Crunching numbers: Two-man show at RIR

April, 28, 2011

Slaving away at my desk while preparing the research department's weekly Sprint Cup Series race preview packet, I come across statistics both meaningful and completely pointless. I love both equally.

By the way, my favorite recent meaningless stat that I stumbled across is that no driver with a first name starting with the letter "F" has ever won a Nationwide Series race. Look it up!

Anyway, there are meaningful stats, too. Such as: Of any of the drivers who have started at least 10 Cup races at Richmond International Raceway, no one has a better average finish than Kyle Busch (5.3).

But right there with him is his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, whose 8.0 ranks sixth on that list, and second-best among active drivers. And those two are the key drivers to watch Saturday night as well.

You might wonder: Who do I like in which race? Busch has won the last two spring races, while Hamlin has the last two fall wins. Here's a little breakdown for your evening entertainment:

Busch's average running position in the two spring races is 2.4 and 4.9, and in the two fall races in that time, 7.6 and 9.2. He's run the fastest lap 100 times in the spring races, and just 43 times in the fall.

Hamlin, on the other hand, has an average running position of 4.1 and 1.3 in the last two fall races, and 12.6 and 3.5 in the two spring races. He's run 194 fastest laps in the fall races, and just 45 in those two spring races.

Hamlin also has a perfect 150.0 driver rating in the fall 2009 race, and a near-perfect 141.5 in last fall's.

This is the season where the bushes are blooming, and I expect Kyle Busch to bloom Saturday night. Now that's poetic.

The Eliminator: Richmond Edition

Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats, some by just picking a name off the top of their heads.

I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win:

• Nine of the last 10 Richmond winners had a previous top-5 finish at the track (19 drivers eliminated, 25 left).

• The last 11 Richmond winners came from the top 10 in points (16 eliminated, nine left).

• The last six winners this season finished seventh or better in their last race at that track (six eliminated, three left).

• Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won the last four Richmond races (two eliminated, one left).

Your winner: Kyle Busch.

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.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?