Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paul Menard extends his FLOPPER Lead

After Sunday's Race in Martinsville, Paul Menard extends his FLOPPER lead.

Though right behind him is a cluster of four drivers that are fighting to get back to Menard.


As I mentioned last week
, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has cracked the top 10 in the FLOPPER standings. It definitely seems that his crew chief switch hasn't helped his bad luck.

As I promised last week, let's consider how much money each driver has made, and how much that actually is on a per lap and per mile basis.

Martin Truex makes $463 per lap, the most of everybody here. The lowest is Elliott Sadler at $371.12, just squeaking below David Ragan by nine cents per lap.

Per mile David Ragan is the lowest at $282. And Reed Sorenson makes the most at $349 per mile.

I can't tell if a high dollar number here is good or bad. If you are running a lot of laps, that will bring your average down.

For comparison, Jimmie Johnson has made $518 per mile this year, more than any of the guys in our table above. But Kurt Busch, another Chase contender, has made $330 per mile (less than Reed Sorenson for example).

But all of that that pales in comparison to the whopping $1416 per mile Dave Blaney has accumulated this season. Way to stay efficient Dave. Good job.


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Friday, October 30, 2009

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon Would Lead F1 Points Standings in NASCAR

Following up on our previous post considering what the NASCAR standings would look like if they used a Formula 1 point system, we have a very interesting table:

You can click on the image for a larger version of the table.

What I find fascinating here is seeing Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon tied atop these standings. This is certainly much closer than the current Sprint Cup standings. And this point system doesn't need a "chase reset" to bring everybody back together.

The last time we looked, Tony Stewart and Mark Martin were the top two in this system, but after a string of good runs recently, Johnson and Gordon have taken over the top stop. Previously, Johnson was in 4th place, 10 points behind Stewart. Now he is 4 points ahead of Stewart, due to his current hot streak.

In this system, anybody within 40 points of the leader is within reach of the title. If they score 4 straight wins, they'll get 40 points. So the entire top five, including Denny Hamlin, would still have a shot at the title.

The good thing about this system is it doesn't punish you that much for a bad race. Getting 43rd is no different than getting 23rd. It allows you a chance throughout the season as long as you have the ability to run up front.

I think this system would result in more competitive driving up front, which would give the fans the type of aggressive and strong racing they really want to see. Everybody needs to race to the front.

Right now, the only way Johnson isn't going to win the title (in real points) is if he wrecks. There really isn't any way to catch up to him as long as he keeps getting top 10s.

In the F1 system, top 10s don't really get it done. Johnson couldn't just "take it easy" the rest of the year and coast to a victory. In fact, he'd only be tied right now, so he'd still have no choice but to race hard.

I know with a 43-driver field, having points go to the top 8 might be a bit too extreme. But if we only gave points to the top 15 drivers? That might be a fair compromise. Anything 16th or worse is worth 1 point, so at least you get credit for qualifying and competing. Maybe even say DNFs get 0 points, so there is some encouragement to stay out there and race, which might be a compromise with NASCAR's current system of being so focused on "consistency" rather than racing up front.

And the good news would be you wouldn't need a Chase to reset the points just to bring everybody back together again.

The concept of the Chase to reset all the points together is the same as having a "phantom debris caution" late in a race to bring all the drivers back together again to make it a close race again. But with a better points system, we wouldn't need that.



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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jimmie Johnson has 89 Percent Chance of Winning the Championship

After Sunday's race in Martinsville, we have a new updated championship probability table.

1) With the exception of already-eliminated Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson's second place finish gained him points on all his Chase competitors.

2) There really isn't much to say here, with Johnson pulling off finishes like this, it's really going to take a wreck for him to lose this title. And that assumes his competitors are able to finish cleanly at the same time.

3) Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon are really the only two guys with a reasonable shot of trying to catch Johnson.

4) I know some people like to wait for drivers to be "officially mathematically eliminated", so with 4 races to go, any driver more than 644 points will be out. Technically all 12 drivers are within that number. After next week, all drivers 483 points behind will be officially knocked out.

5) But we don't need to wait till next week, since a full half of the field has no chance of winning the championship anyway. And if you consider Juan Montoya and Kurt Busch as practically having no chance too, that leaves 8 guys on the outs.

6) I don't think having a blowout like this was the intention of creating the chase. The ironic part is that if there were no chase system right now, the top 3 drivers would be separated by only 122 points. In fact the chase system has *widened* that number, making the championship less competitive than it otherwise would have been. Click here to see I made this point last year as well.

7) Not much else to say this week other than "will Johnson wreck?"


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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bobby Labonte Closing in on Paul Menard's FLOPPER Lead

Bobby Labonte's 31st place finish at Charlotte brought him a bit closer to the FLOPPER lead.

