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Chasing the Cup

Chasing Dover (Spring)

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

There is a reason that Dover International Speedway developed the moniker of the Monster Mile. This track is the nightmare that lies underneath some driver’s beds and waits for them to get relaxed before springing into action.

The "Big One" crash is normally associated with Talladega SuperSpeedway, but one wrong move near the head of the field on a restart on this one-mile concrete oval has the potential to completely block the course. And by “completely block the course,” we mean from the outside retaining wall to the inside—leaving no way to pass, even at a highly reduced rate of speed.

Dover is part short track, part speedway, and absolutely tough. If drivers slay the monster, like Jimmie Johnson has done 10 times, they sleep well for a week. If they are caught behind the "Big One" crash, their slumber is a little more restless.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 15 (Maximum points per race = 45)
Unique Winners in 2016: 6

Locked In

Kyle Busch (3 wins / 386 points)
Power Ranking: second
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 16.50
Charlotte: 14.67
Pocono: 16.33

When a driver is on a roll, his record on a given track is sometimes meaningless. Even with two victories under his belt and back-to-back second-place finishes, no one really expected much from Busch at Kansas Speedway. So, what did he do? He dominated the closing laps and won his first race on that track last week, leaving only Charlotte Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway remaining—and they are both coming up shortly on the schedule.

Jimmie Johnson (2 wins / 353 points)
Power Ranking: third
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 10.67
Charlotte: 20.50
Pocono: 11.33

With 10 victories to his credit at Dover and once considered the king of similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Johnson is looking forward to the next several weeks. Hendrick Motorsports has always been solid at Pocono as well, so this is a great time to place-and-hold the driver of the No. 48.  

Carl Edwards (2 wins / 367 points)
Power Ranking: seventh
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 18.00
Charlotte: 6.67
Pocono: 20.67

Edwards lost a lot of wind from his sails at Talladega. A hard accident sent him home 35th after he scored back-to-back victories on the short tracks of Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway. Last week, he almost made it back into the top 10, but settled for an 11th in the GoBowling.com 400. Dover often behaves like a short track and Edwards expects to return to the top five there.

Brad Keselowski (2 win / 300 points)
Power Ranking: eighth
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 12.33
Charlotte: 13.17
Pocono: 11.00

Keselowski has not been great this season, but the balance is in his favor. In 11 starts, he has six top-10s (55%) and seven top-15s (64%), but only three of these were top-fives. The good news is two of his top-fives were victories, so he is locked into the Chase. The bad news is that he has seldom shown enough momentum to anchor one’s roster.

Currently Eligible on Wins

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 390 points)
Power Ranking: first
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 7.83
Charlotte: 3.50
Pocono: 14.33

To succeed in NASCAR, drivers don’t always have to have the dominant car. Sometimes it is simply a matter of being better than the competition and that is how 2016 is shaping up. While four drivers have multiple wins, it is ever more unlikely each passing week that anyone with a victory will get locked out of the Chase. One sure way to make certain one gets into the Chase is to lead the points.

Denny Hamlin (1 win / 273 points)
Power Ranking: 11th
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 18.33
Charlotte: 9.33
Pocono: 16.00

Hamlin remains the lowest driver in the standings with a victory and that could yet be significant. If the Chase were to start today, he would leap over seven drivers and be slightly more assured of getting to the second round of the playoffs. This team needs to develop consistency before they are fantasy relevant. There are several flat track races in the next couple of months and that should help.

Currently Eligible on Points
Joey Logano (0 wins / 320 points)
Power Ranking: fourth
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 7.17
Charlotte: 8.83
Pocono: 14.00

It often happens this way. Logano’s crash at Talladega snapped a 62-race streak of events in which Logano was on track at the checkers. Now he has crashed out of back-to-back races and coupled with a relatively modest first nine attempts this season, it is difficult to justify starting him on almost any track. Last year while he challenged for the Cup, he was strong everywhere, but the downside of that is his historical records have been rendered almost meaningless.

