Driver Group Game

2018 Darlington Raceway, Bojangles’ Southern 500

After Kurt Busch broke into the winners circle for the first time this season the series took a week off and now they are back with two races to go before the start of the playoffs. During these two races we will answer some questions. Will someone not in the top sixteen in points win one of these races? Will the Big Three continue to dominate? Will someone not currently in the top sixteen make their way into the playoffs by gaining enough points to move into that top sixteen in these final two races. Stay tuned!


This week the race will be held at the Darlington Raceway also known as “The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame”. The track has a unique configuration compared to other tracks on the circuit in that it is shaped more like an egg than an oval. This is the reason for the famed “Darlington Stripe” that occurs when a driver comes off the corner and the wall is closer than he thinks. This is the reason I heard Darrell Waltrip on say when talking about the Lady in Black something like she ain’t no lady.

Kevin Harvick: I am picking Kevin to win his eighth race of the season and pick up some more valuable playoff points. He has sat on the pole the last two years here and has one win, four top five and five top ten finishes here in his last five races. He has also led almost five-hundred laps here in the four races he has run while at Stewart-Haas and we have seen how good those teams are this year with 10 victories among those drivers.

Martin Truex Jr.: Martin won this race two years ago and has finished in the top ten here in his last three starts. After getting wrecked while in second place at Bristol, this team will be chomping at the bit to get back on the track and try to get into victory lane for the fifth time this season. I figure he will finish somewhere in the top five once again this weekend and have a shot at winning late in the race.

Denny Hamlin: I keep thinking Denny is going to come out and dominate a race, but he fails to do that. He sat on the pole in two of the last three races, but was never really a contender in either of those races. He won this race last season and has finished in the top six in seven of his last eight starts here. The stats say I should be picking Denny to win this weekend, but something is still a bit off with this team.

Matt Kenseth: I had Trevor Bayne on my roster at Bristol and I had a reader tell me there is no reason at all to do that and then he finished eleventh. Not bad for someone I had no reason what so ever to even have him on my roster. By the way, I did start him too :). So, I am going to go out on a limb and hope lightning strikes twice this week. Granted, the Roush teams haven’t shown the speed they need on this type of track, but Matt has one win and has finished in the top six in five of his last six starts here. Good enough reason for me to have him on my roster.

Erik Jones: Erik has been very hot since winning at Daytona in July. In his only start at Darlington he finished fifth. I think he runs well here once again this week and if everything falls into place for him he could find himself in contention late in the race. I don’t know if he has enough experience to beat Harvick, but it seems that the young guns are pretty calm when they are under pressure.

Kyle Larson: Kyle is another driver I thought would have a win by this point of the season when he was in contention for wins early this season, but this team has floundered a bit since then. I don’t know for sure, but maybe his focus isn’t where it really needs to be. He missed driver introductions at Kentucky because he was talking with some friends and that is a rookie mistake. Now, he has 169-laps in his last two starts at Darlington and has three top ten finished in his four races there. I think he will be fine once again this weekend and will be focused after a week off.

Ryan Newman: Ryan is one of those drivers I might have on my roster, but I am hesitant to start him because he doesn’t seem to be very good in practice and then he slowly gets his car better during the race and comes away with a good finish. This is one of those weeks where he will be on my roster. He has seven top ten finishes in his last nine starts here and has only failed to finish one lap in all of those races combined. Maybe it’s the engineer in him that figures out this egg shaped track that helps them make the right changes to the car.

Kyle Busch: Let’s not forget about Kyle, who wrecked on the second lap at Bristol and came back after repairs with a very damaged car and still had one of the fastest cars on the track. Kyle has always been very good at Darlington. He has finished in the top eleven in nine of his last ten starts and led laps in nine of those starts too. He might complain that his car is junk and be mad at other drivers, but one thing for sure is that no matter what adversity he sees during a race he is going to give you everything he has.

Jimmie Johnson: Right now it doesn’t look like this team will really contend for a title this year. Jimmie has been more down than up from week to week this season and it is hard to have him on your roster any week. He has run better on the shorter tracks, but it doesn’t seem like he has the speed to compete on the intermediate tracks. Well, he leads all active drivers with three wins here, but then again he hasn’t finished in the top ten in his last three races at this track. I have to go on the safe side and say Jimmie is going to be so so once again this week.

Brad Keselowski: Brad is another driver I thought would have at least one win by now. They can be running up front early in a race and then it seems like they know they can’t beat the big three unless they make some drastic changes to the car and then they fall back. I guess that’s not a bad strategy when you are in the top sixteen in points and will make the playoffs anyway. Playoff points are much more important and you get those by winning stages and races, not by finishing second. Brad has led over 250-laps in his last four starts here.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Kevin Harvick
  • Denny Hamlin

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Erik Jones
  • Ryan Newman
  • Matt Kenseth
  • Austin Dillon

Driver Group Game Group C

  • Chris Buescher
  • William Byron


  1. Kevin Harvick
  2. Dwnny Hamlin
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Kyle Larson

Dark Horse: Austin Dillon

Stay Away From: Clint Bowyer

Big 18: Ryan Newman

Driver Group Game

2018 Bristol Motor Speedway, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

Kevin Harvick wins his seventh race of the season and takes the playoff points lead by winning both stages and the race at Michigan this past weekend. Harvick pretty much dominated the race once again as he led more than half of the laps in the race and didn’t really have anyone challenge him throughout. Kyle Busch finished third leading the third most laps and Martin Truex Jr. finished fourteenth after leading the second most laps. This just showed me the “Big Three” are still the drivers to beat if you want to win a championship this year.

