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Chasing Las Vegas – Yahoo Sports

Chasing Las Vegas – Yahoo Sports
13 Sep
3:23

For the next 10 weeks, the playoffs and the drivers vying for the championship will dominate not only the media coverage, but will also dominate fantasy rosters. Last year, every playoff race was won by a driver in contention to win the title. The same was true in 2016 and in 2017 Matt Kenseth (at Phoenix) was the only driver to win a race after he had been knocked out the playoffs.

Last year three drivers had an easy route to the finale because of the bonuses they built up. This year, the bonus points are more evenly distributed. Kyle Busch has a 40-point advantage over the driver ninth in the standings, which means he has a relatively easy path to Round 3. His lead over the driver fifth in the standings is only 17 points, however, and there are six races in which the next four drivers will continue to have a chance to take their share of the 42 points up for grabs.

The NASCAR Fantasy Live game has changed the format for the coming 10 weeks and two of your players have to be playoff eligible, but one need only look to the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the sweep of the top four spots to recognize the importance of the drivers listed below.

Projected to make the Championship

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 10 stage wins / 2,045 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 1


Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 8.50
Richmond: 7.33
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 32.00

It seems highly unlikely that Busch will fail to make the finale. About the only thing that might be worrisome is the fact that has been more likely to finish on the high side of the top 10 in recent races on tracks that will host the playoffs.

Joey Logano (2 wins / 8 stage wins / 2,028 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 6

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 4.00
Richmond: 5.50
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 10.00

Logano lost a lot of momentum in the past several weeks, but his strong Brickyard 400 showing should be enough to allow him to refocus on the task at hand – especially since he has one of the best records at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the field. He enters with a seven-race, top-10 streak and should easily extend it.

Kevin Harvick (3 wins / 5 stage wins / 2,028 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 4

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 20.50
Richmond: 6.00
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 9.00

Harvick’s record at Vegas is uneven. He has two wins, a fourth, and a seventh in his last six races, but his other two races ended on the hook. When he crashed out of last year’s edition of the South Point 400 it didn’t matter all that much because of the bonus points he’d accumulated. This year it could be more problematic, but if he doesn’t make any mistakes, he should keep advancing through the playoffs.

Denny Hamlin (4 wins / 3 stage wins / 2,030 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 2

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 16.25
Richmond: 5.50
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 12.00

With seven results of sixth or better in the last eight races, Hamlin has more momentum than anyone in the field. Vegas will be a challenge because he’s scored only two top-fives and another five top-10s there in 15 starts. Some hope can be found in the fact that he won on a similarly-configured track in Texas earlier this spring and finished fifth in the last 1.5-mile track event in Kentucky.

Projected to Advance to Round 3

Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins / 3 stage wins / 2,029 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 3

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 4.00
Richmond: 8.50
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 14.00

Frankly we wouldn’t be surprised to see Truex knocked out at the end of Round 2 unless he and the team are able to stop their downward spiral. He has not scored a top-10 in three races and is barely batting .500 in the last 18. The only thing keeping him going at the beginning of the season was his ability to win, but his last victory came before Sonoma Raceway this summer.

Brad Keselowski (3 wins / 4 stage wins / 2,024 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 6

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 3.50
Richmond: 6.83
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 31.00

Like his teammate Logano, Keselowski should have an easy route through Round 1 in no small part because of the good start he will get this week at Vegas. He has the longest active top-10 streak with eight and during that time he has won three times, finished second on another occasion, and third once. 

Chase Elliott (2 wins / 4 stage wins / 2,018 points)
Power Ranking: 8
Points’ Standings: 7

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 20.50
Richmond: 12.33
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 6.00

Last year Elliott scored a pair of victories in the playoffs at Dover International Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Both of these came in Round 2. He missed getting into the finale because of trouble at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway despite scoring top-10s in the first two races of that segment.

Kyle Larson (0 wins / 4 stage wins / 2,005 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 11

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 4.75
Richmond: 11.33
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 25.00

Before we project Larson will make it to the Championship finale, he is going to have to get to Round 3. This is the year we think he will pull off that feat if he can avoid the problems that have plagued him for the past two seasons. He has to keep his current momentum alive and continue to challenge for top-fives.

Projected to Advance to Round 2

Ryan Blaney (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 2,004 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 9.75
Richmond: 26.50
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 1.00

Look for all three Team Penske drivers to fare well this week. Getting out of Round 1 should not be terribly difficult for Blaney, but he is going to need to seriously think about bonus points in order to get very far into the playoffs. Last year’s win on the Charlotte Roval was a step in the right direction, but he needs to score some stage wins as well.

Kurt Busch (1 win / 3 stage wins / 2,011 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 8

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 22.75
Richmond: 10.00
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 5.00

Like his brother Kyle, Kurt has struggled at Vegas. His fifth-place finish there in the spring was only the third top-10 since 2005 and it’s hard to project he will get off to a strong start. The consistency he showed throughout most of 2019 is starting to fail at the worst possible time.

Aric Almirola (0 wins / 1 stage win / 2,001 points)
Power Ranking: 12
Points’ Standings: 14

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 9.25
Richmond: 14.67
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 19.00

Unless he finds a magic setup and begins to challenge for top-fives, Almirola is not going very far in the playoffs and he could be one of the drivers in the greatest jeopardy of failing to make it to Round 2 if one of the drivers ranked below him manages to find Victory Lane. He should be a decent value this week, however, because he enters Vegas with three straight top-10s there.

Erik Jones (1 win / 0 stage wins / 2,005 points)
Power Ranking: 15
Points’ Standings: 10

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 19.00
Richmond: 16.40
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 30.00

Based on his last three years’ average for the next three tracks, Jones would seem to be in danger of even making it out of Round 1. He has momentum on his side, however, and it will pay to remember that he had one of the best cars in last year’s South Point 400.

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 2

William Byron (0 wins / 1 stage win / 2,001 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 26.67
Richmond: 15.00
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 34.00

Drivers competing in their first knockout playoff do not traditionally fare particularly well. Byron will be no exception and from the very first race this weekend he is going to fight an uphill battle. Based on his season-long Fantasy Power Rankings he has performed a little better than Almirola or Jones, but he lacks consistency and momentum.

Alex Bowman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 2,005 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 9

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 15.33
Richmond: 15.67
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 4.00

Getting his career-first win at Chicagoland Speedway was great, but it appears to have been a pyrrhic victory. Since then, Bowman has scored only one more top-10 and amassed an uninspiring average finish of 16.7. Equally bad, his last three races have been worse than the one that preceded it.

Clint Bowyer (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 2,000 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 15

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 16.25
Richmond: 13.83
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 3.00

We are prepared to be wrong about this prediction. If Bowyer can sustain the momentum he had in the last three races of the regular season and Blaney, Ku. Busch, Almirola, or Jones have enough problems, Bowyer could keep himself alive – especially since he performs so well on road courses and could potentially win on the Roval.

Ryan Newman (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 2,000 points)
Power Ranking: 18
Points’ Standings: 16

Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Las Vegas: 15.25
Richmond: 16.50
Charlotte Roval (1 race): 11.00

Newman had to expend so much energy simply to make the playoffs that he is likely going to be exhausted for the first three races. Being hard to pass will only get you so far unless you can do the passing yourself.

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 (all 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: https://sports.yahoo.com/chasing-las-vegas-223252334.html

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