You may or may not know this about me, but I am a believer in NASCAR's complicated yet frighteningly accurate stat of "driver rating." It took a while, but I am now a true convert.
It's a lot like the NFL's equally mysterious quarterback rating. Only a handful of people truly understand how the long, complicated equation works, but there isn't a better quick-glance way to see if a QB -- or in our case, racer -- had a good day or bad.
If you really want to know how NASCAR's driver rating works, read this. But all you really need to know is that anything over or in the neighborhood of 100 is good, like hitting .300 in baseball. The higher you go over 100 is great, the further you drop behind it is bad.
The driver rating also reveals patterns that no other stat can, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Don't believe me? Well, this week I was handed a great example of what I'm talking about by our spreadsheet-manufacturing friends at Stats Inc. and the NASCAR statistics department.
Three times this season Kasey Kahne has been faced with three giant off-track, career-altering distractions. The first was his announcement that he would be moving to Hendrick Motorsports, which came in mid-April. The second was the revelation that he'd be driving for Red Bull Racing in 2011, which was announced on Aug. 9. And the third happened just this week, when he was released from Richard Petty Motorsports to join Red Bull for the final five races of 2010.
So, you say you don't think that kind of contract/career/gossip stuff doesn't wear on a driver mentally? The numbers say you are wrong. And the digits seem to suggest that Kahne is a bad distracted driver, but then once the big news is finally sorted out and announced, he races with a sense of relief and finds his way back to the front.