Right now they are doing nothing other than trying to win stages and the races to bank as many playoff points as they can get. They are all going to be tough to knock out of any round with the playoff points they have already accumulated with Harvick having 40, Busch having 35, and Truex with 27. The next closest to these three is Clint Bowyer with only 10 playoff points. The last four in right now have a combined total of 1 playoff point between them. Hard for them to make up a lot of points in only three races in each round if the playoffs.


Now there are only three races left before the playoffs start. This week the series heads back to the Bristol Motor Speedway for the running if the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. This week we are going to see why they call this the last great coliseum when they start racing under the lights on Saturday night. You are going to see some great paint schemes, and even better than that some great and fun racing to watch.

It is go time for the teams and drivers who are trying to win a race just to make it into the playoffs. Those who are just below and just above the cut line are going to be doing everything they can to finish as close to the front as they can, everyone is going to be trying to win the race to put themselves into the playoffs. Those already in are going to be racing for playoff points. Those who aren’t close to the top sixteen in points know they have to win to get in. There is going to be a lot of rumbling in Thunder Valley this weekend.

Kyle Busch: I am picking Kyle to match Kevin with his seventh win of the season this weekend at Bristol. Kyle has won the last two races here and in his last six starts he has led 721 laps. Nine of his last eleven starting positions were in the top ten also. This tells me that Kyle starts towards the front and stays towards the front to come away with these types of numbers.

Kevin Harvick: Kevin has three top five and six top ten finishes in his last six starts here including a win in this race two years ago. It is hard to keep him off your roster any weekend, but I have to save some starts for him and therefore I will not have him on my roster this week despite how well he has run here in those last six races. He has also failed to qualify in the top four in those last six starts, so I am not expecting him to garner me any qualifying points this week.

Kyle Larson: Kyle finished second to Busch this spring and he has led 472 laps over his last three Bristol races and has finished in the top ten in all of those races. He seems to have hit a bit of a spell where he hasn’t been competing for wins lately and finished seventeenth at Michigan last weekend where he was expecting to challenge for the win. Tough call on whether or not I should put him on my roster this weekend.

Joey Logano: Joey won back to back fall races here during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He has also finished in the top ten in five of his last six fall races here. Then again he has finished in the top ten here in his last three spring races too. That gives me some confidence in him coming into this weekend. He hasn’t shown that he can compete on the larger tracks, but he is awfully good here.

Denny Hamlin: Denny has one win at this track and has finished third here in each of his last three fall races. This team sat on the pole the last two weeks, but couldn’t come away with a win, nor did they even really compete for a win in those races. He runs well here, but scares me with the pit road penalties he collects. Those will ruin your night at Bristol in a hurry.

Jimmie Johnson: Once again they didn’t show me anything last week on an intermediate track. This week I think things could be different. This is the type of track where Jimmie could break his winless streak. He has five top five finishes in his last eight starts here. Granted he only led laps in one of those races, but this is go time and he needs to pick up a win and some playoff points before the playoffs begin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: For some reason, Ricky runs pretty well here. He has two runner-up finishes and six top ten finishes in his eleven career starts at Bristol. I think he can come away with another top ten finish here, but then I do have some concerns with him. He doesn’t have a lot of friends from the race at Daytona and they all remember that and won’t cut him any slack this weekend. If he is in the way he gets moved, so I’m not so sure about starting him this week.

Kurt Busch: Kurt won five of his first eleven starts at Bristol. His last win came back in the 2006 season. Since that time he has only finished in the top five five times and that covers twenty-four races. Then again, three of those top five finishes have come in his last eight races. It seems like this race is always feast or famine for Kurt. He has only finished on the lead lap here in four of his last eleven starts. He is another driver I don’t know if I should take a chance on this week.

Ryan Newman: The RCR teams both looked strong last week at Michigan and Ryan always seems to run well here. He has finished in the top ten in five of his last seven starts and has finished on the lead lap here in eight of his last nine races. You hardly ever here much about him during the races, but he quietly seems to get the job done when he has the right setup. I think he is well worth having on your team this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr.: The last of the “Big Three” to talk about this week. This is my stay away from driver this weekend. In twenty-five starts at this track, Martin only has three top ten finishes. He has only finished on the lead lap in two of his last ten starts at Bristol. I don’t know what it is about this track, but it is one of the few Martin hasn’t figured out yet. I’m sure he will continue to improve here during his career, but I’m not comfortable having him on my team this weekend.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Kyle Busch
  • Joey Logano

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Ryan Newman
  • Jamie McMurray
  • Trevor Bayne
  • Clint Bowyer

Driver Group Game Group C

  • Alex Bowman
  • Darrell Wallace Jr.


