NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Charlotte

October 09, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch prove reliable picks

Last week’s Hollywood Casino 400 should have been a predictable affair. It was the eighth race this season on a similarly configured 1.5-mile track, and it came three weeks after the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and five after the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. When Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch all had trouble in practice, however, fantasy owners knew that all bets were off.

Kansas Speedway has a recent history of creating tire trouble, and this race was not an exception. Danica Patrick spun before completing a single lap and the drama began to build. Strategy played an important role in the early and middle stages of the race. Before the checkers flew, 32 drivers spent at least a little time in the top 10, but ultimately the cream rose to the top.

Driver Power Average

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1.

Matt Kenseth

6.77

2.

Jimmie Johnson

7.57

3.

Carl Edwards

9.58

4.

Kevin Harvick

9.87

5.

Greg Biffle

10.62

6.

Kyle Busch

11.12

7.

Jeff Gordon

12.35

8.

Martin Truex Jr.

12.91

9.

Kasey Kahne

13.15

10.

Denny Hamlin

13.30

11.

Brad Keselowski

13.76

12.

Clint Bowyer

14.88

13.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

14.90

14.

Kurt Busch

15.16

15.

Paul Menard

17.78

16.

Ryan Newman

17.84

17.

Mark Martin

17.99

18.

Joey Logano

18.28

19.

Marcos Ambrose

18.44

20.

Jamie McMurray

18.64

21.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

19.72

22.

Aric Almirola

20.15

23.

Juan Pablo Montoya

20.95

24.

Brian Vickers

22.05

25.

David Ragan

23.28

26.

Jeff Burton

24.04

27.

David Reutimann

28.48

28.

Danica Patrick

32.63

29.

Casey Mears

32.98

30.

Bobby Labonte

33.06

31.

David Gilliland

33.17

32.

Landon Cassill

33.58

33.

Travis Kvapil

34.22

34.

Dave Blaney

36.47

35.

JJ Yeley

36.77

36.

Timmy Hill

36.94

37.

Cole Whitt

37.82

38.

Reed Sorenson

37.95

39.

Michael McDowell

39.00

40.

Josh Wise

39.41

41.

Joe Nemechek

40.61

The points battle everyone believed was a three-man race suddenly got more interesting. One bad race dropped Kyle Busch from third to fifth in the standings and the insurmountable obstacle that was Kenseth’s advantage suddenly does not seem so daunting.

If the Hollywood Casino 400 proved to be a wild card, no track is safe and no one will be eliminated from the conversation until the math denies them an opportunity.

The favorites

Three drivers enter the Bank of America 500 with at least a four-race streak of top-10s on similarly configured 1.5-mile tracks, and they are not the ones that immediately come to mind. Kevin Harvick’s Coors Light Pole winning effort last week was a surprise, and his victory was not exactly predictable in light of his recent record at Kansas. That was his fifth straight top-10 on this course type, however, and he will not fly under the radar again. Harvick kicked off his active streak with a win in the Coca-Cola 600. When he misses, it is not by a very wide margin and his worst result on these track types during the past two seasons was a 16th in this race last year. Even if he misses the top five this week, he will still be a good value.

After Kurt Busch destroyed his primary car, it seemed likely he would have a hard time getting to the front. His brother, Kyle, had an even better recent record on this track type and could not overcome the same setback, but the driver of the No. 78 performed flawlessly all afternoon and might have had a shot at winning if he was able to maintain his hard-fought track position. During the Hollywood Casino 400, Busch lost 16 positions in the pits, but he made up for that with aggressive restarts. He logged 38 quality passes, which was a big part of his success. More importantly, his second-place finish was his fifth consecutive result of sixth or better on this track type, and it is time to think of him as a predictably good value.

Jeff Gordon is the final driver with a long streak of top-10s on this track type, but he has had difficulty in putting a complete race together. Even last week, he was caught a lap down when a caution waved soon after one of his pit stops, but that happened early enough in the race to allow him to regain the lost track position. It seems inevitable that this team will win in 2013, and fantasy owners will want him on their roster until that happens. In his last four starts on similarly configured 1.5-mile tracks, he has gotten progressively better and could find Victory Lane this week even though he has had an erratic relationship with Charlotte Motor Speedway in recent seasons.

Dark horses

It seems odd to call the points leader a dark horse, but Kenseth has had an inconsistent season on these track types. He won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in Kansas’ first race, at Kentucky Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, but in alternating races at Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte and Atlanta and Saturday's race at Kansas, he finished outside the top 10. He has minimized the damage with top-15 results, but that is not sufficient to warrant his salary cap of $29. The good news is that during the past 17 Charlotte races, Kenseth has earned the sixth-most quality passes on average and has earned the fourth-most fastest laps run. Qualification will be the key for this driver. If he starts near the front in clean air, expect him to remain there all evening.

Joey Logano showed an immediate affinity for Charlotte. He swept the top 10 in his rookie season and has finished outside the top 15 only once in nine attempts. Running up front every weekend has put him in a position to record the most quality passes on average and if he comes close to recording another 53 passes, he will be worth any amount of salary cap. His erratic start the season kept the No. 22 affordable, however, and Logano can be hired for less than $25. He does not have a current streak on this track type, but when he has stayed out of trouble he has earned top-fives at Texas, Charlotte, Kentucky, Atlanta and Kansas.

Underdogs

Once the pressure of making the Chase was off his shoulders, Brad Keselowski got a second wind. He ran very well at Chicagoland and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but still failed to crack the top five. He slipped to 37th at Dover International Speedway and was never much of a factor last week at Kansas before finishing 17th. Keselowski has only one top-10 in his most recent eight starts.

Martin Truex Jr. got off to a great start on the 1.5-mile tracks in 2013. From the Kobalt Tools 400 at Vegas through Atlanta, he scored three top-fives and had a perfect record of top-10s in six races on this track type. He slipped to 18th in the Geico 400 after falling back during the final green flag segment and fantasy owners expected him to rebound at Kansas. He did not and finished 19th in the Hollywood Casino 400. He has not forgotten to drive on the 1.5-milers, but his momentum is gone and fantasy owners should wait for it to return before activating him on their roster.