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Chasing the Cup

Chasing Texas (Spring)

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

Texas Motor Speedway interrupts a mini short track season and last week the points got jumbled a bit. No one was happier than AJ Allmendinger to see that happen. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was sad because he fell to 17th, but there is still plenty of time for more changes before Richmond International Raceway’s second race closes out the regular season.

A driver’s position in the points is actually quite important when handicapping Fantasy NASCAR because it impacts how greatly drivers gamble and how hard they run.  Allmendinger’s determination at the end of the STP 500 last week elevated him to 12th in the standings, but if had completed one more pass on Kyle Busch, he would be virtually guaranteed a spot in the Chase with the STP 500 instead of Shrub.

Meanwhile, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth need to be slightly worried about their position in the top 16, while Rookie of the Year contenders Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are probably just happy to be on this list with six weeks in the books.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 20 (Maximum points per race = 45)
Unique Winners in 2016: 5

Locked In

Jimmie Johnson (2 wins / 216 points)
Power Ranking: 3rd
Last week: fifth
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 5.83
Bristol: 13.00
Richmond: 17.33

Johnson’s Auto Club 400 victory made him the first driver to lock into the Chase and he was highly favored to finish in the lead again at Martinsville. He never really seemed to get up to speed on the short track and fantasy owners were rightfully disappointed with his ninth-place finish. Texas is another strong track for him, however, and he should regain fans’ attention.

Currently Eligible on Wins

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 220 points)
Power Ranking: first
Last week: first
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.67
Bristol: 24.80
Richmond: 7.33

Fantasy players often have to look beyond the hype. The television commentators kept talking about how strong Harvick was last week at Martinsville—completely ignoring his recent record on that short track. He ran strong, but stayed out on old tires and faded at the end. Sometimes stats speak louder than words.

Kyle Busch (1 win / 215 points)
Power Ranking: second
Last week: second
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 5.00
Bristol: 21.00
Richmond: 12.40

Busch entered the Martinsville weekend without a single victory on that short track. That was not entirely shocking since the XFINITY series doesn’t run on the bullring and that is where much of his success has been earned—but Busch’s strength in the Truck Series should have provided some relief. By the end of the weekend, he had two grandfather clocks to put in his house and he insured this team will be part of the 2016 Chase.

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 178 points)
Power Ranking: seventh
Last week: 12th
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 6.67
Bristol: 17.40
Richmond: 13.33

For a sizeable portion of the STP 500 it appeared Keselowski might pull off the victory and join Johnson as one of the drivers locked into the Chase with multiple victories. He took four tires at the end of the STP 500 and charged forward, but he ran out of time before the checkers waved and had to settle for fifth.

Denny Hamlin (1 win / 172 points)
Power Ranking: 10th
Last week: 11th
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 15.80
Bristol: 20.60
Richmond: 18.40

When Hamlin wheel hopped into the Martinsville wall last week, it shocked a lot of fantasy players. It broke a few hearts as well—in addition to several parts and pieces on the No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin has one more chance to get his second win soon since Richmond’s first race is just around the corner.

Currently Eligible on Points

Joey Logano (0 wins / 196 points)
Power Ranking: fourth
Last week: fourth
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 10.83
Bristol: 13.40
Richmond: 6.67

While it is certainly too soon to panic where Logano is concerned, his fans would be a lot happier if he could manage to find Victory Lane early in the season like he did in 2015. Last year’s Daytona 500 victory gave him the confidence he needed to dominate the season and without that guaranteed Chase berth in the bank, he simply has not seemed like the same driver.

Martin Truex Jr. (0 wins / 150 points)
Power Ranking: fifth
Last week: sixth
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.67
Bristol: 29.60
Richmond: 16.83

Truex has run better in the past two races than his results show. His Fantasy Power Rankings has improved during that period of time because of his laps near the front of the field, but ultimately it is the final result that contributes the most points to an owner’s bank. Truex has now missed the top 15 two weeks in a row. He needs to rebound quickly because there is not enough of a cushion between 11th and 17th in the standings to make this team comfortable.

