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:

October 8, 2014

CHASE FANTASY: Charlotte

Contender: Bank of America 500 Fantasy Preview


A season sweep at Charlotte would save Jimmie Johnson's
season and send him to the Eliminator Round. (Getty)
Whoops!  The opening race of the Contender Round didn't go as planned for many drivers.  Three favorites to make deep championship runs all wrecked and took a big hit in the point standings.

Brad Keselowski finished 36th.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 39th.  And, Jimmie Johnson dropped to the bottom of the Chase standings with a 40th-place finish.

The good news: the new Chase Grid format will forgive that finish if any of these drivers win one of the next two races.

The bad news: with the biggest wild card of the Chase, Talladega Superspeedway, on the schedule for next week, this Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the best opportunity for a Chase driver to control his fate and clinch a spot to the next round.

Here's a look at which Chase drivers may or may not perform well at Charlotte:

Green Flag - Jimmie Johnson


The No. 48 team will have to throw everything it has into this race.  Charlotte has hosted 111 races and Johnson sits alone at the top with seven wins at the track.  If there was ever a time to step up, this race is the one.  This isn't the biggest race of his career by any means, but a win could solidify his status as one of the greatest drivers ever, especially if he ultimately uses it as a springboard for his seventh Cup championship.

October 2, 2014

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Dover



Next Up: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway

Jeff Gordon's win at Dover earned him an
automatic berth into the Contender Round. (Getty)
Three earned automatic berths. Four are gone. And the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is down to 12 drivers with chance to win this year's title.

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and most recently Jeff Gordon have all earned a spot into the Contender Round via the victory, with Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all joining the party. The Chase said goodbye to A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Aric Almirola. 

But everyone is still very much alive when it comes to the Magic Mile Power Rankings. Gordon's win on Sunday at Dover International Speedway should get him out of the MMPR basement, but was it enough for him to climb past Bad Brad?

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.

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:

October 1, 2014

CHASE FANTASY: Kansas

Contender: Hollywood Casino 400 Fantasy Preview


Jeff Gordon won at Kansas Speedway in May. (Getty)
Four have been eliminated.  Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, and AJ Allmendinger are no longer Chase challengers and the field is down to 12 contenders.

The Contender Round marks what could be the most unpredictable round of the Chase because it has the most unpredictable track in Talladega Superspeedway.  That track stacks up as the third and final race in this round, and teams are putting a strong emphasis on performing well in the first two races to take out the drama of needing to avoid "The Big One" at Dega.

Here's a look at the best and worst fantasy options among the remaining 12 drivers:

Green Flag - Jeff Gordon


Gordon enters the Contender Round fresh off a win at Dover and also took the No. 24 to victory lane at Kansas earlier this year.  That wasn't unusual, as Gordon has three wins and 10 top-fives in 17 races at Kansas.  He has shown the consistency necessary to work his way through the new Chase format, but a season sweep at Kansas would alleviate pressure at Talladega.