Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jimmie Johnson 29 Percent, Mark Martin 23 Percent: Chase Winning Percentages for Every Driver

After Dover's race this past Sunday, we now have only eight more races to go in the 2009 season.

Time for another updated probability table. Some interesting notes:

1) The big winner this week was Jimmie Johnson, who nearly doubled his chance of winning the chase.

2) Mark Martin's second place finish kept him in second place on this table, but his percentage moved up a good chunk from 18 to 23.

3) Tony Stewart's ninth place finish dropped him from first to third here, down to 15 percent, only half of Johnson's title chances. The key lesson here is that top fives and wins will be necessary to win this year's chase, not just top 10s. Notice that Stewart is now closer in points to 12th place Kasey Kahne than he is to points leader Mark Martin.

4) The big loser was Denny Hamlin, who finished 2 laps down in 22nd. That's *never* going to get the job done.

5) Carl Edwards joins Kasey Kahne in the dreaded "less than one percent so I had to add another decimal place" category.

6) Johnson and Martin combine for 52 percent of the championship possibilities. If you include Stewart and Jeff Gordon, that's a 79 percent chance of the title going to somebody in the Hendrick stable.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

LONG VERSION: Introducing the Watermill Score: The new breathtakingly simple way to estimate NASCAR points system.

(Note: this is the longer version of
what I wrote a month ago.)

Introducing the Watermill Score: The new breathtakingly simple way to estimate NASCAR points system. Why it’s important, and how you can use it to affect race strategy.

I. Introducing the Watermill Score

There is a startlingly basic relationship that almost fully defines the traditional NASCAR points system as it was created by Bob Latford a generation ago.

The current Latford system gives points all the way from first to last, and bonus points for leading laps. You can score anywhere between 34 and 195 points in a single race.

But take a look at this super simple revelation: We can simplify the points system to just this: Add up for each driver just four data points:

Wins + Top 10s + Lead Lap Finishes + Races at the Finish

The total of just these four numbers gets you to basically the same rankings as the current Latford system. We have W+T+L+R. For purposes of this article, and with currently no other name I can think of, I will refer to this number as a Watermill Score. Also notice the letters W, T, L, and R all get used up in there.

II. Examples of the Watermill Score in use

Let’s briefly review two examples:

First consider the driver with the highest Watermill Score in each season this decade. Notice that in every case but one, the driver with the highest Watermill Score also scored the most NASCAR points that season. 2002 is the only exception because of a rare closeness in the competition, where seven drivers were within 226 points of the champion that year.

Notice I am *not* resetting the points for the Chase. I want to look purely at how many total points drivers accumulated during the year. The Chase reset doesn’t allow for a fair comparison.

Now let’s look at our second example, the current 2009 standings. The drivers are sorted by their NASCAR points ranking. But notice that the Watermill Score is broken up into color coded groups by score. In almost every case, the groups are in distinct blocks separating the various drivers. As the Watermill Score goes down, so do the total points for each driver.

With the exception of Mark Martin’s 56 score in the middle of the blue section, notice that each group of scores goes along perfectly with the overall points standings. If Martin had just 26 more points in the standings to go ahead of Newman, then this entire lineup would be 100% in unbroken blocks. Despite this one small difference, you can visually see very easily how the Watermill Score is a very good estimator for the overall points system.

What’s most important is that the Watermill Score has is just as accurate at the top of the points system as at the bottom. Some data (like lead lap numbers) may only be relevant to the Top 10 in points, since most people at the bottom of the standings do not have a significant number of laps led. But this score is consistently accurate throughout the standings. That’s what makes it so valuable.

III. Watermill Score Compares the Best Among Different Estimators

I attempted a modified version of the Watermill Score, using Top 5s instead of Top 10s. It turns out this metric is very good as well, but the original version is slightly more predictive. The table below shows the results, along with the value of some of the most basic metrics commonly cited by industry professionals today:

These correlations were done each year using the Top 30 in the driver points standings. (I only used 30 to remove affect of part-time teams, mid-season driver switches, teams who don’t qualify for every race, etc.)

Some thoughts about the data:

1. The correlation of the Watermill Score is high, repeatable, and consistent:
  • The Watermill Score is more correlated to the points standings than every other metric listed.
  • Notice the minimum score in blue at the bottom, .977, is better than the average score of any other metric, including Average Finish.
  • Average Finish can be deceptively inaccurate in some years (like last year with a .90 correlation and other years with .92 and .94).
  • The Watermill Score is very consistent, and always correlates between .977 and .988 every year this decade.