Martin Truex Jr. (0 wins / 303 points)
Power Ranking: fifth
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 13.83
Charlotte: 13.00
Pocono: 16.50

Frustration can be a harsh intangible. Truex has dominated two races this year only to see the victory evaporate because of mistakes or bad luck. The good news is the next three weeks are all centered around his traditional home state of New Jersey or his adopted home in Charlotte. Drivers often improve in front of the hometown crowd.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 269 points)
Power Ranking: sixth
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 16.83
Charlotte: 14.33
Pocono: 19.50

Kenseth has been strong enough all season to place him sixth in the Fantasy Power Rankings—which is a formula that calculates strength-based factors like average running position, laps among the leaders, speed in traffic, and finishing results along with several other categories. Bad things keep happening to the No. 78 at the end of the race, however, and Kenseth is clinging to the top 16 precariously. If any driver needs a win, it is the man behind the wheel of the No. 20.

Kurt Busch (0 wins / 350 points)
Power Ranking: ninth
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 19.50
Charlotte: 13.83
Pocono: 11.33

Busch is saying the right things about the importance of running well even when Victory Lane is elusive, but behind those well-rehearsed words, frustration is starting to mount. Busch is the second-best driver in one of the top-tiered teams, but he wants to outperform the field. To do that, he is going to have to run faster than teammate Harvick and that is no small feat.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 303 points)
Power Ranking: 10th
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: NA
Charlotte: 18.00
Pocono: NA

For the third time this season, Elliott enters a weekend with back-to-back top-10s to his credit. So far he has failed to add a third consecutive such finish and Dover is a tough track on which to run well in one’s inaugural start. If anyone can do that, however, it is this fast freshman and he has a great set of notes from which to work. The former driver of the No. 24 made a career on this course as did Elliott’s father, Bill.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (0 wins / 305 points)
Power Ranking: 12th
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 9.17
Charlotte: 20.67
Pocono: 4.17

Earnhardt is coming up on a part of the schedule that has historically been kind. He has a better-than 10th-place average at both Dover and Pocono, the organization has a ton of success on those courses, and Earnhardt is high enough in the standings so that staying in the top 16 is not a concern. This team can gamble a little and the odds are good they will win before the summer gets fully underway.

Austin Dillon (0 wins / 307 points)
Power Ranking: 13th
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 25.40
Charlotte: 13.00
Pocono: 16.00

Dillon seems to have bounced back after four disappointing results in five races from Auto Club Speedway through Richmond. The only problem is one of his solid performances came at Talladega and is not predictive in any way of how a driver will run elsewhere. Last week’s sixth at Kansas was a step in the right direction, but until a racer strings three or four strong runs together, it is difficult to roll the dice on them.

Ryan Blaney (0 wins / 255 points)
Power Ranking: 14th
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: NA
Charlotte: 28.00
Pocono: NA

Blaney climbed back into the top 16 in points on the heels of strong runs in back-to-back races. A ninth in Talladega and fifth at Kansas increases the focus on this team, but fantasy owners need to be aware that the five races preceding this mini-streak ended with only one top-15. They are racing on a razor’s edge. Blaney is a great pick when he fits the final slot on one’s roster, but he cannot be selected before he is evaluated in practice and qualification.

AJ Allmendinger (0 wins / 265 points)
Power Ranking: 18th
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 24.60
Charlotte: 20.00
Pocono: 27.67

It is often difficult to know which Allmendinger is going to show up on a given week. When he is filled with confidence, he challenges for the lead. When the car is not performing to his standards, the ‘Dinger seems to get easily frustrated and that often costs a couple of positions on the track. No matter which track is next on the schedule, Allmendinger is an unknown proposition.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 265 points)
Power Ranking: 21st
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Dover: 15.00
Charlotte: 12.83
Pocono: 11.33

The points from 13th through 20th remain so tight that small successes can mean an advancement of a spot or two. That also means that slight mistakes can hurt a driver and the Chip Ganassi Racers have been far from perfect in 2016. McMurray has a little cushion in the points, but he will need to lead laps, gain place-differential points, and record some fastest laps in order to become a better fantasy value. 

