Stat Science: Quaker State 400
Photo by Cathy / Flickr.Com
Kyle Busch won the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky.
By Peter Carcia
Disclaimer: All opinions are solely those of the writer.
Wow... it seems like just yesterday we kicked off NASCAR's 63rd year of competition, and now here we are, last week of June, with a mere ten races until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's eighth installment. So with ten races to go, the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit is the newest to be on the field at Kentucky Raceway for the second annual Quaker State 400. Now that the drivers have begun to get a better idea of what it feels like to be in a Cup car on the track, the playing field has been better leveled, however we'll likely still get a driver like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, or Brad Keselowski who have been driving this track in the Nationwide Series for years. But you never know, there could be a driver out there that surprises us all.
So with time running out for drivers and teams alike to regroup, it's time to look at the key points statistics coming into this week. With ten races to go, that means that this week's magic number is...
This is how many points that a driver in the top 35 lock-in spot has in terms of leverage to get into the Chase and stay there. Now this is a pretty high number for right now, in fact with 10th place (Brad Keselowski) currently holding 490 points, all of the full time drivers theoretically have a shot at getting into the Chase. However, if you put into play the start and park drivers every week, which normally can get anywhere from five up to ten drivers, that number can right now get as low as...
So, with this amount of leverage, the top 34 drivers are mathematically, with start and parkers at the high end, in contention for the Chase. This lets the BK Racing (Landon Cassill, Travis Kvapil), Baldwin (David Reutimann, Dave Blaney) and the Front Row (David Gilliland, David Ragan) camps still in, while the start and park machines like Michael McDowell, JJ Yeley, and David Stremme are officially out of contention. So as always with 48 points being the leverage for this race, there actually is nobody that is in trouble of taking themselves out of contention. By looking at the point count now, you would need at least 120 points to stay in contention of the Chase, but to stay out of the "danger zone" where you would be in trouble of getting ousted the next week, you would need 168 points. Thus, with 34th (David Reutimann) at 198 markers and 35th (JJ Yeley) bringing us all the way down to 117, the drivers still in can breathe a sigh of relief.... for now.
Next week, however, when the teams head to Daytona for the Independence Day race, David Reutimann will have to work extra hard in whichever car he'll run in. The cutoff from these standings is 216, and right now Reuty sits at 198. So he's got two races to make up 18 points with at least one of the top ten Chase drivers.
In terms of getting into Chase position as of now, there are four drivers that can go into the top ten into this race. However, only Brad Keselowski as enough of a short window to get out of the Chase position, so he is certainly the hunted driver at this point of the season. Being a driver with two wins, however, he should not have to panic as long as he can keep himself in the top 20. Meanwhile, Carl Edwards is the closest person to dethroning Keselowski with a mere 11 point difference between them. So obviously Edwards has to finish eleven spots higher than Brad, or if he wins the race hope Keselowski finishes lower than 8th. In the 12th and 13th spots in the points we see Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman, who each have a win this season and currently hold the wild card positions, but they can get into a top 10 spot by finishing 31 and 37 spots better than Brad respectively (not gonna happen). And finally, Paul Menard can snag a top ten spot if the start and park teams can mysteriously all get sponsors so that Paul Menard wins the race and Brad finishes dead last.
Finally, the race for the wild card spots currently has four competitors. The abovementioned Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman currently hold those positions while Joey Logano, 12 points behind in fifteenth, and Kasey Kahne, 32 points back in 17th, are on the outside looking in. These are both point deficits that can be regained in ten races, so watch out. We've got ourselves close battles in the points with a long way yet to go until Richmond.