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Chasing the Cup

Chasing Texas spring 2015

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

Last week Denny Hamlin did what he was supposed to do: he won on a short, flat track in his home state of Virginia. Hamlin’s Chase ranking last week was 14th and with an erratic start to 2015 he was in jeopardy of falling out of contention. The pressure is off his shoulders now and each dark horse listed below him would love to see the same outcome at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR has a fair chance to add another winner this week since there are nine previous Texas winners who have not yet earned a spot in the Chase for the Championship with a 2015 victory. Carl Edwards leads the list with three previous wins, followed by Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart with two. Among those drivers, Kenseth has the most current momentum.

Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman each have one Texas win and each of them has some momentum on their side. With only a few exceptions, the same cast of characters also have Bristol wins to their credit, so the Chase grid is going to undergo some significant changes in the next two weeks.

The Duck Commander 500 kicks off a five-race streak of consecutive Cup races before the next break in action. This mini-series is anchored by another similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track with the May 9th running of the currently unsponsored Kansas Speedway race. Two unrestricted, intermediate speedway races, two short track races, and one restrictor-plate, superspeedway event will make this an interesting span that will be just as challenging for fantasy owners as the drivers.  

Kevin Harvick (2 win / 263 points)
Chase Ranking: first
Last week: first
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 13.83
Bristol: 22.60
Richmond: 9.50

Harvick has not yet won at Texas, but his second-place finish in last fall’s AAA 500 was part of the eight consecutive top-two results that won him a championship and made him the prohibitive fantasy favorite up to the current date. He could easily get his third win of the 2015 season in the Duck Commander 500 and if he misses, a top-five is still in the cards.

Joey Logano (1 win / 239 points)
Chase Ranking: second
Last week: second
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 8.50
Bristol: 10.20
Richmond: 14.33

Logano’s victory in last year’s Duck Commander 500 was the culmination of a three-race, top-five streak at Texas. He had earned only one such finish in his previous nine attempts and slipped to 12th in the fall AAA 500. The tiebreaker in his handicap belongs to the first six races of this season and he has swept the top 10. Fantasy owners can expect another single-digit result Saturday night. 

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 206 points)
Chase Outlook: third
Last week: third
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.83
Bristol: 15.80
Richmond: 11.83

Keselowski’s blown engine at Daytona seemed to take some wind out of the team’s sails and may have contributed to the fact that they failed to crack the top five in the next three races. It took a gamble on four tires and two late cautions to get Keselowski his victory at Auto Club Speedway, but once he had that momentum, he nearly won last week at Martinsville Speedway too.

Denny Hamlin (1 win / 172 points)
Chase Ranking: fourth
Last week: 14th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 12.40
Bristol: 19.60
Richmond: 17.20

In six starts this season, Hamlin has scored three top-fives and three results outside the top 20. None of that matters to his fans now that he is virtually locked into the Chase, but it should still be a concern for fantasy owners. He needs to develop some consistency before he becomes a place-and-hold driver on anyone’s roster.

Jimmie Johnson (1 win / 168 points)
Chase Ranking: fifth
Last week: fourth
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 6.00
Bristol: 16.60
Richmond: 18.50

Since winning the Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson has been a disappointment to fantasy owners. At his level, he needs to earn top-fives on command, but his last four attempts have produced only one top-10 and an 11th. His other two results were extremely disappointing with a 41st at Vegas and a 35th at Martinsville—a track where he should have challenged for victory.

Martin Truex Jr. (0 wins / 231 points)
Chase Ranking: sixth
Last week: fifth
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 12.00
Bristol: 22.80
Richmond: 17.50

If the rankings were set strictly by points, Truex would be third on the grid. The good news is that he has quite a cushion over 17th in the standings, but there is still a lot of time left in the regular season. He and his fans will breathe easier once he gets a win and when that happens, he will rocket back up this list.

Kasey Kahne (0 wins / 193 points)
Chase Ranking: seventh
Last week: eighth
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 16.17
Bristol: 11.00
Richmond: 13.83

Kahne has consistency with five of six races ranging between ninth and 17th. His fourth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway gave some extra points keep him high enough in the standings that he can race in a relaxed manner, but as part of the Hendrick Motorsports stable he is expected to contend for wins.

