Category archive: David Ragan

OK, I'm willing to admit when I am beat. This is one of those times.

There's not a whole lot I can do to preview the Kentucky race specifically. You know, that whole thing about their not having previously run there.

I could use Nationwide Series stats, maybe throw some Trucks in there, but we're talking completely different cars and levels of competition. And I respect you, my beloved readers, far too much to jerk you around like that.

So, wouldn't this be a nice time to take a look ahead at the rest of the season, both leading up to the Chase and the Chase itself? That's two things for the price of one. However, that price, as always, is free.

I know there are quite a few Tony Stewart fans out there, and he's been surlier than normal lately, talking of spinning all those who dare block "Smoke." Well, he does find himself squarely on the bubble heading down the stretch.

But, stress not, Smoke fans. This is the time of year when he tends to make a charge, so I think he can make a run to get back into the top 10.

Let's talk title picture. Kevin Harvick is the new points leader following Daytona, but I'm not going to give him the favorite label. Harvick ranks seventh in both driver rating and overall green-flag speed. His consistency and ability to pop up late in the race might have earned him a few wins, but given the raw numbers of his performance throughout the year, I expect that pace to fall off shortly.

What about the previous leader, Carl Edwards? Edwards has had the best car late in green-flag runs this year, but there's a driver who bests him in just about every other category.

That man is Kyle Busch.

He's a quiet third in points, but digging deeper shows his strength. He leads the series in average speed in traffic, on restarts, early in runs and overall.

His driver rating is a 109.9; only one other driver has a rating better than 100 on the year. It's a 9.2-point drop to second-place Edwards, more than the spread from the second- to seventh-place drivers.

Average running position is the most dominant indicator of strength. Busch's average position this season on a lap-by-lap basis is a 9.24, and from there it's 3.33 down to second-place Kurt Busch.

The 3.33 spread is more than the spread from second to 15th-place Paul Menard. Impressive stuff, if you ask me.

Eliminator: Kentucky Edition

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1) The past 20 winners on 1.5-mile tracks all had a previous Sprint Cup Series win (18 eliminated, 30 remaining).
2)The past seven and 10 of the past 11 winners on 1.5-mile tracks had a top-20 finish in the previous 1.5-mile race (11 eliminated, 19 remaining).
3) The past four winners this season had a previous top-two finish on the season (six eliminated, 13 remaining).
4) In five of the past six inaugural races at a track, the winner had a top-5 finish in the previous Cup race (10 eliminated, three remaining).
5) The past five and eight of the past nine winners this season came from outside the top five in points (two eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: David Ragan

If you're looking to my little corner of the Internet for some fantasy advice on this week's Dover race, you're in luck.

Regular readers of this here blog know I'm a big fan of Dover racing, and irregular readers of this blog now know, too. So, I'll give you a team I like, and a driver I love, for Sunday's monstrous race.

I like Roush Fenway Racing, and why wouldn't I? RFR is the class of the field right now, already getting wins from two of its four drivers, and another win from an affiliated team in the Wood Brothers.

Among the non-winners, Greg Biffle has three top-10s and a 15th in his past four races, moving him from 20th to 12th in the standings. David Ragan is having a redemption year, with his first top-5 since 2008 and already as many top-10s as all of last year.

But I like them even more at Dover. In the fall 2008 race, Roush finished 1-2-3, the only time it's been done at Dover, and it wouldn't shock me to see them do it again.

Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are all among the top five here since 2005 in average running position (Biffle first, Kenseth second), fastest laps runs (Edwards first) and driver rating (all in top four).

And in every conceivable speed rank, none of those three are worse than seventh in any situation.

But I love Jimmie Johnson.

While those Roush Fenway boys are top seven in every speed situation, Johnson is the top one. He's the fastest driver at Dover since 2005 in overall speed, speed early in runs, speed late in runs, speed in traffic and speed on restarts. I miss anything?

He's only getting better, having won three of the past four Dover races with an average driver rating of 142.9 (150 is perfect, and he did that in 2009). He's averaged 106.8 fastest laps (out of a total of 400) in those races.

In the previous six races there, Johnson averaged a 95.8 driver rating and 16.2 fastest laps per race. Good numbers, but the other ones are staggering.

The Eliminator: Dover Edition

Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats, some by just picking names off the top of their heads.

I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

And if you haven't been sold, consider my last four picks have finished first, sixth, first and second. Yeah, I'm winning my fantasy league.

1. Eleven of the past 12 Dover winners finished 16th or better in the previous Sprint Cup Series race (28 eliminated, 16 remaining).

2. The past nine winners this season finished 17th or better in the most recent race at that track (nine eliminated, seven remaining).

3. The past seven Dover winners finished 12th or better in the most recent Phoenix race (two eliminated, five remaining).

4. Five of the past six Dover winners finished in the top five in the previous New Hampshire race (four eliminated, one remaining).

5. Your winner: Denny Hamlin.