Saturday, November 28, 2009

Earnhardt's Crew Chief Showing Even Worse Results

We had previously taken a look at how Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had been performing in the first 12 and next 12 races of this 2009 season, comparing him with and without crew chief Tony Eury, Jr.

At the time, the results were inconclusive any improvement had been made, because his performance seemed to be the same in both situations.

Now we can consider the final 12 races of the year, and the results show a severe drop-off in Earnhardt's performance.

First off we consider the full performance of Earnhardt this season, color coding the three chunks of the season. You see Eury's time in orange, and the post-Eury experience in yellow and green. The green period is everything since our last update.

Remember the last two races in yellow were top 10 finishes, so there was momentum going into the final chunk of the year, but in fact it has been a struggle. Zero top 10s since. Most of the time he didn't even finish on the lead lap.

Also notice the summary breakdown of those three parts of the year. Reflects the big dropoff that's occurred.

Finally, look at the points accumulated in each third of the season. See how Earnhardt's ranking has really fallen, while his teammates finished 1-2-3 in points during the same 12 races. The fact that Earnhardt is right between Bobby Labonte and Scott Speed is very weak, considering the equipment he is in.

I don't know what the problem is with the 88 team, or how they are going to turn it around. The numbers are scary though.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Congratulations to Paul Menard, the 2009 FLOPPER

By starting Sunday's race in Homestead, Paul Menard took home the 2009 FLOPPER award.

He follows in the footsteps of legendary drivers like Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett, and Darrell Waltrip, and Harry Gant. Former winners of the award also include Kyle Petty, Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader, Brett Bodine, and Bobby Hamilton The full list of past winners is here if you click on this link.

Of the 31 drivers who started every race, Menard took home a few titles:
1) The only driver without a top 10
2) The worst starting average (31)
3) The fewest Lead Lap Finishes (12)
4) Of course, scoring the fewest points (2979)

Interestingly enough, Menard was able to improve his finishing position by an average of 4 places over his starting position. That's the second best improvement of all the people on this list. Maybe they just need to get their equipment and qualifying setup better on Fridays.

Special kudos go to AJ Allmendinger, who managed to go the whole year without leading a single lap. Good job not pushing it.

We saw Michael Waltrip finish his fulltime career in 2009, and surprisingly was NEVER able to win a FLOPPER title during his career. He missed races in 3 of the last 4 years, so that's what held him back.

Now the question begins on who will win the FLOPPER in 2010. Anybody have any guesses? Maybe we can do a prize to the first person who comments with next year's correct FLOPPER.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Menard Clinches FLOPPER Award Unless He Skips Homestead

After Sunday's race in Phoenix, Paul Menard now takes a commanding 164 point lead in the FLOPPER race going into the final race of the year.

Some interesting notes:

1) Menard actually still has fewer points than David Stremme, who has missed the last two races of the year.

2) Menard is the only driver on this list with ZERO Top 10s all year long

3) The max difference between first and 43rd is 161 points. So if Menard starts the race at Homestead, he will automatically win the FLOPPER award.

4) AJ Allmendinger, despite all that "young potential" attention he's been getting this year, still has not led a single lap all season.

5) How do these prize winnings add up. Of this list of ten drivers, Menard has the 3rd most winnings. And Jamie McMurray is 9th on the list, even though McMurray just won at Talladega. I thought they gave a lot of money to winners of big races. How does any of this make sense?

6) It will be interesting to see if any of these guys accidentally run into Jimmie Johnson and wreck his title hopes at Homestead...And how many of these guys will be in FLOPPER contention next year, either by running better, or not having a full-time ride.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

97 percent chance Johnson takes title, 3 percent shot for Martin

After Sunday's race at Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson's lead is now 108 points over Mark Martin.

We almost don't even need a table for this week, but let's go ahead and check it out anyway.

1) First off, everybody third place on down is eliminated.

2) Martin needs to outscore Johnson by 109 points or more in this last race in order to win the title.

Obviously that's a tough task to do, basically requiring that Johnson has some sort of problem.

Let's take a look at examples from earlier this season:
A) In the spring Richmond race, Martin finished 5th and Johnson finished 36th, for a difference of 100 points.

B) In the spring Michigan race, Johnson ran out of gas and finished 22nd, while Martin won. Martin outscored him by 83 points in that race.

C) Labor day weekend in Atlanta saw Martin finish 5th and Johnson 36th, for a difference in 95 points.

D) Obviously just last week at Texas, Martin finished 4th, Johnson was 38th, for a point difference of 111 points.

3) As we see, there have been cases this year where Mark has made huge points gaps on Johnson, and it's possible that will happen again. Not likely, but possible. That's why 3 percent is still something.

