Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 is Statistically the Most Competitive Season of the Decade

I take a look at the points standings after 14 races for each season 2000-2009, and amazingly found that this year is the most competitive of the decade.

Take a look at these three facts. (All of them based on the first 14 races of the season)

  1. This year's 12th place driver, Denny Hamlin, has more points than the 12th place driver in any other year all decade.
  2. This year's leader, Tony Stewart, has the second lowest points compared to other leaders this decade.
  3. This year's points difference between first and twelfth is the smallest all decade.

Look at some of the data:

Tony Stewart's 2043 points after 14 races is the second lowest total for a leader all decade. Notice that Jeff Gordon in 2007 was the most checked out by this point in the season:

2007 2249
2006 2145
2000 2116
2003 2115
2004 2113
2008 2084
2002 2064
2005 2062
2009 2043
2001 1996


This year's 12th place in points, Denny Hamlin, is the strongest on record all decade. In fact, 2009 is so competitive, that 15th place Juan Pablo Montoya (1617 points) would have enough points to be 12th place in 2008 or 10th in 2007. Good enough for the Chase then, but not good enough now. Amazing.

2009 1679
2005 1670
2004 1670
2000 1669
2006 1642
2002 1623
2008 1614
2001 1600
2007 1586
2003 1579


And the difference between first and 12th is the narrowest it's been all decade.

2009 364
2005 392
2001 396
2002 441
2004 443
2000 447
2008 470
2006 503
2003 536
2007 663


Two other interesting facts:
  1. The 1679 points for 12th place this year is so strong that in 2003 and 2007, it would have been good enough for 8th place.
  2. The 2043 points for Tony Stewart this year would have only been good enough for 3rd place in points in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

While people might be complaining that there isn't enough on-track competition this year, you can't make that argument about the competition in the standings. The leader hasn't checked out, and the back of the pack is running strong. Everybody has a chance. The competition is the best all decade.

The full data table is here below. First in total Points, and then Points Per Race (PPR)

Rank 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
1st 2043 2084 2249 2145 2062 2113 2115 2064 1996 2116
2nd 1972 2063 2007 2097 1939 2055 1939 1928 1970 2018
3rd 1940 1939 2002 1907 1781 1889 1882 1899 1869 2014
4th 1840 1856 1944 1888 1759 1874 1828 1852 1866 1955
5th 1819 1800 1828 1866 1734 1854 1753 1826 1796 1868
6th 1762 1799 1733 1850 1733 1812 1745 1820 1768 1855
7th 1753 1781 1710 1758 1715 1803 1738 1794 1755 1821
8th 1745 1767 1659 1715 1714 1773 1671 1728 1748 1810
9th 1731 1719 1648 1682 1700 1735 1627 1706 1655 1798
10th 1725 1690 1613 1669 1682 1674 1623 1699 1613 1732
11th 1701 1679 1597 1644 1681 1672 1602 1690 1611 1676
12th 1679 1614 1586 1642 1670 1670 1579 1623 1600 1669
13th 1678 1607 1564 1547 1659 1651 1575 1611 1560 1660
14th 1619 1604 1531 1530 1624 1581 1558 1551 1512 1608
15th 1617 1580 1487 1508 1579 1572 1552 1531 1503 1589
16th 1576 1558 1454 1504 1558 1524 1536 1478 1454 1466
17th 1536 1502 1446 1482 1558 1524 1528 1447 1436 1450
18th 1469 1464 1425 1437 1514 1490 1481 1440 1426 1446
19th 1447 1455 1412 1411 1491 1469 1468 1435 1411 1445
20th 1434 1439 1367 1405 1473 1432 1424 1415 1401 1436



Rank 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
1st 146 149 161 153 147 151 151 147 143 151
2nd 141 147 143 150 139 147 139 138 141 144
3rd 139 139 143 136 127 135 134 136 134 144
4th 131 133 139 135 126 134 131 132 133 140
5th 130 129 131 133 124 132 125 130 128 133
6th 126 129 124 132 124 129 125 130 126 133
7th 125 127 122 126 123 129 124 128 125 130
8th 125 126 119 123 122 127 119 123 125 129
9th 124 123 118 120 121 124 116 122 118 128
10th 123 121 115 119 120 120 116 121 115 124
11th 122 120 114 117 120 119 114 121 115 120
12th 120 115 113 117 119 119 113 116 114 119
13th 120 115 112 111 119 118 113 115 111 119
14th 116 115 109 109 116 113 111 111 108 115
15th 116 113 106 108 113 112 111 109 107 114
16th 113 111 104 107 111 109 110 106 104 105
17th 110 107 103 106 111 109 109 103 103 104
18th 105 105 102 103 108 106 106 103 102 103
19th 103 104 101 101 107 105 105 103 101 103
20th 102 103 98 100 105 102 102 101 100 103

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Points at the Chase Tracks this year

There are 10 tracks in the Chase. We've already visited 7 of them so far this year. If we consider the points ONLY from these 7 events, we can get a good guess for who will contend in the chase.

