Crunching numbers after Kansas

October, 5, 2010


Oh yes, after what seemed to be a fairly uneventful Kansas race that resulted in Greg Biffle getting yet another Chase win (don't sleep on the Biff), and Jimmie Johnson taking over the Chase lead (stop me if you've heard this one before), I find myself sitting knee deep in stats. And you know I love my stats.

So many stats that I can't wait for my normal three-tiered approach to giving my favorite research nuggets of the weekend, while I fill this above area with the ridiculousness that I enjoy writing, and I can only imagine my readers barely tolerate. Things like how excited I am for the new NASCAR video game that was announced last week. My dorky senses are tingling.

And I do have things to say, like how this is statistically the closest Chase ever through three races. It's just an eight-point lead for Johnson over Denny Hamlin, enough that if Hamlin were to finish second and Johnson fourth this weekend, the points lead would be traded again.

Furthermore, there are 85 points separating Johnson from eighth-place Biffle, with several drivers who could make a run in between. That 85-point spread from first to eighth is the closest in the seven years of the Chase, and the only time that margin has been under 110 points. Remember that in 2006, Johnson was 165 points back of the leader in eighth, and went on to win the title.

On the flip side, 2006 was the only time the eventual Chase winner wasn't first or second in the points after three races. Four times they were the leader, and last year Johnson was second, a mere pittance behind Mark Martin.

That's enough of this though, let's move on to the official statistics section.

There's No Place Like Kansas

I don't think there's a driver in the series who is more looking forward to Kansas getting a second race than the man affectionately referred to as "The Biff." With Sunday's win at Kansas, Greg Biffle improved his average there in the Chase era (starting in 2004) to 3.6, including two wins in that seven-race span.

Also not to be ignored is that was Biffle's seventh career Chase race win, only Jimmie Johnson has more. And Biffle's been good in the Chase regardless of whether or not he was good during the first 26 races. Three of those seven wins came as a non-Chase driver, tied for the most Chase wins by a non-Chase driver.

Trivia break: In Biffle's 2007 Kansas win, who finished second, but crossed the finish line first?

Welcome To Johnsonville

You could argue that Johnsonville is the spot atop the Chase standings, and the population is currently 48. Hey, that was one of my better opening lines.

In the Chase era, in regular season and Chase races alike, Johnson has now led the points after 77 races, nearly twice as many as any other driver. This calls for a chart!

Yeah, that's quite a spread, now let's see if he can hold off all his challengers.

Trivia break: Going back to 2002, the top four in weeks leading the points are Johnson, Kenseth, Gordon and Stewart, all former or future champs. Who is fifth with 25 weeks leading?

Not Without Drama

So much for the non-Chase drivers handling the Chasers with kid gloves. David Reutimann put an end to the talk of the Chasers and non-Chasers being in two different races simultaneously.

No matter how you feel about Kyle Busch, or David Reutimann's timing in taking revenge on a driver who was likely on his way to a good finish, the impact of Reutimann's hit sent Busch stumbling backwards, and he could not fully recover.

With some help from Andrew Davis of the ESPN Stats & Analysis team, we found out that before Reutimann's hit, Busch averaged a 32.8-second lap. After, 33.1 seconds. That might not seem like much, but you're losing a second about every three laps. And Busch never climbed back into the top 10 after the impact, after spending about 62 percent of the laps before in the top 10.

Trivia break: Who are the three non-Chase drivers to win a Chase race at Kansas?

Trivia Break Answers

1) Clint Bowyer was second at Kansas, but crossed the finish line first as Biffle was running low on gas.

2) Sterling Marlin led the points for 25 weeks in 2002, but missed the end of the season with a neck injury, suffered in a wreck at Kansas.

3) Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Joe Nemechek all won at Kansas as non-Chase drivers.

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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