NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Dover

September 25, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

Keselowski

Johnson, Gordon and Bowyer have fared well; Keselowski a dark horse at Dover

Related: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live

Last week’s venue, New Hampshire Motor Speedway had only 12 degrees of banking. This week, drivers will try to master the 24 degree corners of Dover International Speedway. While it would seem that these two one-mile courses have very little in common, they are both rhythm tracks and many of the same drivers who excelled last week will be near the front of the pack again in the AAA 400.

Rhythm tracks require drivers to hit extremely precise marks and as a result, organizations with less funding than the superteams can often compete near the front of the pack. Casey Mears finished 16th in this spring’s FedEx 400. Richard Petty Motorsports’ placed both of their drivers in the top 20 with Aric Almirola taking home the 18th-place check and Marcos Ambrose finishing 19th.

Finishing in the top 10 will continue to be a challenge for the non-Chase contenders this week, however. Last year Chasers recorded an average finish of 11.7 at Dover on the strength of three top-fives and six top-10s. That compares to Chicagoland’s average finish of 11.6 two weeks ago and New Hampshire’s 12.1.

Fantasy players will want to anchor their roster with Chasers, but they cannot forget about dark horses because they will be needed to extend one’s salary cap.

Rank

Driver

Avg. Finish

1.

Jimmie Johnson

3.43

2.

Kyle Busch

5.54

3.

Carl Edwards

9.08

4.

Jeff Gordon

9.53

5.

Kevin Harvick

11.04

6.

AJ Allmendinger

11.71

7.

Mark Martin

11.76

8.

Clint Bowyer

12.11

9.

Kasey Kahne

12.96

10.

Kurt Busch

13.25

11.

Brad Keselowski

13.27

12.

Matt Kenseth

13.39

13.

Denny Hamlin

13.43

14.

Martin Truex Jr.

13.98

15.

Jeff Burton

17.08

16.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.29

17.

Greg Biffle

17.29

18.

Joey Logano

17.55

19.

Marcos Ambrose

18.30

20.

Brian Vickers

18.53

21.

Jamie McMurray

20.66

22.

Juan Pablo Montoya

20.96

23.

Ryan Newman

21.12

24.

Aric Almirola

21.35

25.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

21.37

26.

Paul Menard

23.59

27.

Ryan Truex

24.00

28.

David Reutimann

26.20

29.

David Ragan

27.96

30.

David Gilliland

30.80

31.

Reed Sorenson

31.94

32.

Casey Mears

33.18

33.

Danica Patrick

33.47

34.

JJ Yeley

35.68

35.

Travis Kvapil

36.18

36.

Josh Wise

37.20

37.

Landon Cassill

37.31

38.

Dave Blaney

37.51

39.

Joe Nemechek

38.28

40.

Tony Raines

38.33

41.

Michael McDowell

38.36

42.

Timmy Hill

39.40



The Favorites

Rhythm tracks are prone to streaks and six of the drivers in the field earned back-to-back top-10s last fall and this spring at Dover. Only one of them has more than three consecutive top-10s, however, and that puts Clint Bowyer in a league of his own. He had sporadic strong runs in his first five seasons of competition to earn three top-10s and six top-15s in his first 10 races. He finished outside that mark often enough to log an average finish of only 15.7, but he reversed his fortune in 2011. He swept the top 10 that season, and while he has still struggled to record top-fives, his average finish in the last five Dover races is a respectable 6.8.

Jimmie Johnson has had some dominant runs in the past at Dover. According to NASCAR Statistical Services, he recorded 923 fastest laps run, which equates to 15.3 percent of the green flag laps in the past 17 races. By comparison, Carl Edwards posted 487 fast laps, Greg Biffle had 432, and Matt Kenseth 409 in that same span of events. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Johnson has led 2,066 laps, which is more than double that of the second-place driver Kyle Busch. The NASCAR Fantasy Live game awards points in the category as well. About the only way Johnson will not help you this week is in quality passes, because once he gets to the front there is no one left to go around.

If one is inclined to say nice things about Jeff Gordon, there is no track on the circuit on which his record cannot be praised. Sometimes one has to page back through the book a little ways and Gordon’s fourth and most recent win came at Dover more than a decade ago in 2001. A driver does not have to win to be a good value, however, and Gordon also has 16 top-fives during his career, which places him second on that list among active drivers. With a longer career, Mark Martin has 24 top-fives to his credit. One does not need to look back very far to find Gordon’s most recent top-five and must scan back only three months to see that he finished third in the FedEx 400. Equally important, that result does not stand alone because Gordon was in contention for the win last year and finished second to Brad Keselowski in the AAA 400.

Dark Horses

Keselowski is at a bit of a disadvantage simply because he is not in Chase contention. He has two tasks this week. He needs to run well to get maximum exposure for his sponsor, but he also needs to help Joey Logano in any way possible. That could mean anything from running an experimental engine to testing aggressive setups. There is a strong possibility that both the No. 2 and 22 will be contending at the front of the pack, however. Keselowski is not only the defending winner of the AAA 400, he returned this spring to score another top-five in the FedEx 400. That makes him and Gordon the only two drivers with back-to-back top-fives. This spring, Logano was only two positions behind his teammate on the track. He finished seventh, so both should be on fantasy owners’ radar screens.

Martin has shown a level of consistency at Dover that makes him extremely attractive this week. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, he has scored 15 top-15s in 17 starts. Eleven of those strong runs were top-10s, including a third last fall and a ninth this spring. Equally impressive is the fact that he has run well with five different teams and there is no reason to doubt that he will take Tony Stewart’s No. 14 to the front of the pack as well. In the last 17 races, Martin has recorded the fifth-most fastest laps run and the sixth-most quality passes. To score quality passes, a driver needs to be racing in the top 15 and Martin has spent 77 percent of his laps with the leaders, which ranks him third behind Johnson and Kenseth.

Underdogs

From fall 2007 through spring 2009, Biffle posted four consecutive top-three finishes. He won the 2008 edition of this race and seemed to be unstoppable. Soon after that, he began to lose the handle on this track, however. He scored one more top-10 in his next two starts, but he has not finished among the top 10 at Dover since spring 2010. His last six attempts on this track have netted an average finish of 17.8 and that might make him an acceptable risk if he was valued under $25, but to spend this much money a player will want his driver to score a top-10.

Kasey Kahne will face one of his biggest challenges at Dover. In 19 career starts, he has scored only one top-five and five top-10s. He has one other lead lap finish in 11th, but that means he has failed to complete the distance in nearly 70 percent of his starts. One of the categories scored in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game is pass differential and Kahne has lost positions in all but four of his Dover attempts. On average, he loses 10 positions to finish outside the top 20 and that is the worst record among active drivers entered this week. 

Editor's Note: The Power Average is the average finish during the last three years, plus the number of laps spent in the lead, in the top five, and in the top 10 expressed as if they were finishing results. For example a driver who has led the most laps receives a hypothetical first-place finish, the driver who leads the second most laps receives a hypothetical second-place finish, and so on. This rewards drivers who competed at the front of the pack for the majority of the race, even if an unfortunate event takes them out of contention at the very end of the race. A driver's recent record in the support series is also factored in, as is his average running position as provided by NASCAR Statistical Services. Failures to qualify are credited to the driver as if they were a finishing position (i.e. the first non-qualifier is assigned a 44th-place finish).

With recent changes to Bristol Motor Speedway, there are no comparative tracks to Dover International Speedway. The short, flat tracks are New Hampshire, Phoenix, Richmond, and Martinsville.