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Statistically Speaking

2019 Average Running Position

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: December 27, 2019, 4:57 pm ET

The Average Running Position is one of the key metrics in the season-long Fantasy Power Rankings because it is one of the best gauges of strength.

There are many things that can factor into a driver’s finish. Tire or fuel strategy can impact it positively. Crash damage or penalties late in a race can affect it negatively. These factors are not necessarily predictable. Intangibles are among of the most frustrating things that must be dealt with by Fantasy NASCAR players – and they can also change one’s perception of how well a driver ran.

On the other hand, the Average Running Position is a cleaner statistic – most of the time. There are occasions when a driver with a strong car experiences trouble early in an event like Joey Logano did at Dover during the playoffs. His axle problem insured that he would have a bad Average Run (35.6) even though he was among the fastest once he returned to the track.


Kyle Busch had the best Average Running Position for the season and he came by it honestly. He topped this chart 10 times during the year including when it mattered most at Homestead in the finale: He took the championship with the win. In the Ford 400, he scored a remarkable average of 2.20 and frankly it doesn’t get much better than that.

“Much” is the operative word there, however, because Busch was even closer to perfection at Phoenix 1 and Richmond 2 with averages of 2.02 and 2.12 respectively. Busch won the TicketGuardian 500k and finished second in the Federated 400. Busch was not always perfect; he finished outside the top 15 on four occasions and in all of those he had an Average Running Position that was worse than 16th.

Despite coming perilously close on several occasions, Busch is not one of the five drivers who cracked the 2.0 mark.

When a player happens onto a driver during a dominant race, it is magical. Kevin Harvick had several near-perfect runs in 2018 and it was only by comparison that the seemed to struggle in 2019. For a brief shining moment all of that was forgotten at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400 when he scored an Average Running Position of 1.89 in route to the victory.  

Harvick was much more consistent overall than Busch. While he scored the best running position only four times compared to Busch’s 10, Harvick was worse than 12th in this stat only three times. That is a big reason he never fell out of last year’s Fantasy Power Rankings.

Denny Hamlin had a similar performance at Phoenix in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k. He was not exactly in a must-win situation, but the competition for the final position among the Championship 4 was up for grabs between him and Logano. Hamlin took away any doubt that he would win with an Average Running Position of 1.85. That was one of four times Hamlin had the best Average Running Position. On another occasion he won the Gander 400 at Pocono with an average of 3.26.

Chase Elliott’s victory at Watkins Glen was another show of dominance. He circled the track with an average position of 1.12 even though he was hotly pursued by Martin Truex Jr. who had the second-best running position of 3.24 that afternoon.

His Watkins Glen performance came early enough in the season that fantasy players could use that information to make Elliott one of the highest handicapped drivers when the series headed to the Charlotte Roval in the fall. Elliott won that race as well and likely would have had the best Average Running Position if not for a mistake in the middle of the race. At the Roval, Elliott had the third-best average of 7.08.

The two best Average Running Positions came on the short track of Martinsville. Brad Keselowski won the STP 500 after circling the track 1.12 on average. Truex was almost perfect in the fall First Data 500 with an Average Running Position of 1.07 that came after he led 464 of the 500 laps and won both Stages. Keselowski also won both stages and led 446 laps.

There is a reason we constantly harp on Martinsville being a rhythm track.

As a point of comparison, we have been following this statistic closely since 2006 and Truex’s 1.07 was third best behind his performance in the 2016 Coke 600  and Keselowski’s 2014 Federated Auto Parts 400 performance – both with a 1.04.  

It is notable that all five instances of a driver with a better-than average of 2.0 were logged by a different racer. The 2019 season had more parity that the Championship 4 would suggest.

Logano earned the fourth-best Average Running Position and that helped keep him contention to make the Championship 4 until the very last race of the Round of 8.

Logano failed to crack the magical 2.0 mark, but he did have three instances when his average was between two and three. His best performance of the season was in Richmond 1 with a 2.49 and a finish of second. He had the best rating of 2.6 at Bristol 1 in route to a third-place finish and won the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan with the best rating of 2.66 that afternoon.

Teammates Ryan Blaney and Keselowski landed just outside the top five.

Blaney never had the best rating, but he came close on four occasions at Phoenix 1, Bristol 1, the Brickyard 400, and Martinsville 2.

In addition to his Martinsville dominance, Keselowski had the best Average Running Position on another flat track with a 4.44 at New Hampshire. He faded at the end of the Foxwoods 301, however, and finished 10th.

That race is one of the reasons we track strength-based stats during the season because Kez also had the fourth-best Driver Rating at New Hampshire – which is more predictive of how he will run there in 2020 than his 10th-place result.

 

2019 Average Running Position

Rank

Driver

Avg. Run Pos

 Avg. Fin

1.

Kyle Busch

9.02

8.94

2.

Kevin Harvick

9.14

10.03

3.

Martin Truex Jr.

10.29

9.75

4.

Joey Logano

10.43

10.75

5.

Denny Hamlin

10.82

9.47

6.

Ryan Blaney

10.93

13.72

7.

Brad Keselowski

11.92

12.86

8.

Kurt Busch

12.62

13.11

9.

Kyle Larson

12.76

15.06

10.

William Byron

12.87

14.86

11.

Clint Bowyer

13.13

15.17

12.

Chase Elliott

13.56

15.14

13.

Aric Almirola

13.85

15.42

14.

Daniel Suarez

14.69

16.39

15.

Alex Bowman

14.79

14.36

16.

Erik Jones

14.87

16.25

17.

Jimmie Johnson

15.63

17.36

18.

Paul Menard

17.21

16.56

19.

Ryan Newman

17.49

14.56

20.

Matt DiBenedetto

17.96

18.31

21.

Austin Dillon

18.07

19.47

22.

Chris Buescher

18.43

17.83

23.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

18.64

20.47

24.

Daniel Hemric

20.43

22.47

25.

Ty Dillon

23.00

20.56

26.

Ryan Preece

23.54

23.06

27.

Michael McDowell

24.25

24.17

28.

Bubba Wallace

24.27

23.94

29.

David Ragan

24.36

26.28

30.

Matt Tifft

27.18

26.03

31.

Corey LaJoie

28.75

25.92

32.

Landon Cassill

30.99

26.03

33.

Ross Chastain

31.26

28.20

 

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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.