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Chasing the Cup

Chasing Texas: And then there were eight

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 13, 2021, 10:18 am ET

The Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval was worth the price of admission. A chaotic YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway tightened the points at the cutline so much that almost every driver was in jeopardy of falling below it. And yes, that included Kyle Larson who’s massive bonus point total was not enough to keep him from being in the red after an alternator issue sent him to the back of the pack.

The points shifted multiple times during the race and the biggest piece of drama was the ongoing feud between Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick. Still upset over how he was raced at Bristol Motor Speedway, Harvick ran into the back of Elliott, sent him into the wall, and momentarily knocked the No. 9 out of playoff contention. With a stricken car, Elliott charged through the field and closed the ground on Harvick.

With a rapidly approaching, and ticked off, Elliott in his rearview mirror, Harvick overdrove into Turn 1 and crashed. From that point on, it would take a win by Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, or William Byron to change the order of the No. 8 – and the points continued to shift as the No. 24 cycled into and out of the lead.

The end result of the Roval 400k was predictable with one of the road racing favorites, Larson, securing his seventh win of the season. But the race most assuredly was not.

Projected to make the Championship

Denny Hamlin (2 wins / 10 stage wins / 4,030 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +350
Power Ranking: 1 (4.32)
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 17.60
Kansas: 9.83
Martinsville: 8.17

Hamlin doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. His fifth-place finish was in line with how he has run on road courses all season and he even had the opportunity to battle for the win in the closing stages. His similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks record has not been overly impressive when one considers the entire season, but he is the most recent winner on this track type with a victory in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Blaney (3 wins / 4 stage wins / 4,024 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +700
Power Ranking: 2 (7.32)
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.60
Kansas: 18.00
Martinsville: 7.33

The traders at PointsBet Sportsbook continue to have Blaney as the highest seed at Team Penske and we agree that he has been the most consistently strong driver in this group. It is highly likely that three drivers will advance to the Championship 4 on the strength of a victory and Blaney’s spring Atlanta Motor Speedway victory suggests he can repeat at either Texas Motor Speedway or Kansas Speedway. If points are needed, his recent consistency of four top-10s in the last four unrestricted races suggests he could do it that way.

Chase Elliott (2 wins / 4 stage wins / 4,022 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +550
Power Ranking: 5 (8.93)
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 16.60
Kansas: 5.00
Martinsville: 8.83

When a driver stands up for himself on track, as Elliott believed he was doing at Bristol four weeks ago, he has to consider the consequences. An unhappy Harvick took two shots at Elliott in the Roval 400k. One of them sent the No. 9 hard into the wall and very easily could have eliminated Elliott. The feud may not be over yet. It’s unlikely that further retaliation will happen at Texas or Kansas because of the speeds involved there and the scrutiny of NASCAR. But Martinsville is an entirely different matter, so Elliott really needs to win one of the next two races.

Kyle Larson (7 wins / 15 stage wins / 4,065 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +210
Power Ranking: 6 (9.28)
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 18.67
Kansas: 11.00
Martinsville: 17.25

With his seventh win of the season, Larson now has a bonus points’ total of more than one full race, which would make him extremely safe in this round if not for the points earned by other drivers. He is fairly comfortable with a 35-point lead on Hamlin and a 42-point advantage over the cutline, but no one should believe this driver and team are complacent. They saw what happened at Talladega and Charlotte and won’t be satisfied until they win again and lock into the Championship 4. With two wins on 1.5-tracks already this year, that could happen in the next two weeks.

Projected to Fail to Make the Championship 4

Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins / 5 stage wins / 4,029 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +450
Power Ranking: 7 (10.21)
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 11.60
Kansas: 8.00
Martinsville: 6.00

We’ve been a little indecisive where Truex is concerned this year. He has been hard to handicap and just when we think he can be written off, he challenges for a victory. With that understood, he simply doesn’t seem to have a lot of strength at the moment. Back-to-back problems at Talladega and Charlotte may have robbed this driver of momentum. He is historically one of the strongest drivers on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but he has not won there in two years and it’s likely that he will need a victory to advance.

