Another Chase race – another pair of top-5 finishes for Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. By consistently finishing up front, our two leaders continue to squeeze out every other driver from any chance at a title.
The probability of Johnson (47%) or Kenseth (42%) winning the Chase is now 89%, up from 85% last week. They have not shown any signs of weakness in the past five races.
Even Johnson’s late bobble and missed opportunity to win Charlotte did not cost him much, according to these probabilities. If Johnson had won the race, he’d have a 48-41 lead over Kenseth rather than his current 47-42 lead. If he stays consistent throughout the Chase, his Charlotte mistake shouldn’t matter.
What about everyone else? Kevin Harvick (6%) and Kyle Busch (4%) have a very small chance of sneaking in, while the rest of the field is basically done – the bottom nine drivers have a combined 1% chance. The chart above does not display the lowest five drivers, because according to the model, they have no way of winning the title.
Johnson and Kenseth are so far out in front, that Jeff Gordon’s fourth place rank is actually closer in points to tenth place Carl Edwards than it is to the lead. Gordon is 36 points behind first and only 31 points ahead of tenth.
If any statistical “miracles” were going to happen, this weekend’s race at Talladega would be the place. The racing there is practically random, and the results give anybody a chance. This will be the biggest opportunity to shake up the field – and the best chance for anybody not named Johnson or Kenseth to make a move forward.
The only way for the field to make up ground is if Johnson and Kenseth both crash, but it’s more likely only one of them will, leaving the other to grab a giant points lead. That said, the most likely outcome at Talladega this weekend is less about the field catching up to the two leaders, but rather about one of them breaking away from the other.
As our two leaders continue to finish up front each week, the expected points for the champion continues to rise. Our model’s championship expectation is now above 2400. At this rate, they would break Tony Stewart’s 2403 total from two years ago:
As always, check in after the race next week for updated numbers.