Crunching numbers for Homestead

November, 19, 2009

Dealing in statistics and general bloggery (next-to-last column and inventing a new word!) means that I generally see a lot of information. I then turn said information around to make some notes, to inform my reading audience and to make predictions wherever I see fit.

However, I'll own up when I'm wrong, seeing as I usually don't hold back in voicing my opinion.

At the beginning of the season, I made five FEARLESS PREDICTIONS (imagine that in a deep, booming voice), so let's see how I did.

• Prediction: After a season that saw three drivers win a majority of the races, we'll see at least a dozen different drivers in Victory Lane.

Outcome: Ka-ching! There have been 14 going into the finale.

• Prediction: Martin Truex Jr. will be shopping himself to a new team before the end of the 2009 season.

Outcome: Check plus -- see you at Michael Waltrip Racing.

• Prediction: Unlike last year, we will see a first-time winner, and David Ragan will lead it off.

Outcome: Half credit -- no Ragan, but Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann and Joey Logano make three. Plus, Ragan won in the Nationwide Series. Give me two-thirds credit.

• Prediction: Juan Pablo Montoya will win a race on a non-road course.

Outcome: I'm still not ruling this out going to Homestead.

• Prediction: Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Ragan will get into the Chase field this year, knocking out Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.

Outcome: I got two out of three on both of these, so give me some credit.

With my confidence running at its normal level (fair to middling), I signed up for the Chase Tracker Game on the NASCAR Media Web site. The goal: Predict each Chase race's winner, plus the order of the points after every race.

I started strong, but have since leveled out. I got only one driver's position correct after Phoenix, that being Tony Stewart in fifth. I had Johnson and Martin flip-flopped, and was one position off on Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers. Close ain't good enough here, though.

However, my past success was enough to rank me ahead of Miss USA and the two Miss Sprint Cups. Any way can I parlay this into a date? Please? (crickets)

It's not all good news, though; I do rank below some notables, such as Randy Moss, Emeril Lagasse, Chris Cooley and the rock band Foreigner.

Seriously, I'm behind Foreigner?! Let's just get on with the final loop-data preview blog this season.

Always room for improvement

Out of our scary department: Jimmie Johnson might actually be getting better.


But it's true -- the 2009 Chase might be his best yet.

In 2007, Johnson got on a huge roll, winning four consecutive races going into the finale at Homestead. That season, his driver rating for the entire 10-race Chase was 114.1.

The next season, Johnson compiled three wins and had the Chase all but locked up going to South Florida. In the 2008 Chase, he put up a 116.2 driver rating.

This year, his driver rating is a 117.2 going into the finale. And that's with him crashing on Lap 3 at Texas!

It's shocking indeed, but make sure not to overgasp. ("Futurama" reference, anyone?)

But is he really the best?

I'm still going to say that Johnson is the best, despite this next note, but take out of this what you will.

Johnson's average position over the first nine races of the Chase is a very, very solid 10.1. That takes into account where he was running on every single lap he's logged in the Chase. The number obviously is dragged down by his back-running at Talladega and issues at Texas. Still, he's spent more than his fair share of time up front too.

However, no fewer than three Chase drivers have a better average position in the 2009 Chase than Johnson. Accompanying list!

Best average position in 2009 Chase
Mark Martin, 7.9
Jeff Gordon, 8.1
Juan Pablo Montoya, 10.0
Jimmie Johnson, 10.1
Kurt Busch, 10.2

Homestead stuff

Oh, yeah, there's still another race to be run. And, call me a fool (a lot of people do it), but I'm looking forward to a race where many drivers won't be thinking about points and will just go for the win.

And we could see somebody get an overdue win Sunday evening in the Sunshine State. Of the six drivers atop the driver rating list since 2005, five of them haven't won a race this season, and the sixth has to rub his chin quizzically before he remembers his last win.

Best driver rating at Homestead since 2005
Carl Edwards, 117.2
Matt Kenseth, 113.7
Martin Truex Jr., 105.7
Greg Biffle, 103.0
David Ragan, 95.4
Kevin Harvick, 94.7

Want one more bold prediction from your favorite blogger?


Enjoy the finale!

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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