I addressed an Open Mic request yesterday that allowed me to project my picks for the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup. After thinking about the fact that each of us that makes picks on these opinion forums usually are biased in some way, and end up placing our favorites at the top, regardless of actual stats.
In light of this, I set out this morning on a mission to crunch the numbers from the last year, to support my claims from yesterday, and subtract the variable of personal bias from my picks.
During the “Regular Season” portion of the Cup Schedule, they visit eight out of the 10 tracks that are inside of the Chase, or “Playoff” portion of the Cup Schedule. The only two that aren’t on the schedule twice are Homestead and Kansas. Interestingly enough, one of these two races impacted my crunching of the numbers drastically.
As you will see later in this article, six of the 12 Chase drivers finished 28th or lower in the race at Kansas last year. Most notably, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards each scored less than 52 points for that race. Those missed points, in my number crunching, ended up costing Kyle the Cup, and sent Carl into a tailspin that ended up in him finishing eight in the final points.
To prove to you that I was completely unbiased in my numbers analysis, you can look at the eventual champion, Jimmie Johnson. If I had to choose a driver that I would not mind seeing as Champion as opposed to JJ, it would be either of the 11.
Again, I used the current standings that each driver will start the Chase with, and took their most recent finish from each track occurring in the Chase, and projected the final standings.
I don’t want to clutter the server with all the numbers I compiled, so I will hit the high notes, and try to illustrate my findings as best I know how. I will use a “elevator” format, and tell you the big gainers and losers…(no pun intended to you Jr. fans out there)
Chase Race #1 – New Hampshire
With a strong finish and some slight troubles for other Chase drivers, Jimmie Johnson surges to the lead of the points, gaining one spot. Denny, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart each gain two spots, for fourth through sixth. Gordon, Harvick, and Kenseth gain three spots each to seventh through ninth. Kyle and Carl each fall one spot to second and third respectively. Clint Bowyer falls five spots to tenth. Dale Jr. tumbles seven spots to eleventh. The Biffle drops three spots to twelfth.
Chase Race #2 – Dover
Kyle Busch gets first place points and surges to the lead of the points, moving up one spot. Carl Edwards also gains one spot to second. Jeff Gordon gains three spots to fourth. Biffle jumps six spots to sixth. Kenseth gains two to seventh. Dale Jr. maintains his position in eleventh. Jimmie Johnson loses two spots to third. Hamlin drops four spots to eighth. Harvick slips one to ninth. Tony Stewart starts his descent to the basement, dropping four spots to tenth. Bowyer drops two spots to twelfth.
Chase Race #3 – Kansas
As previously stated, Kansas proved itself as the variable that changed the face of the Chase in my numbers. Highlights include Kyle missing enough points to impact him for the rest of the Chase, and Greg Biffle makes a big jump with a win.
To the numbers, Greg Biffle gets first place points and jumps six spots to lead the Chase. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon each gain one spot to second and third respectively. Kenseth jumps one to sixth. Bowyer tries to dig out of his hole, jumping four spots to eighth. Finally, Jr. jumps one spot to tenth. Kevin Harvick maintains ninth position. Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards each drop three spots to fourth and fifth respectively.
You might have noticed these two have been shifting together thus far… that ends with this race. Jeff Burton drops two spots to seventh. Hamlin drops three to eleventh. Stewart concludes his descent, dropping two spots to twelfth.
Chase Race #4 – Talladega
Jimmie Johnson regains the top spot this race, gaining one spot. Kyle Busch also gains one, taking third. Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Jr. each gain two spots to fifth, sixth, and eighth respectively. Denny Hamlin gains one spot to tenth.
Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart each hold steady this week, Harvick in ninth, Stewart in twelfth. The Biffle and Jeff Gordon each drop one spot, to second and fourth respectively. Edwards drops two spots to seventh. Kenseth drops five spots to eleventh.
