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Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Start or Park: Michigan

Friday, August 10, 2018


Notably, none of the A list drivers enter the Consumers Energy 400 with consecutive top-10s at Michigan International Speedway. Not to fear, because the Auto Club 400 was contested on a track that was very similar in regard to who runs well. This week’s Cheat Sheets were built with both Michigan and Auto Club in mind, and before we get to final practice on Saturday, there is plenty of information to make some educated guesses.

This week, NASCAR returns to a standard schedule. Teams focused on qualification on Friday, which is critical on a track with speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. The pole here is important because speed is not usually found at the shop and a team that does not roll off the hauler fast is going to struggle.  

Level 1

Start: The Big 3
It is obviously not the time to turn your back on the Big 3. They’ve dominated ever track type this year and no one has seriously contested them on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. Yes, Clint Bowyer earned the win at Michigan this spring in a gutsy performance on a moist track, but if the race had gone the full distance, Kevin Harvick would almost certainly have won.

Kyle Busch swept the top five on the two-mile tracks with a third at Auto Club and fourth at Michigan.

Martin Truex Jr. slipped to 18th in the Firekeepers Casino 400, but he was so dominant at Auto Club that he has to be considered a top choice still. Truex has four results of sixth or better on this track type in the previous four races and is going to earn another top-five.

Start: Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott did not show a lot of speed in Friday’s practice or in qualification. He rolls off the grid 21st. His best runs have come after he started on the front five rows, but he still has Saturday to find a little more speed. And, while one has to be close when they roll off the hauler, they can find a little bit. The most important thing in Elliott’s favor is that he has more confidence than at any time in his career with last week’s victory.

Park: Aric Almirola
Waving a red flag over any of the drivers this week is a challenge because every A-lister has something to recommend them. Aric Almirola is no exception, with 11th- or 12th-place finishes in the last three attempts on two-mile tracks. That consistency is actually what swings opinion against him, however, because in Level 1 players expect their driver to contend for a top-five. Almirola could be a good value in salary cap games if he is rightly priced, but in NASCAR Fantasy Live, he is not going to make the cut.

Level 2

Start: Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin rolled off the hauler fast. He had the top speed in practice, led the first two rounds of time trials, and qualified on the pole. He should be able to hang onto to that speed through Saturday’s sessions and be one of the top values on Sunday. If he and the team can avoid mistakes in the pits – which has been no small feat this year – he could have the type of race that puts him back inside the Fantasy Power Rankings Top-10.

Start: Erik Jones
Erik Jones has not been faultless at Michigan, but he made the highlight reel last summer. Battling his teammate Truex, he got snookered just a little on a late-race restart and finished third. This spring, he was seventh at Auto Club. He fell to 15th in the Firekeepers Casino 400. That gives him a perfect record of top-15 finishes, but one has to discount the result just a little because the race did not go the full distance. We’re willing to bet that he has a top-10 in him.  

Park: Jimmie Johnson
We are looking forward to the day that Jimmie Johnson is not an automatic “avoid” on most tracks. If a player catches him at the right time, they can ride a wave of success and claim him for a bargain price. Hendrick Motorsports seems to be improving, but only Alex Bowman showed speed in qualification – and it is likely he is going to fall back in race trim. Coming off his first Cup win, we are willing to roll the dice with Elliott, but Johnson has not been nearly as strong in 2018.

Level 3

Start: Trevor Bayne
Trevor Bayne did not advance out of round one in qualification. He missed the top 24 by two spots, but he knows what he did wrong. Out of the car for several weeks, he admitted to being a little tentative on the throttle off turn two. He has time to get into a rhythm and should move forward. Roush-Fenway Racing is more than capable of earning top-20s on the two-mile tracks, so he is going to add at least a half-dozen place-differential points to his total.

Start: Ty Dillon
While this team is not officially affiliated with Richard Childress Racing, they have a close connection. Ty’s brother Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman showed a lot of speed in Friday’s practice. The No. 13 did not quite make the top 24, but his effort of 27th puts him among the best in Level 3. As with Bayne, a top-20 brings with it positive place-differential points and makes Dillon a hidden gem.

Previous Start or Parks

Firekeepers 400 (Michigan) 
Auto Club 400 
Quaker State 400 (Kentucky) 
Overton's 400 (Chicagoland) 
Coke 600 (Charlotte) 

 



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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