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Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Start or Park: Brickyard 400

Friday, September 7, 2018


Last year, only three drivers who started in the top 10 finished there. Nearly half of the field retires with crash damage and others were slowed. This week has the same potential for chaos. As the final regular season race with several capable but desperate drivers entered, drivers will take risks on old tires, fuel strategies, and in traffic.

If qualification and practice are rained out on Saturday, the unknowns rise exponentially and this essentially becomes a guessing game as to whether it will have long green flag segments or will be predictable based on previous results.

Level 1

Start: Kyle Busch
It has been two weeks since the Big 3 won. Part of the reason for that is because Kyle Busch has been pushing the envelope and making unforced errors. The same thing might have been true in last year’s Brickyard 400 when he raced Martin Truex Jr. hard late in the going and was taken out. The likelihood of him making another mistake is fairly low and he should be able to pick up where he left off. Busch won back-to-back Brickyard 400s in 2015/2016 and finished second in 2014.

Start: Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick won the 2003 edition of this race. He finished third in 2006 and second in 2010. Since then, he has earned only one more top-five. He has not been too far from the front, however, and enters the weekend with four consecutive results of eighth or better. Harvick has momentum on his side. He might also have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder after last week’s run-in in the Xfinity race with Ross Chastain, this week’s announcement that he will not race in the second series, and the inevitable speculation about whether the two are related. Harvick drives best with a chip on his shoulder.

Start: Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott has not yet scored a top-10 at Indy, but he has never had this much momentum on his side. A win, three more top-fives, and a current streak of six top-10s makes him arguably the most improved driver with the playoffs looming and this is a chance to show how much the No. 9 team wants to challenge for the championship.

Park: Martin Truex Jr.
With the announcement that Furniture Row will shut down, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding Truex – but that is not the only reason to park the No. 78 this week. He hasn’t been terrible, but the fact remains that he has not scored a top 10 in his last four oval track races and one expects a lot more from one of the Big 3.

Level 2

Start: Team Penske
It is much too soon to predict that all of Team Penske’s problems are behind them, but last week’s 1-2 finish by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano may well have rejuvenated the organization. This has not been Kez’s best track during this career, but he came close to winning last year’s Brickyard 400 by staying out of trouble. On the other hand, Indy is Logano’s third best track in terms of average finishes and he enters the weekend with a five-race streak of finishes eighth or better. A rising tide lifts all ships, so Ryan Blaney should also contend for a top-10.

Start: William Byron
William Byron has nothing to lose at Indy. Like all of the drivers outside the top 15, his only way to get into the playoffs is to win the final regular season race. This is a track that has been kind to dark horses in the past with Kasey Kahne’s win last year and Paul Menard’s fuel-aided 2011 victory. Jeff Gordon was successful with Hendrick five times; Jimmie Johnson won four times – and last year, Byron found his way to Victory Lane in the Xfinity series. The No. 24 is a gamble, but one that may pay off for any player needing a Hail Mary in the regular season finale.

Park: Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman
The two Hendrick Motorsports teammates have a lot to lose this week. If there is a unique winner from outside of the top 15, whichever of them is lower in the points is going to see their championship seat ripped out from under them like a sad game of musical chairs. It is not hard to imagine that Johnson and Bowman both will detune their cars to insure that nothing goes wrong with the engine and that is going to cost them several positions on the track. A finish in the teens would be considered successful for them and results in the 20s are more likely.

Level 3

Start: Chris Buescher
While both of his 2.5-mile flat track top-10s came with extenuating circumstances – Pocono’s 2016 win was aided by weather and last year’s ninth in the Brickyard 400 came after heavy attrition – this is a type of track that has rewarded him in the past. He has three other top-20 finishes in six starts and that is enough to make him a good value in salary cap games.

Start: Matt DiBenedetto
A lot of news came out of this week at Indy even before cars hit the track. Kasey Kahne announced he would not race because of lingering effects from heat exhaustion at Darlington. There is a very real possibility that he will not return this season and that leaves a team that has been on the upswing scrambling to find his replacement sooner than they thought. Matt DiBenedetto announced he would leave GoFas Racing at the end of the season [https://nascar.nbcsports.com/2018/09/07/matt-dibenedetto-leaving-go-fas-racing-after-this-season/] – fueling speculation that he may be tossing his hat in that particular ring. He could be auditioning for a job and that might be worth a position or two.



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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