2. The number of wins by itself is not a great measure of success. In fact wins is a worse predictor than average starting spot.

3. Notice in every single season, Top 10s are a much better predictor of success than Top 5s.

4. Racing at the Finish (inverse of DNF) on its own is not a very important statistic, but when combined with the other data, it becomes very important as a needed measure of consistency.

In conclusion, the data shows us that the Watermill Score is in fact a truly helpful statistic, and it is the best estimator the points standings than any other dataset.

IV. How can the Watermill Score be used to affect race strategy?

Now that we’ve seen the value of the Watermill Score, we can see that the way to maximize your points during the season is to simply focus on four tasks:
  • Finishing races
  • Finishing on the lead lap
  • Getting Top 10s
  • Winning

If you win a race you’ve accomplished all four tasks, earning a Watermill Score of 4 in that race. If you crash out of a race, you accomplish none of these tasks, earning 0 watermills. A lead-lap top 10 earns you 3 watermills.

Notice that the points are split between accomplishing basic tasks (finishing and on the lead lap) while the other half is focused on up-front results (top 10s and wins). This makes a lot of sense to anybody who has been watching NASCAR for years: the Latford system punishes you for bad results just as much as it rewards you for good ones.

Notice that Tony Stewart has 66 watermills this year, an average of 2.75 per race. Matt Kenseth, in the final chase spot, has 53 watermills, an average of 2.21 per race this season. In the entire decade, nobody has ever averaged 3 watermills throughout a season.

Think about what this means for crew chiefs deciding race strategy. If you can walk away from each race with your 3 watermills by finishing in the top 10, do you really want to risk that going for the win, when the possible bad outcome if you finish off the lead lap?

Example 1: Fuel mileage game
You can fill up right now on caution and guarantee yourself a Top 10 finish. The other option is to stay out and hope your fuel will make it to the end. Reward is a win, risk is you run out of gas and finish off the lead lap.

A top 10 guarantees 3 watermills.

A win gets you 4 watermills. Finishing off the lead lap gets you 1.

So if you had a 50/50 shot of making it, the risk-weighted watermill score is .5*4 + .5*1 = 2.5 watermills, which is *LESS* than the guaranteed top 10.
In fact, you’d need at least an 67 percent chance of making it to get your risk-weighted watermill score back up to 3 points, the same as you’re guaranteed top 10. Then you’d have .666*4+.333*1 = 3.0, the same as the guaranteed top 10.

This math suggests that in most cases, unless you are almost absolutely sure you can make it all the way, you are better off not risking a top 10 to go for the win.

However, if you were running further in the pack, and filling up the tank would guarantee you a lead lap finish OUTSIDE the top 10, then your math is very different. Filling up the tank guarantees you 2 watermills, but stretching fuel means you might win (4 watermills) or finish off the lead lap (1 watermill). Now the math is much easier, because you are risking less. All you need is better than a 33 percent chance of being able to stretch fuel for the risk to be worth it.

By just focusing on whether you’ll win, get a top 10, and finish on the lead lap, a crew chief can more quickly and easily come up with the best risk/reward strategy, without having to worry about the more complicated points scheme. As we’ve shown, if you can win the competition of Watermill scores, you will also win the championship.

Example 2: potential flat tire?

Many times we’ve heard a driver complaining that he might have a flat tire. Or we’ve seen instances where there is a fender rubbing the tire, and nobody is sure whether that will cut it down flat. Sometimes it’s not obvious if the tire is actually going down, so what’s a crew chief to do?

Go back to the watermill score. 1 watermill for finishing a race, 1 watermill for staying on the lead lap. Even on bad days, if you can just get out with 2 watermills, that’s not too bad. As we’ve seen, the best seasons average less than 3 watermills per race. So a few 2s won’t kill you, but a few zeros will.

If you pit on green, you’ll probably lose a lap and potentially never recover. If you stay out, and the tire does go bust, you’ll probably crash the car in the wall and won’t finish the race. How do you approach it?