Carl Edwards (0 wins / 206 points)
Power Ranking: sixth
Last week: ninth
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 13.00
Bristol: 15.60
Richmond: 11.33

Edwards is the opposite side of the coin to Truex. His results have not been quite as good as his efforts and even after spending a big part of the STP 500 off the lead lap, he moves up the Fantasy Power Rankings. The Joe Gibbs Racers have appeared to be dominant at stages of the first six races, but NASCAR has a way of leveling the playing field. It was not all that long ago that everyone expected Hendrick Motorsports to race to the front and only one of them is listed above Edwards, Hamlin, Busch, or Kenseth.

Austin Dillon (0 wins / 176 points)
Power Ranking: eighth
Last week: 10th
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 21.33
Bristol: 15.50
Richmond: 25.25

Martinsville was a huge test for Dillon. Fantasy owners knew that would be the case entering the STP 500 because the short track had never been particularly kind to the third-year driver, but his biggest challenge came in controlling his emotions instead of the car. The shoving match he got into with teammate Paul Menard could have been a distraction, but he stayed in his zone and scored a solid top-five finish.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 140 points)
Power Ranking: ninth
Last week: 13th
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.20
Bristol: 12.00
Richmond: 11.17

It seems unthinkable that Kenseth might miss the Chase, but this team has some ground to make up. In six races this year, they have earned only one top-10 and two more top-15s. Since 44 percent of the full time field gets a playoff berth, they are probably safe, but players need more productivity in order to justify putting them on a fantasy roster.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (0 wins / 172 points)
Power Ranking: 11th
Last week: seventh
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.83
Bristol: 19.60
Richmond: 10.17

After an unassisted error at Daytona, Earnhardt rattled off three consecutive top-10s. His last two efforts have not been as strong with an 11th at Auto Club and a 14th last week, but he has added quite a few place-differential points in both of those games with modest qualification efforts in the 20s and that made him a good value.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 131 points)
Power Ranking: 12th
Last week: 16th
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: NA
Bristol: NA
Richmond: 16.00

There is a lot of hype surrounding Elliott, but he seems to be immune to most—if not all—of it. He keeps his head down and focuses on the task at hand, which is something he must have learned from his famous father Bill. Expect him to keep moving up in the Fantasy Power Rankings and the points’ standings until the regular season finale, but don’t expect miracles every week.

Kurt Busch (0 wins / 137 points)
Power Ranking: 13th
Last week: third
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 20.33
Bristol: 20.00
Richmond: 9.50

There is such a thing as momentum in NASCAR and with two results outside the top 10 and only one top-five this season, Busch could lose it. Of course, his lack of consistency last year really didn’t hurt the No. 41 team much. They still managed to make their way into and advance through the Chase. Also: Busch enters the Texas weekend with nine consecutive lead lap finishes.

Ryan Blaney (0 wins / 132 points)
Power Ranking: 14th
Last week: eighth
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 42.50
Bristol: 22.00
Richmond: NA

Blaney’s biggest test could come in the next three weeks. He should be fine at Texas since this team has Penske Racing power under the hood and the Young Gun holds a steady wheel on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but with back-to-back short track events on the heels of the Duck Commander 500, Blaney could struggle. He ran a great STP 500, but couldn't close the deal and most points get paid out at the end of the evening.

AJ Allmendinger (0 wins / 147 points)
Power Ranking: 16th
Last week: Outside the top 16 in points
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 15.50
Bristol: 24.75
Richmond: 15.83

Allmendinger came within one spot of virtually clinching a playoff berth las week. If he had managed to get to Busch’s back bumper, the results of the STP 500 would have been much different and the driver for the single-car team would have been successful on both a road course (two years ago) and a short, flat track. In all likelihood, this team lacks the maturity to contend for a top-16 position in the points, but they are going to fun to watch as they race for victories. And after all, that is precisely what NASCAR wanted with this new format.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 143 points)
Power Ranking: 20th
Last week: 15th
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.17
Bristol: 18.00
Richmond: 10.67

If McMurray makes the Chase, it will be the triumph of the tortoise over the hare. In six races this season, he has earned only one top-15, but he’s come close enough on several occasions to keep himself 13th in the standings. For the moment, he fits the role of utility driver and then only if he is the right price for the final slot on a roster. 