Paul Menard (0 wins / 173 points)
Chase Ranking: eighth
Last week: ninth
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 17.17
Bristol: 11.00
Richmond: 16.00

Menard leapfrogged Dale Earnhardt Jr., but that does not mean that he had a solid showing last week at Martinsville. His 23rd-place finish in the STP 500 did not earn very many fantasy points and it joins his Daytona 500 effort as two races with sub-20th-place results. He has been good on unrestricted, intermediate speedways, however, so Texas should allow him to rebound.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (0 wins / 172 points)
Chase Ranking: ninth
Last week: sixth
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 16.17
Bristol: 18.20
Richmond: 9.67

Earnhardt started the season in close competition with Harvick. While that driver has two victories under his belt, however, the No. 88 has to rely on points for the moment and sub-35th-place finishes in two of his last three efforts are starting to look a little scary. There is a lot of movement around the 16th-place mark and that chaos should play into Junior’s favor for the next five weeks.

Aric Almirola (0 wins / 170 points)
Chase Ranking: 10th
Last week: 10th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 17.83
Bristol: 26.20
Richmond: 17.83

Almirola is in the top 10 in points without scoring a single top-10 finish. He has come close on two occasions with 11ths at Atlanta and Auto Club, plus a 12th at Martinsville and so long as he remains a consistent top-15 contender, he will be a great fantasy value. His salary cap is not going to rise substantially until he begins to record top-10 finishes.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 168 points)
Chase Outlook: 11th
Last week: 13th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 9.50
Bristol: 15.40
Richmond: 12.50

The 2015 season is marked by extreme consistency at the top of the points and erratic results in the middle and bottom. Kenseth falls into the unpredictable category with two top-fives and another top-10 versus two results outside the top 30. In his last 18 races dating back to last fall’s Atlanta race he has earned top-10s in more than 50 percent of his starts, however, so fantasy owners can roll the dice on him when he practices and qualifies well.

David Ragan (0 wins / 163 points)
Chase Outlook: 12th
Last week: 15th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 33.00
Bristol: 23.80
Richmond: 29.33

Last week, Ragan finally lived up to his potential in the No. 18. He scored his first top-five since leaving Roush-Fenway Racing and did so on a track that has been kind to the Gibbs’ guys. It is too soon to know if he can keep that momentum alive, but it is the first glimmer of hope fantasy owners have had for a driver who was expected to be one of the best values in the game after Kyle Busch’s injury.

Casey Mears (0 wins / 161 points)
Chase Ranking: 13th
Last week: 12th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 26.00
Bristol: 24.40
Richmond: 26.00

Mears was pushed down a spot this week because of the fourth-place finish by Ragan, but he is inching slowly toward falling out of Chase contention. His results in the first six weeks have been good, but with the exception of a sixth at Daytona, few of them have been great. Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards are breathing down his neck and it is time to pick up the pace.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 154 points)
Chase Outlook: 14th
Last week: 16th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 16.83
Bristol: 18.40
Richmond: 13.83

The No. 1 team dug a hole with back-to-back results outside the top 25 in the first two weeks. They have slowly been catching up to the leaders and narrowly advanced to the top 16 last week. As good as this team was at the end of 2014, fantasy owners can expect a little more in the coming weeks and steady improvement makes them a good fantasy value.

Danica Patrick (0 wins / 148 points)
Chase Outlook: 15th
Last week: Outside of Chase Contention
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 28.00
Bristol: 25.60
Richmond: 27.25

Four of Patrick’s seven career top-10s have come in the last 36 races. Three were earned last year and one was scored last week, but that pattern shows that she is improving. In order to remain in the top 16 in the standings, she is going to have to finish in the single digits more often and she still has a lot to prove to fantasy owners before they place-and-hold the No. 10.

Jeff Gordon (0 wins / 148 points)
Chase Outlook: 16th
Last week: Outside of Chase contention
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 20.83
Bristol: 13.40
Richmond: 8.00

Gordon left Martinsville just outside the top 16 in points. He was locked in a three-way tie with Patrick and Edwards, but since Danica has a better season-to-date result of seventh to Gordon’s ninth, she earned the tiebreaker. A heavy points’ fine levied against Ryan Newman for doctoring tires finally put the No. 24 in the green. His three consecutive top-10 finishes certainly did not hurt either.

Notables Outside the Top 16

Carl Edwards (0 wins / 148 points)
Chase Outlook: Outside of Chase contention
Last week: Outside of Chase contention
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.50
Bristol: 17.40
Richmond: 10.83

Edwards should be able to record top-10 finishes before too long, but for now he is hoping that slow and steady wins the race. He is tied in points with Patrick and Gordon and needs to beat one of them at Texas while staying ahead of Clint Bowyer. To finish that well, he has to relax first, however.

