Sunday, September 14, 2014

Predicting the 2014 NASCAR Chase Future Through Past Finishes




For ten years, NASCAR has been operating the Chase in the Sprint Cup series as a playoff for major league stock car racing. For 2014 though, the Chase has received a substantial makeover. Up to 16 drivers in contention, three rounds involving drivers getting knocked out and Homestead-Miami Speedway becoming a guaranteed showdown for four finalists is new traits found in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chasse. The only lingering leftover from the last chase format is the 10 races used to decide the championship’s outcome.

Attempting to predict the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, I have considered the prospect computing race results of the 16 drivers participating in this year’s hunt. Using the historical finishes or average finishes, I came up with three interesting outcomes. Keep note that I am not taking into consideration the bonus points for victory in calculations. Using the Challenger, Contender and Eliminator rounds, I compiled the average finishes of each driver. With this information, I have extracted some entertaining accounts of where the 16 Chase drivers could end up in the 2014 championship fight. While I tried to make this a decent math lesson for myself, please do not put money on this information (I most certainly would not put my money on the line).

The following scenarios is work compiled as merely an entertaining exercise to see if the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase champion could be arrived to even before the first race at Chicagoland Speedway has received a green flag:



Potential Chase Outcome Scenario #1: Based on 2013 Finishes


Let’s say if for some miraculous reason drivers somehow finish races in identical or similar positions as 2013, the conclusion will be highly favourable for three of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars heading into homestead. In this study, in addition to average finishes, I have taken into account 2013 wins by some drivers as automatic entry into the next Chase round. This allowed Brad Keselowski to advance through the Contender round and given Jeff Gordon a chance to compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in this possible Chase.

Since AJ Allmendinger did not run in all 10 races in 2013, I substituted 2014 results at the tracks where he did not run last fall.


Finalists Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Jimmie Johnson

Kevin Harvick

Jeff Gordon
Eliminated in Eliminator Round Brad Keselowski
Carl Edwards

Matt Kenseth

Kurt Busch
Eliminated in Contender Round Joey Logano
Ryan Newman

Kyle Busch

Greg Biffle
Eliminated in Challenger Round Kasey Kahne
AJ Allmendinger

Denny Hamlin

Aric Almirola



 

Potential Chase Outcome Scenario #2: Last Race Run by Driver at Track


In this one, I used data from the last time drivers completed at a specific track on the Chase schedule. Eight of those race tracks have already held 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup races. In the case of Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, I used the 2013 races for both ovals.



Finalists Kevin Harvick

Jeff Gordon

Jimmie Johnson

Matt Kenseth
Eliminated in Eliminator Round Greg Biffle
Carl Edwards

Kyle Busch

Brad Keselowski
Eliminated in Contender Round Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Joey Logano

Ryan Newman

Denny Hamlin
Eliminated in Challenger Round Kasey Kahne
Kurt Busch

AJ Allmendinger

Aric Almirola



 

Potential Chase Outcome Scenario #3: Average Career Finishes Mixed with Last Race Finishes


Since I thought that average career finishes might not have been entirely accurate, I decided to weigh their recent results on a driver’s average. In the case of Denny Hamlin, the result was no change. For Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Aric Almirola, the computation of measuring career finishes against recent finishes showed a around five-position overall improvement for the final 10 Chase race tracks. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch have shown the largest negative change with their recent finishes measuring poorly to their career averages.



Finalists Carl Edwards

Jeff Gordon

Jimmie Johnson

Kyle Busch
Eliminated in Eliminator Round Brad Keselowski
Kasey Kahne

Denny Hamlin

Aric Almirola
Eliminated in Contender Round Brad Keselowski
Ryan Newman

Kurt Busch

Matt Kenseth
Eliminated in Challenger Round Dale Earnhardt Jr.
AJ Allmendinger

Greg Biffle

Joey Logano



 

These three possible NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase outcomes are largely based on what has happened. One thing to know about the future is that it doesn’t always take advice from the past. There are so many variables beyond previous finishes to consider. The 2014 Chase has three drivers competing with their first full season with a different organization than in previous years. Also, Carl Edwards and long-time team Roush Fenway Racing are parting company at the end of this season potentially influencing the #99 Ford in a strongly positive or negative way. Tracks like Talladega Superspeedway and even Martinsville Speedway have to potential to radically shift the points balance.

With Chicagoland Speedway readying to host the first race of the 2014 Chase, all 16 drivers will be trying to register the right numbers to compete for the Sprint Cup at Homestead-Miami.


Information and photo source: NASCAR, Richmond International Raceway

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Feel the Electricity in the Air: Formula E Readies for Historical First Race


 
A new chapter in motorsports will be written this weekend as the first professional tour for electric cars take to a race course in Beijing China. After two years of active development by the FIA, Formula E comes to life as a zero-emission motorsport competition.

For motorsport viewers needing a quick lesson into what is Formula E, the following details of the series will provide some quick insight into what to expect when seeing a 2014/2015 season race.

 


The Series:


For the inaugural Formula E season in 2014, the tour will run 10 races in some stunning locales. The series’ first race will take place in Beijing, China on what is called the Olympic Green Circuit (3.44-kilometer, 20-turn course). Race dates are also slated for London, Los Angeles as well as Monte Carlo. While nine dates are confirmed, the series starts with one race still left to be announced.

Formula E will operate with a schedule that runs through the calendar year. The composition of a 2014/2015 Formula E season is something unusual in auto racing. When the Indy Racing League launched in 1996, the series attempted a similar scheduling strategy where May’s Indianapolis 500 would have crowned an overall season championship but it was quickly abandoned.

 




The Cars:


The Formula E will launch as a spec vehicle series with all teams competing with a Spark-Renault SRT_01E race car. Built by Spark Racing Technology, the car’s carbon fiber monocoque chassis construction has been outsourced to Dallara. The Formula E vehicle closely resembles a Formula 1 car but features some distinctive aerodynamic elements on the vehicle’s front wing and along the side. Minimum weight of a Formula E car is 888 kilograms with the drive included (just less than 200 kilograms heavier than a Formula 1 race car).

The all-electric powertrain involves the cooperation between two organizations rooted as Formula 1 rivals. Subsidiaries of McLaren and Williams give the Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E car motion. McLaren Electronics Systems provides the electric motor and gearbox while Williams Advanced Engineering supplies the battery. Limited to a weight of 200 kilograms (440 pounds), the battery pack delivers 28kWh of usable energy. In comparison, the Tesla Model S features up to 85kWh of usable energy but weighs around three times more. The electrical power system of the Formula E produces a maximum of 200 kilowatts (the equivalent of 270 horsepower). However, only 150 kilowatts will be available to drivers under a race mode. Because the electric motors are largely silent compared to Formula 1 cars, but the electric race cars do produce around 80 decibels of noise.

Michelin will be supplying 18-inch treaded tires for the Spark-Renault SRT_01E designed to operate in dry and wet conditions.


The Team and Drivers:


There will be 10 teams completing in the inaugural Formula E championship fielding two cars. Amlin Aguri, Andretti Formula E, Audi Sport ABT, China Racing, Dragon Racing, e.dams-Renault, Mahindra Racing, Trulli, Venturi and Virgin Racing are the names of the organizations participating in the 2014 season.

Of the 20 drivers in the field for the first race, the 13 have driven at least one Formula 1 race. Some of those former F1 pilots driving in the 2014 Formula E championship include Bruno Senna, Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato and Nelson Piquet Jr. Other notable drivers competing in Formula E includes Oriol Servia and Katherine Legge who will be one of two females part of the international championship along with Italy’s Michela Cerruti driving for Trulli.

 


The Races:


With practice and qualifying sessions, the 2014 Formula E weekend lead to the main feature race called the ePrix. The ePrix races will be scheduled to last around one hour. As the end of the ePrix, drivers are rewarded points for position, pole position as well as the race’s fastest lap. Using a similar system similar to that currently in use in Formula 1, the top-10 of every Formula E ePrix will even points for their position with the winner receiving 25 points. Unlike Formula 1, drivers will also be given three points for a pole position and two points will go the competitor setting fastest lap in each race.

Having already mentioned the electric powerplant output of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E race car, Formula E will provide three lucky drivers with five seconds of additional power through a popularity contest. Called FanBoost, three drivers will be chosen by the fans through an online poll. The drivers with the most votes will receive five seasons where they receive 30 extra kilowatts of energy.


Information and photo credit: Formula E, Renault UK
 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Numbers Behind Winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship

 

Photo Credit: Chris Owens


It is unfortunate to note the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series is ending so early. After 17 races, the open wheel series season wraps with a final race on a two-mile oval in California. The last chance for a team to score a victory in the 2014 tour, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway provide the last stand to claim the drivers’ championship for the Verizon IndyCar Championship.

