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Statistically Speaking

Weekend Update: Gander 400

by Dan Beaver

It was supposed to be a dry weekend. An unpredicted weather pattern limited on track activity to one practice on Friday in which teams worked on qualification trim and an 80-minute practice session on Saturday that allowed them to work on race trim.

Qualification and the Saturday morning session were canceled. Whenever qualification is washed out, it creates an inverted field. Teams that wouldn't normally be at the front will drop back and since racing is zero sum game, others will come to the front.


Kyle Larson posted the fastest single lap on Friday and Saturday. He had the quickest 5-, 10-, and 15-lap averages in the only session in which drivers primarily worked on race trim. On most of these charts, he led by a substantial margin. Based on owners’ points, he starts 10th and unless he runs into trouble, he is going to challenge for a top-five finish.

Erik Jones had the second-quickest 15-lap average in final practice. He has not been very high on our list because he has not yet been able to score a top-10 at Dover and is coming off a very disappointing Round 1 of the playoffs. Instead of demoralizing the team, it seems to have galvanized the sophomore racer and he is suddenly a much better value in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game as a non-playoff selection,

Kevin Harvick has been uneven at Dover, but it seems that when he finds the rhythm at the track, he keeps it throughout the year. His dominant win this spring came at a time when he was dominating everywhere. That is not the case at this stage of the season. The competition has caught up to the Big 3. But Harvick posted the third-best 15-lap average in Happy Hour. Since he starts on the front row, there is a strong likelihood that he will contend for the Stage 1 win.

Jimmie Johnson had the fourth-quickest 15-lap average and was 10th-best on the 10-lap chart. He enters the weekend with a strong record at Dover that includes 11 wins and four top-10s in the last four races. He finished eighth in his last two attempts this season. It is going to be difficult to trust him at Dover because it has been two years since he scored three consecutive top-10s, but Johnson could be a great differentiator.

Kyle Busch was only 19th on the 15-lap average speed chart. He showed a little better single lap speed at ninth-best. This is a team that should compete for top-fives, however, and that is not a given considering how he performed in pre-race activities.


Mother Nature won qualification. A persistent and heavy mist fell on the track as Xfinity Series practice was winding down. Once those cars stopped circling the track, the track was lost and the Air Titans were unable to dry the surface.

Qualification has been canceled three times this season. It has been canceled four times at Dover in the last seven races, so this is not an uncommon scenario for the competitors.

While that is bad news for fantasy owners, it provides an interesting storyline for the race. The 12 playoff contenders line up on the first six rows – led by Busch and Harvick. They will be in contact with one another from the beginning of the race and that is going to tighten up that battle.

There are also some non-playoff contenders that are likely to move forward through the pack. Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Jones, and Daniel Suarez posted top-10 laps in Friday’s practice session before qualification was canceled. Hamlin and Jones carried that speed with them into Saturday’s only practice, so they will most likely earn positive place-differential points. Hamlin starts 15th; Jones starts 16th. 

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.