You never know...Let's go Mark!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Is the Chase Having the Opposite Effect?

We all know that the Chase was implemented to bring more drama into the championship story all the way to the end of the year.

But has that really been working?

Let's take a look at the last six years now of data:

What you see here is the difference in points between first and second in the standings with one race to go.

Notice in 2009, if we were using the old points system, there would only be an 8 point difference between first and second. With the Chase, that difference is now 100 points higher.

If you look at the trend, the difference in points under the Chase format has been going up steadily over time.
From 18 points in 2004 to above 100 points in both 2008 and 2009. This trend to less competitive title races is most disturbing of all.

With the exception of blowouts by Tony Stewart in 2005 and Jeff Gordon in 2007, the Chase hasn't really done much to bring parity to the standings this late into the season.

This is something that top brass at NASCAR should be thinking about.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Actually, Using Formula 1 Points System, Johnson Would Have Just Clinched

Due to Jimmie Johnson's win on Sunday at Phoenix, if we were using the F1 points system in NASCAR, Johnson actually would have clinched the title.

You can click on the image here for a bigger version.

Johnson would have more than a 10 point lead now, and that would be enough to clinch it.

However, the race for second place would be super close. With 2 points separating 3 drivers, that would be quite a race to watch Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Mark Martin battle it out all race long in Homestead.

The interesting part about these standings is that it might help tone down some of the complaints that Johnson only won this year because of the points reset and the Chase tracks working in his favor. Because these standings go for the whole year, it's actually an impressive feat for Johnson.

Despite our earlier blogs showing how close the F1-system title race had been proceeding, Johnson's performance in the last two months have really put him out of reach of everybody else. Four of his seven wins this season have come in the Chase. The ironic part about is that this F1 system was much closer than the real Chase standings were...until this week when Johnson got this clinch.

I'm actually personally not a Johnson fan, and actually am still hoping Mark Martin will win the title, but as far as this format goes, Johnson is the winner. Good job.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Paul Menard Could Clinch the FLOPPER Title at Phoenix

After Sunday's race in Texas, we are starting to see a very clear FLOPPER title picture wrap up.

1) If Paul Menard leaves Phoenix more than 161 points behind the next racer, Menard will clinch the award.

2) David Stremme lost his ride early this year, in place of Brad Keselowski, so he's not in the running for the title anymore this year. Remember you need to complete every single race to be in contention.

3) Menard's best bet is to sit out one of the next two races, and let the drivers between 27-30 compete for the award.

4) Sam Hornish gets special thanks for helping making this Chase interesting once again.

5) The weird thing is that in 2008, Juan Montoya and Paul Menard finished 25th and 26th in the standings. Only 1 spot apart. This year they are 26 spots apart. Imagine if we had seen Menard make the Chase this year instead of Montoya. Wouldn't that have been strange? Somehow I don't think we'll see Menard make the chase next year either. I don't even need a probability table for that.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jimmie Johnson 82 Percent, Mark Martin 12 Percent: Chase Chances for Every Driver

After Sunday's huge shakeup in Texas, the Chase picture is looking a lot more competitive with just two races to go.

1) Anytime you are trying to pass BOTH David Reutimann and Sam Hornish on the outside of the same turn of the same lap on lap three of any race is a boneheaded move. When you have a big points leads in the 34th race of the year, and are that close to a historic fourth consecutive title, that move is even more boneheaded. And to immediately blame Hornish at the end of the race for your own mistake just shows what an ass you really are. Good job Jimmie Johnson for making this Chase interesting.

2) Mark Martin, my own personal favorite in this race, saw his chances go way up after beating Johnson by 34 positions. If you combine Talladega and Texas, Martin has gained 45 points on Johnson in those two races. Only 73 points left to go. He can still pull it out, and there's life in him now.

3) By gaining into Johnson's lead, Jeff Gordon also gained a small chance of being the title winner. But 13th place isn't going to get the job done, especially when you started on the pole.

4) Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart would have stayed at 0 percent the rest of the season had the races played out like we'd seen so far this year. But Jimmie Johnson scored his *worst* finish of the entire year, which shifted our numbers a little bit. That helped bring Busch and Stewart (slightly) into the title picture.

5) We add three more drivers to the official "out" section at the bottom in pink. Hamlin was already eliminated last week, so even his second place wasn't good enough to do anything for him.

6) The most points Martin can score is 6614, meaning Johnson needs 317 points in the next to races to clinch. That's an average of 4th place in both races. All of a sudden that's not a very simple task. He needs two ninth places to stay ahead of Jeff Gordon.