Here are the total points from those 7 races:

1075 Jimmie Johnson
1027 Tony Stewart
993 Greg Biffle
957 Kurt Busch
954 Ryan Newman
947 Matt Kenseth
916 Carl Edwards
895 David Reutimann
894 Denny Hamlin
881 Jeff Gordon
834 Kyle Busch
829 Mark Martin
827 Juan Pablo Montoya
824 Brian Vickers
814 Kasey Kahne
783 Jeff Burton


Notice how Jimmie Johnson is checked out from the rest of the crowd. Is that surprising based on his amazing run in the Chase the last several years?

Despite Jeff Gordon's consistent run at the top of the points this year, he's actually struggled at the 7 Chase tracks so far this season. He's ranked 10th in this table, behind guys like Hamlin and Reutimann, who may not even make the Chase.

Another surprise is seeing Greg Biffle up there in Third.

Is it possible these are the only points that matter? Assuming you qualify for the Chase, are the only points that matter the ones you score at the Chase tracks?

Most Points in 10 consecutive Races

As we think about Chase potential, the previous post listed who had the best set of 10 races, but they were not in consecutive order.

So now let's look at the best consecutive set of 10 races this year. We have five options for this: Races 1-10, Races 2-11, 3-12, 4-13, and 5-14.

Using the same 15 drivers from our previous example, that gives us 75 possible data series to work with.

The best of those rankings are:

1522 Tony Stewart
1516 Ryan Newman
1483 Jimmie Johnson
1475 Jimmie Johnson
1474 Tony Stewart
1472 Jeff Gordon
1458 Ryan Newman
1441 Jeff Gordon
1431 Kurt Busch
1425 Tony Stewart
1418 Jeff Gordon
1412 Kurt Busch
1404 Ryan Newman
1402 Tony Stewart


in 75 data series, only 14 of them have produced more than 1400 points. These 14 data come from just 5 drivers: Stewart, Newman, Johnson, Gordon, Busch. With the exception of Newman, these are all former champions.

If we just consider the best set of 10 consecutive races from the 15 drivers, we can see each driver's best 10 consecutive:

1522 Tony Stewart
1516 Ryan Newman
1483 Jimmie Johnson
1472 Jeff Gordon
1431 Kurt Busch
1392 Mark Martin
1360 Denny Hamlin
1330 Kyle Busch
1326 Jeff Burton
1273 Greg Biffle
1267 David Reutimann
1215 Carl Edwards
1209 Juan Pablo Montoya
1206 Matt Kenseth
1163 Kasey Kahne


This would suggest to us that the same drivers in the top 4 in points (Stewart, Newman, Johnson, Gordon) as the best able to make a strong run at the end of the year to go for the win. Again, these are data we can monitor over the course of the season.

Interesting to see that Kyle Busch (1330) and Jeff Burton (1326) have basically the same best scores here. Yet Busch has the most wins this year, and Burton is part of an RCR team that has severely underperformed this year. It's very eye-opening to see that their best Chase-type scenario is actually the same. And that Hamlin would be the best of the Joe Gibbs cars in this measurement. Would you have ever guessed that?

Tony Stewart has Most Points of all drivers in their ten best races

And that's not just because he is on the top of the points right now.

(BTW, Click here and here for two other Chase-scenarios I analyzed yesterday)

After 14 races now, we can throw out the worst 4 races for each driver, and see what their total points accumulation has been in their best 10 races. This would be their potential for the Chase - of course assuming they can score those best 10 races all in a row, all at the end of the year.

At least it gives some sense for the overall power of each driver. Notice that Kyle Busch is ranked 9th in these standings. Despite having the most wins, his 6th-10th best races are between 17th and 25th place. Tony's 10th best race is 8th place. A very big difference.

Without further ado, here are the rankings of drivers best 10 races this year. I only looked at the top 15 drivers in points, to include the 12 Chase drivers and 3 closest contenders.

1646 Tony Stewart
1636 Jimmie Johnson
1626 Jeff Gordon
1516 Ryan Newman
1493 Kurt Busch
1478 Mark Martin
1471 Matt Kenseth
1464 Greg Biffle
1430 Kyle Busch
1429 Carl Edwards
1394 David Reutimann
1393 Denny Hamlin
1376 Jeff Burton
1313 Kasey Kahne
1296 Juan Pablo Montoya

Look how Stewart/Johnson/Gordon are the clear leaders of the crowd. All former champions, all with 10-race averages above 162 Points Per Race. This is how you're going to get it done in the Chase. Based on these results, we might limit our potential championship contenders to just these three drivers. Everybody else is still too far off the pace to make a serious run. Obviously though still a lot of competition in the 1400s.

We'll pay attention later this year to see how these standings develop.