Stat Science: 2012 Lenox Industrial Tools 301
Disclaimer: All opinions are solely those of the writer.
By Peter Carcia
Well so far it's been a wild past week in NASCAR, with a crazy ending to last week's race at Daytona. AJ Allmendinger closed off a week in which he was suspended with a clean "B" sample, something quite awkward for NASCAR officials. Ryan Newman, a man very much in the battle for the championship realized that the pentagon's 2013 budget might make him a free agent or unsponsored driver next season. And of course you can't forget about the race for the wild card spots, with Joey Logano snagging his second top five of the year giving him the upper hand of the broken tie from last week.
So now, here we are with eight races left to go until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins in the "Windy City." As always we have our weekly magic numbers, the amount of points that are necessary to stay in the hunt for the Chase, both the overall statistical number using all 48 points worth of leway every race, and our theoretical number which omits points that are used up thanks to start and park teams, which normally gives a driver only 39 points worth of leway per race. And this weeks numbers are...
384 & 312
So since the tenth place in the points, who is Clint Bowyer, has 572 points, this means that statistically a driver needs to have 188 points to stay in the race. However, because of those start and park teams, ideally a driver needs 260 points to stay in the race. This means that even though Dave Blaney, David Reutimann, and Landon Cassill are statistically still in it, they pretty much are out of the picture, leaving us with 31 drivers who can still take up the 12 Chase spots.
Since next week's magic number is 273, drivers who have less than 299 points are right now on the bubble; they have their work cut out for them in the attempt to stay into the show. Currently there are two drivers who are not safe from elimination this week, and naturally they were former teammates. Travis Kvapil currently is in the basement with 284 points, meaning that he is going to have to make up at least 15 points to keep his Chase points in check for another week. David Gilliland is also on the bubble right now with 294 points, meaning that he only needs to make up five spots to stay in it.
Right now there are two drivers that have passed the 299 mark already but only have a cushion for one race if they wreck out of a race and ultimately will be in the bubble next week. Mark Martin obviously will have some issues helping that out considering he is a part time driver and he is not running New Hampshire this week, but somehow he's had the talent to stay in the race, currently with 341 points, so he ultimately is out after this race unless some Chase contenders have bad weeks. One full time driver that really needs to watch out however is David Gilliland's teammate at Front Row Motorsports: David Ragan, who currently has 312 points, only 13 points worth of a cushion this week. If both drivers get out of the running, it'll bring the field down to 27, which sets up some of the bigger teams that have sponsorship insurance.
The top of the standings currently have a pretty broad situation right now. Only one driver can race their way into the top ten this week. Carl Edwards is eleventh in points right now, 31 points behind Clint Bowyer with 541 points. This means that he needs to finish 31 spots higher than Clint to get in or 32 spots better than ninth placed man Brad Keselowski to get in, or if he wins he's got to hope that Clint finishes worse than 29th or Brad worse than 30th.
Meanwhile, in the wild card race, it still is a very close situation. Kyle Busch still has a 13 point lead in first among the race winners outside of the top 10, currently in 12th place behind Edwards. Meanwhile, the second wild card spot continues to be battled out by three drivers. Thanks to Joey Logano's fourth place finish, he was able to snag that spot this week after they were caught up in a three way tie. But Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne weren't far behind, finishing only one point and three points behind Logano respectively, keeping them in the points ranks 14th, 15th, and 16th, with Paul Menard separating the first and second wild card spots with zero top fives never mind wins, ranked 13th. If he or Carl Edwards does win however, they would make this tight battle obsolete.
So that's what's on tap for this weekend in terms of points. We still have a while before drivers are locked into the Chase, and we still have a while until the main contenders get under pressure. But make no mistake, if the close battles now stay constant, we could be in for a treat come Richmond.