Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kenseth + Johnson + Busch = 96%. Everybody else 4%

For the third consecutive week, the three best drivers in the Chase dominated.  Jimmie Johnson had a convincing win at Dover, while Matt Kenseth (7th) and Kyle Busch (5th) both led many laps and finished strong.

This trio continues to pull away from the field, and has increased the chances of the title going to one of them.

Here’s the latest view:

Johnson’s win closed the gap on Kenseth in our probability table.  According to the prediction model, Johnson now has a 37.1% chance of winning the title, right behind Kenseth at 37.6%. Kyle Busch has been hanging steady in the 20-22% range the last couple weeks, and remains there at 21%

Other than Kevin Harvick at 2.7%, everybody else has a title chance under half a percent. In fact, the bottom ten drivers only have a combined 4.4% chance of winning the title. Unless we see a major turn of events in the next few weeks, the Chase is down to three drivers.

Here is some perspective on the disparity between the top three and everybody else: fourth place in the standings is Kevin Harvick, 39 points behind the leader. Yet Harvick is also 39 points ahead of Kasey Kahne, who is dead last in the Chase.

Think about that: fourth place in this Chase is just as close to last place as it is to the leader.

It’s not simply that these three drivers have an ever-increasing points lead: it’s also that they were the three most likely drivers to win the Chase in the first place. These are not surprise drivers who are having a lucky run. If they were on a short hot streak, we might expect better drivers to catch up from behind. But as it looks right now, the three best drivers are consistently delivering the best results, and increasing their lead on the field.

Finally, we see our expected championship points total is hovering right around 2400, exactly where the last two champions finished:

Check in next week, after Kansas, for updated forecasts.