7) Interesting tidbit: in the last two races combined, the Chase driver who has scored the most points is......Greg Biffle, with a 4th and 8th place earning him 302 points total.

8) Looking forward to Phoenix, where in April this year, Martin won and outscored Johnson by 30 points. A repeat of that this weekend would really shift the picture.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

A Very Close Title Race Using F1 points system

I am getting a lot of demand for this table, so I will update it again this week. This is what the NASCAR points standings would look like if we used the Formula 1 points system.

Click on the image for a bigger and clearer version.

1) Notice we have a very close title chase at the top, among Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Mark Martin. Any one of them has a reasonable chance of winning the title.

2) Denny Hamlin would have just been eliminated, but he could still finish in second place this season.

3) Remember these are standings that go back all year long, so there is no need for a Chase reset. Doesn't this system seem to make more sense from a logical point of view, from anybody who has watched all the races this year?

4) What do people think about this? Do readers out there think this system is better, or do they like the current system instead?

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Friday, November 6, 2009

With different points system, we'd still have a close title race right now

After Jimmie Johnson's lucky sixth place finish at Talladega, he now has a lead that is basically insurmountable.

First notice the F1 points system. If we used that in NASCAR, we'd have a very close championship race still. Anybody within 30 points of the leader (including Denny Hamlin) would have a shot at the title.

The ironic part about the Chase is that again this year it has a bigger difference in points than if we had just left the original points alone. In the old format, the top three drivers would be 79 points apart. Johnson and Tony Stewart would only be 7 points apart.

Obviously in the chase format the top 2 drivers are nearly 200 points apart. Much further away than without the chase format.

We've seen the same thing in years before. Very ironic. Or just more evidence we need a better points system.

Notice in that link, each year the gap between first and second keeps getting wider and wider going into the last race of the year. We'll probably see that trend continue again this year. The chases have become less competitive every single year. Is it time for a new tweak?

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paul Menard running away with FLOPPER award

After Sunday's very early wreck at Talladega, Paul Menard is running away with this year's FLOPPER award. His lead rivals Jimmie Johnson's points lead at the top of the standings.

Big congratulations to former FLOPPER contender, Jamie McMurray, who won the race this weekend. He had been in the charts consistently through two races ago. After four straight finishes 28th or worse, McMurray got 6th at Martinsville and followed that up with his win at Talladega. Good job breaking out of the FLOPPER table this year. Let's see if you can stay off the table the rest of 2009.

McMurray now has 2 of his 3 career wins at Daytona and Talladega. Looks like a Michael Waltrip type of resume.

Bobby Labonte's 10th place finish moved him far away from the FLOPPER lead.

Unless Menard can come through with three straight top 10s to end the season, I think he has this title wrapped up. He might have this clinched before we even reach Homestead. Another way to have an early celebration at Ford Championship Weekend.

Of course, David Stremme has lost his ride now for the rest of the season, taking out another one of our FLOPPER contenders.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Martin and Gordon have a narrow shot of beating Johnson

After Sunday's bizarre Talladega finish, Jimmie Johnson found yet another way to beat the rest of his competition.

As much as I hate to say it, Johnson is going to coast to the title unless he has three bad results in a row.

First off, we can "officially" eliminate Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers from the title. Anybody more than 483 points behind can't catch up to Johnson.

After next week's race, anybody 322 points back or more will be eliminated "officially". Of course we know we don't have to wait that long for the official elimination, since our advanced math already tells us only two guys have a chance at catching Johnson, and that chance is really small. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin have a combined 1.4 percent of beating Johnson.

How could Johnson lose the title? For example, take a look at the results of three races earlier this year: Richmond (May), Michigan (June), and Atlanta (September). In those races, Johnson finished 36th, 22nd, and 36th. Jeff Gordon finished 8th, 2nd, and 8th. Mark Martin finished 5th, 1st, and 5th.

If the next three races have similar results to those three above, then Johnson would lose to Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. In that case, Martin would win with 6564, Gordon second at 6520, and Johnson third at 6470.

Obviously this is not a likely scenario, cherry-picking three of Johnson's worst races and hoping that pattern repeats itself consecutively. This shows that it's not likely but still possible. It's Johnson's title to lose at this point.

Consider another example:
Martin has 6064 points right now. The maximum he can earn from now till the end of the season is 195 times 3, or 585 points. That would leave him with 6649 points.

Johnson has 6248 already, so needs another 401 points to beat Martin's maximum. That's an average of 134 points per race over the final three.

10th place is awarded 134 points, so if Johnson just rides around and gets 10th place each week, there will be no way he loses the title.

I wonder if he'll start taking it easy now.

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