• If you are already off the lead lap, go ahead and come in to fix the tire. At this point your best bet is to get 1 watermill for finishing the race, so you lose nothing extra by falling back another lap or two. Come in and pit, get the new tires.

• If you are on the lead lap, outside the top 10, you have 2 watermills right now. Lose a lap to pit and you have 1 watermill. Stay out and crash and you get 0 watermills. Stay out and nothing happens, you keep your 2 watermills (with some potential upside of reaching the top 10). The math here suggests you only pit if you think there’s more than a 50 percent chance of the tire actually being flat. If you are just guessing, and you think it’s less than a 50 percent chance of being a flat, stay out.

• If you are on the lead lap, in the top 10, you’d now have 3 watermills if the race ended now. Again your options are to crash out, lose laps by pitting, or stay in the top 10 by staying out. In this case you only pit if you are more than 66% sure that it’s a flat. Even a 50/50 guess is worth staying out, because your risk weighted watermill score in that case is .5*3 + .5*1 = 1.5.

• Similarly, if you are leading the race, then you only pit if you are more than 75% sure you have a flat. Since it’s such a big loss to lose those laps, you might as well take the chance on getting your full 4 watermills, stay out and see what happens.

Again, without thinking about the complicated points system, crew chiefs can very quickly think about risk/reward and whether it’s worth pitting now. This depends on where you are running on the track. Be smart about accumulating watermills and you will do well in the points standings.

Example 3: Four tires, two tires, or no tires?

If you are in the top 10 right now, going into the last stop of the race, and fuel mileage isn’t a concern, what is your tire strategy?

If you finish in the top 10, you get 3 watermills. If you take 4 tires, you can guarantee yourself a top 10.

If you take no tires, let’s say that gives you a 20 percent chance of winning (4 watermills), 50 percent chance of finishing in the top 10 (3 watermills), and 30 percent chance of finishing below the top 10 (watermills). The weighted average of all this is .2*4+.5*3+.3*2 = 2.9, or worse than the guaranteed 3.0 you could have had by taking four tires. As long as the chance of falling outside the top 10 is higher than your chance of winning, then it’s a bad strategy. You need your chance of winning to be higher than your chance of falling outside the top 10 for this to be a good idea.

Let’s say by taking two tires you change your chances to 30 percent winning, 60 percent staying in the top 10, and 10 percent falling out the top 10. In this case it makes sense to go with the two tire strategy, since the risk-weighted watermill average here is .30*4+.60*3+.10*2 = 3.2, better than the 3.0 you’d get for taking four tires.

Again, these examples do not focus on what specific place you are in or what your competitors in the standings are doing. I also do not give you the specific percentages for what different gambles are worth. That’s where a good crew chief comes in, using his smarts and experience. What I am suggesting is a simple way to take those percentages, risk-weight them to the watermill score, and be able to more simply and quickly come up with appropriate race-time strategy. Because the overall points system is too complicated to quickly figure out, by following this simpler program, and thinking about the four simple tasks (winning, top 10s, lead lap finishes, finishing the race), this concept can help teams look past all the endless combinations of results and focus only on these four tasks that matter, and that can help them win a championship.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Paul Menard Leads FLOPPER Standings by 100 Points

New Hampshire provided Paul Menard with a strong 34th place finish, 13 laps off the lead.

He now has a triple digit lead in the FLOPPER standings. With only 9 races to go, this might be too much of a lead for anybody else to overcome.

How about the effort by Bobby Labonte to get last minute funding, and drive his #71 TRG car to a lead lap finish in 22nd place. He even led a lap, for a total of 102 points on Sunday.

If Labonte does end up falling short of funding in his upcoming TRG races, he might find himself in a start-and-park situation, which could very quickly bring him up to the top of these standings.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tony Stewart 21 Percent, Mark Martin 18 Percent: Chase Winning Probabilities for Every Driver

Coming off Mark Martin's dramatic win at New Hampshire this Sunday, we have a brand new updated table of championship probabilities.

What do we see here:

1) Martin is now only 3 percent behind Tony Stewart, after Stewart came home 14th. This is particularly encouraging for Martin, considering he had never won at Loudon before, and disliked the track so much he left it off his schedule the last two years.

2) Juan Montoya's strong run moved him higher up in the points standings, but his title percentage still stays very low. He'll need a lot more top 5s to make a dent in these percentages. It's still possible though, if he can successfully upgrade his early season "points racing" strategy.

