Loop update 2006-10-10

Martin Looks to Win Title in Final Full-Time Season * Loop Data indicates his chances are good DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2006) -- The closest points battle in the history of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heads to Lowe's...

Martin Looks to Win Title in Final Full-Time Season

* Loop Data indicates his chances are good

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2006) -- The closest points battle in the history of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heads to Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) this weekend.

Currently only 185 points separate the points leader -- Jeff Burton -- from Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch who are tied for ninth. 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.

With the top 10 drivers so tightly bunched this is an excellent weekend for Mark Martin -- a four-time championship runner-up -- to try and make a run at the points lead. Martin sits in third only 10 points behind leader Burton.

Chase-specific Loop Data shows that Martin has the best Driver Rating (100.2) at the remaining tracks in the Chase. Although Martin was winless at the remaining Chase tracks in 2005 and 2006, he has the most top-five finishes (8) and has the second-most top-10 finishes (9) among Chase drivers. Most impressively, he has the best Average Finish (9.7) at the remaining Chase tracks and has the highest Average Point Gain gaining 143.1 points per event.

Another Chase driver looking to make his way to the top of the point standings is Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has the second-best Driver Rating (98.4) at the remaining tracks in the Chase and there is no better time for his team to be heading to LMS. Loop Data specific to LMS shows that Johnson has the best Driver Rating there at 119.2.

Speed Stats

Kurt Busch has had one of the fastest cars at LMS over the past two seasons. He ranks first in Fastest Drivers Early and Late in a Run, Fastest on the Frontstretch and Fastest in Turns 1, 3 and 4. Busch is also second-quickest on the backstretch and in turn 2. All of this speed and he has never won at LMS, in fact he has an Average Finish of 22.2 over the past two seasons there.

Jimmie Johnson on the other hand has been arguably the most successful driver at LMS with five wins -- including four straight in 2004-2005. Johnson's speed at LMS has been less impressive than Busch's. He ranks towards the bottom of the top 10 in nearly every speed related category.

One spot where Johnson has been faster than Busch is in traffic. Johnson ranks fifth in Speed in Traffic, possibly helping propel him to his five wins at the track while Busch ranks 27th in this category, closer to his Average Finish of 22.2.

PASSING ZONES

Lowe's Motor Speedway generates some of the best racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The frontstretch is where the most passing happens. Turn 4 ranks second.

Passing Thoughts ...

* Carl Edwards has completed the most Green Flag Passes at Lowe's with 262. Edwards has been passed 206 times, giving him a Passing Differential of 56.

* Jimmie Johnson has more Quality Passes than any driver at Lowe's with 177, giving him a Quality Passing Percentage of 74.4%. This also has helped Johnson amass the best Driver Rating of 119.2.

* Johnson's Passing Differential of 105 is the highest of any driver.

LOOP LOGIC

Others Drivers to Watch ... Who has a chance to be a spoiler this weekend? Loop Data reveals other notables:

* Greg Biffle: Ranked second in Driver Rating 113.1. ... Has an Average Finish of 5.3. ... Has run 91.1% of his Laps in the Top 15. ... 77.9% of his passes have been Quality Passes.

* Kasey Kahne: Ranked fourth in Driver Rating 95.0. ... Has led 18.0% of the laps at Lowe's over the past two seasons. ... Has run 62.8% of his Laps in the Top 15.

From STATS LLC (the company that compiles NASCAR's Loop Data) ...

"Jimmie Johnson knows how to finish strong at his sponsor's track, sweeping four races from 2004 to 2005 and following it up with a runner-up finish this past May at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In the races since 2005, the first year of Loop Data, he racked up the highest Driver Rating (128.8) and the second-best Average Running Position (8.769 to Greg Biffle's 8.097). Johnson has the most Passes in Turn 3 (41), the least popular part of the track to pass for position and has the most Quality Passes overall with 177. He's also turned the second-most fastest laps (76 to Kasey Kahne's 86) and spent the second-most time in the top 15 (86.9% to Biffle's 91.1% of the laps). But the key to Jimmie Johnson's success has been his ability to close on the lead at the end of the race. With 10% of the race left, Jimmie has never been higher than eighth and has the best Closer numbers by averaging 12.3 spots gained over that portion of the race. With time running out in the Chase, Johnson needs to continue his winning ways at Lowe's to be in position to challenge for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." -- Stefan Kretschmann, STATS LLC.

Driver Rating at Lowe's (Based on Loop Data since 2005)

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
1. Jimmie Johnson 119.2
2. Greg Biffle 113.1
3. Mark Martin 100.6
4. Kasey Kahne 95.0
5. Denny Hamlin 86.6
6. Kyle Busch 86.5
7. Carl Edwards 84.3
8. Reed Sorenson 83.0
9. Scott Riggs 81.7
10. Brian Vickers 81.0

Chase Drivers at Lowe's
1. Jimmie Johnson 119.2
2. Greg Biffle 113.1
3. Mark Martin 100.6
4. Kasey Kahne 95.0
5. Denny Hamlin 86.6
6. Kyle Busch 86.5
7. Matt Kenseth 80.3
8. Jeff Burton 76.6
9. Jeff Gordon 76.0
10. Kevin Harvick 69.1

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin