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Chasing the Cup

Chasing Martinsville (Fall)

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

Everyone was geared up for a "Big One" crash at Talladega SuperSpeedway. It never came. Greg Biffle, Casey Mears, and Jeffrey Earnhardt wrecked in the middle of the pack but did not collect any other drivers. Still, the restrictor-plate, superspeedway exerted a measure of authority.

Two of the Chase contenders who failed to do so, entered the Hellmann's 500 with a legitimate opportunity to advance to the next round. One of them was already below the cutline, but Martin Truex Jr.’s blown engine opened up one more slot in the round of eight and the driver who benefited may yet get all the way to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance for the Cup.

It bears noting that last week we successfully predicted three of the drivers who failed to advance to round three.

Projected to make the Finals

Jimmie Johnson (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 15.83
Texas: 5.50
Phoenix: 12.50
Chase wins: Charlotte (round 2)

Johnson said he would try and help Chase Elliott win last week’s Hellmann's 500 and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity. The two were ineffective and it cost Johnson a shot at a top-10. Now all of the collective resources at Hendrick Motorsports will go toward finally getting Johnson his seventh Championship and that is not an inconsiderable benefit.

Joey Logano (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 12.33
Texas: 10.50
Phoenix: 8.00
Chase Wins: Talladega (round 2)

Logano did not need to win at Talladega in order to advance. He was on the bubble before the race and simply needed to finish ahead of Austin Dillon without losing ground to another driver. His winning changes his handicap, however; it came as the result of confidence and built even more self-assurance entering a stage of the season that gave him so much trouble last year.

Kyle Busch (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 9.20
Texas: 5.00
Phoenix: 8.00

Busch did not to change his handicap last week, but his success may just rely on the fate of the other Joe Gibbs Racers. Our best guess is that two of them will advance all the way to the final round—but which two is going to be a mystery until Phoenix International Raceway is in the rear view mirror.

Denny Hamlin (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 12.83
Texas: 15.17
Phoenix: 14.33

Hamlin was not projected to advance to the third round and he almost proved that prediction correct. He finished ahead of Kurt Busch by a bumper, which tied him in points with Dillon and gave him the tiebreaker. Now that he is safely in a round with two short, flat track races, it’s a fair bet he is going to Homestead with a shot at the Championship.

Projected to Fail to Advance to Final Round

Matt Kenseth (4,000 points /)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 11.83
Texas: 14.00
Phoenix: 12.20

Only four drivers will advance to the final round of the Chase and now that Hamlin is fully back in the mix, that impacts Kenseth’s odds. It is also not entirely out of the question that a run-in is brewing between the No. 20 and 2 cars. NASCAR drivers have long memories and Keselowski has nothing to lose by retaliating against last year’s retaliation against his teammate at Martinsville.

Kevin Harvick (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 13.17
Texas: 11.17
Phoenix: 1.17
Chase wins: New Hampshire (round 1), Kansas (round 2)

We will admit this prediction could just be cussed stubbornness, but Harvick continues to play with fire every round. He won New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway to insure his advancement. He is the closest thing to a surety at Phoenix as one is likely to find—but eventually he is going to dig a hole from which the team cannot climb.

Carl Edwards (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 13.67
Texas: 13.67
Phoenix: 11.83

One still gets the sense that Edwards is living on borrowed time. He has only two top-10s in the first six Chase races and it will take at least that many in the coming three races to advance. In fact, all four title contenders at Homestead will probably have to sweep that mark in their next three races and it does not seem that Edwards has that capability at the moment.

Kurt Busch (4,000 points)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Martinsville: 19.33
Texas: 15.67
Phoenix: 11.50

Busch is flying under the radar and that is a good thing for fantasy owners who want to catch their competition napping. He has gotten this far in the Chase with a sweep of the top 15 and an average finish of 9.7. If he continues to hover around the cusp and one or two of the favorites have trouble, he will be part of the storyline in week 36.