3) The top 5 guys on this table (Stewart, Martin, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson) have a combined 83 percent chance of winning the title. Look at these 5 for your true contenders.

4) The midpack guys in yellow (Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards) did not races to meaningfully change their situations. Their percentages stayed practically the same.

5) Kasey Kahne was never really a threat to win the title (3 percent last week), so his engine failure only set him back 2.5 percentage points (to 0.5 percent).

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Counting Cards - The NASCAR Points Way

I showed in a previous article how we can simplify the NASCAR points system to just four basic metrics. I also suggested how this can allow for smarter gambles by crew chiefs.

Another way to think about this concept is the analogy of counting cards in blackjack. For a refresher go here.

The point in blackjack is that you have 52 cards in a deck, but only certain cards are worth points. In a simple counting scheme, many cards are worth 0 points, but some are worth positive 1 or negative 1. These gamblers keep track of the cards with point values, and based on the count, they use different tactics.

We can see the same analogy here in NASCAR. If you take that same card-counting approach, instead of keeping track of all 43 positions, all you need to do is keep track of the four important metrics:

1 point for finishing the race
1 point for finishing on the lead lap

1 point for a Top 10

1 point for a Win.

Every other place in the final results is worth 0.

Remember that over the past decade this Watermill points ranking has a .98 correlation with the real NASCAR points ranking. It's equally valuable whether you are fighting for 1st in points or 35th in points.

If you can just maximize your Watermill score, you're also maximizing your real place in the standings.

Crew chiefs and teams just need to "count" these four points, ignore everything else, and let the rest of math's magic work in their favor. They can quickly use this Watermill count to decide whether or not it's risking a fuel mileage gamble, how much they should gamble on over-adjusting a mediocre car, decide if it's worth pitting for a tire they aren't sure is going down, etc. They can stop focusing on the complicated points system of 43 places, and instead just focus on these four factors. Keep track of the count and they'll be all set.

They don't have to pay attention to all 43 places anymore (just like blackjack players don't have to pay attention to all 52 cards). Just focus on counting the 4 points that matter.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Paul Menard Takes over FLOPPER Lead as Robby Gordon Disqualified

Robby Gordon is no longer eligible to defend his FLOPPER award, as he did not compete in Saturday night's race at Richmond. Instead, he decided to run an off-road race in Nevada.

Is it possible that Gordon made this decision simply because he did not want to repeat as the FLOPPER? Was he made aware of his looming repeat championship in the last few weeks, causing him to conveniently skip this race? I'll guess we'll never know...

Nevertheless, we now celebrate the great PAUL MENARD as the new FLOPPER leader.

With his strong lap-down finish in 28th place, Menard now takes a commanding 82 point lead going into New Hampshire.

It is curious to notice the job status of who else is on this list:
David Stremme: lost his ride at Penske for 2010
Bobby Labonte: lost his ride *mid-season* at Hall of Fame/Yates
Reed Sorenson: lost his ride for 2010 at the new Petty/Yates team

Let's see if these guys step up their game as they try to find new rides for next year.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Proof that Chase Bonus Points are Meaningless

Despite all this talk about "needing to win to get those extra 10 chase bonus points", it actually turns out in the past seasons, those bonus points have been absolutely meaningless.

In the first few Chases, they gave out 5 points per rankings in the points standings. Then they switched to 10 points per win. In all cases, however, those points have not had a meaningful effect on the final championship.

The only thing that has mattered is how many points each driver scored in those final 10 races. The bonus points have been meaningless.

Here's the data:

2004: The bonus points changed 0 of the 10 final standings.

Without bonus points, Carl Edwards would beat Greg Biffle for second. (Technically Edwards was tied for second with Biffle in 2005, and without bonus points he would have been tied with Tony Stewart for first. But due to tiebreakers based on number of wins, the resulting affect would just make him second, as in reality he finished "third" in 2005, because Biffle won the tiebreaker between the two of them).

2006: Bonus points only swapped Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth's position in the final standings for second and third.

2007: Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart swapped sixth and seventh because of bonus points.

2008: Kyle Busch would have been 12th instead of 10th without any bonus points.

That's it! Those are the only effects bonus points have had. So forget about all this talk about "Chase Seeding". It's nonsense and has no effect on the final standings.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jimmie Johnson Has Most Points at Chase Tracks in 2009

Of the 10 tracks left this season, we have already visited 8 of them so far.

