Fantasy Article

Rotoworld

Chasing Michigan (Spring)

Dan Beaver
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

There are 16 slots in the playoffs. Winners get the first available slots.

In the first several years with this format, we have talked in principle about what might happen if more than 16 drivers win. Theoretically, no one would qualify on points alone and one or more drivers with victories under their belts would miss the show as well.

Last week with 13 races remaining, six slots were open to drivers qualifying on points only, but Ryan Blaney took one of those away with his Pocono Raceway win. That means there are now five positions open since Joey Logano’s encumbered win will not qualify him. But 12 races remain and several strong contenders could alter the landscape.

There are still three wild card races remaining on road courses and the restrictor-plate, superspeedway of Daytona International Speedway. None of the veteran Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won, nor has Kevin Harvick all of whom should grace Victory Lane before the end of the regular season. The next 12 weeks are going to be nerve racking for anyone without a win.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 12 (Maximum points per race = 60)
Unique Winners in 2017: 10

Locked into the Playoffs

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 0 stage wins / 421 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 15.00
Sonoma: 8.67
Daytona: 22.33

Just when it seemed safe to commit to Johnson, he had catastrophic brake failure at Pocono and pounded the wall. Until he strings some top-10s together, it is difficult to recommend him as a place-and-hold pick.

Martin Truex Jr. (2 wins / 8 stage wins / 584 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 18.50
Sonoma: 20.67
Daytona: 17.50

No one expected a lot from Truex last week at Pocono, so his sixth-place finish in the Axalta 400 was a pleasant surprise. That is his seventh top-10 in the past eight races and it makes him a perennial favorite.

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 2 stage wins / 454 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 5.50
Sonoma: 18.67
Daytona: 22.67

Keselowski rebounded from back-to-back accidents at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway to score a top-five at Pocono. That came just in time to restore his confidence for Michigan International Speedway—a track on which he has nine consecutive top-10s.

Eligible on Wins

Kyle Larson (1 win / 3 stage wins / 583 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 14.17
Sonoma: 18.33
Daytona: 22.33

Larson’s seventh-place finish at Pocono was important because it is the first time since Bristol Motor Speedway this spring that he was able to follow one top-10 with another. He won last summer’s Michigan race and again on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway this spring, so he could lock into the playoffs with multiple wins after this week’s FireKeepers Casino 400.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 360 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 17.25
Sonoma: 23.00
Daytona: 18.50

Last week, Blaney wasn’t even on this list. This week, he is the fifth driver to get profiled because of his Pocono trophy and three stage wins. Now that the pressure of making the playoffs is essentially off his shoulders, he can relax and work on accumulating more bonus points.

Kurt Busch (1 win / 0 stage wins / 331 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 14.50
Sonoma: 8.00
Daytona: 8.40

Busch continues to seesaw. In the last five races he has alternated top-10 finishes with results outside the top 15. So far in 2017, he has earned back-to-back top-10s twice, but also had a string of four results outside that mark. He is difficult to handicap on a given week until practice and qualification is in the books.

Ryan Newman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 322 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 13.33
Sonoma: 9.33
Daytona: 20.00

How important is a win? Newman is in playoff contention because he stretched his fuel mileage at Phoenix International Raceway. With an identical number of points, Erik Jones is six spots below the current bubble. At this range in the standings, simply being in playoff contention does not mean a driver is automatically a good fantasy value, however.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 win / 0 stage wins / 325 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 24.83
Sonoma: 25.67
Daytona: 24.50

Stenhouse’s Talladega SuperSpeedway win is what will put him in the playoffs, but it is not what makes him fantasy relevant. Since Martinsville Speedway’s 10th-place finish, the driver of the No. 17 has failed to crack the top 15 only once and that makes him a good place-and-hold pick.

Austin Dillon (1 win / 0 stage wins / 287 points)
Power Ranking: 19
Points’ Standings: 20
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 16.67
Sonoma: 18.67
Daytona: 10.17

Dillon’s win at Charlotte in the Coke 600 actually seems to have galvanized this team. They finished 12th at Dover International Speedway and 13th last week at Pocono. That is not going to get them on every fantasy roster, but it is better than they performed for much of the opening races.

Eligible on Points

Kyle Busch (0 wins / 4 stage wins / 463 points)
Power Ranking: 8
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 32.17
Sonoma: 11.00
Daytona: 17.60

Busch leapfrogs over Kevin Harvick this week on the strength of a fourth stage win. While these do not replace race wins, it could become important once the playoffs begin. It is hard to believe that he does not have a win yet this season and when he finally breaks into Victory Lane more are sure to follow.

