Crunching numbers: Like Roush, love JJ

May, 12, 2011

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.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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