Eliminated

Martin Truex Jr.
It only takes a single misstep to get dropped out of the Chase. Truex was one of the favorites to go all the way until his engine blew at Talladega.

Austin Dillon
It bears noting that last week’s Chasing the Cup article successfully predicted three of four drivers that failed to make the third round. Dillon lived up to expectations.

Kyle Larson
Larson had a solid run at Talladega and is capable of running the table in the coming weeks with a sweep of the top 10.

Chase Elliott
Elliott was simply in too deep a hole at Talladega. He was forced to go for broke and came up well short of winning the Hellmann's 500.

Brad Keselowski
Keselowski wants to remind you that the next time a hamburger wrapper slips from your hand at a racetrack, it could wind up on the nose of your favorite driver’s car.

Tony Stewart
Stewart’s average finish in the second round of the Chase was 19th compared to 17.3 in the first round. Either way, he was not advancing to the third.

Jamie McMurray
McMurray faded from memory pretty quickly on the heels of a 40th and 37th in two of his last four starts.

Chris Buescher
Buescher remains a decent value by his standards with four consecutive results of 16th to 23rd in the most recent outings.

 

Three-Year Average Finishes

Driver

Avg. Fin
Chase
So Far

Avg. Fin
All Chase
Tracks

Martinsville

Texas

Phoenix

|

Homestead

Projected Final Four

Jimmie Johnson

9.17

10.95

15.83

5.50

12.50

|

9.00

Joey Logano

9.83

10.14

12.33

10.50

8.00

|

9.33

Kyle Busch

9.00

9.78

9.20

5.00

11.60

|

15.67

Denny Hamlin

13.00

12.95

12.83

15.17

14.33

|

6.00

Projected to Fail to Advance to the Final Round

Matt Kenseth

9.17

11.42

11.83

14.00

12.20

|

5.00

Kevin Harvick

17.33

7.90

13.17

11.17

1.17

|

4.33

Carl Edwards

13.00

13.90

13.67

13.67

11.83

|

19.00

Kurt Busch

9.67

15.19

19.33

15.67

11.50

|

13.33

Eliminated

Martin Truex Jr.

12.17

13.76

17.50

12.33

12.83

|

11.00

Austin Dillon

14.17

19.39

18.00

19.00

21.20

|

19.50

Kyle Larson

15.67

17.95

24.20

18.50

15.20

|

11.00

Chase Elliott

15.83

17.75

29.00

5.00

8.00

|

NA

Brad Keselowski

16.00

11.19

18.67

8.17

10.33

|

4.00

Tony Stewart

18.17

22.29

12.75

21.75

25.50

|

36.00

Jamie McMurray

22.67

14.67

17.17

13.67

12.50

|

16.00

Chris Buescher

23.33

29.00

28.50

29.00

30.00

|

NA

 

Three-Year averages, by round (sorted by remaining tracks)

Driver

Chase
to Date

3 Yr. Avg. All
Remain Chase

Round 3

Homestead

Kevin Harvick

17.33

7.90

6.17

4.33

Kyle Busch

9.00

9.78

8.30

15.67

Joey Logano

9.83

10.14

9.25

9.33

Jimmie Johnson

9.17

10.95

9.00

9.00

Matt Kenseth

9.17

11.42

13.10

5.00

Denny Hamlin

13.00

12.95

14.75

6.00

Carl Edwards

13.00

13.90

12.75

19.00

Kurt Busch

9.67

15.19

13.58

13.33

Eliminated

Brad Keselowski

16.00

11.19

9.25

4.00

Martin Truex Jr.

12.17

13.76

12.58

11.00

Jamie McMurray

22.67

14.67

13.08

16.00

Chase Elliott

15.83

17.75

6.50

NA

Kyle Larson

15.67

17.95

17.00

11.00

Austin Dillon

14.17

19.39

20.00

19.50

Tony Stewart

18.17

22.29

23.63

36.00

Chris Buescher

23.33

29.00

29.33

NA

 

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.