 

Three-Year Average Finish, Next Three Tracks

Power
Rankings

Top
16

Driver

Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Texas

Bristol

Richmond

Locked In

3.

2

Jimmie Johnson

2

5.85

|

5.83

13.00

17.33

Eligible on Wins

1.

1

Kevin Harvick

1

4.47

|

11.67

24.80

7.33

2.

3

Kyle Busch

1

5.49

|

5.00

21.00

12.40

7.

6

Brad Keselowski

1

11.16

|

6.67

17.40

13.33

10.

9

Denny Hamlin

1

11.79

|

15.80

20.60

18.40

Eligible on Points

4.

5

Joey Logano

 

7.31

|

10.83

13.40

6.67

5.

11

Martin Truex Jr./p>

 

10.84

|

11.67

29.60

16.83

6.

4

Carl Edwards

 

10.97

|

13.00

15.60

11.33

8.

7

Austin Dillon

 

11.20

|

21.33

15.50

25.25

9.

14

Matt Kenseth

 

11.71

|

14.20

12.00

11.17

11.

10

Dale Earnhardt Jr./p>

 

13.59

|

14.83

19.60

10.17

12.

16

Chase Elliott

 

13.73

|

NA

NA

16.00

13.

8

Kurt Busch

 

14.61

|

20.33

20.00

9.50

14.

15

Ryan Blaney

 

14.67

|

42.50

22.00

NA

16.

12

AJ Allmendinger

 

19.03

|

18.75

24.75

15.83

20.

13

Jamie McMurray

 

20.34

|

14.17

18.00

10.67

Drivers Outside the Top-16 in Points

15.

 

Brian Vickers

 

17.84

|

9.33

11.33

21.00

17.

 

Kasey Kahne

 

19.27

|

15.50

19.60

15.00

18.

 

Kyle Larson

 

20.11

|

19.40

17.50

12.75

19.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr./p>

 

20.11

|

23.50

10.20

22.33

21.

 

Ty Dillon

 

20.38

|

NA

NA

NA

22.

 

Ryan Newman

 

20.66

|

14.00

13.00

11.00

23.

 

Aric Almirola

 

20.83

|

17.83

17.80

13.17

24.

 

Paul Menard

 

21.06

|

18.67

14.20

16.83

25.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

25.33

|

27.00

21.50

23.50

26.

 

Greg Biffle

 

25.58

|

11.83

17.20

22.33

27.

 

Danica Patrick

 

27.40

|

24.67

21.40

25.50

28.

 

Landon Cassill

 

28.86

|

33.67

31.20

29.17

29.

 

Michael Waltrip

 

29.17

|

NA

NA

NA

30.

 

Regan Smith

 

29.17

|

NA

NA

NA

31.

 

Brian Scott

 

29.97

|

14.00

NA

22.00

32.

 

Michael McDowell

 

30.08

|

35.17

29.80

42.00

33.

 

Casey Mears

 

30.31

|

27.17

29.00

26.17

34.

 

David Ragan

 

30.47

|

28.50

29.40

25.33

35.

 

Clint Bowyer

 

31.83

|

16.33

12.60

15.33

36.

 

Bobby Labonte

 

32.83

|

NA

NA

NA

37.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

32.86

|

34.50

27.00

36.50

38.

 

Michael Annett

 

33.69

|

30.50

32.50

36.50

39.

 

Chris Buescher

 

33.81

|

30.00

25.00

NA

40.

 

Cole Whitt

 

35.10

|

29.75

31.50

36.25

41.

 

Joey Gase

 

37.43

|

40.50

NA

43.00

42.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

37.80

|

NA

NA

40.00

43.

 

Robert Richardson Jr./p>

 

38.17

|

NA

NA

NA

44.

 

Josh Wise

 

38.63

|

36.80

32.60

37.67

45.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

39.83

|

37.00

32.67

36.60

 

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.