12 September 2006

Consistency is the key

Over the past three years, NASCAR has used a system to determine its champion called the Chase. The top 10 drivers after 26 races (plus ties, and any other drivers within 400 points of the leader) have their points reset; they compete for the championship during the last ten races.

I thought of something today that would be interesting to see: of the ten drivers who qualified each year over the past three years, who are the only drivers to qualify every year? This would seem to point to a measure of consistency, not only during one season but over a series of seasons. Here are the last three seasons: for 2005 and 2006 I bolded the names of those who carried over from the past season.

In 2004, the final standings (among the top ten) were: Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Jeremy Mayfield.

In 2005, the final standings were: Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, Kurt Busch.

Heading into the last ten races, the following ten drivers have qualified for the Chase: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne.

Three time qualifiers: Kenseth, Johnson, Martin

Two time qualifiers: Ku. Busch, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Stewart, Newman, Mayfield

One time qualifiers: Biffle, Sadler, Edwards, Wallace, Harvick, Ky. Busch, Hamlin, Burton, Kahne

As we can see, only three drivers (Kenseth, Johnson, and Martin) have qualified all three years. Interestingly enough, of those three only Kenseth has won a championship (although Jimmie Johnson is certainly a favorite this year). It demonstrates to me that making the Chase is no easy feat, even for some of NASCAR's biggest stars: Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. missed last year, and Stewart this year.

Will NASCAR look to tweak the points system once again?
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