Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Start or Park: QuakerState 400

Friday, July 13, 2018


Winning one’s fantasy leagues takes a mixture of marquee drivers, solid mid-pack picks, and dark horses. In some ways, that is more important now with the domination of the Big 3 because in unlimited five-driver rosters, one has only two chances to differentiate from the competition.

Salary cap games are always tricky. Finding value picks takes some intuition – and this week several mid-pack racers looked promising in practice. Spread the wealth as much as possible between these drivers and hope they live up to their potential.

Level One

Start: Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson desperately wants his first win on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track. He showed as much at Chicagoland Speedway during the final lap. It is something that he needs to add to his resume – and more importantly, since this is the track type that dominates the schedule, it is needed to make him a championship contender. If the Overton's 400 had been a few laps longer, Larson would have won. He might be able to do so this week if the team times their last setup change correctly. Larson was second to Truex in this race last year.

Start: Brad Keselowski
Ever since NASCAR has been coming to Kentucky, Brad Keselowski has been winning races in even numbered years. That trend probably ends this week given the dominance of the Big 3, but he will be a good value if he can finish anywhere in the top five. In the four races Keselowski did not win, he finished seventh in 2011 and sixth in 2015. His other two efforts were marred by crash damage.

Park: Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott is running well enough to make the playoffs unless there are multiple new winners in the next eight weeks, but it seems increasingly unlikely that he is going to be one of those who visit Victory Lane. Hendrick Motorsports has so much work to do and the time is running out on the regular season. Elliott showed a little speed in practice on Friday, but he’s done that in the past as well and not lived up to expectations.

Level Two

Start: Erik Jones
On the heels of his Coke Zero Sugar 400 victory, Erik Jones is charged and ready to start back on the path he left at the beginning of the year. Pundits expected him to contend on unrestricted, intermediate speedways and he had several strong runs last year. In 2018, he has been overshadowed by Busch and Harvick just like the remainder of the field, but he was among the strongest in Friday’s practice. Don’t be surprised to see him qualify well and run with the leaders early.

Start: Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney was both fast in terms of single lap speed and quick over the long run in Friday’s practice sessions. Team Penske has been solid at Kentucky with three wins for Keselowski and a pair of top-fives for Joey Logano. The organization has been strong on all iterations of similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in the past and some of Blaney’s best opportunities to win came in back-to-back races on this track type at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway this spring.

Park: Denny Hamlin
We had high hopes for Denny Hamlin at the start of the week, but he has not done anything to show speed since the cars rolled into Kentucky. He was outside the top 15 in both of Friday’s practices in terms of single fastest laps and was not much better in terms of average finishes.  Fantasy owners have the same potential productivity from dark horses Paul Menard and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while paying much less in salary cap games.

Level Three

Start: Bubba Wallace
In relief for Aric Almirola last year, Bubba Wallace almost cracked the top 10 at Kentucky. His 11th-place finish remains one of his best efforts on the track type, but he has been a consistently good value for a Level 3 driver with six results of 23rd or better in seven starts. Wallace finished eighth at Texas this spring in a race with heavy attrition, but it is likely he would have earned a top-20 regardless.

Start: Chris Buescher
Chris Buescher finished 16th in this race last year. This year, he scored 15th-place finishes at Texas and Vegas. He had one of his best performances last fall at Kansas Speedway with a sixth-place finish – so it is apparent that he knows how to get around the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. He posted the 17th-fastest lap in Friday’s practice session and could be one of the most pleasant surprises Saturday night.  



Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver



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