Loading scores...
Chasing the Cup

Chasing Texas (Fall)

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

Winning during the Chase is important in rounds one and two, but it is even more impactful in this final set of three races. Jimmie Johnson knows that he will race for the championship. The other seven racers currently in contention are left to worry about mechanical issues, accidents, or mistakes at Texas Motor Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway.

Kyle Busch has been great at Texas; Kevin Harvick is nearly perfect at Phoenix, but winning on demand in NASCAR is one of the most difficult tasks there is. Still, the knowledge that these two could win the next races will change how the others approach the weekend. The Chase contenders are all undoubtedly among the 10 strongest for the season, but their performance is uncertain.

Projected to make the Finals

Jimmie Johnson
(4,044 points / 1st)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 5.50
Phoenix: 12.50
Homestead: 9.00
Chase wins: Charlotte (round 2), Martinsville (round 3)

Johnson has only one concern now and that is how he will run at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The next two races will be run with that in mind and as a 1.5-miler, this week’s AAA Texas 500 gives the No. 48 a chance to experiment. Their research needs to be reasonable, however, because a DNF could rob them of momentum.

Matt Kenseth (4,039 points / 3rd)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.00
Phoenix: 12.20
Homestead: 5.00

Last week Kenseth was listed as one of the drivers who might not advance to the final round. He displaces Denny Hamlin from the top four this week, however, because he has a much better record on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. The battle for fourth in the points is going to be intense and at least one of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will not make the finale.

Joey Logano (4,033 points / 5th)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 10.50
Phoenix: 8.00
Homestead: 9.33
Chase Wins: Talladega (round 2)

Logano has been uneven in recent attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but his recent bad results have all come as the result of crash damage. All he needs to do is stay out of trouble at Texas and he should be able to contend for a top-five, but this organization has a proclivity for gambling at inopportune times.

Kyle Busch (4,037 points / 4th)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 5.00
Phoenix: 8.00
Homestead: 15.67

Busch was notably frustrated at the end of last week’s Goody's Fast Relief 500 and that is not generally a good sign for this driver entering a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track. He should be okay to advance to the next race, however, because he has six top-fives in his last seven Texas races—two of which are victories.

Projected to Fail to Advance to Final Round

Kevin Harvick (4,021 points / 6th)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.17
Phoenix: 1.17
Homestead: 4.33
Chase wins: New Hampshire (round 1), Kansas (round 2)

Harvick sits 16 points behind the cutoff this week after finishing 20th at Martinsville. This is the fourth time that he has finished at least that badly during the Chase and one poor result has come in each round. While that might not sound like much, eight points per race on the likes of Hamlin, Kenseth, and Kyle Busch could be difficult to make up because it practically means they will have to finish outside the top 10 for Harvick to advance. He’s in another must-win situation.

Denny Hamlin (4,039 points / 2nd)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 15.17
Phoenix: 14.33
Homestead: 6.00

Hamlin has not been uniformly strong on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, but his Texas record was once very strong. If he survives the AAA Texas 500 and remains in the top four, he should be able to sail through Phoenix, but Logano needs to make up only six positions on the No. 11 this week to make a show in the desert.

Kurt Busch (4,019 points / 7th)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 15.67
Phoenix: 11.50
Homestead: 13.33

At Martinsville, Busch had his worst performance since Darlington this summer—and that will probably be the end of his Chase hopes He cannot count on three drivers to have trouble in the next two races and without a victory he almost certainly will not make up the points needed.

Carl Edwards (4,005 points / 8th)
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 13.67
Phoenix: 11.83
Homestead: 19.00

Edwards has lagged behind the rest of the JGR contingent this year in most races, but he does have a pair of runner-up finishes at Kentucky and Kansas. He has to contend for the win this week after experiencing a tire failure at Martinsville that sent him hard into the wall.

Eliminated

Martin Truex Jr.
Truex won the pole last week at Martinsville, but seemed to have a car built for short runs while the Goody's Fast Relief 500 had long green flag segments.

Brad Keselowski
Kez’s second-place finish at Martinsville was a cold comfort after missing the Chase. Still, it earned major points for fantasy players.

Austin Dillon
Dillon finished only 17th at Martinsville last week, which was the fourth time during the Chase that he missed the top 10.

Chase Elliott
Elliott got trapped a lap off the pace on the half-mile bullring and that kept him from making up some distance on fifth in the points.

Kyle Larson
Larson was not expected to run particularly well at Martinsville, but he should be a much better value on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart
Stewart looked really good during the weekend and for a short while at the start of the Goody's 500. He faded along with the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing organization, however.  

Jamie McMurray
McMurray scored only his second top-10 of the Chase at Martinsville. He has not yet earned a top-five and that has kept him from being one of the top values.

Chris Buescher
Buescher’s average finish of 23.86 is significantly better than how he has fared on the next three Chase tracks and that could make him a provisionally good value in salary cap games where he is priced correctly.

 

Three-Year Average Finishes

Driver

Avg. Fin
Chase
So Far

Avg. Fin
All Chase
Tracks

Texas

Phoenix

|

Homestead

Projected Final Four

Jimmie Johnson

8.00

9.00

5.50

12.50

|

9.00

Matt Kenseth

8.43

11.23

14.00

12.20

|

5.00

Joey Logano

9.71

9.27

10.50

8.00

|

9.33

Kyle Busch

8.43

10.00

5.00

11.60

|

15.67

Projected to Fail to Advance to the Final Round

Kevin Harvick

17.71

5.80

11.17

1.17

|

4.33

Denny Hamlin

11.57

13.00

15.17

14.33

|

6.00

Kurt Busch

11.43

13.53

15.67

11.50

|

13.33

Carl Edwards

16.29

14.00

13.67

11.83

|

19.00

Eliminated

Martin Truex Jr.

11.43

12.27

12.33

12.83

|

11.00

Brad Keselowski

14.00

8.20

8.17

10.33

|

4.00

Austin Dillon

14.57

19.92

19.00

21.20

|

19.50

Chase Elliott

15.29

6.50

5.00

8.00

|

NA

Kyle Larson

15.43

15.71

18.50

15.20

|

11.00

Tony Stewart

19.29

26.10

21.75

25.50

|

36.00

Jamie McMurray

20.57

13.67

13.67

12.50

|

16.00

Chris Buescher

23.86

29.33

29.00

30.00

|

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.