 

Three-Year Average Finish, Next Three Tracks

Power
Ranking

Top
16

Driver

Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Dover

Charlotte

Pocono

Locked In

2.

2

Kyle Busch

3

6.01

|

16.50

14.67

16.33

3.

4

Jimmie Johnson

2

7.92

|

10.67

20.50

11.33

7.

3

Carl Edwards

2

10.60

|

18.00

6.67

20.67

8.

6

Brad Keselowski

2

10.82

|

12.33

13.17

11.00

Eligible on Wins

1.

1

Kevin Harvick

1

5.21

|

7.83

3.50

14.33

11.

13

Denny Hamlin

1

12.70

|

18.33

9.33

16.00

Eligible on Points

4.

7

Joey Logano

 

9.10

|

7.17

8.83

14.00

5.

10

Martin Truex Jr.

 

9.43

|

13.83

13.00

16.50

6.

14

Matt Kenseth

 

10.19

|

16.83

14.33

19.50

9.

5

Kurt Busch

 

11.52

|

19.50

13.83

11.33

10.

11

Chase Elliott

 

12.46

|

NA

18.00

NA

12.

9

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

13.92

|

9.17

20.67

4.17

13.

8

Austin Dillon

 

14.90

|

25.40

13.00

16.00

14.

16

Ryan Blaney

 

15.49

|

NA

28.00

NA

18.

15

AJ Allmendinger

 

20.52

|

24.60

20.00

27.67

21.

12

Jamie McMurray

 

20.90

|

15.00

12.83

11.33

Drivers Outside the Top-16 in Points

15.

 

Kasey Kahne

 

17.74

|

14.17

13.83

24.17

16.

 

Brian Vickers

 

18.91

|

NA

NA

NA

17.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

19.03

|

22.50

21.17

29.33

19.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

20.66

|

37.00

25.80

32.00

20.

 

Kyle Larson

 

20.86

|

7.25

21.40

9.00

22.

 

Tony Stewart

 

21.00

|

12.80

17.60

15.33

23.

 

Ryan Newman

 

21.49

|

20.00

9.50

14.33

24.

 

Ty Dillon

 

22.89

|

NA

NA

18.00

25.

 

Aric Almirola

 

23.10

|

15.00

19.33

26.50

26.

 

Paul Menard

 

23.70

|

16.17

22.83

27.17

27.

 

David Gilliland

 

23.78

|

30.67

30.67

28.00

28.

 

Greg Biffle

 

24.92

|

18.83

18.67

8.33

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

26.17

|

22.83

25.83

30.67

30.

 

Michael Waltrip

 

26.54

|

NA

NA

NA

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

27.22

|

33.67

31.83

30.00

32.

 

Bobby Labonte

 

29.46

|

NA

NA

NA

33.

 

Regan Smith

 

29.70

|

NA

17.00

NA

34.

 

Michael McDowell

 

29.97

|

42.50

33.67

40.00

35.

 

Casey Mears

 

29.97

|

23.83

25.00

20.83

36.

 

Clint Bowyer

 

30.15

|

8.67

18.33

12.33

37.

 

David Ragan

 

30.42

|

24.83

33.00

22.50

38.

 

Brian Scott

 

30.53

|

38.00

29.50

NA

39.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

31.96

|

33.00

31.50

30.50

40.

 

Chris Buescher

 

32.54

|

NA

NA

NA

41.

 

Cole Whitt

 

34.88

|

27.60

31.00

26.50

42.

 

Michael Annett

 

35.49

|

38.50

29.50

25.50

43.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

37.63

|

NA

NA

NA

44.

 

Joey Gase

 

37.81

|

NA

NA

NA

45.

 

Robert Richardson Jr.

 

38.17

|

NA

NA

NA

46.

 

Josh Wise

 

38.22

|

35.50

38.00

32.60

47.

 

Ryan Ellis

 

38.33

|

NA

NA

NA

48.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

39.42

|

32.50

34.67

31.67

 

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.