Dan Beaver Newsletter Ceasing Operations

First: Thanks to all of you for subscribing for the past two years; you are the reason I have been doing this as long as I have.

Unfortunately, the newsletter and other Fantasy NASCAR projects failed to pay the bills and I took a fulltime job a few months ago. I have been trying to juggle all of these responsibilities, but am not going to be able to continue. New Hampshire was the last newsletter of the season. Since everyone has subscribed at different parts of the season, refunds will be processed for the unused portion of the subscription. We will start doing this as soon as possible, but please note I am on a business trip until about the 24th – with very spotty internet access, which is why you are receiving this newsletter text-only.

Again: Thank you all for your support; you have been absolutely great.


Quaker State 400

Last week’s top-10 was one of the most unexpected we’ve seen in several years.

SPARTA, KY - SEPTEMBER 23: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota, walks in the garage during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series VysitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 23, 2016 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Fantasy players have come to expect a few dark horses sprinkled into the top-10, but the Coke Zero 400 results featured only two previous winners from earlier in the season. Moreover, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was a former winner because he won the Talladega SuperSpeedway lottery; Ryan Newman won with fuel mileage strategy.

Jimmie Johnson finished 12th and he was the only other driver with a 2017 win to finish on the lead lap.

That left plenty of room for dark horse contenders to run with the leaders, but even so there were few who expected Michael McDowell to score a top-five, or David Ragan, Brendan Gaughan, and Chris Buescher to finish in the top 10. If one guessed correctly, it would have been extremely easy to select the top six drivers in salary cap games with thousands of dollars left over.

Since racing is a zero sum game, they got to the front by passing drivers who have been strong all season. Of course, it is pretty easy to pass a car that is a crumpled wreck—but even so, eight of the top 10 drivers based on our Fantasy Power Rankings finished 20th or worse.


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Coke Zero 400

The traditional name of this weekend’s race is the Firecracker 400. We would like to suggest a change.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 31: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, speaks with his crew chief, Tony Gibson, during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

From this point forward, the race should become known as the “Maybe 400”, with Talladega SuperSpeedway’s two events labeled the “Lottery 501” and the “Perhaps 500”. We’re not crazy; that first race of the season should always remain the Daytona 500.

The outcome of a restrictor-plate, superspeedway race is impossible to predict, but that does not mean they cannot be handicapped.

This year’s Daytona 500 and Geico 500—sorry, the Perhaps 500—are not only the two most recent plate races, they provide great examples of the unpredictability of this type of event.

At Daytona while teams were still trying to figure out the best way to play the segment strategy, a group of Toyotas pitted early and got back on track to settle in just ahead of the leaders on the tail-end of the lead lap. Kyle Busch was determined to stay in front of first-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. and spun with the effort, collecting the leader and many cars in the top 10.

At Talladega, Chase Elliott was running second and had his sight set on the lead when he was turned into the wall by AJ Allmendinger. By the time the smoke cleared, nearly half the pack—17 cars—sustained some damage including one of our favorite sleeper Michael McDowell who was running 15th at the time.

Still, there are drivers who run strong on this course and dark horses that seem to make their way to the front of the pack almost every week. And the fact that there are no guarantees in this sport, does not mean that a player cannot hedge their bets with informed decisions.


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Toyota / Save Mart 350k

Twice a year, NASCAR forces the drivers to turn both left and right.

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 26:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, races Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2016 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

There was a time when they simply endured this humiliation and tried to salvage as many points as possible. Now, the best drivers in the NASCAR field on ovals can also regularly be counted on as top contenders on road courses. That not only changed every racer’s strategy, it also impacted fantasy players.

When half the field struggled simply to keep all four wheels on the pavement, road ringers were good choices to finish in the top 20 and grab the occasional top-10. That allowed us to save an allocation for drivers like Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, or Kyle Busch. Now, each of those drivers regularly score top-fives.

There are still some surprise faces that grace the front of the field to a greater percentage than on ovals, such as AJ Allmendinger and Clint Bowyer, but true road ringers are hard to find.

This week, three teams will employ road specialists and none of them are particularly strong organizations. That means that no matter how good the driver is, he is unlikely to be able to overcome his equipment. One exception might be Alon Day, who becomes the first NASCAR Euro driver to compete in the Cup series. His salary cap is going to be low in most games—when he is available at all—at that will stretch the budget at the top.


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FireKeepers Casino 400

It is certainly a matter of subjectivity, but the two-mile tracks may be among the best NASCAR offers.

DOVER, DE - JUNE 02:  Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on June 2, 2017 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The radiuses of the corners at Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway compared to the track length most often contribute to two- and three-abreast racing. Those multiple grooves mean drivers have an opportunity to move around and find the line that works best for them.

The balance of maneuverability and speed seems to be replicated on the similarly shaped, three-fourths-mile oval of Richmond International Raceway, so that short track can also be used as a comparative.

Qualification is important—but not prohibitively so. Poor track position can be overcome if a driver has a superior car. Given the length of the race, strategy often plays an important role, but the speeds obtained on this speedway type means that pitting is going to cost a lap, so one must be careful.

These traits are going to be even more important with the addition of segments. There are now three opportunities per race to be in the top 10 when points are on the line. And since no one truly knows how big a factor each individual segment bonus point is going to matter, it is a wild card that cannot be ignored.


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Axalta Presents the Pocono 400

NASCAR leaves one of its most unique tracks and heads to another. But while it is difficult to find a suitable comparative to Dover International Speedway, the same is not true of Pocono Raceway.

