

|

16.00

11.33

18.00

7.

12

Matt Kenseth

 

11.02

|

15.83

11.17

19.67

9.

10

Austin Dillon

 

12.09

|

15.50

25.25

20.60

10.

6

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

12.11

|

17.33

10.17

13.17

11.

14

Chase Elliott

 

12.60

|

NA

16.00

NA

13.

7

Kurt Busch

 

15.23

|

17.33

9.50

18.33

16.

16

Kasey Kahne

 

18.89

|

16.50

15.00

25.17

18.

13

Jamie McMurray

 

20.37

|

16.67

10.67

23.00

19.

15

AJ Allmendinger

 

20.46

|

22.40

15.83

20.25

Drivers Outside the Top-16 in Points

14.

 

Ryan Blaney

 

15.68

|

22.00

 

23.00

15.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

18.58

|

11.17

22.33

17.50

17.

 

Brian Vickers

 

18.91

|

10.50

21.00

12.00

20.

 

Ryan Newman

 

20.70

|

12.00

11.00

13.83

21.

 

Kyle Larson

 

21.23

|

17.50

12.75

23.00

22.

 

Paul Menard

 

21.93

|

13.33

16.83

13.50

23.

 

Aric Almirola

 

22.20

|

21.00

13.17

19.17

24.

 

Ty Dillon

 

22.21

|

     

25.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

23.45

|

21.50

23.50

33.50

26.

 

Greg Biffle

 

25.91

|

16.17

22.33

21.83

27.

 

Danica Patrick

 

27.05

|

22.50

25.50

25.83

28.

 

Landon Cassill

 

27.38

|

31.50

29.17

24.50

29.

 

Regan Smith

 

29.10

|

   

6.00

30.

 

Michael Waltrip

 

29.17

|

     

31.

 

David Ragan

 

29.95

|

28.00

25.33

23.33

32.

 

Michael McDowell

 

30.08

|

31.83

42.00

30.83

33.

 

Casey Mears

 

30.18

|

26.67

26.17

22.33

34.

 

Brian Scott

 

30.63

|

 

22.00

42.50

35.

 

Clint Bowyer

 

32.48

|

11.33

15.33

12.00

36.

 

Chris Buescher

 

32.67

|

25.00

 

24.00

37.

 

Bobby Labonte

 

32.83

|

     

37.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

33.07

|

27.00

36.50

29.00

39.

 

Michael Annett

 

33.88

|

32.50

36.50

31.75

40.

 

Cole Whitt

 

34.84

|

31.50

36.25

20.40

41.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

37.27

|

 

40.00

 

42.

 

Joey Gase

 

37.43

|

 

43.00

 

43.

 

Robert Richardson Jr.

 

38.17

|

     

44.

 

Josh Wise

 

38.89

|

31.50

37.67

22.67

45.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

39.38

|

32.67

36.60

24.00

 

A note about the three-year stats: The three-year average finish is a script that looks at the last 1,116 days—to provide for minor changes in the schedule. Since some races shift dates more than a week or two, the past three-years sometimes occasionally contain five races instead of six. It is a consistent snapshot, however.

A note about the Power Average: The Fantasy Power Rankings formula includes finishing results this season as well as various “strength-based” intangibles such as Laps in the top five, 10, and 15, average running position, speed in traffic, and quality passes (passing a car while in the top 15) expressed as if they were finishing results. The lower the number, the stronger the driver.

 

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.