Since 2007, when NASCAR moved to the current Chase format (allowing 12 drivers into the Chase instead of 10), only one driver — on average — in the Chase after the 13th race of the season has fallen out by the time the Chase has started. That means that after last weekend’s Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 11 out of 12 Chase spots are probably statistically decided.
If that ends up being the case, who drops out? Which driver currently in the top 12 is the most likely one to drop out? Conversely, which driver currently outside of the top 12 is most likely to get in? Lead-Lap.com set out to find out, based on statistics.
In 2009, three drivers in the Chase after the 13th race fell out before the Chase began. Kyle Busch was in the Chase after the 13th race but lost a 67-point advantage over the next 13 to drop out. Matt Kenseth lost a 58-point advantage over the 13 races leading into the Chase to drop out. And, Jeff Burton lost a 20-point advantage over the 13 races leading into the Chase to drop out.
Kasey Kahne was 66 points out of the Chase after the 13th race, Brian Vickers was 131 points out, and Juan Montoya was 92 points out. All three overcame their deficits to make the Chase.
In 2008, Kahne was in the Chase after the 13th race but he lost an eight-point advantage and fell out 13 races later. Meanwhile, Kenseth made up a 95-point deficit over those 13 races to earn his way in the Chase.
In 2007, Mark Martin was in the Chase after the 13th race. He lost a 26-point advantage over the next 13 races to fall out. That allowed Kurt Busch to make his way into the Chase; he overcame his 88-point deficit. Over those 13 races, though, Martin missed four races because he was racing a part time schedule and sharing his car with Aric Almirola.
In the last three years, Busch’s 67 points is the largest advantage a driver who didn’t make the Chase has had after the 13th race. And, Vickers’ 131-point deficit was the largest to be made up before the Chase.
Applying those numbers to the current Sprint Cup Series points’ standings, this means that Carl Edwards at 59 points ahead of 13th place and Ryan Newman at four points ahead of 13th place could be in danger of falling out of the Chase.
It also means that Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Joey Logano, and David Reutimann are in contention for the one Chase spot that is likely to change because they are each within 125 points of 12th place.
But, who’s likely to overcome their current deficit to earn that spot? Let’s look at the stats from the last three seasons to find out.
Over the next 13 Sprint Cup races, Tony Stewart has the best average finish (10th) of those currently outside looking in. Clint Bowyer is the second best with an average finish of 15th in those races. The remaining drivers in contention are: Dale Earnhardt Jr, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr (each with an 18th-place average), Jamie McMurray (22nd-place average), and David Reutimann (23rd-place average).
Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are the two drivers in the danger zone (less than 67 points ahead of 13th place.) Edwards has an average finish of 11th over the next 13 races, while Newman has a 17th-place average.
Using the current points standings, that means that Stewart will earn roughly 1,795 points. Edwards will earn 1,746; Bowyer will earn 1,566; Newman will earn 1,461; Logano will earn 1,437*; Earnhardt Jr will earn 1,427*; Truex Jr will earn 1,399*; McMurray will earn 1,250; and Reutimann will earn 1,237.
* Logano, Earnhardt Jr, and Truex have the same average finish over the next 13 but will earn a different number of points because of rounding of their average finishes.
If you factor in wins, Stewart, Edwards, and Logano* are the only ones whose average number of wins over the next 13 is greater than one. In other words, they’re the only ones who have averaged one win per season in the last three seasons over the next 13 races.
* Logano only has stats from last year, but he did win one of the next 13 (New Hampshire Motor Speedway).
Over the next 13 races, Stewart has averaged at least 5 bonus points nearly two-thirds of the time. That means, statistically, he’s likely to get bonus points in nine of the next 13 races. That will give him an additional 45 points. Edwards earns bonus points nearly 60% of the time over the next 13, which is roughly seven races, or 35 points.
Earnhardt Jr earns bonus points nearly half the time, though most of those were in 2007 and 2008. Still that will translate to roughly 30 bonus points in six of the next 13 races. Applying these stats across the board means that Truex will earn 20 bonus points; Newman will earn 15, Bowyer and McMurray will earn 10 apiece; and Logano and Reutimann will each earn 5.
That means that over the next 13 races Edwards will earn 1,781 points, including bonus points. Newman will earn 1,476; Bowyer will earn 1,576; Truex will earn 1,419; McMurray will earn 1,260; Stewart will earn 1,840; Earnhardt Jr will earn 1,457; Logano will earn 1,442; and Reutimann will earn 1,242.
If you take those totals and add them to the current standings, you’ll find that Edwards will hold onto 11th-place in the standings with 3,383 points. Stewart will move up four positions from 16th to 12th, and the final Chase spot with 3,360 points.
Newman, who is currently in the Chase, will drop two spots to 14th, out of the Chase with 3,023 points.
Of course, this is assuming that all drivers keep consistent with their averages, which any fan of NASCAR knows rarely happens.