Chasing the Cup

Chasing Kansas (Fall)

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Fantasy owners need to bear in mind that the Chase is still a relatively new construct and we are still learning its ramifications. Last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, half of the playoff contenders seemed to wake up and realize that the points’ battle to be among the top eight was going to be increasingly fierce. Passing a driver outside the current top-12 was lackaday, but the intensity was raised when they were around another Chaser.

Carl Edwards got into Dale Earnhardt Jr. early in the Bank of America 500 and in two separate incidents Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman made contact. Edwards was the only one who survived completely unscathed. Meanwhile many of the drivers who scored top-nine points raced fairly conservative

Kyle Busch reinforced the need to make smart, safe decisions. He attempted to abort a pit stop midway through the Charlotte race at the same time Kyle Larson decided to make a late entry. The two collided, which effectively ended both of their competitive days.

Talladega SuperSpeedway looms on the schedule and all of the Chase contenders are going to be just as desperate to win this week as last and join Joey Logano with a guaranteed berth in the Eliminator round.

Joey Logano (4 wins / 3,048 points)
Chase Outlook: first 
Last week’s outlook: second 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 12.00
Talladega: 25.40
Martinsville: 10.83
Chase Wins: Charlotte

In all likelihood, the top spot is going to flip-flop between Logano and Kevin Harvick for the remainder of the season depending on who showed the most dominance in the latest race. Harvick dominated Dover, but Logano’s authority over Charlotte may have been more impressive because it suggests he will run well at Kansas Speedway this week and Texas Motor Speedway during the Eliminator round.

Kevin Harvick (3 wins / 3,042 points)
Chase Outlook: second 
Last week’s outlook: first 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 6.67
Talladega: 15.20
Martinsville: 16.50
Chase Wins: Dover

Harvick wanted to win the Bank of America 500 just as badly as the AAA 400 because it would give him breathing room. He was able to chase Logano down in traffic because the No. 22 driver was a little more conservative, but Penske Racing was buzzing on all eight cylinders in clean air. Fantasy owners should know if that is a precursor to the remainder of the playoffs once Kansas is in the books.

Denny Hamlin (2 wins / 3,040 points)
Chase Outlook: third 
Last week’s outlook: fourth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.40
Talladega: 20.00
Martinsville: 13.60
Chase Wins: Chicagoland

Hamlin was back in top form at Charlotte, following a disappointing AAA 400. This time he did not make any mistakes and raced with the leaders all afternoon, but the potential remains for this team to shoot themselves in their collective feet. That probably will not happen at Kansas and Hamlin should be a good value this week, but somewhere along the line it could keep him challenging for the Cup.

Carl Edwards (2 wins / 3,039 points)
Chase Outlook: fourth 
Last week’s outlook: seventh 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 11.17
Talladega: 20.60
Martinsville: 15.83

Last week Edwards survived a confrontation with Earnhardt and finished just outside the top five. With Kenseth and Busch experiencing trouble, he rises to the position of the second-strongest and most-reliable Joe Gibbs Racing driver and that is enough to get him to the final round. He will need to keep an eye on his rear view mirror at Martinsville Speedway and may need to win Texas, but there is a clear path forward.

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 3,035 points)
Chase Outlook: fifth 
Last week’s outlook: sixth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 14.50
Talladega: 21.00
Martinsville: 14.50

Keselowski is running just well enough to advance to the Eliminator round, but unless he finds the same burst of speed as his teammate Logano, he is going to struggle after Talladega. In fact, last year it took a little assist in the form of a block by the No. 22 on the plate track to get him that far and Kez cannot count on lightning striking twice.

Martin Truex Jr. (1 win / 3,041 points)
Chase Outlook: sixth 
Last week’s outlook: 12th 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 9.83
Talladega: 12.80
Martinsville: 24.00

Truex’s third-place finish last week was only his second top-five since Watkins Glen International this summer. His other strong run came on the unrestricted, intermediate Michigan International Speedway and that has encouraged us to raise him in this week’s handicap. He should run well at Kansas, Texas, and Homestead-Miami Speedway. He can earn top-10s at Martinsville and Phoenix International Raceway, which leaves Talladega as the big unknown.

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 3,025 points)
Chase Outlook: seventh 
Last week’s outlook: fifth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 24.20
Talladega: 23.50
Martinsville: 9.40

Busch will probably survive his contact at Charlotte Motor Speedway and advance to the Eliminator round, but he is going to make another mistake later in the Chase that will knock him out of contention. Those mistakes also cost him in points, so it is highly unlikely that he will be the driver who finishes fifth in the standings.

Kurt Busch (2 wins / 3,039 points)
Chase Outlook: eighth 
Last week’s outlook: ninth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.17
Talladega: 20.00
Martinsville: 20.17

Busch’s three-year averages on the remaining tracks are not good enough to suggest he is going to advance to the Championship race, but the strength of Stewart-Haas Racing compared to the teams he ran for recently makes him impossible to ignore. Busch will finish behind teammate Harvick in the standings, but that leaves plenty of room to excel.

Matt Kenseth (5 wins / 3,003 points)
Chase Outlook: ninth 
Last week’s outlook: third 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 7.00
Talladega: 18.40
Martinsville: 7.67
Chase Wins: New Hampshire

At this stage of the season, drivers cannot afford a bad race. By all accounts Newman is one of the hardest drivers to pass on the track and one must take that into consideration when racing him. Kenseth did not—to his own detriment—and now he is in a must-win situation at Kansas this week. He is certainly capable of finding Victory Lane, but the top spot in a NASCAR event is elusive.