Not that far back are three more drivers within striking distance. And in the next group back in yellow, we find Sam Hornish, who single-handedly spun himself out twice to bring out the first two cautions of the race. Nice job.

I thought it would be interesting this week to include the prize winnings of each driver in this grouping, and compare how it's totally unrelated to their place in the standings.

Just to be sure, the total combined winnings for these ten drivers is nearly 36 million dollars this year.

Would you have guessed that Reed Sorenson has made nearly a million dollars more than David Ragan this year? That's 26 percent more than Ragan over the course of the season, for basically the same performance.

Jamie McMurray's prize winnings are the lowest in this group. But he's still averaging more than $101,000 per race. Martin Truex, the highest on this list, is averaging over $131,000 per race. Next week we'll consider how much money they make per lap and per mile.

One last point: Dale Earnhardt Jr is only 1 point ahead of Martin Truex in the standings, and could very possibly find himself on this table next week.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jimmie Johnson 73 Percent, Mark Martin 10 Percent: Chase Winning Percentages for Every Driver

After Saturday Night's win in Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson now takes a commanding lead in his quest to win a fourth straight title.

1) Johnson has scored 3 wins in the last four races. And in each of those wins, he has also scored the bonus points for leading the most laps.

2) The top four drivers, all in Hendrick-powered equipment, now have over a 99 percent chance of winning the championship. That's up from last week's 94 percent.

3) Mark Martin and Tony Stewart, by finishing outside the top 10, each lost 12 percent from their title chances.

4) Kurt Busch's crew chief Pat Tryson might leave the team early if they are out of the title hunt. I wonder if having less than a one percent chance counts as being out.

5) We now have 4 drivers with 0 chance of winning the title. Bad nights from Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin knocked them out. Good luck next year.

6) The previous line is being generous, because we technically haven't eliminated Juan Montoya, Ryan Newman, and Greg Biffle. But their combined chance of winning is about one in a thousand. Most likely all three of them will be eliminated after the next race at Martinsville.

7) The question now is can Martin, Stewart, or Jeff Gordon come back to topple Jimmie Johnson? A lot of racing left to go, and freak accidents happen at Martinsville and Talladega, so maybe they can make up lost ground if Johnson suffers some bad luck.

8) Remember back to the summer, with 6 races to go before the Chase started, Brian Vickers only had a six percent chance of making it in. But he rolled off a great stretch of performance and did qualify. That means the three guys behind Johnson still have a shot of getting it done.



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Friday, October 16, 2009

Paul Menard holding onto FLOPPER lead

With only six races to go, we don't see much change in the FLOPPER standings.

1) Paul Menard still holds a decent lead, with 4 guys back between 85 and 144 points back.

2) There is still a chance for one of them to make a late move to the top of these standings. 6 races is a lot of time to make something happen.

3) I'm surprised to see two Roush cars down here (Jamie McMurray and David Ragan). A big fall from 2005 when all five of their cars made the Chase.

4) Not surprising, however, is finding three cars from Richard Petty Motorsports in this group. It makes you wonder how well Kasey Kahne would perform if he didn't have teammates performing so poorly.

5) Today I highlight a very surprising item, the fact that Paul Menard has completed more laps this season than anybody else on this list. He's done a good job of staying on the track all year. Would you have guessed this? Menard's 8371 laps completed ranks him 11th among all drivers this season in laps completed, ahead of five chase drivers. Very impressive.


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jimmie Johnson 42 Percent, Mark Martin 22 Percent, Chase Winning Percentages for Every Driver

After Sunday's race in Fontana, California, we now see a very big shakeup in the percentage standings.

1) Jimmie Johnson is the big winner in every department. He wins the race, takes the points lead, and gains 18 percentage points here, moving from 24 percent to 42 percent. His chance of winning the title is almost double the next best competitor.

2) Fortunately for Mark Martin, his fourth place finish kept him in striking distance of the points lead, and his 22 percent title chances are the same as last week. He hasn't really lost any ground versus the competition as a whole.

3) Tony Stewart, despite getting fifth place, took a bigger hit, losing six percentage points.

4) The biggest loser of the group was Denny Hamlin, who went from a six percent chance to virtually zero.

5) Six drivers have been virtually eliminated after Fontana. That's a big shakeup.

6) The top four Hendrick-powered cars now have a combined 94 percent chance of winning the title.

7) Despite the TV announcers calling this one of the closest Chases ever, I see the data showing a big divide between who has a shot and who does not.


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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stewart, Johnson, Martin have equal Championship Winning Probabilities

Three races down, seven to go. The season is quickly winding up as the Chase rolls on.

After Sunday's race in Kansas, we now have a very different title winning probability table.

1) Obviously the big winner was Tony Stewart, as he halved the points gap to Mark Martin, and in doing so doubled his percentage chances of winning the title. What was once a two-man race between Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin is now a three-man race with the inclusion of Stewart. You can also throw Jeff Gordon in there, who still has a great shot of winning the title, despite his lower standing in the points.

