Loop Data update 2006-09-05

Kenseth Takes Series Lead With One Race Remaining Until Chase * Loop Data tells the story behind Kenseth's standings lead * Johnson stumbles in the Race to the Chase DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- After hitting his stride early in ...

Kenseth Takes Series Lead With One Race Remaining Until Chase

* Loop Data tells the story behind Kenseth's standings lead
* Johnson stumbles in the Race to the Chase

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- After hitting his stride early in the summer, Matt Kenseth continues to dominate heading to Saturday's event at Richmond International Raceway, the final stop in the Race to the Chase.

Now the leader of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, Kenseth's summer prowess shouldn't be a surprise considering his Loop Data statistics and his history of strong runs late in the season.

Traditional statistics fail to show how Matt Kenseth has been able to take the lead from Jimmie Johnson over the past week. After all, Johnson has the better Average Start of 10.8 to Kenseth's 14.6. Johnson also has a better Average Finish -- 8.7 to Kenseth's 9.5.

Using NASCAR's new Loop Data to rate each driver, it becomes clear why Kenseth has vaulted to the top. He leads not only the standings, but also Driver Rating -- a Loop Data statistical category that relies on more than wins and losses to rate a driver. Kenseth's Driver Rating is 104.6. Jimmie Johnson, now second, also is ranked second in Driver Rating at 100.3.

Kenseth has led over twice as many laps this season as Johnson, leading 12.1% of all laps compared to Johnson's percentage of 5.2%. Additionally, Kenseth has more Laps in the Top 15 -- 80.8% of the time this season compared to Johnson's 72.2%.

Kenseth also has the higher Passing Differential of the two drivers, 373 compared to Johnson's 148.

Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Race to the Chase ...

Kevin Harvick continues to be the best driver in the Race to the Chase -- the final 10 events that lead up to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. He has six top-10s and five top-five finishes along with one win, helping him post the best Average Finish of 7.1.

Harvick also has the best Driver Rating so far in the Race to the Chase -- 106.2. Helping him amass the top Driver Rating was his ability to run near the front. Harvick has been running in the top 15 for a series-best 85.4% of the time.

Jimmie Johnson is beginning to falter as the Race to the Chase winds down. Johnson only has the eighth-best Driver Rating of 96.0. His Average Finish also has suffered and has fallen to 11.7.

Despite his declining Driver Rating and Average Finish, Johnson has been able to keep his car in the top 15, completing 80.2% of his Laps in the Top 15.

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

"With the Chase to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ready to begin after Richmond, it's interesting to note which Loop statistics best reflect the eleven drivers still in contention for the Chase:

Eight of the eleven drivers are in the top 11 for Fastest in Straightaways, which seems good, until you see that 10 of the 11 contenders are at the top of the Fastest in Turns chart, showing the importance of handling. Nine contenders are at the top of the Early in a Run leader board, but the Late in Run list scores 10 of the top 11 drivers. Speed in Traffic and overall Green Flag Speed also net 10 of the contenders for the Chase, emphasizing just how well speed equates to success. Laps Run in the Top 15 includes 10 of the possible Chase drivers, as does the list of drivers who've run the Fastest Laps. The Average Running Position, Driver Rating and Laps Led also find 10 of the contenders in their top 11 drivers. "In all these rankings, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin were never the drivers left out of the top 11. Even more interesting is that Greg Biffle was in the top 11 in all the above lists. However, one list was 11 for 11 in nabbing the contenders, Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap. Since Biffle didn't show up on this list until 15th, perhaps this board best reflects why his season has not resulted in a return trip to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

Loop Logic ...

Kenseth and Johnson are the only two drivers with a Driver Rating greater than 100.0. Kenseth leads Johnson by a little more than four points in this category, 104.6 to 100.3.

Tony Stewart has led 13.2% of all laps this season, more than any other driver. Greg Biffle ranks second leading 12.4% of all laps.

Johnson has the highest Percentage of Quality Passes with 77.0% of his passes coming over a car running in the top 15. Kevin Harvick is the only driver in the top five to have less than 1,000 Quality Passes, at 911.

Kasey Kahne's win at California Speedway has moved him back into the top 10 in Driver Rating. Kahne ranks 10th with a rating of 92.8, bumping out Dale

Earnhardt Jr. who now ranks 11th with a rating of 92.0.

FAST FACTS

Loop Data -- Season-To-Date

Driver Rating NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
1. Matt Kenseth 104.6
2. Jimmie Johnson 100.3
3. Jeff Gordon 99.4
4. Tony Stewart 98.4
5. Greg Biffle 98.1
6. Jeff Burton 96.4
7. Kevin Harvick 95.2
8. Denny Hamlin 94.0
9. Kyle Busch 93.3
10. Kasey Kahne 92.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch