Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Update: South Point 400

Saturday, September 15, 2018


Silly Season keeps getting sillier. A few hours after posting the fastest single lap in the morning practice session for the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman announced on twitter that he would not return to Richard Childress Racing – putting his name alongside Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, and Daniel Suarez (and several others) who do not know precisely what they are doing next year.

His fast speed suggests that Newman's status as a short timer is not going to affect his on track performance.

Weather conditions may be robbing a little speed from the cars, but this has not been all that apparent on the track. McMurray slapped the wall in qualification, but he is the only Cup driver to have had a significant issue. Maybe – just maybe – the cars will leave Las Vegas intact.

Practice

Newman's lap of 183.892 topped the speed chart in the morning. He ran mostly short stints during that session and does not appear on the 10-lap average, but his overall performance when all of those runs were added together put him among the top 10. Often, when a driver faces an uncertain future we are prone to wave a red flag over him, but this is Newman. He is probably the most tenacious driver in the field and when he has something to prove, he is even more dangerous.

In the morning session, Clint Bowyer had the quickest 10-lap average among 19 drivers who posted that many consecutive laps. He's going to need that because he qualified 15th and was the fourth slowest driver among the playoff contenders. Getting to the front has not been his issue in recent weeks. He was among the leaders at Bristol and Indy before he had trouble on late-race restarts and fell back through the pack.

“That Jones Boy,” Erik Jones made a lot of noise. He not only won the pole for Sunday's race, but he dominated Happy Hour with the fastest single lap and the quickest 10-lap average. In the morning session, he had the second-quickest 10 laps, which suggests that there is some adjustability in his car. He lacks the experience for us to flat out predict he will challenge for the win, but he should easily be able to land in the top 10. That will make him extremely valuable in most games.

Practice 1 Results 
Final Practice Results 

Qualification

Jones scored his second career pole Friday night. The first time he led the field to green, he came within a few laps and one position of winning. He got passed by mentor and current teammate Kyle Busch at Bristol last fall and finished second. With one win under his belt, the circumstances are different know and even though he lacks enough maturity to declare him a favorite, he is a much better driver today than he was a year ago.

The playoff drivers got where they are for a reason. On Friday, they swept the top 10 and put another driver 11th on the grid.

The only non-playoff driver to make the final round of time trials was McMurray – who, like Newman has a lot to prove. Another incident like the one he experienced in qualification during the race will rob McMurray of a strong run and it is difficult to imagine he will contend for a top-10 now.

Joey Logano was one of our favorites before the weekend began and he has stood up to the test. He had the fastest speed in Friday's practice, crossed under the flagstand 2/100ths of a second slower than Jones and lines up on the outside of the front row. Along with some strong runs in recent weeks, Logano seems to have more confidence today than he has in a couple of months. That is good news coming to a track on which he has a five-race, top-10 streak.

Brad Keselowski failed to advance to the final round of qualification and will roll off the grid 13th. He sounded despondent by the slight mistake he made in Round 2, but he also seemed to know where he lost time.

Bowyer is joined in the middle of the pack by Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, and Austin Dillon as the slowest playoff contenders.

Qualification Results 



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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