Jeff Gordon (0 wins / 3,037 points)
Chase Outlook: 10th
Last week’s outlook: 11th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 7.50
Talladega: 24.20
Martinsville: 5.67

Gordon ran in the 20s for the first half of the Bank of America 500 and benefitted from attrition and poor decisions by his fellow Chasers. He cannot count on that happening every week and unless he can run in the top 10 all afternoon at Kansas, he has long odds of surviving Talladega. That event will almost certainly come down to a late-race restart, which will be the undoing of the No. 24.

Ryan Newman (0 wins / 3,029 points)
Chase Outlook: 11th 
Last week’s outlook: 10th
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 17.67
Talladega: 14.20
Martinsville: 21.67

Newman advanced through each round last year based on consistency. He hopes to do the same thing this season, but that is not going to get accomplished if he continues to barely crack the top 15. Last week’s modest finish was the result of crash damage, but mistakes factor into one’s handicap equal to raw power.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 wins / 3,016 points)
Chase Outlook: 12th 
Last week’s outlook: eighth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 14.20
Talladega: 15.40
Martinsville: 15.50

Junior simply has not shown enough strength this season to believe he can win at will and that is what it is going to take to advance out of the Contender round after sustaining damage at Charlotte. He will run in the top 10 at Kansas and set his sights on Talladega, but even with his skill set on plate tracks, that is a hard race on which to hang one’s season hopes.

 

Upcoming Tracks Average Finish, last three years, sorted by Chase so Far

Driver

Chase
So Far

Remaining
Chase Tracks

Kansas

Talladega

Martinsville

|

Texas

Phoenix

Homestead

Joey Logano

5.00

13.06

12.00

25.40

10.83

|

6.00

13.33

12.67

Denny Hamlin

6.25

15.28

20.40

20.00

13.60

|

12.20

13.33

10.67

Carl Edwards

7.00

15.03

11.17

20.60

15.83

|

14.83

11.50

19.33

Martin Truex Jr.

8.75

15.53

9.83

12.80

24.00

|

12.50

21.33

9.00

Jeff Gordon

10.25

13.09

7.50

24.20

5.67

|

21.33

11.50

7.33

Kurt Busch

11.00

18.66

20.17

20.00

20.17

|

20.50

15.17

13.67

Brad Keselowski

11.25

11.78

14.50

21.00

14.50

|

6.67

5.67

8.00

Ryan Newman

12.00

14.97

17.67

14.20

21.67

|

12.33

12.67

7.33

Matt Kenseth

13.75

11.13

7.00

18.40

7.67

|

12.50

12.50

8.67

Kevin Harvick

16.50

10.25

6.67

15.20

16.50

|

12.67

3.00

6.33

Kyle Busch

17.00

15.26

24.20

23.50

9.40

|

4.80

15.20

16.67

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.00

14.23

14.20

15.40

15.50

|

15.00

13.83

9.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie McMurray

11.50

17.28

19.17

19.80

17.00

|

15.50

14.83

18.33

Clint Bowyer

17.50

13.28

14.50

12.80

6.50

|

14.83

21.83

5.00

Paul Menard

23.25

16.38

10.67

15.00

16.67

|

21.00

17.50

18.00

Jimmie Johnson

24.25

12.28

11.33

13.40

12.67

|

5.83

15.50

18.00

 

Chase Rounds, Average Finish last three years, sorted by Remaining Tracks

Driver

Chase
So Far

Remaining
Chase Tracks

Contender

Eliminator

Homestead

Kevin Harvick

16.50

10.25

8.50

7.83

6.33

Matt Kenseth

13.75

11.13

13.00

12.50

8.67

Brad Keselowski

11.25

11.78

15.67

6.17

8.00

Joey Logano

5.00

13.06

14.50

9.67

12.67

Jeff Gordon

10.25

13.09

14.33

16.42

7.33

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.00

14.23

17.00

14.42

9.00

Ryan Newman

12.00

14.97

14.11

12.50

7.33

Carl Edwards

7.00

15.03

12.06

13.17

19.33

Kyle Busch

17.00

15.26

19.25

10.00

16.67

Denny Hamlin

6.25

15.28

15.29

12.82

10.67

Martin Truex Jr.

8.75

15.53

11.72

16.92

9.00

Kurt Busch

11.00

18.66

18.06

17.83

13.67

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmie Johnson

24.25

12.28

14.50

10.67

18.00

Clint Bowyer

17.50

13.28

14.56

18.33

5.00

Paul Menard

23.25

16.38

16.83

19.25

18.00

Jamie McMurray

11.50

17.28

17.11

15.17

18.33

 

 

A note about the three-year stats: The three-year average finish is a script that looks at the last 1,116 days—to provide for minor changes in the schedule. Since some races shift dates more than a week or two, the past three-years sometimes occasionally contain five races instead of six. It is a consistent snapshot, however.

 

A note about the Power Average: The Fantasy Power Rankings formula includes finishing results this season as well as various “strength-based” intangibles such as Laps in the top five, 10, and 15, average running position, speed in traffic, and quality passes (passing a car while in the top 15) expressed as if they were finishing results. The lower the number, the stronger the driver.

 


Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/chasing-cup/chasing-kansas-fall