  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Kyle Larson
  5. Jimmie Johnson

Dark Horse: Ryan Newman

Stay Away From: Martin Truex Jr.

Big 18: Jimmie Johnson

Driver Group Game

2018 Michigan International Speedway, Consumers Energy 400

Congratulations to Chase Elliott, who won his first ever Cup race at Watkins Glen on Sunday afternoon. His father was up with the spotters to watch his son fight off Martin Truex Jr. to win the road course race easily when Truex ran out of gas on the final lap. I don’t think it would have mattered because Truex wasn’t going to catch Chase anyway. Chase made one mistake in the last thirty plus laps on the second to the last lap, but Truex couldn’t capitalize there either.


The win gave Chevrolet their first non-restrictor plate victory of the season. The question now is, can the Chevrolet teams win on one of the intermediate tracks? Chase showed a lot of speed at Watkins Glen. Is it just the speed or are they still lacking aerodynamics on the intermediate tracks? If you want to win a championship you have to be able to win on this type of track because that is what most of the playoffs are based on and the final race of the year is on an intermediate track.

Some of those questions will be answered this week as the series heads back to the Michigan International Speedway for the running of the Consumers Energy 400. This is a two-mile D-shaped speedway that has long sweeping turns. Drivers need to carry a lot of speed through the corners, so they can carry that speed down the long straightaways at this track. That means your car needs speed, handling, and great aerodynamics if you want to have a chance to win here.

Kevin Harvick: I am going to go back to Kevin winning his seventh race of the season this weekend. He has been fast all season and has been stellar at this track over the past eleven races. In those races he has finished second six times including the race here in June. He also has two other top five finishes in that stretch. I’m still not convinced that the Chevy drivers will have the speed they need to win here this weekend, but Kevin will.

Martin Truex Jr.: Martin is still looking for his first career win at this track. He has led laps in four of his last five starts at this track and has finished second or third in three of his last seven starts here. He also won the race at the Auto Club Speedway earlier this year which is a track very similar to this one. He led laps in his last three starts at that track and all of that information on car handling will carry over to this track.

Kyle Busch: Kyle is a little bit of a different story at Michigan. His lone win came here back in the 2011 season and he finished fourth here in June. For some reason he doesn’t run as consistently well at this track as he does in California. He has three straight top ten finishes at Michigan, but he has finished in the top three in five of this last seven starts at Auto Club. Which type of handling and speed will he have this weekend.

Chase Elliott: So, Chase picked up his first Cup win and got that monkey off his back. He has been showing improvement on the intermediate tracks lately too. He has run five races at Michigan and has never finished outside the top ten. In fact he finished second in his first three starts here. He will come into this weekend with a lot of confidence now, but won’t be able to make any mistakes if he wants to go on a winning streak.

Kyle Larson: Let’s not forget about this Kyle at Michigan. His three race winning streak at this track was broke in a rain shortened race here in June. He has led laps in each of his last five starts at this track and has been the only other Chevy driver besides Chase to show any inkling that they might be able to win on an intermediate track. I look for his to run that high line once again this weekend and get a good run off the corners.

Erik Jones: Erik has been very hot lately. He won at Daytona and finished fifth at Watkins Glen this past weekend. This team has a lot of confidence right now and is showing they can compete on all types of tracks. He has only run three races at Michigan, but has never finished worse than fifteenth and he finished third in this race last season. Plus he has finished in the top twelve in both of his starts in California.

Jamie McMurray: This might come as a surprise to you, but Jamie is the only driver other than Chase Elliott to finish in the top ten here in each of his last five starts. Combine that with top ten finishes in two of his last three California races and that tells me this team has something figured out at these tracks. I don’t know if he’ll be in contention for a win this weekend, but another top ten is definitely within reach.

Brad Keselowski: This is the track Brad wants to win at more than any other track on the circuit. Brad is from Michigan and considers this his home track and he has been very good here during his career even though he is still looking for that elusive win. He sat on the front row his last two races here and has finished in the top ten in seven of his last nine starts here. I think he has another good showing this week.

Joey Logano: Joey has been even more consistent than his teammate, Brad Keselowski, has been. He has finished in the top ten in ten of his last eleven starts here including both of his wins at this track. Couple that with five top seven finishes in his last six starts at California and you have the recipe for a team capable of winning the race here this weekend.

Kurt Busch: Kurt got his last win here in June of 2015. He has finished in the top twelve in six of his last seven starts since that time. He could come away with another top ten finish here this weekend because we know how much speed the Stewart-Haas drivers have had all season. If everything goes right he could be looking at getting his first win of the year.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Kevin Harvick
  • Martin Truex Jr.

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Chase Elliott
  • Erik Jones
  • Jamie McMurray
  • Aric Almirola

Driver Group Game Group C

  • William Byron
  • Darrell Wallace Jr.


  1. Kevin Harvick
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Kyle Larson

Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray

Stay Away From: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Big 18: Joey Logano