AJ Allmendinger (0 wins / 138 points)
Chase Ranking: Outside of Chase Contention
Last week: 11th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 22.00
Bristol: 17.33
Richmond: 14.80

A dropped cylinder at Auto Club and an oil leak at Martinsville have taken their toll on Allmendinger. He finished seventh and sixth in the first two races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year and hopes that his fortune reverses on the comparable Texas Motor Speedway. Fantasy players might not share his enthusiasm.

Kyle Larson (0 wins / 116 points)
Chase Outlook: Outside of Chase contention
Last week: Outside of Chase contention
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.67
Bristol: 11.00
Richmond: 13.50

Larson did not earn any points at Martinsville because he was unable to start the STP 500. That dropped him five positions in the standings and now he has to make up 32 markers on the current 16th-place driver. He is not quite in a must-win situation yet, but he certainly cannot afford a bad result.

Ryan Newman (0 wins / 180 points - 105)
Chase Ranking: Outside of Chase Contention
Last week: seventh
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 13.83
Bristol: 18.60
Richmond: 9.67

The No. 31 team was hit with a major penalty and loss of 75 points after NASCAR determined they had doctored their tires at Auto Club to release built-up air through tiny pinpricks. They have appealed the decision but if they are unsuccessful, they are in an even worse situation than Kurt Busch who missed the first three races of the season to suspension.

 

Next Three Weeks

Driver

2015 Power Avg.

Texas 3-yr Avg.

Bristol 3-yr Avg.

Richmond 3-yr Avg.

Kevin Harvick

2.87

13.83

22.60

9.50

Joey Logano

5.84

8.50

10.20

14.33

Martin Truex Jr.

7.97

12.00

22.80

17.50

Brad Keselowski

8.98

11.83

15.80

11.83

Kasey Kahne

10.16

16.17

11.00

13.83

Jeff Gordon

11.10

20.83

13.40

8.00

Denny Hamlin

11.63

12.40

19.60

17.20

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12.40

16.17

18.20

9.67

Matt Kenseth

12.81

9.50

15.40

12.50

Jimmie Johnson

13.76

6.00

16.60

18.50

Paul Menard

17.19

17.17

11.00

16.00

Jamie McMurray

17.59

16.83

18.40

13.83

Aric Almirola

21.24

17.83

26.20

17.83

David Ragan

22.26

33.00

23.80

29.33

Casey Mears

23.87

26.00

24.40

26.00

Danica Patrick

24.26

28.00

25.60

27.25

Outside of Chase Contention

Kurt Busch

6.50

20.33

20.60

16.17

Carl Edwards

13.57

14.50

17.40

10.83

Ryan Newman

16.98

13.83

18.60

9.67

Kyle Larson

17.06

11.67

11.00

13.50

Clint Bowyer

19.89

14.00

11.60

13.50

Greg Biffle

22.44

7.67

12.20

18.17

AJ Allmendinger

23.56

22.00

17.33

14.80

Tony Stewart

24.62

14.20

20.67

13.00

Austin Dillon

25.38

24.25

19.50

23.50

Justin Allgaier

25.47

22.00

18.00

24.50

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

26.05

26.25

10.50

22.50

Trevor Bayne

30.32

25.83

NA

NA

David Gilliland

30.40

30.00

23.20

27.67

Brett Moffitt

30.77

40.00

42.00

NA

Michael McDowell

32.53

37.50

32.20

41.00

Reed Sorenson

32.62

35.25

26.00

37.00

Sam Hornish Jr.

33.06

17.00

34.00

11.00

Alex Bowman

33.78

37.00

32.00

33.00

Cole Whitt

33.92

28.50

35.00

37.00

Landon Cassill

34.27

33.50

26.40

26.33

Michael Annett

34.32

25.50

32.00

35.00

Mike Bliss

36.71

40.67

43.33

40.80

JJ Yeley

37.27

37.00

28.00

40.00

Josh Wise

37.47

37.00

30.60

36.67


A note about the three-year stats: The three-year average finish is a script that looks at the last 1,102 days. Since some races shift dates, the past three-years sometimes occasionally contain five races instead of six. It is a consistent snapshot, however.

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.