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Statistically Speaking

Driver Ratings: Talladega through Pocono

by Dan Beaver

Periodically during the season, we will look back at the Driver Ratings assigned by NASCAR Statistical Services over the past 45 days. This week, that period of time stretches back to the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and while that race is not typically predictive of any other event, it does contribute to a driver’s overall points, statistics, and momentum.

Races on the former plate tracks are hard to predict. A quick look at the best Driver Rating from the Geico 500 underscores that – not only by the fact that the racer with the best rating finished only ninth, but also because Aric Almirola’s 111.0 ranks only 15th among the 25 best during the past 45 days. The bests at other tracks all rank among the top five.

When we first undertook this experiment, Brad Keselowski topped the chart with a perfect rating of 150.0. At that time, Kyle Busch was also on a roll with the next two ratings of 149.7 at ISM Raceway and 148.5 at Auto Club – which could be predictive as we prepare for the other 2-mile track of Michigan International Speedway.


In the past 45 days, no one has been perfect, but Busch has the best Driver Rating of 147.6 and it came last week in the Pocono 400 on his way to Victory Lane. The rating was fitting because his win came after a slightly less than dominant performance that was nonetheless very impressive.

Busch struggled for a while after winning the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway – finishing outside the top five in the next three races and damaging his car in an ill-advised move at Kansas Speedway – but his rebound is shown in the fact that he also has the third-best Driver Rating in the past 45 days with a 131.2 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch did not win the Coke 600; that distinction went to Martin Truex Jr. who is second on the chart with a 137.2 after winning the event. Truex has been hit or miss in the past six weeks and this is a statistic that proves the point. At Richmond Raceway, Dover International Speedway, and Charlotte he earned the best Driver Ratings and the race. At Kansas and Pocono, his rating was 21st-best both times.

Kevin Harvick had the best Driver Rating at Kansas, but as has been the case too often this year a late-race mistake cost him. He finished 13th which is one of only three times in the past 45 days that a driver has finished outside the top 10 after getting a top-10 rating.

Harvick makes the chart on one other occasion and this time he finished respectfully in fourth at Dover with a rating of 118.6.

Other drivers who have scored a Driver Rating well enough to make the 25-best chart below include Alex Bowman (Dover and Kansas), Clint Bowyer (Kansas and Pocono), and Erik Jones (Kansas and Pocono).

Bowman’s exploits are notable because both of those strong performances ended in second-place results. His other runner-up result at Talladega netted the fifth-best Driver Rating for that race, but with a 98.9 it does not make the chart.

One reason we have been calling Chase Elliott the hottest driver in the field at the moment – and a huge part of the reason he has topped the Fantasy Power Rankings chart for the past three weeks – is shown in the fact that he makes the chart four times and is the only driver with more than two appearances.

Elliott also demonstrates how Talladega can actually be important to the handicapper.

Winning the Geico 500 with a rating of 105.9 gave him the momentum needed to sweep the top five in the next four races. He went on to score a Driver Rating of 128.0 at Dover (2nd-best), 118.0 at Kansas (3rd), and 115.0 at Charlotte (3rd). Last week’s 103.0 at Pocono was the only time that he did not perform well enough to chart in the past 45 days, but he gained position in the closing laps to finish fourth in the race.

In case one doesn’t believe that momentum can shift with a single solid performance, it should be noted that Elliott made the 25-best chart the last time we looked at this statistic only once with a 124.1 and second-place finish in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

 

Best Driver Ratings
Last 45 Days

Driver

Driver
Rating

Race
Finish

Race

Kyle Busch (1)

147.6

1

Pocono 400 (Best at Pocono)

Martin Truex Jr. (1)

137.2

1

Coca-Cola 600 (Best at Charlotte)

Kyle Busch (2)

131.2

3

Coca-Cola 600

Kevin Harvick (1)

130.2

13

Digital Ally 400 (Best at Kansas)

Martin Truex Jr. (2)

128.9

1

Gander 400 (Best at Dover)

Chase Elliott (1)

128.0

5

Gander 400

Alex Bowman (1)

126.2

2

Digital Ally 400

Kevin Harvick (2)

118.6

4

Gander 400

Chase Elliott (2)

117.9

4

Digital Ally 400

Kyle Larson

115.6

3

Gander 400

Chase Elliott (3)

114.6

4

Coca-Cola 600

Clint Bowyer (1)

114.4

5

Pocono 400

Alex Bowman (2)

111.5

2

Gander 400

Erik Jones (1)

111.4

3

Digital Ally 400

Aric Almirola

111.0

9

Geico 500 (Best at Talladega)

Erik Jones (2)

110.0

3

Pocono 400

Brad Keselowski

108.2

1

Digital Ally 400

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

108.0

11

Digital Ally 400

Ryan Blaney

106.0

13

Coca-Cola 600

Chase Elliott (4)

105.9

1

Geico 500

William Byron

105.6

9

Pocono 400

Joey Logano

105.6

4

Geico 500

Kurt Busch

105.5

7

Digital Ally 400

Denny Hamlin

105.3

6

Pocono 400

Clint Bowyer (2)

104.4

5

Digital Ally 400

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.