Data Mining is a regular post each week of the NASCAR season. It will focus on data behind the picks that combine hundreds of data points to give you the most accurate picture possible of what to expect from each driver this week. Digging deeper than loop data to give you an edge on the competition.
Adjusted Place Differential: Chris Buescher – 8.3
Chris Buescher has three career starts at Texas and he’s started at 30 or worse in all three of them. This weekend is no different. He finds himself starting in the back of the pack with a slew of talented drivers who failed to even run a lap in qualifying (more on that later).
Buescher however is much cheaper than the drivers surrounding him and if you’re going with the PD play, Buescher is a great pick but will not have as easy of a time picking off his competitors because the next several drivers in front of him are accomplished drivers in their own right.
Once this group of drivers makes it past the crowd starting from 26-31 then the real competition begins. It’s reasonable to see a +8 or so place differential without much effort at all presuming he doesn’t get involved in any wrecks. His place differential in his three previous starts is +10 +6 and +9, giving him an average of 8.3, the best in the field. Only six drivers have a better “Mover Rating” than Buescher. Expect some heavy ownership, but he’s a safe play and cheap!
Top-Five Rate: Joey Logano – 58.3%
There are going to be LOTS of eyeballs on the back of the field on Sunday, but let’s not overlook Joey Logano. Since the move to Penske Racing he has six Top-5’s in eight starts, and just one finish worse than 12th, that being the fall 2015 race where he was involved in a crash. His 58.3% Top-5 rate over the last seven years trails only Kyle Busch, who starting 34th has a much longer way to the front. Don’t overlook Logano who’s led 100+ laps in two of his last six starts here. His 5 in “Hammer Rating” is among the best in the field.
Green Flag Pass Differential: Jimmie Johnson – 10.1
Can we get good Jimmie Johnson once? This almost feels like how Richard Petty drove after winning #7. We didn’t get it at Martinsville, but here in Texas we have another track where Johnson has been shockingly good. He has five wins in his last nine starts and has led 120+ laps in five of the last ten race here.
Starting 24th we aren’t as likely to see him get up front and lead *as shown by his (1) in Hammer rating* but nobody has a better green flag pass differential here than Johnson. Drivers have said all weekend it will be very hard to pass here but Johnson’s practice speeds have been good and he will be able to work his way to the front. How far forward will make or break his value.
Lap Leaders: Starting Positions 1-5: 74.3%
I’m going to mention this here again, but let’s not sleep on the front of the field. There are enough picks in the 30’s to get your place differential points, but the front of the field has historically dominated this race. In eight of the last 12 races here the race winner has started inside the Top-5, and those same starting positions have led 74.3% of the laps here since 2011. With some fire power in the back and a legion of Fords up front, any one of them could dominate the early stages of the race and rack up some significant hammer points.
Average Running Position: Matt Kenseth – 9.0
Another guy who will surely go overlooked this week is Matt Kenseth, and to be honest I’m torn on where I stand with him as well. He has three Top-1o finishes so far on the year and three DNF’s. He’s one of 14 drivers with a “Practice Rating” of 8 or better and his starting position of 8th is about where I see him finishing. If we were only playing finish position I think he’d be fine.
Over the last seven years he has the third best average running position in the field, only behind a pair of Hendrick teammates in Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. So while he might end up with a decent score, he’d really have to get to the lead and pace the field for 50+ laps, which he’s done just twice in the last ten tries. He’s tied for 9th in the field in “Floor Rating” so while I do think he stays in the Top-10 his salary doesn’t lead me to play him based on who’s starting in the back.
Adjusted Average Finish: Chase Elliott – 4.5
This Hendrick car is the best Hendrick car, and it has been all season. His long run speed in happy hour left a bit to be desired but so few cars made ten lap runs, perhaps the happy hour ten lap speed isn’t as indicative as it usually is. Starting nine spots further back than teammate Jimmie Johnson puts him in a great position to finish with a higher score.
Elliott has two career starts in Texas and finished 5th here last spring and 4th in the fall. He’s only led the field for four laps, and starting 33rd is not a position to expect him to lead laps, but among the guys starting in the back he’s shown in his short career that he will be able to get to the front. He’s one of my favorite plays from the pack in the back.
It’s kind of become a joke hasn’t it? Nine guys failed to record a lap on Friday night, leaving us a slew of drivers who could all vie for place differential glory. The group of drivers from starting positions 32-37 can all easily move up through the field and produce a top score, but which one to take, which pair or which set of three? We saw the same thing when Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano failed to record a lap at Fontana. Logano proved to be a tremendous play while Johnson was not. So choose wisely among this group! My money will be on Busch and Elliott.