Crunching Numbers: Is JJ really due?

June, 16, 2011

Let me start throwing some numbers at you, since that's sort of my thing.

How about 0-for-18 … well, I guess that's a couple of numbers. But that's Jimmie Johnson's career record at Michigan, with just a pair of top-5 finishes in that time.

Here's another: 524. That's Johnson's career laps led at Michigan; of course, none of those have come on the final lap. However, in 2009, he led each race. In the spring race, he ran out of fuel with two laps to go. In the fall race, he led with three to go and also ran out of gas.

The second-most laps led at Michigan by a driver without a win there is 318 by Terry Labonte, but Labonte has done something Johnson never has at Michigan -- finish second. The third-most laps led there without a win is Donnie Allison's 155.

Being without a top-two finish at a track is even more rare for Johnson. The only two tracks he's run a Cup race at without a top-two are Michigan and Watkins Glen.

Dating back to 2005, Johnson's performance at Michigan is indicative of somebody with a little better winning percentage. Nobody has run more fastest laps or has a better average running position than Johnson, and his 110.3 driver rating is only 0.2 behind the leader, Carl Edwards -- who's won twice at Michigan in that time.

But wait, I have more! Check out his speed ranks since 2005 at Michigan in that chart. Do it!

So, don't let that zero in the wins column fool you. Jimmie Johnson is a man to be reckoned with at Michigan.

The Eliminator: Michigan

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats and some by 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.

Oh, and by the way, this little number has picked two winners this year, and six of its past eight picks have finished seventh or better.

1. Since the first Michigan race, 81 of the 82 winners had a previous top-5 at Michigan (25 drivers eliminated, 22 remaining).
2. In 83 all-time Michigan races, there's been only one first-time winner (two eliminated, 20 remaining).
3. There have been 12 different winners in the past 12 spring Michigan races (11 eliminated, nine remaining).
4. The past 11 Michigan winners finished 19th or better in the previous Pocono races (five eliminated, four remaining).
5. Eight of the past nine Michigan winners finished in the top 12 in the previous Darlington race (two eliminated, two remaining).
6. Four of the past five Michigan winners had a top-10 in the previous Michigan races (one eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Martin Truex Jr.

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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