Using Driver Rating to Handicap NASCAR

In all sports, there is a requirement to empirically specify private efficiency. Baseball has a range of statistics to identify who is best, Hockey utilizes a points system for objectives and helps, while Football has the Quarterback Score.

One may expect that it would be simple in NASCAR where ending up positions inform the most crucial tale. Considering that 2004 NASCAR has actually utilized what has actually essentially been a “win-and-in” formula that we dissected previously today. And while that might or might not completely stand in 2021 with 7 special winners currently in the very first 7 races of the 26-race routine season, it is essentially the most crucial stat that gamblers and dream gamers research study.

After all, the most popular chances are those for straight-out wins. And, as we mentioned previously, the favorites just aren’t winning. That suggests handicappers need to take a look at a range of statistics consisting of Typical Running Position that we studied last month and the Chauffeur Score – NASCAR’s response to the NFL’s QB Score.

NASCAR’s Chauffeur Score has to do with as made complex as hyperbolic geometry or algebraic geography, however all you truly require to understand is that it integrates numerous strength-based classifications and doesn’t just depend on wins. An ideal Chauffeur Score is 150 and can’t be accomplished without winning, nevertheless.

One reason this is important is because not all wins are created equal.

And not all strong runs end in great finishes. In the chart below, we have listed the 25 highest Chauffeur Ratings during the first 45 days of the season. Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500, but with a rating of 94.2 he doesn’t come close to making this list and was only 11th-best that afternoon.

Denny Hamlin had the best Driver Score for the 500, but in the frenetic run to the checkers he got shuffled to fifth. For the purposes of points, fifth is the number that matter most. But for the purposes of handicapping the next aero-restricted superspeedway event, his rating of 119.6 is much more valuable.

When we basically guaranteed that Hamlin would be one of the next unique winners on the NASCAR Cup schedule, it was partly since of his six top-fives in seven races. It was also because he commands six of the top 25 Driver Ratings. He has not backed into a strong finish; he has raced with the leaders from green to checkers in almost every race.

That is also why Hamlin earned the top spot in this week’s Power Rankings.

Likewise our enthusiasm for Kyle Larson is based on how strong he has finished and not just his Las Vegas Motor Speedway win. No one has earned a perfect Driver Rating this year, but Larson came closest with his 144.8 in the QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He mismanaged his tires at the end of that race and allowed Ryan Blaney (127.9) to overtake him at the end or else he would have actually snapped the unique winners’ streak two weeks ago.

Larson also has the second-best Chauffeur Rating so far in 2021 with a 142.6 in the Pennzoil 400 – which further strengthens his Power Rating. Since Vegas and Atlanta are both similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, this will help handicap Larson near the top when the series heads to Kansas Speedway in early May.

William Byron was a dark horse entering the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, however he also dominated his event with a 139.8 Driver Rating. By comparison, that was 20 points (or about 17 percent) higher than the next driver, Martin Truex Jr. who finished third. In a field of 25+ competitive cars, 17% is an important number.

Driver Rating can also balance some of the misfortune that inevitably occurs at the ends of some races.

Chase Elliott easily had the car to beat on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, but he was forced to give up the lead when a late-race caution waved. He was patient in navigating traffic and cut across the nose of Hamlin while trying to get underneath Brad Keselowski. Elliott spun. His 21st-place finish O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 is far less important than his 120.0 Driver Rating.

Last week Truex was surprisingly strong on the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track. His finish of 19th reflected what we initially believed defined his high water mark. We were wrong and he proved as much with the very best Chauffeur Score for that race. He also made a late-race mistake and fell back, however by factoring in his strength, we have a concrete piece of data that will help handicap him near the top when the NASCAR Cup series returns to the dirt next spring. His win in the Truck series earlier in the day and this Driver Rating will make him a favorite at Knoxville Raceway later this year if he has a chance to run another Truck occasion.

Handicappers should compare this article to the one examining Average Running Position. There will be some overlap, however there will be some dark horses that appear in one location rather of the other.

Regularly through the 2021 season, we will review these statistics along with others we consider ‘strength-based’, so watch peeled for future Statistically Speaking columns.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.