Stat Science: 2012 Coke Zero 400

Photo by Wesley Daniel / TheRacingExperts.Com 
Theoretically, Brad Keselowski is the only Cup driver locked into the Chase.

All opinions are solely those of the writer 

By Peter Carcia
TheRacingExperts.Com Reporter

So here we are in the glorious week where we give out a happy bitrhday to our great country that now stands at 236 years old. And now, it's time to look at the overall odds for the tradition that has been going on for the last fifty three of those years: The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

As it stands now, we are nine races away from the Chase for the Sprint Cup. So with 48 points at steak every race, our statistical magic numbers are...

432 & 309

Statistically, drivers currently have 432 points to spare if they want to get into the Chase. This means that since the tenth place driver, Last week's race winner Brad Keselowski, has a grand total of 537 points, a driver needs at least 105 points to officially stay into the race for the Chase. This means that the top 37 drivers are still in, including Brian Vickers who just barely makes that cutoff even though he's only driven three races this year!

However, since we do have start and park teams, an average of nine drivers a race, we're using a theoretical magic number for this overview. Thus we find that you've got to be at the most 309 points away from Keselowski to still be in it. Since that means a driver currently needs 228 points, David Reutimann is now theoretically out of the race. He's not the only one though, his teammate at Tommy Baldwin Racing Dave Blaney is right on the money; currently at exactly 228 points. So basically all Blaney can hope for is that Brad Keselowski wrecks out earlier than the parkers while he gets his first nine career wins. As much as that'd be a fun thing to watch, not gonna happen. Therefore, the field is now cut down to 32 drivers, with two more Chase dreams now in jeopardy.

In the 31st and 32nd spots right now we see both BK Racing regulars; Travis Kvapil with 256 points and Landon Cassill 246 points. Now, adding 39 points (which is the amount of leverage pointswise for non start & park drivers) to the cutoff, you get to 267. Therefore, to stay in the theoretical cutoff, Travis Kvapil needs to finish the race at Daytona with 11 more points than Keselowski, 19 points more than ninth place driver Tony Stewart, or win with seventh or eigth place drivers Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer respectively just ahead of the start and park teams. At a restrictor place race, getting ahead of Brad or Tony is doable, but the window for Cassill is even smaller. In addition to not having the miracle situations with Truex and Bowyer that Kvapil has, Cassill needs 21 more points than Keselowski OR 29 more points than Tony Stewart. That's something that might be a longshot if you look at BK Racing's brief restrictor plate history.

Next week in New Hampshire, it'll be the Front Row rides' turns to be on the bubble, with David Gilliland and David Ragan in position to be kicked out of the race.

In terms of who wants to be in the top ten, only two drivers can race their way in this week. Carl Edwards, who currently site in eleventh place, needs to do so being that he doesn't have any wins this season to back him up. He needs to make up 34 points on Brad Keselowski or 42 points on Tony Stewart to get into the Chase. Meanwhile, 12th place driver Kyle Busch can race his way into the top ten by making up 42 points on Brad, but he doesn't have the cushion to get in any other way. Unlike Carl, however, he can use his victory at Richmond to back himself up.

Kyle is actually in two battles again this week, with the battle for the two wild card spots getting closer than ever. He has the lead at 495 points, which will probably live to see New Hampshire, but the other three drivers with wins (Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano), all have 463 points each. So Kyle's got 32 points on these guys in first, but the tiebreaker for the other three is the amount of top fives from each driver, thus Kasey Kahne has the second spot with four top fives (compared to Newman's 2 and Logano's 1). So this week the battle for the second Wild Card spot right now is simple: whoever walks out with the most points is the guy that gets the spot. That is unless Paul Menard or Carl Edwards can eek out a win this week.