Stat Science: 2012 Pure Michigan 400

all opinions are solely of the writer

By Peter Carcia

TheRacingExperts.com Statistics Moderator

8/17/2012

theracingexperts@aol.com

   Michigan International Raceway has been known to be a little apathetic in terms of fan turnout, but this week all eyes of the NASCAR community will be here for the Pure Michigan 400. We have four races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, and for the contenders for the wild card, the stakes to get a win have never been higher. So, let's take a look at the remaining Chase contenders as we stand right now.

   As always, we begin with the amount of leway that drivers have both mathematically with the full 48 points per race, or our theoretical number that omits the space for start and park drivers, making it 39. So here are your MAGIC NUMBERS for this week!

192 & 156

   So basically this means that if you are 156 points behind Denny Hamiln or more (Hamlin being this week's 10th place driver in the points with 693), you are pretty much out of the running for the Chase. You do the math, this means that there are 20 drivers still in the race. Only 12 of them will be in the Chase: the top ten drivers and the two highest in the points from 11th-20th amung race winners this season. This race however could not be more crucial for those drivers in the wild card spots without a win to perform effectively, because as we stand, we will start eliminating that top 20. Idealy a driver wants to be at the 576 point marker or higher to better ensure that they are safe for next week, because the separation between tenth and 576 will be next week's MAGIC NUMBER. This means that right now, two of those twenty drivers will be eliminated from the chance of getting into the top ten, meaning that they will have to rely on race wins to get a Wild Card spot, which I'll explain later.

   But first, the two drivers that are in the bubble this week. Currently in a tie for 19th with 541 points, Jamie McMurray in the #1 car and Jeff Burton in the #31. These two drivers need to make up a whole lot of ground this week. Both of them were a mere four points of being taken out of the hunt, so they will need to work extra hard this week, making up 35 points this week. So, if either of them were to win the race, they would have to hope that Denny Hamlin runs like Kevin Conway in his rookie season, so with both of these drivers having an average finish at Michigan hovering in the high teens, it's safe to say that these drivers will need wins to get into the Chase.

   The Wild Card race meanwhile has gotten an even broader field now that Marcos Ambrose has a win under his belt. Kasey Kahne is the only driver of the pack with two wins and he's sitting high in 11th right now, so it looks like there is only one position that is in play right now. Here's how the race looks with the five drivers in the field with a win.

 

Ovr No. Driver Points Behind B10th
13 39 Ryan Newman 644 Lead -49
14 18 Kyle Busch 638 -6 -55
15 24 Jeff Gordon 634 -10 -59
17 9 Marcos Ambrose 600 -44 -93
18 20 Joey Logano 587 -57

-106

   As you can see, this season has shown a clear distinction between the top ten and everybody else, with nobody mathematically able to get tenth place in the points. So here is where we stand at that point for the Wild Card; unless Joey Logano or Marcos Ambrose gets a second win, the battle for the 12th position in the Chase is essentially a three wat battle.

   In case anybody is wondering, there are 124 points separating point leader Jimmie Johnson from 11th place, 123 for second place man Greg Biffle, and 122 from third place Matt Kenseth. Which means, if they can finish better than Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards, or even a few spots less, they can clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Dale Jr also has a chance, but he must finish ten spots higher than Kahne and seven higher than Edwards to clinch. 

   Next Week, the drivers head to Bristol for the Irwin Tools Night Race, and the Wild Card contenders begin the final push for the Chase.