An interesting exercise would be to see who scored the most points at those 8 tracks on our first visits this season.

Here we go: (Note I am only considering the 12 drivers who made the Chase. In fact, Matt Kenseth and David Reutimann would be high up on this list. Kyle Busch would be ahead of Juan Montoya too.)

Not surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson leads this standings. It's possible the 48 team spent most of their research time this year focused on the "chase" tracks, and letting the other 18 races come to them more normally.

Brian Vickers, who barely cracked this year's Top 12, is also barely hanging on to the bottom of these standings. The last chase track we visited was the previous race at Loudon, 10 races ago. Since that time Vickers has been on a tear, and maybe he can carry that momentum to a more successful set of races the second time around.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Statistics and common sense show why Kyle Busch should miss the Chase. NASCAR should make no tweaks because of this.

Everyone keeps talking about how important it is to have Kyle Busch in this year's Chase.

Most ridiculous is the talk that he *deserves* to be in this year, or that NASCAR should accommodate him by making rules changes in the future.

I disagree. Here's why.

Even though he's tied for first in wins, notice that he is:

Tied for 14th in Top 10s
15th in laps completed
Tied for 16th in races running at the finish
Tied for 17th in lead lap finishes
20th in miles completed

What part of this suggests that he should be a top 12 driver, let alone have a chance at being the number one driver?

Also, using my Watermill score approximator, Kyle Busch is tied for 15th in the Watermill score. Remember this score is the best simple approximator of the current NASCAR points system. It combines Wins plus Top 10s plus races running at finish plus lead lap finishes.

70 Tony Stewart
65 Jeff Gordon
64 Jimmie Johnson
62 Denny Hamlin
62 Mark Martin
59 Juan Montoya
59 Kasey Kahne
59 Kurt Busch
58 Carl Edwards
58 Greg Biffle
58 Ryan Newman
57 Matt Kenseth
56 Brian Vickers
55 David Reutimann
54 Clint Bowyer
54 Kyle Busch

See how low Kyle is on this standings. The top 11 on this score made the Chase. Busch is behind Kenseth, Vickers, and Reutimann here. His lack of consistency keeps him out, and by any measure he hasn't performed up to speed this year.

Remember he's only 14th as far as Top 10s go. He only has 2 DNFs, but he has 7 races where he finished off the lead lap. And he has 8 lead lap finsihes where he was outside the Top 10.

NASCAR is not to blame for Busch missing the Chase. As it is, 12 drivers is probably too many to include, and if Busch can't get himself in the top 12, nobody should complaining for *another* points tweak, just to put him in this freak scenario where his season was so volatile.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tony Stewart has 30 Percent Chance of Winning Title

As we did our Chase qualifying probability tables earlier this year, we are now back with the Championship percentage probability tables.

We kick it off with a simulated model of 14,950 potential outcomes in the next 10 races. And adjust for the current points standings (5000 through 5040), we get percentages for who will end the chase with the most points.

Right now we see Tony Stewart at the top of the list, with strong competition from 4 guys in particular: Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, along with our most recent race winner Denny Hamlin.

Stewart makes the top of the list because 4497 combinations out of the 14950 total end up with him winning the title. Again, this is based on performance of each driver this year.

In fact, Hamlin has scored by far the most points in the last 12 races of the season. If he repeats that performance in the final 10, he could win the title.

Unless Juan Montoya has a new trick up his sleeve, his "chase racing" strategy will not translate to any shot of winning the title.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Robby Gordon still leads the FLOPPER standings

Taking a quick look at the bottom end of 2009 performance, we update our FLOPPER standings. We saw strong performances from David Stremme, Paul Menard, and Robby Gordon. They finished 14th, 15th, and 16th at Richmond. Amazing stuff to have all three of them finish in the top 20. It's like nobody wants to win this FLOPPER this year. David Ragan's 33th place is more like it. He's still gunning for it, as he got 51 points closer to Robby Gordon.

Even Bobby Labonte was able to find a new ride and get a lead lap 18th place finish. It's important that he found a ride for those 7 races he lost in the 96 car. Remember that you need to compete in every race to be FLOPPER eligible. One missed race and you're out.

