The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: The Chase vs. Statistics by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday November 2, 2005

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Voices From the Heartland: The Chase vs. Statistics

Jeff Meyer · Wednesday November 2, 2005

 

When The Big BF (Brian France) announced at the beginning of the 2004 season that a new points system would be instituted to determine NASCAR’s Champion, many folks, myself included, were quite skeptical. After riding (quite painfully) on the fence of indecision for most of the year, I finally fell off on the side of reluctant approval. After all, The Chase, as it was dubbed, did make the end of a long and tedious season a bit more exciting. The ‘04 victor wasn’t finally decided until the waning laps of the final race.

We are now nearing the end of the Chase for the second year and it still has some very vociferous opponents that say that is just a stunt to elevate television ratings and does not reflect a true champion’s racing efforts.

While I don’t deny that it was made for (and has) improved late season ratings, I still say that it is really not that far off from the old system. All the new chase has done is shorten the ‘true’ season by ten races. YOU STILL HAVE TO HAVE A GOOD SEASON TO BE IN THE TENTH SPOT! With the chase, you now have ten guys who have a legitimate shot at the championship instead of one guy wrapping it up with a bunch of races remaining.

However, as Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) so eloquently put it, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies and statistics!” The Chase is no different. Forget, if you will for a moment, about the Chase and about points and look at the pure racing stats of the top ten and a few selected other drivers.

1. Stewart – 33 starts, 9757 of 9824 laps completed (99.3%), 1830 laps led

Win: 5 ( 15.2%) Average start: 11.7 Total Winnings: $6,347,436 Top 5: 16 ( 48.5%) Average finish: 10.1 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 23 ( 69.7%) DNF: 1

2. Johnson – 33 starts, 9356 of 9824 laps completed (95.2%), 545 laps led

Win: 4 ( 12.1%) Average start: 12.0 Total Winnings: $6,002,480 Top 5: 12 ( 36.4%) Average finish: 12.3 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 20 ( 60.6%) DNF: 4

3. Biffle – 33 starts, 9608 of 9824 laps completed (97.8%), 1112 laps led

Win: 5 ( 15.2%) Average start: 13.9 Total Winnings: $4,970,808 Top 5: 13 ( 39.4%) Average finish: 12.3 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 19 ( 57.6%) DNF: 1

4. Newman – 33 starts, 9484 of 9824 laps completed (96.5%), 358 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 6.4 Total Winnings: $4,801,805 Top 5: 8 ( 24.2%) Average finish: 15.4 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 15 ( 45.5%) DNF: 3

5. Edwards – 33 starts, 9445 of 9824 laps completed (96.1%), 258 laps led

Win: 3 ( 9.1%) Average start: 19.6 Total Winnings: $4,085,843 Top 5: 11 ( 33.3%) Average finish: 14.9 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 15 ( 45.5%) DNF: 1

6. Martin – 33 starts, 9393 of 9824 laps completed (95.6%), 280 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 15.7 Total Winnings: $4,169,308 Top 5: 10 ( 30.3%) Average finish: 13.9 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 17 ( 51.5%) DNF: 2

7. Kenseth – 33 starts, 9272 of 9824 laps completed (94.4%), 852 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 17.5 Total Winnings: $5,051,355 Top 5: 10 ( 30.3%) Average finish: 15.6 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 15 ( 45.5%) DNF: 4

8. Wallace – 33 starts, 9692 of 9824 laps completed (98.7%), 259 laps led

Win: 0 ( 0.0%) Average start: 18.3 Total Winnings: $4,326,224 Top 5: 8 ( 24.2%) Average finish: 13.1 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 17 ( 51.5%) DNF: 0

9. Busch – 33 starts, 9027 of 9824 laps completed (91.9%), 957 laps led

Win: 3 ( 9.1%) Average start: 13.5 Total Winnings: $6,157,915 Top 5: 9 ( 27.3%) Average finish: 15.5 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 17 ( 51.5%) DNF: 3

10. Mayfield – 33 starts, 9676 of 9824 laps completed (98.5%), 151 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 14.9 Total Winnings: $4,110,313 Top 5: 4 ( 12.1%) Average finish: 15.2 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 8 ( 24.2%) DNF: 1