Chase Race #5 – Lowe’s
The Biffle gains one spot with a top three finish to regain the top spot in the standings. Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon each gain one spot to second and third respectively. Dale Jr. and Kenseth each gain two spots to sixth and ninth respectively.
Reflecting the stability of the standings as the races progress, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart each hold their positions in fifth, seventh, and twelfth. Jimmie Johnson drops three spots to fourth. Bowyer drops two to eighth. Harvick and Hamlin each drop one spot tenth and eleventh.
Chase Race #6 – Martinsville
Jeff Gordon rides top five points to the top of the standings, gaining two spots. Jimmie Johnson gains one spot to third. Hamlin jumps three spots to eighth. Holding steady this week are Burtonin fifth, Dale Jr. in sixth, Edwards in seventh, Harvick in tenth, and Stewart in twelfth.
The Biffle drops one spot to second. Kyle Busch drops two spots to fourth. Bowyer drops one to ninth. Kenseth drops two spots to eleventh.
Chase Race #7 – Atlanta
Kyle Busch jumps one spot to third. Dale Jr. climbs one to fifth. Bowyer gains two for seventh. Harvick and Kenseth each gain one spot to ninth and tenth respectively.
Gordon maintains the lead with a top 10 finish. Others holding steady are the Biffle at second, Burtonin sixth, Hamlin in eighth, and Stewart in twelfth. Dropping one is Jimmie Johnson to fourth. Edwards drops four to eleventh.
Race #8 – Texas
Kyle Busch uses top five points to retake the top spot, gaining two spots. Jimmie Johnson also jumps two spots to second. Burtongains one to fifth. Edwards gains two to ninth. No change for Bowyer in seventh, Hamlin in eighth, and Stewart in twelfth.
Both Jeff Gordon and the Biffle lose two spots to third and fourth respectively. Dale Jr. loses one spot to sixth. Harvick and Kenseth each lose one spot to tenth and eleventh respectively.
With two races left, the leader has opened up a 340 point lead on Tony Stewart in twelfth. Referencing my piece yesterday, I think Tony will be done with the 20 car at this point.
Three drivers are still within 100 points of the lead. Second place Jimmie Johnson is 55 points back.
Chase Race #9 – Phoenix
This week doesn’t produce much movement in the standings. Two drivers switch places, Johnson up one to first with a win, Kyle Busch down one to second. All other drivers maintain their positions in the standings.
The drivers prepare for the final race of the season. Four drivers within 100 points of the lead, second place Kyle Busch down by only six points.
Chase Race #10 – Homestead
Johnson maintains first with a strong run, getting his third cup title in as many years.
Kyle Busch maintains second place in the points, falling 49 points short of his first cup. Jeff Gordon takes third in the points, 77 points back. Jeff Burton moves up one spot to fourth, 106 points back. The Biffle loses one spot to fifth, 114 points back. Hamlin moves up two to sixth, 173 points back. Edwards up one to eighth, 207 points back. Bowyer down two to ninth, 283 points back. Kenseth gains one spot to tenth, 322 points back. Harvick loses one to eleventh, 328 points back. Stewart gets twelfth, 437 points back.
So many new variables exist today than were present when many of these races were run last. Hendricks hasn’t been as strong as a whole as they were last year. Kyle Busch now drives for JGR with a very effective crew chief in Steve Addington. Kyle Busch has a big target on his back, he was spun out by two different drivers last week without even trying to.
At least six other drivers of the twelve in the Chase have had less than par years, and will all be looking to break out with wins and great finishes. A few drivers in the Chase have flirted with doing great things for the last few years, could they have an impact on the final standings?
In ten short races over ten short weeks, we will see the 2008 Cup Champion crowned.
The numbers don’t support my opinions, as it probably doesn’t support yours, but more often than not the numbers seem to hold true.
Will all twelve drivers finish the same way as they did in the previous race? Absolutely impossible! But now when you wonder what would happen if they did, you will know.