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Voices From the Heartland: 1 New Way to Evaluate NASCAR’s Chasers

Using the cleverest and most versatile invention ever to be thought of by mankind, statistics, I have come up with a new way to evaluate those that are lucky enough to be in NASCAR’s Chase. I say lucky enough because the particular statistic that I am using in this evaluation is what is affectionately known as the Lucky Dog.

The Lucky Dog, in my opinion, is purely the byproduct of the young gun invasion that took place in the late ’90s and continued on into the new millennium. Back when racing was real racing and not the entertainment show we know today, there was a thing known as a gentleman’s agreement.

That agreement was basically this; if, when a caution came out, a lapped driver was close enough to the leaders, the leader would usually, keyword usually, slow down and let that lapped car pass him before he crossed the start/finish line to gain his lap back.

That gentleman’s agreement seemed to work pretty well for the first 50-some odd years in NASCAR until things started to get nasty. More and more young drivers, who were instantly dumped into primo equipment instead of paying their dues, so to speak, were becoming quite selfish. Not wanting anyone to get a lap back, they were racing hell bent for leather back to the flag. The situation got to the point where NASCAR finally said enough is enough and instituted the Lucky Dog rule, which states that the first car a lap down gets a free pass, no matter how close to the leader he is. Some people like the rule, some do not. It’s here and we have to live with it.

Now, using the Lucky Dog as a yardstick, a person could make the argument that if you are using a lot of Lucky Dogs to get back on the lead lap, something must be fundamentally wrong in the first place if you are always in the position of being a lap down. Simply stay on the lead lap and you don’t need charity. Using that bit of logic, however convoluted some may find it to be, I found some interesting peculiarities when applied to the current drivers in the Chase.

After 28 races, the man at the top, Jeff Burton, has been awarded zero, that’s right, zero Lucky Dogs. At the other end of the spectrum, the luckiest boy to be in the Chase, Kyle Busch, has been awarded a series leading nine Lucky Dogs. Now that Kyle is essentially out of contention for the title, you could say that his luck finally ran out! More mean-spirited folks will say that he shouldn’t have been in it in the first place, considering another very popular driver, Tony Stewart, was awarded the exact same number of Lucky Dogs as Burton, zero. The rest of the top 10 shakes out as follows; Jeff Gordon five, Matt Kenseth three, Denny Hamlin seven, Kevin Harvick four, Mark Martin two, Dale Earnhardt Jr. three, Jimmie Johnson four and Kasey Kahne with four also.

Now I realize that this evaluation is not in the least a scientifically thorough one, but if you look down the list of Lucky Dog recipients, to me, it dispels the old adage of “I’d rather be lucky than good.” While luck is nice, it tends to come and go and not always at the right time. Goodness on the other hand, you either have it or you don’t! The trick is to be good and lucky!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff

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