NASCAR Numbers Game: Daytona
Daytona. For the casual fan, itâs the one time a year in which tuning in is a must, not an option. For the hardcore fans and industry veterans, itâs a spiritual revival. It suffices as the start of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when teams have spotless records and sky-high optimism.
For some drivers, thereâs red still left over from the previous seasonâs ledger that theyâre eager to erase. For a few, there are trends theyâd like to keep on keepinâ on. This weekâs batch of numbers shows those trends. Some of the metrics used are from my home site, MotorsportsAnalytics.com, but youâre encouraged to read a quick glossary of the terms.
3 and 2.3 Matt Kenseth has scored three victories and earned a 2.3 average finish across his last six restrictor plate races.
Kenseth, long lauded as an intuitive racer, has transformed himself into something of a restrictor plate racing stalwart. The 2.3-place average finish in that timeframe â and that includes a fifth-place run in last Saturday nightâs Sprint Unlimited, his first outing for Joe Gibbs Racing â is easily the best among drivers in the Cup Series and his minuscule 1.6-position deviation for those six finishes indicates incredible consistency for races often dubbed âcrapshoots.â His 7.853 PEER (Production in Equal Equipment Rating) on plate tracks is not only the highest among 50 drivers from the 2012 season, but also pure statistical absurdity. Kenseth is ridiculously good at this style of racing.
-1.050 Danica Patrickâs replacement-level PEER ranked last in the Cup Series in 2012. PEER measures the on-track production of a race car driver in an âall equipment evenâ scenario. For perspective, Ken Schrader, in a 13-race S&P effort, registered at 49th, with a -.250 PEER. Thatâs a large gap.
Danica Patrick became the first woman to win a pole in the history of the Cup Series last weekend and the fourth rookie to win the pole for the Daytona 500 (following Loy Allen, Mike Skinner and Jimmie Johnson). Cue pandemonium.
But letâs be real for a sec; weâre discussing a rookie driver who amassed a negative replacement-level PEER across 10 races last season (translation: beyond bad). At Daytona specifically, she competed in two races â her qualifying Duel race and the 500 â and crashed out of both. If youâre a Danica fan, enjoy the moment. Eat, drink and be merry, but also, be realistic. Itâs feasible sheâll lead laps on Sunday, but pump the brakes on the delusion of Chase-making grandeur.
3 Jimmie Johnson has crashed out in each of the last three races at Daytona; last yearâs Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 and this yearâs Sprint Unlimited.
Johnson Tweeted about his frustration following Saturday nightâs race. Come on, Five-Time. Every chance youâve had to get some drafting practice in (i.e. January testing, practice last Friday), you didnât even attempt to take advantage. You need it; that 47th-best -0.167 plate track PEER you earned last year wonât get better without putting in the work.