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Following the final regular season race, it is fitting that not a single driver among the Fantasy Power Rankings top 10 occupies the same position they did last week.
One major reason for the extreme movement among the top 10 is that the Brickyard 400 was one of the roughest races we’ve seen in a long time. With nothing on the line except the chance to get a few more bonus points in the playoffs, drivers made wild and sometimes reckless moves on the track. Ultimately chaos ensued with the top 10 representing the last men standing.
Now the points reset and every decision made over the next three weeks is going to have a major impact on who will and won’t advance to the Round of 12. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been wild in the past and frankly may be again this week, but it’s a fair bet that the 10 top-ranked drivers in the chart below will be among those who survive the round.
This week’s Fantasy Power Rankings formula includes races from the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway through the Brickyard 400.
1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 2) +1
Playoff Rank: 4
Weeks in the top 10: 26
Where the playoffs are concerned, there is a lot to be said for getting momentum at the right time. Winning his first event of 2019 only seven weeks ago, Harvick ended the regular season with three wins and six top-10s in his last seven races. He enters the final 10 races with only two bonus points fewer than Denny Hamlin (ranked second in playoffs) and one less than Martin Truex Jr. Five of those came just last week at Indy.
2. Denny Hamlin (last week: 1) -1
Playoff Rank: 2
Weeks in the top 10: 19
Hamlin is still feeling the effects of his accident at Darlington Raceway two weeks ago and will continue to do so for some time. That single bobble allowed Harvick to close in on him, but the pair will be well matched in the coming weeks. If one is going to think about a Big Four at the moment, it is difficult not to place Hamlin in the running with seven results of sixth or better in his last eight races, but streaks have a way of ending in NASCAR as quickly as they begin.
3. Kyle Larson (last week: 7) +4
Playoff Rank: 11
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Larson’s mistake last week at Indy was unforced. Drivers have to find the ragged edge of control and Larson simply stepped over it, crashed, and finished 33rd. Still, it is better that it happened in the regular season finale than in the playoffs – where we’ve seen Larson make mistakes in the past. This will be his fourth appearance and fans can only hope that he’s matured to the point that he has learned from previous seasons.
4. Martin Truex Jr.(last week: 2) -1
Playoff Rank: 3
Weeks in the top 10: 23
Truex has not had a top-10 finish since Michigan International Speedway. We keep waiting for him to turn things around, but last week may have been his worst overall performance in the past half season (18 races). Granted, he sustained damage in the accordion-style accident on pit road, but he just has not seemed sharp for a while. Truex is trending down, but has a ways to go before he is overcome by a driver outside the top 10.
5. Kyle Busch (last week: 3) -2
Playoff Rank: 1
Weeks in the top 10: 26
Like Truex, Busch has lost some of his recent momentum. Unlike the driver of the No. 19, he has been able to overcome in the closing laps and climb into the top 10 most of the time. With his bonus points for regular season wins, stage wins, and for leading the points he has a notable lead, but it is not nearly the benefit he’s had in the past. A 44-point advantage over 13th in the standings and 40 points over ninth means that Busch will cruise through the first two rounds, but he is going to need to win sometime in the next six weeks to reestablish his dominance.
6. Ryan Blaney (last week: 8) +2
Playoff Rank: 12
Weeks in the top 10: 18
Last week Blaney had one of his best opportunities to win this season and that is going to stick with him. Ultimately he fell to seventh in the closing laps of a race that was far from predictable, but he ran with the leaders long enough to move up the grid. Blaney’s hallmark in 2019 has been consistency. That will help him advance out of Round 1 and is going to be a great asset to fantasy players, but he will not make Round 3 without a win.
7. Brad Keselowski (last week: 5) -2
Playoff Rank: 6
Weeks in the top 10: 20
Looking back at Keselowski’s recent stats, it’s hard to identify a clear pattern. He’s been able to string strong finishes together, but he has had only one streak of three top-10s this year. He’s going to need more consistency to be a part of the final four. If not for an accident last week, he might have scored a third consecutive top-five since both of his teammates went on to score solid results.
8. Chase Elliott (last week: 11) +3
Playoff Rank: 7
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Elliott finally climbed back onto the leaderboard on the strength of four top-10 finishes in his last five attempts. It’s going to take a little more than a ninth-place finish to wipe away the memory of seven dreadful results from the first Michigan race through Pocono 2. Prior to that he had a five-race streak of top-fives, however, and he could be a championship favorite if he can remount that charge.
9. Joey Logano (last week: 12) +3
Playoff Rank: 5
Weeks in the top 10: 25
We don’t think Logano is out of the woods just yet. His runner-up finish in the Brickyard 400 ended a five-race skid of results outside the top 10, but it was his first top-five in nine weeks. Success in the playoffs is about managing three-race segments, however, and Logano is capable of winning a couple of events during the next nine weeks.
10. Erik Jones (last week: 6) -4
Playoff Rank: 10
Weeks in the top 10: 9
Jones put himself in a bad position last week. Keselowski could have given him a little more room in the corner, but that is not how the driver of the No. 2 races – and to advance in the playoffs, drivers have to be situationally aware. The Brickyard 400 was a bitter disappointment after his dramatic Southern 500 win. Worse still, it was his third sub-15th-place finish in the past four weeks.
Dropped from the Top 10
11. Kurt Busch (last week: 9) -2
Playoff Rank: 8
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Busch has 11 playoff points and that is not enough to make the team confident about their ability to advance. There are four drivers behind him in worse circumstances, but if each of them finishes three or more positions ahead of him in the final rundown and matches his performance in the stages, Busch could be knocked out quickly. Busch has gotten where he is based on consistency, but he has finished outside the top 15 now in four of his last seven attempts.
14. Matt DiBenedetto (last week: 10) -4
Playoff Rank: NA
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Frankly we didn’t expect DiBenedetto to stick around in the top 10 very long but that is not how his success should be gauged. While it would have been nice to see him score another top-10 (or even top-15), he is still on a streak of nine consecutive top-20s and for a driver at his level, he is still one of the best values in the game.
Kevin Harvick (P)
Denny Hamlin (P)
Kyle Larson (P)
Martin Truex Jr. (P)
Kyle Busch (P)
Ryan Blaney (P)
Brad Keselowski (P)
Chase Elliott (P)
Joey Logano (P)
Erik Jones (P)
Kurt Busch (P)
Clint Bowyer (P)
William Byron (P)
Alex Bowman (P)
Ryan Newman (P)
Aric Almirola (P)
(P) = Current Playoff Contender