New Hampshire Value Start Rankings
By Bill Hnat
The duel between Keselowski, Gordon, and Larson during the closing laps in the Chicago is one of the reasons why we tune in every week. In the end, Keselowski punched his ticket to the next round of the playoffs. For Fantasy NASCAR, the end result is one less week in the season to hold your lead or catch your competition. There are still nine races left and the owners who have saved the best drivers in each tier will be rewarded for their patience. This week, we see two frontrunners in the “A” tier, multiple options in the “B” tier, and a clear choice out of the “C” tier.
Two Hendrick cars stood out statistically in New Hampshire: Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. I recommend you choose Jeff Gordon because he is usually not as successful in the closing races as Johnson. Of the nine remaining races, New Hampshire is Johnson’s eighth best race in lap-to-lap performance. Conversely, this is Gordon’s second-best track for the remainder of the season. For this reason, I would recommend Gordon.
In the last five September races at New Hampshire, Gordon has an eight place average finish. Since 2005, Gordon has an average running position of 8.7 and spends a series-best 86% of his laps running in the top 15. Gordon has finished in the top ten for 15 of his last 27 races. He is second in the tier in fast laps and fifth in the tier in laps led. Considering his success throughout 2014, Gordon is a safe bet for success.
If you are swimming with Jimmie Johnson starts, he could easily be a successful addition to your team. Johnson has a third-place average in the last three September races. He has the most fast laps in the series since 2005 and the most laps led in the tier. Johnson has finished in the Top Ten for 20 of his last 27 New Hampshire races. The consistency and upside is here, but I would save his starts for Dover, Kansas, and Martinsville later this season.
If you must choose less than obvious choices to gain in your league, the “A” tier has potential dark horses. Kyle Busch is second in the tier in laps led since 2005. Kasey Kahne is third in the tier in fast laps. Kevin Harvick has 14 Top Ten finishes in his last 27 New Hampshire races. Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both have run 71% of their laps in the top 15. Feel free to go with one of these choices, but Gordon and Johnson have the best chance for success.
Two drivers are the most responsible for my fantasy NASCAR difficulties in 2014. One is Kyle Busch. The other one is in the “B” tier. He dominates statistically on tracks only to finish in the middle-of-the-pack. Tony Stewart has looked like a promising start on several tracks this year. In order to save my best starters in the tier, I give into temptation and start Stewart only to be rewarded with a 20th place finish. I keep thinking this week will be the week where his team matches his historical numbers, but the reward is simply not occurring. The same scenario unfolds in New Hampshire for Stewart, and his statistics are the best in the tier. Start him if you must, but his historical numbers have not translated to 2014 success all season.
With the long Tony Stewart disclaimer stated, here are a few reasons why you should ignore me and select Stewart. Stewart has the most laps led since 2005 of any driver and the most fast laps in the tier. He has run in the top 15 for 83% of his laps and he has an average running position of 8.8. 12 of his last 27 races have resulted in a Top Five finish. Stash Stewart on your bench and maybe he will be tempting enough for your lineup after qualifying.
My first recommendation for the tier is also the best “B” tier driver in 2014. I have three starts remaining for Brad Keselowski. Due to his consistency all season, I am saving his starts for weeks where I do not like the other drivers in the tier. Denny Hamlin has a slight statistical edge over Keselowski, but I am too low on starts and will save his start for Martinsville. Keselowski has not led many laps here and has not been a dominant car at the track, but a ninth-place average over the last ten September races at New Hampshire suggests a solid run. In 2014, Brad Keselowski plus average race number usually translates to success.
Ryan Newman is the low-risk low-reward driver that I am using right now. Newman is fifth in the tier in 2014 and is fourth in the tier in lap-to-lap performance at New Hampshire since 2005. Newman has spent 68% of his laps in the top 15 and has an average running position of 13.4.
There are other drivers to consider in tier “B” as dark-horse candidates. Greg Biffle has an eleventh-place average finish in the last ten September races at New Hampshire and has finished in the Top Twenty for 22 of his last 27 races. His lap-to-lap performance was only average. Brian Vickers has an eighth place average over this last five years. Martin Truex Jr. led 98 laps in last year’s race. Joey Logano can succeed at any track this year. As always, the “B” tier invites multiple strategies and is a challenge to navigate as the season winds down.
Kyle Larson finished third last week. Regrettably, I avoided this start because he had no history at the track. The good news is that we have historical data for Larson on every track for the remainder of the season. Larson finished in 3rd place earlier in the year at Loudon and ran in the top 15 for 69% of his laps. Of all remaining tracks this season, he has the best lap-to-lap performance at this track. Start Larson even if you are down to your last start. If you are completely out of Larson starts, Austin Dillon finished 14th earlier this year, but his lap-to-lap numbers are far from Larson’s. To swing for the fences, Reed Sorenson has finished in the Top Twenty for 6 of his last 18 races. I am not anticipating this performance from Sorenson, but the number is worth noting. Danica Patrick has an average finish of 13.5 in her two September New Hampshire races. Her lap-to-lap data is poor at New Hampshire.
The Fantasy NASCAR value start principle compares a driver’s historical data at one race in relation to all 36 races in the season. It also takes into account a driver’s performance compared to the other drivers in the tier. The goal is to identify the best races for the top drivers in each tier and discover some sleeper candidates. For additional information on the value start formula, please visit http://rotogalaxy.com/explaining-fantasy-nascar-value-start-principle/
Best choice: Jimmie Johnson
Solid options: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch
Below Average: Kurt Busch
Stay away from: Kasey Kahne
Jimmie Johnson 11.79
Jeff Gordon 10.67
Matt Kenseth (-3.88)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-15.49)
Clint Bowyer (-15.57)
Kevin Harvick (-19.37)
Kyle Busch (-19.80)
Kurt Busch (-32.20)
Kasey Kahne (-51.77)
Best choices: Brad Keselowski and Brian Vickers
Solid options: Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano
Below average: David Ragan, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola, and AJ Allmendinger
Stay away from: Marcus Ambrose, Casey Mears, and David Gilliland
Brad Keselowski 25.50
Brian Vickers 21.69
Greg Biffle 21.43
Tony Stewart 20.21
Denny Hamlin 8.72
Jamie McMurray (-3.17)
Carl Edwards (-4.27)
Martin Truex Jr. (-5.60)
Ryan Newman (-9.70)
Joey Logano (-14.91)
David Ragan (-30.50)
Paul Menard (-32.16)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-36.97)
Aric Almirola (-38.47)
AJ Allmendinger (-39.47)
Marcus Ambrose (-54.77)
Casey Mears (-71.97)
David Gilliland (-83.99)
Best choice: Kyle Larson
Solid options: Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick
Below average: Reed Sorensen and Justin Allgaier
Stay away from: All others