In the best contention for the 2014 crown is a pair of Team Penske drivers who both have a case for being owed a championship. Will Power finished in the runner-up spot in the IndyCar Series championship three times in a row between 2010 and 2012. In second heading into California is Brazil’s Helio Castroneves. Having won the Indianapolis 500 three times, Castroneves has never won a championship in a major American open wheel racing series. Finishing second in the 1997 Indy Lights Series to Tony Kanaan, 13 full seasons in the IndyCar Series have seen him end the season in second three times. Both Power and Castoneves would like to put a cherry on top of career sundae with a Verizon IndyCar championship trophy.

 

Photo Credit: Richard Dowdy



Points Heading into MAVTV 500

Will Power: 626
Helio Castroneves: 575
Simon Pagenaud: 545
Ryan Hunter-Reay: 534

 

Operating on a double point system with the MAVTV 500 being part of the 2014 IndyCar Triple Crown, the race opens an otherwise sealed championship providing contenders a chance to unseat Will Power (or Power a chance to unseat himself). Mathematically, the championship is still a four-driver fight prior to the green flag dropping. However, 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will be eliminated from contention at the start of the race. 92 points back from Power ahead of the 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, 22 cars starting the MAVTV 500 will result in a minimum of 16 points being scored.

With only Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in contention for the 2014 championship, 200 laps around the fast Auto Club Speedway in California is a rare occasion to see a three-way title fight at the IndyCar finale. Heading into to the final race of the season, Power held a 51-point lead over his Team Penske teammate. An outside shot for the 2014 championship, Simon Pagenaud driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is 81 points from the lead. In qualifying for Saturday night’s race, Helio Castroneves captured an important point by taking the pole position for the MAVTV 500. The gain draws the Brazilian to 50 points of teammate Will Power.

 


Championship Scenarios:

 


Castroneves Wins Race and Will Power Finishes 7th while also Leading Lap


Photo Credit: Chris Jones
 

Will Power: 679
Helio Castroneves: 679
Simon Pagenaud: ?

 

With a 50-point lead, Will Power only needs to gather 53 additional points in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series to guarantee a championship. With the 52 points gained with the seventh place run, leading a lap will grant Power the one additional point solidifying the championship for the Australian. Even if the #3 car wins the race and leads the most laps, Castroneves can only add 103 points. This scenario will end in a points tie between the Team Penske entrants. With three wins to a potential two, Will Power would prevail for 2014.

In 500-mile races this season, Helio Castroneves holds the best average finish with runner-up spots at Indianapolis as well as Pocono. Will Power’s finishing average in the same two races for 2014 was ninth. This scenario has a close statistical possibility.

 


Power Finishes 22nd and Castroneves Finishes 4th While Leading Most Laps


Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

 

Helio Castroneves: 643
Will Power: 642
Simon Pagenaud: ?

 

Since the minimum amount of points available within the 22-car for the MAVTV 500 is 16, Will Power will end the 2014 season with a points total of at least 642 points. Castroneves would need to gain more than 66 points in the race to steal the title from Power. In this scenario, the Castroneves came take the championship mathematically by finishing in the top three spots without leading a lap. However, Helio Castroneves could also be crowned 2014 Verizon IndyCar champion if he finishes fourth withstanding he will gain three additional points leading the most laps at Auto Club Speedway at the end of 500 miles.

 


Pagenaud Wins Race, Power takes 21st and Castroneves finishes 4th

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Simon Pagenaud: 646
Will Power: 644
Helio Castroneves: 640

 

Even if Power finishes 22nd, the Simon Pagenaud would have to take victory at Auto Club Speedway in the #77 car in order to take the 2014 championship with misfortune required for Will Power. Power would need to finish in the bottom two positions of the race for Pagenaud‘s championship dreams to be realized. Currently 31 points behind Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud would need the second Team Penske title contender to place fourth or lower in the final results. Unfortunately for Pagenaud, his already long-shot hopes for the 2014 title is not helped by so-so runs in the previous two 500-mile oval races this season.

Please Note: The points would account for the unlikelihood Helio Castroneves will not lead a lap while starting on the pole for Saturday night’s MAVTV 500.

 

Of course, these three championship scenarios would not matter if Will Power would be positioned ahead of both Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud at the end of the race. While Power won last year’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, earning a 21st place starting spot in Friday’s qualifying could mean the points will at least be closer following Saturday night’s race on the two-mile speedway.