Crunching numbers: Kansas turnaround?

June, 2, 2011

Last week, I told you not to get caught up in Jimmie Johnson's overall numbers at Charlotte -- which were excellent on the surface -- and instead to focus on his recent numbers there, which were far inferior.

A mediocre evening followed by a blown engine, and all of a sudden I look kind of brilliant.

A modest statement? Not really. But I don't have a PR person yet, so I have to do the dirty work myself. Um, I'm also handsome.

This week, I'm going to encourage you to get back on the Jimmie Johnson bandwagon, despite the fact that the entire team doesn't look to be in championship form right now.

Johnson has shown a lot of raw speed at Kansas going to 2005, as far back as we have loop data for. His overall speed, speed early and late in runs and speed in traffic are all tops in the field.

Yet he has only one win there, and his actual race results are a step behind another driver who had a rough evening at Charlotte.

I'm talking about The Biff. And it's like I always say, everybody loves the Biff … especially at Kansas.

Greg Biffle's results at Kansas have traditionally one-upped Johnson's, which gives the edge to The Biff in a couple key categories, average position and driver rating.

The average position is important because the best way to avoid incidents is to stay up front and out of traffic … unless your name is J.R. Hildebrand (sorry, J.R.!).

In six of the last seven years, Biffle's finish at Kansas was better than Johnson's. The only exception was in 2008, when Johnson won, but Biffle still finished a respectable third.

But, rest assured, these two drivers have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Since 2005, look at that chart!

So, two different drivers and teams, but a common domination at Kansas.

The Eliminator: Charlotte

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

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.

1) Every Kansas winner has had at least three career wins entering the race. (25 drivers eliminated, 20 remaining).
2) The last seven Kansas winners finished 19th or better in the last Kansas and California races (10 eliminated, 10 remaining).
3) The last five Kansas winners finished in the top 10 in the last Texas races (four eliminated, six remaining).
4) The last six Kansas winners finished 19th or worse in the last Charlotte race (five eliminated, one remaining)

Your winner: Jimmie Johnson

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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