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NASCAR Numbers Game: Taking stock of the 2013 Sprint Cup season


The off week prior to the race at Indianapolis serves as a welcome respite to everyone in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series except crew chiefs who might be on the hot seat. One casualty of “chopping block week” occurred Tuesday morning when BK Racing relieved Pat Tryson of his duties as the head wrench for David Reutimann’s No. 83 entry.

Tryson, formerly of Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing, was brought into BK’s burgeoning campus at the end of the 2012 season, bringing 50 races worth of Chase experience to an organization just under a year old. His expertise could be one to enhance an operation that fancied itself on the come; however, instead of a young Landon Cassill, 43-year-old David Reutimann was named the driver of the Tryson-led No. 83. Reutimann is currently carving out his second consecutive season of replacement-level production. Suffice to say, the No. 83 team hasn’t resembled a sharp outfit at any point in 2013.

6.6  The good news about Reutimann and Tryson is that they were actually the most consistent team in the Cup Series among full-time driver-crew chief combinations, per their 6.6 finish deviation.

The bad news is that consistent deviation supports a 29.4-place average finish. So, yes, consistently awful is how one could describe the floundering Burger King-backed team. Just call them the “Sacramento Burger Kings.”

Most drivers and teams aren’t on the chopping block. With an off week on the horizon, a look at some oft-ignored aspects of the sport seems timely.

88.89%  The teams of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle lead full-time Cup entries in base retainment percentage at the end of races, each with an 88.89 percent mark.  

What is base retainment percentage? It is how often a driver holds or gains his/her position with 10 percent of a race to go until the drop of the checkered flag. Essentially, it’s NASCAR’s version of playing defense. The Roush Fenway Racing duo of Stenhouse and Biffle happen to be adept at it.

That isn’t to say they don’t also play offense too. Stenhouse is the Cup Series’ biggest position gainer at the end of races, currently sporting a plus-14 percent position retainment difference. Biffle ranks third with a plus-10.8 percent take. These numbers change much of the perception of both drivers’ seasons. Stenhouse, a rookie, has struggled to produce results but at least has stout position retainment to show for what will be considered a learning year. Biffle, who will likely earn a Chase berth after a yucky start to 2013 has regressed in results getting (his 1.132 PEER is a far cry from his 2.639 in 2012), has this element of his racing repertoire to thank. He is currently turning a 17.5-place average running position with 10 percent to go into a 15.6-place average finish.

84.21%  Aric Almirola, crew chief Todd Parrott and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team have finished in the top half of fields 84.21 percent of the time.

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Obtaining those top-half finishes is terrific for one’s Chase chances; as a matter of fact, teams that hit a mark of 80-plus have made NASCAR’s playoffs 93.1 percent of the time. While Almirola and company would be best served gunning for a victory and a host of other high finishes in the next seven races, the driver demonstrated a knack for solidly finishing races in this manner while in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Driving for JR Motorsports, Almirola led full-time Nationwide Series drivers with a percentage of 91.18 in 2011.

55.68%  Kyle Busch is the current Cup Series leader in pass efficiency, overtaking on 55.68 percent of his encounters.

His aggressive nature has always made him the Kyle Busch we know and appreciate (for the most part). The penchant for passing is a byproduct of that and a race car carrying a lot of speed. Busch’s No. 18 ranks fifth in average green-flag speed per NASCAR, which means he hasn’t had the fastest car in the series through 19 races, but he is still been able to wreak havoc with it. As Busch alluded to in his post-race interview at New Hampshire, in 11 clean races — events without some sort of equipment, crash or penalty-related malady — he has finished no lower than sixth. His ability to pass has been a big reason for his top-heavy success so far this year.

0.11  David Ragan and J.J. Yeley have the cleanest crash frequency, 0.11, among full-time Cup Series drivers.

The 0.11 signifies two crashes across 19 races. Their lack of equipment damage has been a coup for their respective teams — Front Row Motorsports for Ragan and Tommy Baldwin Racing for Yeley — that operate with a low budget. For both organizations, money and time saved on repair, fabrication or new-car building can be used for making the current crop of cars in their stable much faster.

0.75  The most recent race winner, Brian Vickers, has the worst crash frequency in the Cup Series, a 0.75 mark.  

So if any reservations remain with Michael Waltrip Racing on whether they should sign Vickers to a full slate of 2014 races, you now understand why. Vickers also led the series in crash frequency in 2011 (0.58) and had the fifth-worst frequency of 2010 (0.45). The 2012 season proved to be something of an anomaly; he didn’t crash once in eight races.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms

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

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.