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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