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 2 stage wins / 4,008 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +2500
Power Ranking: 8 (10.88)
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 20.40
Kansas: 5.83
Martinsville: 8.17

Keselowski fans will take consolation in the fact that one of Keselowski’s strongest runs on a 1.5-mile track this season came at Kansas when he finished third. His other top-five on this track type came at Vegas in the spring, however, and that setup did not completely translate to the fall. Keselowski finished seventh in the South Point 400 and was in that same range in both Texas races last year. That is about where one can expect him to run in the next two weeks.

Joey Logano (1 win / 5 stage wins / 4,013 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +1200
Power Ranking: 4 (8.40)
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 7.40
Kansas: 15.50
Martinsville: 6.83

The next two weeks will probably derail Logano’s championship effort. He will enter the Kansas race as the defending winner and that should give him a little hope, but he has not been very strong on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in 2020. In seven races this season, he has a best of ninth. That is his only top 10 and his average of 16.1 on this track type is much more predictive of exactly where he will finish.

Kyle Busch (2 wins / 6 stage wins / 4,023 points)
PointsBet Championship Odds: +650
Power Ranking: 11 (12.28)
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 7.80
Kansas: 8.67
Martinsville: 9.83

Busch is going to have to dig deep in the next three weeks if he wants to advance to the Championship 4. While he has seemed numb in recent weeks, he will be encouraged to head to 1.5-mile tracks in the next two weeks because he enters them with a victory as the cornerstone of six consecutive top-fives. If he runs in the top-five at Texas, we may reverse our opinion and elevate him to the next level. Unfortunately with +700 odds to win the Cup, he has one of the lowest odds among the Round of 8 drivers so you are not going to get as robust a return as you should.

 

Power
Rankings

Power
Avg.

|

Points
Standings

Points

PointsBet
Odds

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

|

Texas

Kansas

Martinsville

Projected Top 4

1

4.32

|

2

4030

+400

Denny Hamlin

2

10

|

17.60

9.83

8.17

5

8.93

|

6

4022

+800

Chase Elliott

2

4

|

16.60

5.00

8.83

6

9.28

|

1

4065

+220

Kyle Larson

7

15

|

18.67

11.00

17.25

7

10.21

|

3

4029

+700

Martin Truex Jr.

4

5

|

11.60

8.00

6.00

Projected to fail to
Make Top 4

2

7.32

|

4

4024

+1200

Ryan Blaney

3

4

|

11.60

18.00

7.33

8

10.88

|

8

4008

+2000

Brad Keselowski

1

2

|

20.40

5.83

8.17

4

8.40

|

7

4013

+1600

Joey Logano

1

5

|

7.40

15.50

6.83

11

12.28

|

5

4023

+700

Kyle Busch

2

6

|

7.80

8.67

9.83

No Longer in
Playoff Contention

3

8.24

|

9

2209

NA

Kevin Harvick

0

0

|

6.20

7.00

10.67

10

12.17

|

12

2160

NA

Tyler Reddick

0

3

|

8.50

13.50

16.00

12

13.24

|

10

2164

NA

Christopher Bell

1

0

|

12.00

20.33

19.50

14

14.46

|

11

2163

NA

Kurt Busch

1

3

|

8.00

15.17

9.83

15

15.00

|

13

2133

NA

William Byron

1

3

|

17.80

15.00

18.33

17

16.48

|

14

2131

NA

Alex Bowman

3

0

|

14.40

8.50

17.83

21

18.92

|

15

2117

NA

Aric Almirola

1

0

|

10.00

15.50

19.50

29

26.86

|

16

2087

NA

Michael McDowell

1

0

|

22.00

20.83

25.33

 

A note about the three-year stats: The three-year average finish is a script that looks at the last 1,116 days—to provide for minor changes in the schedule. Since some races shift dates more than a week or two, the past three years race total occasionally varies. It is a consistent snapshot, however.

A note about the Power Average: The Power Rankings formula includes finishing results in the past 45 days as well as various “strength-based” intangibles such as Laps in the top five, 10, and 15, average running position, speed in traffic, and quality passes (passing a car while in the top 15) expressed as if they were finishing results. The lower the number, the stronger the driver.

Power Rankings After Charlotte Roval
Chasing the Charlotte Roval
Chasing Talladega

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.