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Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Start or Park: South Point 400

Friday, September 14, 2018


For all the pressure that will become part of the 2018 playoffs, it only starts to build at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hot, slick conditions are going to alter the weekend – but at its core, this is one of seven similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks that reward multicar teams with deep pockets. The same drivers who dominated this track type will continue to do so – only with a little greater degree of difficulty.

Next week’s short track race at Richmond Raceway will ratchet things up – and then full-blown desperation will accompany the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The points will reset after that and with only 12 drivers in the field, it starts to get trickier in terms of who might and might not advance.

Level 1

Start: Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch is the only driver to sweep the top 10 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year. All but two of his seven attempts ended in top-fives and three of them (Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte, and Chicagoland Speedway) ended in victories. He won on his home track of Las Vegas in 2009, and while he has not visited Victory Lane there again, he came close with a second-place finish to a dominant Harvick this spring.

Start: Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick was so dominant in the Pennzoil 400 this spring, that it’s impossible to overlook him in the South Point 400. The field has closed the gap some, but this is still a driver who would probably have a perfect record of top-fives on this track type if not for a blown tire at Charlotte. As it stands, victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Vegas, and Kansas Speedway puts him on equal footing with Busch.

Park: Kurt Busch
It seems like every week, Kurt Busch finishes between sixth and ninth. For some reason, Vegas has not been one of his better tracks, however, and if that streak is going to be broken it could come on this progressively banked course. Busch has not been infallible this year. One of his worst finishes came when crashed on lap 183 of the Pennzoil 400 and scored a 35th. Last year, it was a battery problem that cost him four laps and sent him home with 30th-place money.

Level 2

Start: Team Penske
Despite winning back-to-back races, Brad Keselowski does not yet have a record that puts him in the top 10 in the Fantasy Power Rankings. He lacks consistency and could just as easily hit a lull. Joey Logano is battling back from summertime issues.

Both drivers have stellar records at Las Vegas, however. Keselowski enters with a six-race streak of results seventh of better on this track that includes victories in 2014 and 2016. Logano’s top-10 streak sits at six and includes a career-best of second to his teammate in 2016. The third member of the organization, Ryan Blaney has a three-race, top-10 streak to his credit.

Start: Paul Menard
If one wants to go far out on a limb, Paul Menard deserves notice. He is the only driver who finished in the top 10 in this spring’s Pennzoil 400 who did not make the playoffs. That is not the only reason to consider him. Menard finished 19th in last year’s Vegas race, but that is the only time since 2011 that he finished outside the top 15 on this track. In that span of races, his average finish is about 11th and that is enough to make him attractive at his salary cap level.

Park: William Byron
William Byron is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver not in the playoffs. Two of his teammates – Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson – will probably be eliminated in three weeks, but for now they and Chase Elliott have to command the lion’s share of the Hendrick Motorsports resources – resources that are more strained in 2018 than almost any time in recent memory. Byron could surge before the season’s end, but that is not likely to happen in Round 1 of the playoffs.

Level 3

Start: Trevor Bayne
Never underestimate the power of desperation. This week it was officially announced that Trevor Bayne would not return to Roush-Fenway Racing in 2019. A driver’s search for the No. 6 is already underway – and Bayne is searching for a new ride. He came close to cracking the top 10 a few weeks ago at Bristol. Matt Kenseth gave this team a good accounting last week at Indy – and they are capable of finishing in the top 15 at Vegas.

Start: Regan Smith
Another part time driver should be on your radar this week. Regan Smith is unlikely to outperform the No. 95 car, but he will give them a finish that is in the same ballpark as what Kasey Kahne has accomplished in 2018. If a result on the cusp of 20th provides you enough points and Smith’s salary cap is low enough to allow you to upgrade one of your mid-tier picks, he deserves notice.



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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