Saturday, November 23, 2013

Recapping the Final Race at Homestead

As we discussed last week, Matt Kenseth was predicted to be a huge favorite to win Homestead. He came as close as possible – winning the pole, leading the most laps, and finished second.

We also predicted that Jimmie Johnson was probably going to win the title anyway, taking a 91% chance into the final race. He easily wrapped up the title by finishing ninth, despite a scare late in the race. 

Johnson finished with 2419 total points, exactly as we forecasted a couple weeks ago. 2419 points puts Johnson well ahead of the previous two championship performances: Tony Stewart (2403) and Brad Keselowski (2400). 

Kenseth, despite finishing second this year, did so well that his 2400 points total would have won him the title last season. But Johnson’s domination put so much distance on the field, that Kenseth’s great performance ended up being closer to third place than to the title: Kenseth finished 15 points ahead of Kevin Harvick, while ending 19 points behind Johnson. 

As has been true every single season, pre-Chase bonus points again turned out to be irrelevant, validating what we discussed a couple months ago. Kenseth had an extra 3 points over Johnson to start the Chase, but lost by 19. Johnson had a total of 12 bonus points entering the Chase - even with 0 bonus points, Johnson would have still been the champion. 

Finally, here is a quick stats recap of Johnson’s season, across the full 36 races:
  • 6 wins (Kenseth had 7) 
  • 16 top-5s (tied with Kyle Busch) 
  • 24 top-10s (best in series: ahead of everybody else by at least 2) 
  • 3 poles (Hamlin had 5) 
  • 1985 laps led (ahead of everybody else by at least 200) 
  • 10.7 Average Finish (next best was 11.2) 
  • 1 DNF (three drivers had 0) 
  • 28 lead lap finishes (tied for 8th here – Kevin Harvick had 33) 
As you can see, in most fields, Johnson was not the best. His strength is in consistency: he had the most top-10 finishes, led the most laps, and had the highest average finish. He didn’t crash out, even in the many races where he finished off the lead lap. Johnson’s championship finish came by minimizing the damage in his bad races.