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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: The Stats Don’t Lie… Consistency Wins Titles

I hate numbers. I’m a step behind in any discussion that requires a working knowledge of simple multiplication, division, algebra in any form; heck, I’ll even throw subtraction in there (for some reason, I don’t have an addition problem). That’s why it’s so odd that I love stats. Not statistics, mind you, but stats. Well, sports-related stats, specifically. So when I realized Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton had recorded top-10 finishes in all five Chase races this year, I was all over it.

I wrote three weeks ago that Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle joined Kurt Busch (2004) as the only drivers to record top five runs in the first two Chase races. While no one can lay claim to five consecutive top fives in the Chase, we do have another interesting stat on the table after Charlotte:

Johnson and Burton now join Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (’04) as the only drivers to go top 10 in the five races to start the Chase.

Think about that. It’s pretty impressive. Informative? Ehh, borderline. Relevant? Probably not. Foreshadowing? Who knows, although Busch did win the Cup in ’04 (Junior slumped to fifth). Trivial? Oh yeah. And it gave me an excuse to tabulate a bunch of (mostly) meaningless driver stats.

However, it speaks to consistency, a trait we’ve known all along it takes to win titles. Johnson has been consistently great over the last two and three-quarter seasons. Burton has been consistently good in that time. Busch? Well, 21 top 10s in ‘04 is his high-water mark thus far, but I think we can all agree that Jimmy Fennig has been consistently great before, during, and since that championship season.

For as much complaining as we tend to do about the Chase, winning the title today, in a 10-race format, comes down to the same thing as it did over a season-long haul: Consistency.

Don’t believe me? Go check the stats. I have.

Q: Matt, a couple of weeks ago (either Dover or ‘Dega) I remember seeing Martin Truex Jr.’s helmet and it looked a lot like a Philadelphia Eagles helmet. Is the design the same as the Eagles? Thanks. – Ben

A: Your eyes did not deceive, Ben. I didn’t notice it myself, so I talked to Blair Minton, Truex’s PR guy and one of the best in the business. He told me Martin wore the design on his helmet at the New Hampshire and Dover September races.

Martin is a big Philly fan and friend of Eagles kicker David Akers, who gave my fantasy team 16 big points in the Wild Yak League last weekend. Martin has also attended Eagles training camp the last two seasons.

By the way, no word on how the “Oklahoma” drill against Omar Gaither went. The guys from my high school team will get that one…

Q: The $700 billion bailout – an imaginary caution flag for the lucky dogs on Wall Street – included somewhere between $100-130 million in tax breaks for racetrack owners. Not that anyone can explain Congress’s “solutions” but why would millionaire track owners be given a nickel of my tax money? – Dale Petty

A: Good question. The next time Bruton threatens to move a Charlotte race because he isn’t getting enough love from Cabarrus County, maybe we should remind him of the love he’s getting from his buddies in the halls of Congress – and the lack of love they’re giving us.

This provision is actually an extension on legislation that gave a tax break to (let me do some copy-and-pasting here…) “a racing track facility that is permanently situated on land and which during the applicable period is scheduled to host one or more racing events for automobiles (of any type), trucks, or motorcycles that are open to the public for the price of admission.” That’s from the original bill itself, a break which was scheduled to be terminated on December 31, 2007. It will now expire on December 31, 2009 instead.

What this does is extend the depreciation method for tracks from seven years to 15. Make sense? Me neither (too close to math), but it basically grants tax breaks for the track owners to make improvements on their facilities at a better rate. Always thinking of the constituents, right?

And as stated earlier, I’m no accountant and certainly no lawmaker, but let me say that it’s good to see that wool research, Virgin Island and Puerto Rican rum, and the toy wooden arrow industries are getting in on some of the pork, as well. Nice.

As for why millionaire track owners should be given a nickel of your money, I think it has something to do with the fact that this plan initially began as a three-page document, but took 448 additional pages of goodies for re-election-minded lawmakers to deem it worthy of a law. Not nice.

Q: I read this week that Martinsville is the only original track on the [Cup] schedule. I thought Darlington was, too. What’s the call, Matt? – Donna Powell

A: Martinsville is, in fact, the only remaining track from NASCAR’s inaugural 1949 season. Our favorite half-mile paperclip, along with Charlotte Speedway (not the one in use now, rather a ¾-mile dirt track), the Daytona Beach and Road Course, Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, N.C., Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa., Hamburg Speedway in Hamburg, N.Y., Heidelburgh Raceway in Pittsburgh, Pa. and North Wilkesboro, N.C. (R.I.P.) comprised the eight-race docket.

Darlington staged its first NASCAR event the following year when 13 tracks hosted the 19-race season. And yes, the Darlington race was called the Southern 500 and was held on Labor Day. Not just Labor Day weekend, mind you, but freakin’ Labor Day! Just as God intended.

Q: Hi Matt! What is the status of Joey Logano? After missing a few races that he was supposed to be in, when will he be back in a Cup car and how many Cup races is he planning to run? Thanks! – Riles Norman

A: Logano’s much-anticipated Cup debut has gotten off to a rather inauspicious start. DNQs at Richmond and Lowe’s due to qualifying being rained out were acts of God, so what’re ya gonna do, right? His two-race stint in Hall of Fame Racing’s No. 96 bulldozer weren’t to Logano’s or Gibbs’s liking, so he wiggled out of that (Note: I still think that was a bad move, regardless of who made the call).

So that brings us to today, and the word is, aside from running in all four of the remaining Nationwide Series events, he’ll man the No. 02 JGR Toyota at Atlanta on October 26th. Other than that date, JGR hasn’t announced what it’ll do with Logano for the Cup races, but Texas, Phoenix and Homestead will host both series’ events in the final three weeks of the season, so don’t be surprised to see him running double duty to end the year.

That’s it until after Martinsville. For the record, Kurt Busch notched six straight top-10 runs in 2004. This time next week we’ll know if Johnson or Burton will have done the same. Ahh, Martinsville… the last bastion of what was once a long and lush short track season.