HAMPTON, GA - MARCH 05: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Autotrader Ford, affixes the winner’s decal to his car in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2017 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

The triangular shape of Pocono certainly makes it one of NASCAR’s oddest looking courses, but the length of the track and flat corners has a lot of similarities to the rectangular Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both tracks are out of NASCAR’s norm in terms of their geometry and that fact is significant because it changes a drivers approach on entry.

There are two factors that allow drivers to race hard into the corners of a similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile track. One is the steeper banking used on those tracks than NASCAR’s flat corners. But the other is the shape of the corners that allow racers to set and even change their groove once they are committed to the turn. At Pocono and Indy, the line is determined on entry, not nearly as much time is spent in the corners compared to the rest of the track, and it is difficult to overcome a mistake.

Even if a driver does not make any mistakes, they can be put in a difficult situation if another car gets to their inside. There is not a lot of two abreast racing through the corners, but that does not mean there is not a lot of passing.

In order to overtake another driver, one has to back up to the previous corner. The most successful drivers on most courses are those who get the best run off the turn, but this is particularly true on flat tracks. A car must enter easily and the driver must accelerate at the perfect spot at the apex.


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AAA 400

Dover is one of NASCAR’s unique tracks.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 31: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

For many years, we used Bristol Motor Speedway as a comparative because, despite the difference in length, the two courses were high-banked and paved with concrete. The Tennessee short track began making so many changes, however, that the contrast became less apparent.

There is still some similarity between how drivers approach each track and Bristol should be given a little more consideration than other courses, but it is not as close as it was.

The same is true of Darlington Raceway. Concrete tracks are tough on tires as is the abrasive surface of that racetrack. The challenge with comparing these two courses is that since their single race has moved back to its traditional slot in the summer, Darlington is also largely impacted by the hot weather that changes the surface even more.

Dover can get hot during either of their races, but with one contest in the spring and another in the fall, that is not a defining characteristic. For that reason, it is best to concentrate on a driver’s Dover record first and then use other factors to fill in the gaps. .


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Coca-Cola 600

For the third consecutive week and the second time in a points’ paying race, NASCAR visits one of the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 13:  Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, places the winner's decal on his car in Victory Lane during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 13, 2017 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Kansas Speedway and the GoBowling.com 400 turned out to be a pivotal event, but not in the way most expected. Accidents in the pits and on the track ended “cookie-cutter” streaks for two of NASCAR’s hottest drivers and sent two other racers to the infield care center.

Joey Logano exploded a brake rotor on lap 199 of the GoBowling.com 400, veered left into Danica Patrick and the pair collected Aric Almirola. Logano and Patrick climbed from their cars; Almirola dropped his window net to signal he was okay, but on further review, had to be cut from the cockpit.

In a season that has seen her enthusiasm wane progressively, Patrick was as dejected as ever before. Logano was visibly shaken by the impact taken by Almirola, and the driver of the No. 43 will be out of the cockpit indefinitely as a lower vertebra heels. Regan Smith has been named as his replacement for now.

Chase Elliott made heavy contact with Michael McDowell in the pits early in the race when either his crew chief or spotter cleared him too soon. This Young Gun has been mostly unflappable during the season-to-date, but even though McDowell was not at fault, Elliott rammed the back of his stocker after leaving the pits.

Folks: Summer isn’t even here yet and tempers are boiling.


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GoBowling.com 400

The unrestricted, intermediate speedways will dominate the schedule for a while.

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 30:  Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joey Logano

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

After this week’s GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway, the series heads home for the All-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then the World 600. Two weeks after that, they challenge to unique Pocono Raceway and then head to another similarly-configured two mile track: Michigan International Speedway.

Horsepower and handling are going to be the keys to success until the series visits back-to-back wild card tracks this summer. Sonoma Raceway and Daytona International Speedway will give players an opportunity to shakeup their roster, but until then, a lot of the same cast of characters will be featured each week.

That is largely what happened at the beginning of this season when Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano found their momentum at Atlanta Motor Speedway through Auto Club Speedway before the short track season began at Martinsville Speedway.

Since then, the streaks have been broken up. Currently, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has the best active string with three top-10s and five top-15s. On cannot automatically assume that the strongest drivers before this current spate of short track and the superspeedway offerings will pick up where they left off. In fact, one or two of them probably will not.

The best guess is that the drivers with the least experience are the most likely to fall off, but Larson and Elliott have the added benefit of “the changing of the guard.” It is not as if the competition level has decreased, but several marquee drivers who stood in their way over last year are no longer in the equation while they have taken their place. Maturity and potential are not the same thing, however, so be cautious.


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Geico 500

Four times a year, fantasy players can take all their analysis and throw it out the window. Both Talladega SuperSpeedway and both Daytona International Speedway’s races defy any attempt to build an accurate predictive model.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Drivers including Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Aspen Dental Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Ford, are involved in an on-track incident during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

That uncertainty can be exciting for fans without any skin in the game. Fantasy players have a different set of concerns, however, and that make this race much less enjoyable.

There a few statistics that suggest who is going to run well, but nothing screams that any given driver is a must-have. In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept the top-three in all four restrictor-plate, superspeedway races. The next year, he could not crack the top 20.

And, of course, there are those nagging exceptions that try to draw players into a sense of believing that something is truly predictive. Kurt Busch has finished 12th or better in nine of his last 10 plate races and he was going to get another top-10 at Daytona last July before he was spun out of fourth on the final corner of the final lap.

Of course, the fact that he was on this writer’s Draft Kings lineup that week probably had something to do with his misfortune as well.


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