Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Might End

Attempting to entertain ourselves with a prediction of this season's Chase for the Sprint Cup, in September I assembled a calculation on the potential finishing spots 5th through 14th after the Richmond race. Titled How The 2009 Chase for the Cup Could Shape, the mathematical calculations to previous race events wasn't entirely accurate (both charts placed Brian Vickers out of the Chase). Nonetheless, I thought it would be a fan and entertaining exercise to predict how the Chase will end for 2009.

Thanks to the changing competition of NASCAR's leading division the 2009 Chase for the Championship
, some new contenders emerged beyond the charts. However, as the 12 drivers settled into the Chase, the winner of the past 3 editions of the NASCAR Sprint Cup 10-race championship continued on course. Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Chevrolet has been an indomitable team under the Hendrick Motorsport banner. However, Hendrick's new, old shoe Mark Martin has given Johnson a fair fight in 2009 winning 5 races in the season. However, Johnson has won 4 races only in the 10-race Chase. Neither of the top-2 point championship drivers have claimed a Cup victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway but neither has faltered badly around the 1.5 mile oval.

To arrive at a conclusion for the 2009 Chase, I've gone back to average the last 3 finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In order of best to lesser performing at Homestead-Miami are the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase drivers.

Best Finishers in Past 3 Homestead Races

Driver/ Average Calc. Finish/ Points Position

Carl Edwards/ 4.7 /11th
Denny Hamlin/ 6.3/ 8th
Mark Martin*/ 9.7/ 2rd
Jimmie Johnson/ 10.3/ 1st
Greg Biffle/ 10.7/ 7th
Jeff Gordon/ 10.7/ 3th
Kasey Kahne/ 11.3/ 10th
Tony Stewart/ 18.0/ 5th
Ryan Newman/ 21.3/ 9th
Juan Pablo Montoya/ 22.0/ 6th
Kurt Busch/ 29.3/ 4th
Brian Vickers/ 31.7/ 12th

*Mark Martin's three finishes were taken through 2007-2005 since Martin did not compete in last season's Homestead finale.

Modeling the Chase drivers' past three Sprint Cup races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the following is the average finishes that can be expected from the top 12 point contenders:

Driver/Proposed Points Position at End

1. Jimmie Johnson/ 6,626
2. Mark Martin/ 6,518
3. Jeff Gordon/ 6,453
4. Kurt Busch/ 6,357
5. Tony Stewart/ 6,316
6. Greg Biffle/ 6,301 +1
7. Juan Pablo Montoya/ 6,300 -1
8. Denny Hamlin/ 6,290
9. Ryan Newman/ 6,181
10. Kasey Kahne/ 6,146
11. Carl Edwards/ 6,127
12. Brian Vickers/ 5,892

Using this data, the only change in the entire top 12 drivers in the 2009 chase would involve Greg Biffle moving a position up on Juan Pablo Montoya by just 1 point. However, based on Montoya's stellar stock car performance through the last half of the Cup season, it is very likely that the #42 Chevrolet could buck the 3-year trend.

Is Jimmie Johnson destined to make NASCAR Sprint Cup history by winning his 4th straight championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway? The race Ford 400 scheduled for Sunday will certainly decide the official outcome for the 2009 Chase for the Cup.

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