Fantasy Article

Rotoworld

Chasing Charlotte (Fall)

Dan Beaver
Thursday, October 5, 2017

Round one is over and the four drivers we predicted last week would fail to advance are no longer in consideration for the championship. The prediction wasn’t earthshattering: Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Austin Dillon were at the bottom of the standings and did not have much momentum. The only real question was whether Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would find his way into round two of the playoffs at the expense of Newman. Now the focus shifts to the wild card event at Talladega SuperSpeedway in two weeks and how that impacts nine of the drivers without enough bonus points to be comfortable.

No one wants to enter that race among the bottom four in the standings because any little mistake could have huge repercussions. On the other hand, the top three are pretty safe because of bonus points and that leaves the middle contenders to be decided.

Projected to make the Finals

Kyle Larson (4 wins / 4 stage wins / 3,034 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 17.17
Talladega: 21.67
Kansas: 19.50

Larson has a 24-point cushion over eighth in the standings and that gives him a little wiggle room—especially when one considers that he could win either Charlotte Motor Speedway or Kansas Speedway. His three-year averages are not great on any of the next three courses, but this has been a career year that defies history.

Martin Truex Jr. (5 wins / 19 stage wins / 3,059 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 6.50
Talladega: 21.17
Kansas: 9.00

Larson’s greatest competition for wins on the next two similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks will be Truex and Kyle Busch. If not for the wild card race at Talladega, these could be the three who advance to round three on victories. Nonetheless, these contenders will be the ones who are the best values in the coming weeks.

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 13 stage wins / 3,041 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 12.83
Talladega: 17.20
Kansas: 3.80

Busch’s back-to-back wins in the last two races added 10 bonus points to his tally and makes it much more likely that he is going to be able to advance all the way to Homestead. If Larson, Truex, and Busch are in the finale, fantasy players will have a difficult decision to make because that is going to be a whale of a show.

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 5 stage wins / 3,020 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 13.83
Talladega: 12.17
Kansas: 17.00

The fourth person to advance to Homestead will not exactly be a surprise driver, but it is going to be difficult to determine who he will be until Phoenix International Raceway is in the books. For now, Keselowski gets the nod because he has been more consistent than the others in the top eight and his slight advantage in terms of bonus points is going to help.

Projected to Advance to Round 3

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,006 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 24.25
Talladega: 15.67
Kansas: 23.00

Before drivers learn how to win, they have to lose a lot of races in a variety of ways. That is what Elliott is experiencing at the moment and so long as he can keep from getting down on himself, experiences like the one he had in the Apache Warrior 400 will be positive.

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 3 stage wins / 3,015 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 10.00
Talladega: 12.83
Kansas: 6.00

Harvick has not recently shown the same kind of consistency or speed that he did in the past two seasons. He leads the Stewart-Haas Racing contingent and that will keep his hopes alive with solid runs at Charlotte and Kansas, but he lacks the raw power to win races and advance all the way to Homestead.

Denny Hamlin (1 unencumbered win – 1 encumbered / 2 stage wins / 3,013 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 10.00
Talladega: 18.17
Kansas: 20.83

It’s hard to tell if Hamlin is losing his momentum with back-to-back finishes outside the top 10 at New Hampshire and Dover, but since that is the first time in more than 18 races—a rolling half season—that failed to crack the top 10 in two consecutive events, it pays to be a little conservative in regard to his handicap.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,010 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 20.67
Talladega: 16.83
Kansas: 16.50

Last week, Stenhouse benefited from the right strategy, but that is part of the equation in NASCAR these days. He still has a better than average chance to win at Talladega in a couple of weeks, so we are going to allow him to remain among those drivers favored to advance from round two.

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,003 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 12.50
Talladega: 18.33
Kansas: 21.50

Consistency has gotten McMurray to this point, but he is going to have to win one of the next three races in order to advance and that is simply not in the cards for the No. 1 team.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 3,017 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 19.50
Talladega: 16.17
Kansas: 14.83

Johnson certainly has the capacity to win at Charlotte and Kansas under normal circumstances. This year has been far from ordinary for the driver of the No. 48, however, and he does not have that championship look like he has for most of NASCAR’s playoff era.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 3,008 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Chicagoland: 26.20
Talladega: 21.33
Kansas: 7.50

The Wood Bros team expended a lot of emotional energy last week when they lost two laps to a mistimed pit stop. Those little factors can make a big difference to a team like this and Blaney is likely to struggle through at least two of the next three races.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,005 points)
Power Ranking: 17
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Charlotte: 13.00
Talladega: 21.33
Kansas: 9.67

Kenseth is in much the same predicament as McMurray. He needs to win, but this team has not come close on more than a handful of occasions in 2017. Kenseth’s lame duck status also factors into the likelihood of him advancing to the third round.

 

Power
Rankings

Points’
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Charlotte

Talladega

Kansas

Projected to Make the Finals

1.

3

Kyle Larson

4

4

6.54

|

17.17

21.67

19.50

4.

1

Martin Truex Jr./p>

5

19

8.24

|

6.50

21.17

9.00

7.

2

Kyle Busch

4

13

10.35

|

12.83

17.20

3.80

2.

4

Brad Keselowski

2

5

8.14

|

13.83

12.17

17.00

Projected to Advance to Round 3

3.

10

Chase Elliott

 

3

8.22

|

24.25

15.67

23.00

5.

6

Kevin Harvick

1

3

9.87

|

10.00

12.83

6.00

9.

7

Denny Hamlin

2, 1

2

13.02

|

10.00

18.17

20.83

16.

8

Ricky Stenhouse Jr./p>

2

 

17.07

|

20.67

16.83

16.50

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

6.

12

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.35

|

12.50

18.33

21.50

10.

5

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.27

|

19.50

16.17

14.83

11.

9

Ryan Blaney

1

3

13.38

|

26.20

21.33

7.50

17.

11

Matt Kenseth

 

3

17.07

|

13.00

21.33

9.67

Outside Playoff Contention

8.

18

Joey Logano

1

1

11.06

|

14.00

17.17

14.17

12.

13

Ryan Newman

1

 

14.77

|

8.50

15.17

14.33

13.

17

Clint Bowyer

 

1

14.84

|

21.33

13.33

22.17

14.

16

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.25

|

7.67

7.83

15.17

15.

 

Erik Jones

 

 

15.48

|

7.00

33.00

31.00

18.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr./p>

 

 

17.69

|

15.00

19.20

19.60

19.

15

Kasey Kahne

1

 

18.17

|

20.83

24.00

14.00

20.

14

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.84

|

13.50

18.33

16.50

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.75

|

25.33

26.33

20.20

22.

20

Daniel Suarez

 

1

21.36

|

11.00

19.00

7.00

23.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.66

|

26.00

15.50

23.50

24.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.96

|

36.00

13.00

20.00

25.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.35

|

18.00

18.17

27.00

26.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

23.19

|

24.33

24.50

21.00

27.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.35

|

21.33

21.83

16.33

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

23.85

|

26.17

30.67

26.80

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.05

|

20.67

24.83

23.17

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.57

|

31.50

27.67

27.83

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.55

|

26.50

23.00

28.67

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.64

|

31.67

16.80

31.50

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.96

|

31.40

27.80

28.20

34.

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.60

|

33.75

31.33

36.00

35.

 

Joey Gase

 

 

30.89

|

NA

21.00

36.00

36.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

32.14

|

27.00

20.00

34.00

37.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

32.88

|

33.50

27.00

27.00

38.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.89

|

32.00

30.33

31.20

39.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.06

|

35.00

31.00

33.00

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 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.