NASCAR has searched for parity since the creation of the series. During the “Golden Age” that required seemingly endless concessions to car manufacturers. Today it is done with tight specs and a developmental ladder that insures the drivers who climb into cars of top teams are truly the best in the sport.
No one has been perfect this year, but the cream rises to the top. In this week’s Top 10, fantasy players see a lot of the names that dominated all season, but as we reach the final race it is important to note that 19 drivers have made their way onto this list. Some of them, like Matt DiBenedetto and Jimmie Johnson with two appearances each came on strong after the halfway point of the season. Others like Daniel Suarez (4 appearances) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3), were strong early.
The Fantasy Power Rankings looks at the past 45 days, which was decided on at the start of the season as a way to eliminated peaks and valleys created by only one or two strong races. It tracks several strength-based categories such as Average Running Position, Driver Rating, and performance during the Stages so that a driver who was strong for the majority of the race is rewarded. The period under consideration this week begins with the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
No one has been perfect—even Harvick almost fell out of the top 10 a time or two—but with the Modern Day rules, what matters most is peaking at the right time.
While the numbers sometime need to be explained, it should be noted that the four drivers who qualified for the Championship Round are ranked fifth or better in the list below. Kevin Harvick has been a part of his list for all 35 weeks. Martin Truex Jr. has been on the list 32 times with Kyle Busch making 31 appearances. Denny Hamlin has been in the top 10 on 28 occasions.
1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 35
The only thing that has kept Harvick from seeming to be dominant during the playoffs is comparing him to last year’s version of Harvick. While he did struggle a bit in the middle stages of 2019, he peaked at the right time with key victories late in the regular season. Since the playoffs began, the only time he’s failed to finish in the top 10 was on the wild card track of Talladega.
2. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 2)
Weeks in the top 10: 32
Like Harvick, Truex has been perfect in the playoffs with the exception of Talladega. In fact, in terms of his raw average finish with the exclusion of that wild card, Truex has been better than Harvick with a 3.75 compared to 4.75. On paper the championship would seem to be coming down to these two drivers and both have been great at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the past. It’s just a matter of who will be perfect among any of the top four.
3. Ryan Blaney (last week: 5) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 27
Blaney couldn't quite outrun two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates last week and after entering the playoffs with very few bonus points, his uphill climb stalled two positions away from advancing to the Championship finale. Most NASCAR Fantasy games are single week contests, however, and Blaney was as strong as anyone in the last three weeks with two top-fives and an eighth. He may well be the best bet for a non-playoff winner next week – which would be the first time ever since NASCAR implemented the current rules in 2014.
4. Denny Hamlin (last week: 3) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 28
While Hamlin is widely considered one of the best drivers of all time on short, flat tracks, ISM Raceway has often been an exception. He finished 13th in the 2018 edition of the Bluegreen Vacations 500k, but he had a pair of top-fives from the spring to give him added confidence. After dominating final practice on Friday and qualifying third, everyone in the field knew he would be the driver to beat. That was what he needed in order to advance and his odds of finishing in the top five next week are greatly enhanced.
5. Kyle Busch (last week: 4) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 31
Four tires weren’t enough last week to beat Hamlin’s determination. As a result, Busch’s winless streak has now stretched to 21 races; his last victory came at Pocono in June. If he wants to win the championship this year, he is very likely going to need to win the Ford 400. If he loses, it will probably be to one of his teammates – and Busch hates coming in second to them more than anyone else in the field.
6. William Byron (last week: 9) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 20
Byron continues to outpace expectations. His climb in the rankings this week had as much to do with the fact that a 24th-place finish at Richmond Raceway aged out of the formula as his 17th-place result at Phoenix last week, but taking a 45-day view at results takes away some of the immediate peaks and valleys. In the period of consideration for this week’s ranking, Byron has three top-six finishes and is still cheap enough to make him a good value in most salary cap games.
7. Kyle Larson (last week: 6) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 21
Larson lost his consistency late in the regular season and was unable to regain it. That has diminished his overall value, but if a player caught him on the right weekend, he banked a lot of points. Texas Motor Speedway should have been one of his better races if he had not been caught a lap down when Bubba Wallace spun to bring out a caution. Last week, his fourth-place finish was behind two drivers who advanced to the championship round.
8. Joey Logano (last week: 10) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 33
Logano is one of four drivers who swept the top 10 in the Round of 8. Unfortunately two of those were on the high side with an eighth at Martinsville Speedway and a ninth last week in Phoenix. His average finish in the past three races of 7.0 was slightly better than the one driver advancing on points, but Busch was much more successful in the regular season and had a bigger bonus to enhance his bid. Logano needed to outrun the No. 18 last week and simply couldn't pull that off.
9. Clint Bowyer (last week: 8) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Predictability is important for fantasy players. During the playoffs, Bowyer was unable to put together a perfect round, but he has been more ‘hit’ than ‘miss’ in the past nine races with five top-10s and an 11th. It is difficult to extrapolate how he will end the season next week, but he will be fun to watch as always.
10. Kurt Busch (last week: 11) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 17
An interesting battle to watch next week will be between Busch and Keselowski. Only a fraction of a point separates them in the Fantasy Power Rankings average and while Team Penske might be slightly stronger than Chip Ganassi Racing over the course of a full season, Busch is the driver on the rise with five results of 11th or better in his last six races compared to just four for Keselowski.
Dropped from the Top 10
11. Brad Keselowski (last week: 7) -4
Weeks in the top 10: 28
Since finishing fifth on the Charlotte Roval, Keselowski has struggled to maintain consistency. He failed to crack the top 10 a single time in the Round of 12 and was eliminated from playoff contention. In the Round of 8, a pair of top-10s was interrupted by a crash at Texas. In fact, Keselowski has failed to find momentum at almost any point of 2019 and earned three consecutive top-10s only twice during the season.