Chase loop update 2006-10-09

Closest Points Battle in Chase History Begins to Take Shape * Burton clinging to lead; Kenseth charges forward * Martin looks to make final year with Roush memorable DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2006) -- The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup...

Closest Points Battle in Chase History Begins to Take Shape

* Burton clinging to lead; Kenseth charges forward

* Martin looks to make final year with Roush memorable

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2006) -- The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is shaping up as one of the best battles in the short history of the Chase. Currently all top 10 drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship, with the top 10 separated by only 185 points.

The 185-point margin is the smallest between the top 10 drivers since the Chase format was implemented in 2004. In that first year of the Chase the top 10 drivers were separated by 257 points following four races. In 2005, the margin following four races was 224.

Jeff Burton currently leads the Chase, six points ahead of Matt Kenseth. Burton saw his lead shrink Sunday when a late race tire problem relegated him to a 27th place finish.

Burton, though, remains one of the top drivers in the Chase with the best Driver Rating among Chase drivers (105.1). Helping him maintain his lead and his Driver Rating has been his ability to run up front consistently. He has completed the most Laps in the Top 15 with 85.3% of his laps during the Chase coming in the top 15.

Burton also leads the Average Running Position category (8.303) and is one of only two Chase drivers -- the other his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick -- to win a race during the Chase.

Hot on Burton's heels are Matt Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, and Mark Martin, a four-time series runner-up.

Kenseth has the second-best Driver Rating among Chase drivers at 103.5 and has led the most laps, leading 20.5% of completed laps in the Chase. He also holds the third-best Average Running Position (10.769) and is the only driver besides Burton to have recorded three top-10 finishes in the Chase.

In his last season at Roush Racing, Mark Martin is hungry for a championship. He currently sits third, only 10 points behind Burton. Martin leads all Chase drivers with the best Average Finish of ninth during the Chase and his outlook for the remaining Chase tracks couldn't be better. Martin has the top cumulative Driver Rating at the remaining Chase tracks (100.2) and also has completed the highest percentage of Laps in the Top 15 (77.8%) at the remaining tracks.

Although he didn't win at any of the remaining tracks in the past two seasons, Martin has recorded the most top-five finishes at these tracks with eight, and the second-most top-10 finishes with nine. Victory could loom for Martin as he leads Chase drivers with an Average Finish of 9.7 at the remaining tracks.

Most compelling, Martin has the highest Average Point Gain at the remaining tracks, gaining 143.1 points per event.

Loop Data Analysis from STATS LLC:

From Stefan Kretschmann of STATS LLC (the company that compiles NASCAR's Loop Data):

"Mark Martin now sits 10 points behind leader Jeff Burton after dodging trouble at Talladega. He also has the strongest numbers at the remaining tracks in the Chase. Martin has the best Driver Rating at the remaining tracks (100.2), better than Burton's 77.8 (though Burton's current season Driver Rating at the five tracks visited earlier this year is a 90.5). Martin has averaged the most points over the past two years (143.1) and has the best Average Finish of 9.7. He has tallied top-five finishes in half (eight of 16) of his recent starts at the remaining Chase tracks, which ties him with Jimmie Johnson for best in the series. Martin has spent the most time in the top 15 (77.8% of the Laps) at these tracks as well. With his past performance at the remaining tracks in the Chase, Martin may be poised to collect his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title in his final full-time season."

Loop Logic ...

* Following week four of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the only driver who has yet to record a top-10 finish is Jimmie Johnson.

* Kasey Kahne has the most wins at the remaining Chase tracks over the past two seasons. Kahne has three wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes.

* Denny Hamlin -- currently fifth in the standings -- has the lowest cumulative Driver Rating (76.0) at the remaining Chase tracks.

FAST FACTS

<pre> Loop Data -- Chase Drivers

NASCAR NEXTEL NASCAR Cup Series 1. Jeff Burton 105.3 98.0 2. Matt Kenseth 103.5 104.6 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 98.1 92.5 4. Jeff Gordon 96.4 98.0 5. Kevin Harvick 96.3 96.7 6. Mark Martin 90.4 90.9 7. Jimmie Johnson 89.3 97.9 8. Denny Hamlin 81.6 92.4 9. Kyle Busch 77.9 92.8 10. Kasey Kahne 77.8 91.6

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing