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Power Rankings

Power Ranking After: Auto Club

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 3, 2020, 11:50 am ET

There is still plenty that fantasy players need to evaluate, but with two unrestricted, intermediate speedway races in the books, there have been some interesting faces among the top 10.

The perennial favorites have struggled. That has opened up room in the lead pack for several drivers that we don’t normally think of as dominators. Perhaps the most interesting storyline so far in 2020 is how three drivers have consistently placed themselves among the leaders as the past two races came down to contests between Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.

And while it is customary to see a lot of mid-cap picks among the top 10 after the Daytona 500, several of these drivers continue to show up among the top 10 at the ends of stages and races. The Fantasy Power Rankings formula makes an attempt to gauge drivers’ strength throughout the totality of a race. It includes statistics like the Average Running Position, Driver Rating, Laps in the Top 15, Segment Standings – and, of course, the ultimate finishing result.

While the formula may not be perfect, it removes observational bias to give us a good starting point for discussion. Here are the drivers you should be talking about after the Auto Club 400.


1. Ryan Blaney (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Weeks as #1: 2
FPR#: 5.50

Blaney refused to be described as frustrated following last week’s late-race pit stop for a corded tire. It cost him a top-five finish, but after finishing first and second in the two stages, he held onto the points’ lead. More importantly, he knows what it feels like to run with the leaders on a consistent basis and for the time being, no one is thinking of him as the third Team Penske driver. Once a driver starts to view their career in this positive a manner, it is hard to slow them down.

2. Chase Elliott (last week: 3) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 3
FPR#: 7.67

Elliott has run well, but he has not had the results to show for his effort until last week. He scared the team with a report about a worn tire at the end of Stage 1, but nursed it to the break and did not damage his car. While he did not challenge for the Auto Club 400 win, it was a mistake free race that required courage and aggression. The last two races have featured a new style of racing and Elliott is one of the Young Guns who is rapidly adjusting. 

3. Joey Logano (last week: 2) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 3
FPR#: 7.96

Frankly, Logano was disappointing last week. He showed a few glimmers of speed but his fade at the end of the race snapped a long streak of Auto Club top-10s that had originally made him a favorite. He still has that win from Las Vegas to buoy the team’s esprit de corps. He will need those positive vibes as the series heads to a track that has not been particularly kind over the past three years.

4. Alex Bowman (last week: 13) +9
Weeks in the top 10: 1
FPR#: 9.04

Bowman pole vaulted into the top 10 this week. He was ranked 19th following the Daytona 500, moved up six spots with his race-challenging run at Las Vegas, and another nine spots this week after convincingly scoring his second career Cup win. Unfortunately we remember what happened to him last year after he won the Chicagoland race, so it’s not quite time to say that he belongs in the top spot.

5. Jimmie Johnson (last week: 7) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 3
FPR#: 9.08

Any player who doesn’t believe home town advantage contributes to a driver’s performance needs to re-watch the coverage from Fontana, Calif. Johnson was determined to be relevant in the Auto Club 400. We were a little concerned after his outside pole winning run in qualification that the team might have put too much emphasis on a single fast lap. Clint Bowyer fell back in race trim, but Johnson remained with the leaders to finish third at the end of each stage and seventh overall. Phoenix is a driver’s track and Johnson has some great success there, so he should be able to remain with the leaders for another week.  

6. Kevin Harvick (last week: 4) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 2
FPR#: 9.48

Harvick is still the only Big 3 driver in the top 10. By any other standard last week would have been a success, but we’ve grown to expect so much more from the former title contenders. Harvick finished 14th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, and never really contested for the win. His ninth-place finish wouldn't even be worth mentioning in 2019 or 2018. This year, he has shown vulnerability and the competition is taking advantage of that to race him harder.

7. Brad Keselowski (last week: 11) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 2
FPR#: 9.75

Keselowski has not been dominant, but he has been consistent. After a disappointing Daytona 500, he rebounded to run among the top 10 for most of the afternoon at Vegas. He finished seventh in a race that erupted in chaos. He was not flashy last week, but the stats show he was in contention for a top-five from the very beginning. He qualified 15th, but moved up to sixth at the end of Stage 1 and fourth at Stage 2. His fifth-place finish overall helped elevate him four spots in the rankings.

8. Denny Hamlin (last week: 9) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Weeks as #1: 1
FPR#: 11.70

Hamlin did not look like a driver with a win under his belt last week. Forced to come from the back of the pack, he made a few enemies along the way as cranked his level of aggression up several notches. It paid off with a sixth-place finish. That is his 10th top-10 finish in 13 races dating back to the start of last year’s playoffs. With his season-opening win, he has the most momentum of last year’s Championship 4 and while the others struggle he wants to capitalize. Last week proved how far he’s willing to go.

9. Chris Buescher (last week: 3) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 3
FPR#: 12.47

Buescher’s third-place finish in the Daytona 500 contributes a lot of points to his ranking during the first three weeks, but it is not the only reason he is among the top 10. He’s been consistent in the two unrestricted, intermediate speedway races with a 14th at Vegas and 16th last week. Fantasy players love consistency because it allows the teams to build a great notebook and Buescher should only get stronger as the season progresses.

10. Matt DiBenedetto (last week: 12) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 1
FPR#: 12.53

DiBenedetto is doing exactly what we thought he would. He is capitalizing on the Team Penske affiliation with the Wood Brothers and has become a solid top-15 contender. If a driver continues to put himself in a position to run strong, that will ultimately pay dividends like it did two weeks ago at Vegas with his runner-up finish. At Auto Club he was consistent with an eighth-place finish in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2, and 13th at the checkers.

Dropped from the top 10

12. Austin Dillon (last week: 5) -7
Weeks in the top 10: 2
FPR#: 12.89

Dillon finished 24th last week at Auto Club. Think of that as this team finding its level water mark. Nearly every driver in the field is capable of finishing in the top 20 on a given week and occasionally the cards are not going to fall the right way. Dillon will be fantasy relevant many more times in 2020 even if his results become too inconsistent to return him to the top 10.

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (last week: 8) -8
Weeks in the top 10: 2
FPR#: 14.37

‘Live by the sword, die by the sword,’ goes the old saying. When a team is prone to gambling, it will occasionally pay off, but it will cost a driver just as often. Before Stenhouse becomes fantasy relevant on a weekly basis, he is going to need to challenge for top-15s regularly based on strength and not strategy.

17. Kyle Larson (last week: 10) -7
Weeks in the top 10: 1
FPR#: 14.65

Larson did not deserve to fall seven spots in the Fantasy Power Rankings, but after getting bumped into the wall by Hamlin early in the race, he failed to record strong numbers in any of the stats we track. He will bounce back, but just as in a Cup race, it will take a while to overcome the deficit inflicted by this one major incident.

Notable Drivers outside the Top 10

11. Kyle Busch (last week: 16) +5
Weeks in the top 10: 0
FPR#: 12.64

Busch finished second last week at Auto Club, but you would not have known it based on his interview after the race. His sullen disposition had something to do with his 10th-place standing at the end of Stage 1 and his seventh in Stage 2. But – and this is important – he and the team kept working on the car and moved up at the end. That has been one of the keys to their success.

13. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 15) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 0
FPR#: 13.18

Truex showed some signs of speed during the Auto Club 400, but ultimately his 14th-place finish was a disappointment for him and the team. Still, it was an improvement over his 32nd in the Daytona 500 and 20th at Las Vegas, so he should be watched. When he rebounds, it will happen in a hurry.

 

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Ryan Blaney

5.50

1

0

2.

Chase Elliott

7.67

3

1

3.

Joey Logano

7.96

2

-1

4.

Alex Bowman

9.04

13

9

5.

Jimmie Johnson

9.08

7

2

6.

Kevin Harvick

9.48

4

-2

7.

Brad Keselowski

9.75

11

4

8.

Denny Hamlin

11.70

9

1

9.

Chris Buescher

12.47

6

-3

10.

Matt DiBenedetto

12.53

12

2

 

11.

Kyle Busch

12.64

16

5

12.

Austin Dillon

12.89

5

-7

13.

Martin Truex Jr.

13.18

15

2

14.

David Ragan

13.38

14

0

15.

Aric Almirola

13.85

19

4

16.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

14.37

8

-8

17.

Kyle Larson

14.65

10

-7

18.

Kurt Busch

15.11

24

6

19.

William Byron

16.15

20

1

20.

Erik Jones

16.37

22

2

21.

Tyler Reddick

17.65

25

4

22.

Clint Bowyer

17.94

18

-4

23.

Ty Dillon

18.11

17

-6

24.

Ross Chastain

18.42

23

-1

25.

Bubba Wallace

21.94

21

-4

26.

JH Nemechek

21.94

26

0

27.

Justin Haley

22.29

28

1

28.

Brendan Gaughan

22.71

29

1

29.

Cole Custer

23.65

32

3

30.

Corey LaJoie

24.18

27

-3

31.

Michael McDowell

24.41

30

-1

32.

Ryan Preece

26.88

33

1

33.

Christopher Bell

27.71

31

-2

34.

Brennan Poole

29.00

34

0

35.

Daniel Suarez

29.33

39

4

36.

JJ Yeley

30.75

36

0

37.

Joey Gase

31.82

35

-2

38.

Garrett Smithley

32.45

42

4

39.

Quin Houff

32.53

38

-1

40.

BJ McLeod

32.57

41

1

41.

Timmy Hill

33.41

40

-1

42.

Reed Sorenson

33.47

37

-5

 

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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.