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Statistically Speaking

Laps in the Top 15 Through Week 4

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: April 15, 2020, 7:13 pm ET

You gotta be able to see them to pass them.

Laps in the top 15 is a good metric by which to determine who has spent the majority of their time in the front half of the pack. Among those drivers who are typically considered front runners, this statistic reveals who has struggled relative to the other top-10 contenders. Among the mid-tier or back markers, it lets fantasy players know who has surged into the lead pack on occasion.

At some point during a race, drivers get off sequence. If that happens early enough in a cycle of pit stops while there are still a lot of cars on the lead lap, it negatively impacts the percentage of laps inside the top 15. Worse still, if a caution freezes the field and traps that driver a lap down, it can be difficult to reestablish track position.


Many of the top-15 laps on the chart below among mid-cap and bargain bin drivers came at Daytona in the draft. It is far more notable when they find their way into the column that excludes the plate tracks. Occasionally that means they have benefited from the leaders getting off sequence, but even then it means they were close enough to the front of the pack to take advantage.

And when pit strategy plays out at the end of a race, being in contact with the top 15 can make a big difference.

The top-10 on this will come as little surprise, but there are lessons to be learned.

There are a couple of drivers who have struggled with their season-to-date average finishes. That has put them in a hole were the points’ standings is concerned, but in itself it is not enough reason to panic.

Kyle Busch sits 12th in the standings with 111 points. His average finish of 13.5 ties him for ninth on that grid, but it is a far cry from what was expected at the start of the season. Busch has the eighth-most segment points (27) without winning a stage yet.

These are certainly not the stats we expected from last year’s champion.

But his season looks a little better in regard to his laps among the top 15. Through Week 4, he sits sixth on the Laps in the Top 15 chart after spending nearly 80% of the available circuits among the leaders. This stat is bolstered by an Average Running Position of 11.46 that ranks seventh overall.

More importantly, Busch is improving. He had the 12th-most laps among the top 15 at Vegas (181 of 267), 10th-most at Auto Club (183 of 200), and second-most at Phoenix (315 of 316).

Busch’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. has also run better than he’s finished. While he has had trouble near the end of races – and often, early enough to hurt him in this statistical category – he has nonetheless scored the ninth-most laps inside the top 15.

Truex has done that through consistency with the ninth-best showing in this regard at Vegas and Auto Club to go along with the 12th-best at Phoenix. That is a far cry better than his 15th-place among the standings with only an eight-point cushion over the bubble.

Joey Logano sits at the top of this chart by a fairly significant margin. Counting the Daytona 500, he has been inside the top-15 more than 95% of the time. Kevin Harvick is next with 88%. Logano’s stats are buoyed by the aero-restricted superspeedway race where he spent the most laps inside the top 15 (187 of 209), but he has also been among the top five in every unrestricted race.

With Daytona removed from the formula, Harvick has the most laps inside the top 15 on unrestricted tracks. Part of the reason for this is because he laid back in the Daytona 500 to try and stay out of trouble. He recorded only 97 laps inside the top 15 in that event, which ranked him 17th.

Sometimes laying back works and sometime it doesn’t. This time it worked and Harvick scored a top-10 finish. Like Logano, he has been perfect in regard to top-five rankings on this chart on unrestricted tracks and he spent all 316 laps of the FanShield 500k with the leaders in sight.

Brad Keselowski has had a strong season despite his 10th-place standing in the points. He drew a high number in the plate lottery and finished 36th. In three races on unrestricted races, he has only one top-five. But he has stayed in contact with the leaders for much of the race and lands third on the Laps in the Top 15 chart.

One of the reasons that Hendrick Motorsports has been so highly regarded through Week 4 of the season has been the amount of time they’ve spent with the leaders.

Chase Elliott ranks fourth on the Top 15 chart with 826 laps, Jimmie Johnson is fifth with 820, and Alex Bowman is seventh with 784. The youngest member, William Byron, is just outside the top 10 in 11th with 655.

Elliott has only two top-15 finishes this year, but he has ranked inside the top 10 in this stat every week. Johnson has a worst ranking of 13th at Phoenix, but he made up for it with the second-most top-15 laps at Auto Club.

In that same California race, Bowman was perfect with 200 of 200 laps inside the top 15. He seemed to be highly focused on the 2-mile track because he was defending an equally strong showing from the week before when he spent the second-most laps in the top 15 (263 of 267) before getting relegated to 13th in the final rundown.

Aric Almirola has the eighth-most laps in the top 15, bolstering our belief that he is currently the second-best Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

Ryan Blaney rounds out the top 10 to give Team Penske a sweep so far this season. The Wood Brothers affiliation with this organization is a big part of the reason Matt DiBenedetto lands 13th on the chart after spending 60% of his time so far in 2020 among the top 15.

Season to Date: Laps in the Top 15

Rank

Driver

% of Laps

# of Laps

w/o Daytona

1.

Joey Logano

95.4

946

759

2.

Kevin Harvick

87.9

872

775

3.

Brad Keselowski

85.9

852

673

4.

Chase Elliott

83.3

826

674

5.

Jimmie Johnson

82.7

820

670

6.

Kyle Busch

79.9

793

679

7.

Alex Bowman

79.0

784

662

8.

Aric Almirola

78.0

774

665

9.

Martin Truex Jr.

70.9

703

628

10.

Ryan Blaney

69.1

685

527

 

11.

William Byron

66.0

655

611

12.

Kurt Busch

62.9

624

527

13.

Matt DiBenedetto

60.1

596

465

14.

Kyle Larson

59.7

592

555

15.

Clint Bowyer

50.1

497

461

16.

Erik Jones

49.0

486

430

17.

Tyler Reddick

47.5

471

420

18.

Denny Hamlin

45.5

451

311

19.

Ross Chastain

38.6

383

280

20.

Austin Dillon

33.6

333

248

21.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

29.4

292

138

22.

Cole Custer

24.3

241

199

23.

Chris Buescher

22.5

223

66

24.

Ty Dillon

18.0

179

56

25.

JH Nemechek

14.4

143

121

26.

Christopher Bell

14.2

141

28

27.

Ryan Newman

56.5

118

0

28.

Ryan Preece

8.4

83

35

29.

Corey LaJoie

6.7

66

33

30.

Michael McDowell

6.1

61

18

31.

David Ragan

21.5

45

0

32.

Bubba Wallace

4.2

42

20

33.

Timmy Hill

2.9

29

0

34.

Brendan Gaughan

7.7

16

0

35.

Justin Haley

6.7

14

0

36.

Brennan Poole

1.1

11

3

37.

Reed Sorenson

0.8

8

0

37.

Quin Houff

0.8

8

0

39.

BJ McLeod

2.9

6

0

39.

Daniel Suarez

0.8

6

6

41.

Joey Gase

0.3

3

0

42.

JJ Yeley

0.3

2

2

 

2020 Stats through Week 4

Green Flag Speed
Fastest Laps
Driver Rating
Streaking in 2020
The Big 3
Segment Points
Average Running Position

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.