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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