2) Is it really a coincidence that three of the greatest drivers of this generation have won the three Chase races this season? This part of the year is when the best rise to the top, and we are seeing that again. And no surprise to see Gordon right there lurking behind the three race winners.

3) Juan Montoya is the only driver with top fives in each of the three Chase races. However, he only had 2 top fives in the first 26 races, so it's unclear how hot he can stay in the final 7. If he does keep getting top fives, obviously his percentage chances will keep growing on this table.

4) Martin and Johnson's top 10 runs didn't do much to help or hurt their causes, just good runs to keep them in contention as before.

5) We now add Brian Vickers to our list of "his chance is so low we need to go past the decimal point to show it." Congrats on showing everybody your place in the Chase was indeed a fluke.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ragan, Labonte, Stremme all within range of FLOPPER lead

After Sunday's race in Kansas, we see one of our tightest races in the FLOPPER standings in a while.

1) David Ragan, Bobby Labonte, and David Stremme are virtually tied, all about 80 points ahead of Paul Menard for the title.

2) I also included this week a list of each person's laps led on the seasons. Interesting to see the range of those numbers from 0 to 179. Definitely some surprises in there.

3) Funny to think that AJ Allmendinger is the only guy on this list who has 0 laps led all year. Would you have guessed that? His 0 laps led are still good enough to stay ahead of Martin Truex Jr, who has led a respectable 179 laps this season.

4) Truex's 179 laps led is actually more than (would you have guessed this): Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers, Dale Earnhart Jr, David Reutimann, and is just 9 laps less than all four Richard Childress cars combined. I'm serious. Maybe he does have some potential to bounce back next year, and his move to Michael Waltrip Racing will be a good one.

5) If Bobby Labonte keeps getting last place finishes like he did at Kansas, he'll quickly find himself at the top of this table.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Formula 1 Points System in NASCAR: Tony Stewart would lead Mark Martin by 2 points

Could we simply replace the entire points system (and the Chase too) by simply instituting the F1 points system in NASCAR

Right now the current points system is setup to punish drivers for bad finishes. It is not setup to reward drivers for good finishes. That is the fundamental problem here.

Click on the table for a larger version. This is updated through the Dover race.

It also has such a wide disparity that somebody like Tony Stewart can build up a huge lead on the rest of the field. And the only way to catch up to him is to hope he crashes out, rather than trying to hope your own driver runs well enough to beat him.

The F1 system is based on rewarding good finishes. Only score the Top 8, and forget about the rest.

I know that NASCAR has 43-car fields, so only scoring the Top 8 is a bit extreme. But it's an interesting example to use here.

We find that Mark Martin would be in the thick of the title race, without needing any Chase-reset. It would show Kyle Busch up there as well. And we'd see Chase drivers like Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers outside the top 12 on these standings.

Here's the point. If Martin and Stewart are basically tied here, based on their top-8 finishes, but the NASCAR system has them over 400 points apart (not Chase Adjusted), then doesn't that just show that the current NASCAR system is just more interested in punish bad finishes rather than rewarding good ones?

Do we really want our champion to be the guy who was "least bad on his bad days" or the guy who was "the absolute best on his good days"?

No chase-format or two extra drivers or bonus points for wins is going to fix any of that. As long as the current system of awarding positions 1-43 points stays the same, people will still keep complaining that the champion isn't a true reflection for the best car. I'm not saying we should use the F1 system, I'm just saying we should use it as a comparison to what we have, and see which one "makes more sense" from a normal person's point of view.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Guys looking for rides: Updated FLOPPER standings

After Dover's race, we take a look at an expanded version of the FLOPPER standings.


1) First off, congratulations to Paul Menard for his strong lead-lap finish in 19th place, really took a big chunk out of his previous 100 point lead in these standings. He finished ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and David Reutimann.

2) What's most surprising to me on this list is the fact that Sam Hornish, Jr. has SEVEN top 10 finishes this year. I honestly thought that was a typo, so I had to go back and look through his results this year. Yup it's true, he really does have seven top 10s. Would you have guessed that correctly? But he's still down here so low because of his 5 DNFs and the fact that only 11 times out of 28 has he finished on the lead lap. His finishes are either very good or very bad.

3) I am still shocked at how poorly David Ragan is doing this year. For a guy who was 13th in the standings last year, and was racing even hotter at the end of the year, I don't know how they've been so far off the entire season. It just doesn't make any sense to me. I know Roush is struggling generally this season, but I don't get why Ragan has dropped this much. Maybe 2008 was the fluke and this is his normal capability?

4) Good job to Reed Sorenson, who has zero DNFs this year, while everybody else around him in the standings (26th - 31st) has four or five of them. Nice job staying on track. Maybe use this stat to convince sponsors and owners to give you a ride.




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