The big loser was Kevin Harvick, whose second place at Richmond has dropped him off the first page of these standings. Let's see if he can race his way back into contention later this season.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Matt Kenseth 56%, Brian Vickers 44%: Updated Chase Qualifying Probabilities Going Into Richmond

With one race left before chase qualifying, you can almost throw out all the old probability tables we've discussed before. Obviously anything can happen in this final race.

Fortunately we have a guide to use: the previous 25 races this season. If we simulate this Saturday night's race at Richmond by taking the results from the past 25 races this year, we can narrow the possibilities for what the standings could look like. Most importantly, we can use this to get a good sense for each driver's probability for making the top 12.

Click on the table for a larger version:

The only exception in this simulation is if a driver performs better or worse than they've done all year. A good example of this is Kurt Busch, who scored only 49 points this weekend at Atlanta. That was his worst performance of 2009. It took him down from a 100 percent chance of making the chase to a 96 percent chance. And if the Atlanta results repeat themselves at Richmond, he will actually fall out of the chase to 13th place in the standings. It's a crazy possibility, but anybody from Carl Edwards down can crash out of Richmond and knock themselves out of the top 12.

Some other interesting items:

1) The 20 point gap between Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth in the standings translates to a 12 percentage point difference in making the Top 12.

2) If the results this weekend match exactly with the spring race at Richmond earlier this year, then Kyle Busch will replace Matt Kenseth in the top 12.

3) Everybody below Kyle Busch in points is out. ESPN/ABC should stop highlighting those guys in yellow on their scrolling leaderboard. Let's only focus on Vickers and Busch as the two guys outside the bubble. The rest are toast. Sorry David Reutimann, better luck next year.

4) We see in the table on the right, the range for 12th place points is 3168-3237. The range for 13th place is 3103-3211. The two ranges have a big overlap with each other. 3125 to 3162 is the range between fifth in points and eleventh in points. Everybody is very close to the bubble. Anybody from Edwards down could get last place and fall to 13th.

Showing the table in our normal form, this is the summary:

Like I said, if somebody has their worst performance of the year, even a 100 percent chance of making it in won't help now. What I mean by 100 percent is they will make the top 12 as long as they perform within the range of their previous finishes this year.

I do know that there is a 100 percent chance of an exciting race this Saturday night.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tony Eury Jr replacement showing no statistical improvement for Dale Earnhardt Jr

Did changing crew chiefs make any difference for Dale Earnhardt, Jr?

Tony Eury, Jr. lasted 12 races this season with Dale Jr. Since then, we’ve had another 12 races, making this a perfect time to take another snapshot of his performance. Have results improved at all?

First consider his performance all year, in the table below:

(Remember that Watermills is the basic estimate for performance: Wins + Top 10s + Lead Lap Finishes + Racing at the Finish.)

Let’s take a look at the summary between the two halves of the season so far. Click the image for a bigger version:

At quick glance, it does not appear there have been any improvements. His main improvement has been the increase in lead lap finishes. He’s had a marginal gain in watermills and his average start.

But in these last 12 races, Dale Jr actually has fewer top 10s, more DNFs, fewer points, fewer laps led, and a worse average finish. He’s actually scored the 21st most points in this set of 12 races, so he’s done worse in the standings than earlier this season.

The *one* bright side are the last two races, where he scored consecutive top 10s for the first time all season. Let’s see if that picks up in the final 12 races of the season. So far there isn’t anything else hopeful to point to.

Is it too early to say that the crew chief was not the problem in Dale Jr’s case?

Take a look at the table here on the left.

We see the breakdown of points standings for the first 12 races of the year, and the next 12 races.

See how Earnhardt has been stuck in the same part of the pack, actually dropping down a bit. Guys like Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Joey Logano, and Jamie McMurray have all leapfrogged over him in performance from the first 12 races to the next 12 races.

They have all been able to make adjustments and improve their performance later on in the season. Earnhardt’s team has not shown that capability.

Finally, the table here on the right shows how each driver has improved from the first 12 races to the next 12.

See Earnhardt down there in the lower portion of the pack, one of the drivers who have actually had worse performance in this portion of the season than previous.

In conclusion, the evidence does not suggest replacing Tony Eury, Jr. has improved Earnhardt’s performance. We’ll see if these two most recent top 10s suggest a new trend is coming for the final segment of the season.

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