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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