Random

11. McMurray – 33 starts, 9494 of 9824 laps completed (96.6%), 39 laps led

Win: 0 ( 0.0%) Average start: 21.1 Total Winnings: $3,601,893 Top 5: 4 ( 12.1%) Average finish: 16.8 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 10 ( 30.3%) DNF: 4

12. Gordon – 33 starts, 8735 of 9824 laps completed (88.9%), 520 laps led

Win: 4 ( 12.1%) Average start: 11.8 Total Winnings: $6,194,451 Top 5: 7 ( 21.2%) Average finish: 18.6 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 12 ( 36.4%) DNF: 9

17. Jarrett – 33 starts, 9677 of 9824 laps completed (98.5%), 4 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 20.5 Total Winnings: $4,189,084 Top 5: 4 ( 12.1%) Average finish: 18.8 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 6 ( 18.2%) DNF: 2

19. Earnhardt Jr – 33 starts, 8896 of 9824 laps completed (90.6%), 169 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 25.1 Total Winnings: $5,190,530 Top 5: 7 ( 21.2%) Average finish: 20.4 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 12 ( 36.4%) DNF: 5

22. Kasey Kahne – 33 starts, 8793 of 9824 laps completed (89.5%), 430 laps led

Win: 1 ( 3.0%) Average start: 14.9 Total Winnings: $4,307,933 Top 5: 5 ( 15.2%) Average finish: 21.3 (excluding bonuses) Top 10: 8 ( 24.2%) DNF: 8

From a statistical point of view, the biggest aberration in this year’s Chase is Jimmy Johnson. Johnson should not be in second place! He should be, at the very least, 3rd. But hey, were talking statistics here! Johnson has the 2nd to lowest percentage of completed laps of any chaser and is tied with Kenseth for the most (4) DNFs. Johnson’s only saving grace is, apparently, his 4 wins. But how does that explain why he is ahead of Biffle? I will tell you in a moment.

When I first glanced at these stats, I also thought that Jeremy Mayfield should not be in the Chase at all, and that either Jeff Gordon or Jamie McMurray should be 10th. However, upon further review, the reason he is became clear.

While Gordon has by far more wins, he also has a glaringly high 9 on the DNF scale. McMurray on the other hand, missed out because of not having a win at all and 3 more DNFs than Mayfield. Jeremy squeaked in the Chase for one reason and one reason only…he recorded his single win in race 23 of the 26 race cutoff.

Now is the moment I will explain why Johnson is ahead of Biffle and the most obvious problem with the Chase format. The Chase unfairly benefits those whose wins come late in the year. Without doing the math on the points as if there were no Chase, (I’m sure some stat guru will let me know for sure…) I believe Jimmie would be at least 3rd, if not 4th, in the standings.

My final analysis is that, other than Johnson being the one aberration, statistically, the Chase is pretty darn close to reality. But then there is that old saying…”Anyone can prove anything with statistics!”

(Statistics are from www.racing-reference.com. A terrific site for those who are number nuts!)

Stay off the wall,

Jeff

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Bob Henry
11/03/2005 11:19 AM
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You are so right about the points….Only one thing you failed to point out. If it were under the old standings no one would have a chance at the cup at this point but Tony Stewart.

One bad thing about the new system is because of things like this season. While arguable, most will concede that Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. are the two most popular drivers in Cup racing. When they didn’t make the chase many of thier fans….not true race fans like us….but many of thier fans gave up on watching until next year. I would truly love to see what the ratings were for this chase in comparason to last years chase. I would almost be willing to bet that they aren’t nearly as high. Presale of tickets has dropped as well. The only reason some of these tracks that just got two races now are selling the tickets they are is because they are offering them at reduculously low prices. While you don’t hear about it on main stream tv. Local markets are bombarded with cheap ticket prices. This has always been going on at the Charlotte track. In the mean time they keep the prices high for tracks they don’t desire to sell out so they can cut a race. I know all this for a fact having dealt with the Darlington track for years.

 

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