October 29, 2014

CHASE FANTASY: Texas

Eliminator: AAA Texas 500


Matt Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff have made the most
of the season, even as victory lane has eluded them. (NHMS/HHP)
It looks like someone was a little bitter to have not received his invitation to the Eliminator Round of the NASCAR Chase.  After struggling in the Contender Round, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eliminated from championship contention, but that didn't stop him from crashing the party with a win at Martinsville Speedway this past Sunday.

His win opens the door for at least two drivers to qualify for the Championship Round on points alone.  That's a pretty risky proposition, however.  Those still in the Chase have been among the most consistent drivers this season, so one slip could easily knock a driver out of the points race.

Wins are still key.

Jeff Gordon just missed out on a clinching win with his second-place finish at Martinsville; that could come back to haunt him if something goes wrong in the next two races.  Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick suffered damage and finished 31st and 33rd, respectively, at Martinsville.  Both of them won in the last round and might need to do the same to advance.

Here's a fantasy NASCAR perspective on how some of the Chase contenders are expected to finish this week:

October 24, 2014

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Talladega



Next Up: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500
at Martinsville Speedway



Brad Keselowski did it the hard way, winning Sunday's race
at Talladega Superspeedway to advance into this weekend's
Eliminator Round, starting at Martinsville Speedway.
Two rounds down, one round and one championship race to go.
The Chase field has been dwindled down to eight drivers, with Brad Keselowski getting in by the skin of his teeth thanks to a hard-fought win at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday.
While six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne are now on the outside looking in, they're still very much alive in the Magic Mile Power Rankings. But did any of them make this week's list? And how far did Bad Brad climb after picking up his sixth win of the season? Was it enough to vault him into the top spot, which has been occupied by teammate Joey Logano for several weeks now?

MMPR format:
Win - 10 points
Top-5 - 5 points
Top-10 - 3 points
Most Laps Led - 2 points
Pole - 1 point
21-30 - Minus-1
31-40 - Minus-3
41-43 - Minus-5
*The most recent five races are counted.
**Names in yellow indicate championship eligible drivers
(Last five weeks' point total in parentheses)

Here's a look at the MMPR (hashtag edition) heading into the first race in the Eliminator Round at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday:

October 22, 2014

CHASE FANTASY: Martinsville

Eliminator: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Fantasy Preview


Jeff Gordon won last fall's win at Martinsville
for his eighth career win at the track. (Getty)
... And then there were eight; eight drivers with a clean slate, gunning for a championship.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled through all three Contender Round races.  He's been eliminated.

Jimmie Johnson did his best to bounce back from two poor showings with his best race in several months, but got shuffled back on the final two restarts at Talladega.  There will be no seventh championship this year.  He's been eliminated.

Kyle Busch was in prime position to make the Eliminator Eight entering Talladega, but was hit from behind while checking up for a wreck and suffered severe damage, after which he finished 40th.  He's been eliminated.

Kasey Kahne plodded along with finishes of 22nd, 10th and 12th in the Contender Round, which left him four points short of qualifying for the next round when Brad Keselowski stole the final spot with a win.  He's been eliminated.

Then, of course, there was Keselowski.  Like Johnson and Earnhardt Jr., he knew he needed nothing short of a win at Talladega to move on to the next round.  That proved to be true.  He finished five points behind Kahne for the eighth position in the points, but his win ensured he automatically moved on and Kahne got knocked out.

The driver of the No. 2 might not come anywhere near winning "Most Popular Driver" this season, but his performance at Talladega could set him on the way to winning his second championship in three seasons.  He's joined in the Eliminator Round by Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenneth, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon.

With the field narrowed to eight, here's a look at some of the remaining Chase drivers and their fantasy NASCAR values at Martinsville Speedway:

October 15, 2014

CHASE FANTASY: Talladega

Contender: GEICO 500 Fantasy Preview


Dale Earnhardt Jr. used a Daytona 500 win to jump start his season.
He'll need another restrictor plate race win to keep it going. (Getty)
It's time for another elimination race.  Another four will be knocked out of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

After suffering issues at Kansas to open the Contender Round, not Brad Keselowski (16th at Charlotte), nor Jimmie Johnson (17th), nor Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th) managed to gain any ground back with their mediocre finishes in the Bank of America 500 this past Saturday.  That means that those three, all of whom have been considered championship favorites for much of the season, will need to race their way into the Eliminator Round.

Talladega is a wild card, and crazy enough things could happen to advance at least one or two of those drivers to the next round without a win, but don't plan on it.  Keselowski is 19 points off the cut to advance, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. are 26 apiece, and all three would need to jump Matt Kenseth (one point out) even if they caught eighth-place Kasey Kahne.

Win or go home is a pretty strong guideline for those three drivers.  Here's how they stack up from a fantasy NASCAR standpoint:

October 11, 2014

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Kansas



Next Up: Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway


Joey Logano's dominating day at Kansas Speedway has him
locked into the Eliminator Round of the Chase. (Getty)
New Englander Joey Logano made the next two races much easier on himself with a win at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. The victory locks Logano into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship's Elminator Round.

While it was a great day for Logano, it wasn't so much for teammate Brad Keselowski, and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson. Those four currently sit outside the top eight and will have their hands full trying to climb back into contention.

Logano's win has him into the next round and atop the Chase standings, but was he able to climb into the top spot of the Magic Mile Power Rankings?

MMPR format:
Win - 10 points
Top-5 - 5 points
Top-10 - 3 points
Most Laps Led - 2 points
Pole - 1 point
21-30 - Minus-1
31-40 - Minus-3
41-43 - Minus-5
*The most recent five races are counted.
**Names in yellow indicate championship eligible drivers


Here's a look at the MMPR (last five weeks' point total in parentheses) heading into the first race in the Contender Round at Kansas Speedway on Sunday: