Thursday, December 17, 2009

Visualizing Points Accumulation in 2009

With the way the Sprint Cup points are handed out, sometimes it is easy to lose track of the big picture.

In today's post, I look at a couple ways to visualize the points accumulation, so that it doesn't seem so cumbersome.

I consider two approaches: First considering the total points, and second, looking at the Points Per Race (PPR) average across all 36 races.

I considered the top 20 in points all year, and I did not count the Chase-resetting of points, so what you see are the actual total points each driver earned on their own across the entire season. No artificial additives here.

As always, click on the images for larger versions.

In the first table, you see points color coded by each set of a thousand. I also boxed the 12th place points during the season, as well as the 26th race, to give people a reference point.

We notice many interesting things, here are some tidbits:

1) Only three drivers got to 5000 points this year

2) The points leader can hit new 1000 point levels every 6-8 races, while the 20th place driver only gets them every 10 races or so.

3) Notice the leader got to 2000 by race 14. It took until race 20 for everybody else to get above 2000 points. And at that same race, the leader had just passed 3000.

Now take a look at the PPR progression during the season. Here are the colors reference each 10 points per race average.

When you look at in terms of average points per race, the differences across drivers are much more subtle.

Consider that the end-of-year difference between 7th and 14th in points is only a measly 5 points per race.

They key to being a contender for the title hunt is to move out of the 120s range and into the 130s. The superstars are averaging 140s during the season. Remember, 8th place gets 142 points in a race, and 9th place gets 138. So an average of 140 isn't that hard to do, if you can finish on the lead lap, avoid mistakes and wrecks. That consistency each race turns into a huge points gap by the end, as we see in the first table.

Notice the 12th place in points column, hanging around mostly 117-121 points per race during the season, except right before the Chase cutoff, when the average moved up to 123 points per race. Kyle Busch even said he thought he needed just 3160 points to make the Chase. But the competition got so heated by that point that even his 3195 didn't make it. Nobody accounted for the averages picking up so much.

Last year notice only 2 drivers made it above 5000 points, and 20th place was consistently BELOW 100 PPR. This year we saw more points in that department, probably because of all the start-and-park guys guaranteeing higher finishes for everybody else.

email any comments to