Kevin Harvick (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 480 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 7.50
Sonoma: 10.00
Daytona: 18.33

Harvick came close to winning last week at Pocono, but Blaney wanted the trophy a little more. Like Kyle Busch and the other two veteran JGR drivers, it seems improbable that the No. 4 driver has not yet visited Victory Lane and no one expects that to continue throughout the regular season.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 438 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 2.00
Sonoma: 21.00
Daytona: 27.67

Elliott could easily join the winning ranks this week at Michigan. He finished second in both races on this track and has another pair of top-10s at Auto Club.

Denny Hamlin (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 386 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 15.67
Sonoma: 15.33
Daytona: 8.00

Hamlin has only two top-fives to his credit so far in 2017 so it is not as if he has come perilously close to winning. That is not where his attraction lies for fantasy players, however; he has finished 12th or better in six of his last seven races and that makes him an easy choice most weeks.

Joey Logano (1 encumbered win / 1 stage win / 362 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 5.83
Sonoma: 8.00
Daytona: 9.33

Sitting 11th in the points, Logano is actually the one on the cusp of falling out of playoff contention this week if a driver further down in the standings wins and he does not improve. The encumbered win took the winds out of this team’s sails and they have not earned a top-20 since Richmond International Raceway. They do have a current, nine-race streak on two-milers, however.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 418 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 11.00
Sonoma: 10.67
Daytona: 25.17

Last week’s brake failure and accident at Pocono snapped a seven-race, top-15 streak for McMurray and was only the second time this year that he failed to crack that mark. He swept the top 10 on two-mile tracks last year and added another sixth at Auto Club this spring, so he should rebound at Michigan.

Clint Bowyer (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 369 points)
Power Ranking: 12
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 21.67
Sonoma: 17.67
Daytona: 16.67

If Logano improves in the standings, that will put Bowyer on the bubble. These are the two drivers to watch this week and strictly by the numbers, the No. 14 could be in trouble. There is a reason they run the races, however, and Bowyer had a nine-race, top-10 streak of his own on this track as recently as 2015.

 

Power

Rankings

Top

16

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power

Avg.

|

Pocono

Michigan

Sonoma

Locked into the Playoffs

9

6

Jimmie Johnson

3

 

11.71

|

17.50

15.00

8.67

3

1

Martin Truex Jr.

2

8

7.11

|

19.67

18.50

20.67

2

7

Brad Keselowski

2

2

6.40

|

8.17

5.50

18.67

Eligible on Wins

1

2

Kyle Larson

1

2

4.94

|

8.83

14.17

18.33

13

15

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.39

|

16.83

13.33

9.33

14

16

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.46

|

11.50

14.50

8.00

17

14

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

1

 

16.50

|

24.83

24.83

25.67

19

21

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.41

|

19.00

16.67

18.67

Eligible on Points

7

3

Kevin Harvick

 

3

9.17

|

12.17

7.50

10.00

8

4

Kyle Busch

 

3

10.91

|

20.67

32.17

11.00

4

8

Chase Elliott

 

2

7.23

|

18.50

2.00

21.00

11

9

Denny Hamlin

 

2

14.28

|

11.00

15.67

15.33

6

11

Joey Logano

1

1

9.17

|

18.17

5.83

8.00

21

12

Matt Kenseth

 

1

18.95

|

15.67

14.00

27.67

5

5

Jamie McMurray

 

 

9.16

|

12.67

11.00

10.67

12

10

Clint Bowyer

 

 

14.78

|

14.83

21.67

17.67

Drivers Outside Playoff Contention

10

13

Ryan Blaney

 

3

12.23

|

10.50

17.25

23.00

15

 

Kasey Kahne

 

 

16.30

|

21.50

13.00

7.67

16

 

Erik Jones

 

 

16.32

|

NA

NA

NA

18

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

16.60

|

3.80

12.60

7.00

20

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

18.56

|

24.00

21.67

24.00

22

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

22.00

|

19.50

19.00

NA

23

 

Paul Menard

 

 

22.76

|

28.17

10.67

11.33

24

 

Daniel Suarez

 

 

24.16

|

NA

NA

NA

25

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

24.22

|

13.00

27.50

30.00

26

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

24.23

|

21.67

23.17

29.33

27

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

25.41

|

23.00

31.00

32.33

28

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

25.69

|

29.00

20.00

20.33

29

 

David Ragan

 

 

27.00

|

22.00

27.67

35.67

30

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.62

|

29.83

32.50

36.00

31

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.11

|

27.83

28.83

27.67

32

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

29.95

|

32.25

33.75

30.00

33

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.97

|

NA

NA

NA

34

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.84

|

32.60

34.00

32.00

35

 

Cody Ware

 

 

33.33

|

NA

NA

41.00

36

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

34.25

|

NA

NA

NA

37

 

Timmy Hill

 

 

35.40

|

36.00

43.00

NA

38

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.42

|

NA

37.00

NA

39

 

Derrike Cope

 

 

35.74

|

NA

NA

NA

 

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.