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NASCAR Numbers Game: Free agents look to make splash in Dover


Mark Martin has competed in 875 races at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level. He won 40 of those. He turns 55 years old in 2014 and while his seemingly endless production has provided multiple teams — the now-defunct Ginn Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Michael Waltrip Racing and, now, Stewart-Haas Racing — with value, his Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) this season stands at a replacement-level 0.643, the worst season-long mark of his 30-year career.

Is it over? Has the value diminished?

The longevity we’ve seen from him is practically unparalleled in sports, but eventually we will see the day when he can no longer produce admirable results. The good news for Martin fans is that this Sunday’s race at Dover shouldn’t be that day.

3.865  In PEER specific to Dover, Martin ranks fourth (3.865 PEER) among all Cup Series drivers on the concrete speedway.

Though he hasn’t won at the track since 2004 (the Gen-4 era), he has earned eight top-10 finishes in the 13 races since the CoT’s inception. He also happens to be stepping into a No. 14 car for Stewart-Haas that won at Dover with the fast-closing Tony Stewart in the spring. Martin won’t have the win expectancy of, say, Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth, but his past numbers suggest he could be a king among the non-Chasers.

For a driver who is unsure of his 2014 job prospects, it could be a day that extends his stay in the sport. Like Martin, there are other drivers looking at Dover as a potential audition site for a new job next season.

227  Martin Truex’s 227 laps led at Dover ranks as the sixth-most among all drivers dating back to 2007.  

A native of nearby Mayetta, N.J., Truex has enjoyed his share of success on the Monster Mile, compiling a 1.923 PEER (ranks 10th out of 52 drivers) and a win, his first in the Cup Series, which came in 2007. It’s a handy track for him to come to, considering his sponsor announced last week it wouldn’t return to Michael Waltrip Racing following the post-Richmond penalties. He has been on something of a tear in the last four races this season, with three top-10 finishes — he led 98 laps last weekend at New Hampshire — and the best PEER (3.875) among non-Chasers in that time frame. With no sponsorship for 2014 and permission to seek other rides, Truex is driving his price up as a potential free agent. His pay grade could rise with another swell run at Dover.

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23.9  David Ragan, with two wildly different race teams, has averaged a disappointing 23.9-place finish in 14 Cup Series starts at Dover.

That includes 11 races under the Roush Fenway Racing banner in which the best Monster Mile finish he could muster was a 14th-place effort in 2007. Currently in Year 2 at underfunded Front Row Motorsports, Ragan would undoubtedly like to leap back into a ride with a more relevant race team. His -0.346 PEER at Dover doesn’t exactly bode well for an audition; however, he did finish 22nd in the spring race, about four positions better than his average finish this season (25.8).

14.3%  The No. 30 Swan Racing team, with former driver David Stremme and current crew chief Steve Lane, finished in the top half of the field 14.3 percent of the time in 21 races together this season.

This, or their 29.8 average finish, is believed to be the bar in which one of the young whippersnappers — Kevin Swindell was in the car last weekend, while Cole Whitt takes the reins at Dover — are expected to clear in this 10-race tryout period team owner Brandon Davis is giving. Whitt has a good shot of out-producing Stremme at Dover, considering his predecessor’s PEER in nine races on the high-banked mile (-0.583) ranks 51st out of 52 drivers with three or more starts in the Gen-5/Gen-6 era. Only Kyle Petty (-0.667) is a less productive Dover driver than Stremme.

6 of 3+  Dating back to the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway this season, Sam Hornish Jr. has amassed six finishes of third or better in the last 10 races.  

The Penske Racing driver is both on the hunt for his first Stock Car title and, potentially, a job next season. It seems as if the Penske inn is about to be without vacancies, leaving Hornish to fend for himself in the world of fenders. His recent march to the Nationwide title has been quite impressive; omitting an DNF due to overheating at Indianapolis, his clean average finish in nine of the last 10 races is 4.1. The good fortune could continue this weekend. He qualified on the front row and finished seventh in the Dover Nationwide race in the spring.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, check out David’sglossary of

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at@DavidSmithMA.

Photos byActions Sports, Inc.