Loop update 2006-10-18

Jeff Gordon Eager to Get to Martinsville DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2006) -- The second race of 2006 at Martinsville Speedway could not come at a better time for seven-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon. Gordon -- currently 10th in series...

Jeff Gordon Eager to Get to Martinsville

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2006) -- The second race of 2006 at Martinsville Speedway could not come at a better time for seven-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon.

Gordon -- currently 10th in series points -- needs a strong finish at Martinsville to remain in the running for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Loop Data from the three previous races shows that he has a good chance to return to his winning ways this weekend at the .526-mile Virginia track.

Gordon's success at Martinsville is reflected in his second-best Driver Rating of 121.9. Driver Rating, a statistical category that considers wins, Average Running Position, Average Speed, Fastest Laps, Laps Led, Lead-Lap Finishes and Top-15 Finishes to rate a driver, was introduced this season as part of NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics.

The race winners have had a ranking below the top 12 in only eight of the 31 races. Some factors include:

* At Pocono in June, Denny Hamlin won as a rookie, so he had no pre-race Driver Rating.

* At Chicagoland, Indianapolis and Infineon, there was only one race factored into the pre-race Driver Rating, making the predictability less valid.

* At Atlanta, Kasey Kahne (14th in the pre-race Driver Rating) used a new car that eventually won five races this year. Driving the same car, he also won the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where he was ranked 19th in the pre-race Driver Rating.

* At Talladega in April, race winner Jimmie Johnson was ranked 17th in the pre-race Driver Rating. However, his top-ranked pre-race Driver Rating at Daytona shows his prowess on NASCAR's only other restrictor-plate track.

* Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at Richmond is the only race where it appears that Driver Rating was not a reliable predictor at a track where at least two races had taken place.

Gordon has run the second-most Fastest Laps (131) at Martinsville. He also has been able to keep his car near the front of the field running 80.4% of his Laps in the Top 15.

When Gordon is not running at or near the front of the pack, he has been able to make his way through traffic. His second-best Speed in Traffic (91.517 mph) has helped him work his way to the front and pass other competitors. He has completed 102 Green-Flag Passes at Martinsville with 74.5% of those passes coming over a car running in the top 15, making them Quality Passes.

Gordon typically has been a strong qualifier at Martinsville with an Average Starting Position of 13.0. He has been able to improve his position over the course of a race better than any other driver at Martinsville, gaining nearly 12 positions for an Average Finish of 1.3.

All of this has helped Gordon accumulate more points -- 540 -- at Martinsville over the last three races than any other driver.

PASSING ZONES

Martinsville Speedway generates some of the tightest racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The backstretch is where the most passing happens. The frontstretch ranks second.

Passing Thoughts ...

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. has completed the most Green-Flag Passes at Martinsville with 182. Earnhardt has only been passed 108 times given him the best Passing Differential (74) of any driver. He also leads all drivers in Quality Passes with 85.

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

"Tony Stewart has dominated at Martinsville of late with a win this spring and a second-place finish last October. Stewart has the best Driver Rating of 136.3, beating out Jeff Gordon's 121.9 (which Gordon compiled with a season sweep of the 2005 races and a second-place finish in April). Stewart also boasts the best Average Running Position (3.050) and has led an amazing 818 laps (54.5% of the laps run) in the past three races. He's run the Fastest Lap 245 times (21.1%) and has the best restarts (91.758 mph) in the series as well. He's not only the fastest active driver, but also is the fastest both early (93.028) and late (91.313) in a run.

"Looking a bit deeper in the field, it's also notable how well Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing have done at Martinsville. All four Hendrick drivers finished with top-eight's this April and the team's three Chase drivers are among the top six active drivers in Driver Rating over the past two years (Jeff Gordon 121.9, Jimmie Johnson 106.8 and Kyle Busch 89.3). Penske can claim two of the top five active Driver Ratings (Kurt Busch 93.1 and Ryan Newman 91.8)." -- Stefan Kretschmann, STATS LLC.

Fast Facts

Driver Rating at Martinsville (Based on loop data since 2005)

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
1. Tony Stewart 136.3
2. Jeff Gordon 121.9
3. Jimmie Johnson 106.8
4. Kurt Busch 93.1
5. Ryan Newman 91.8
6. Kyle Busch 89.3
7. Reed Sorenson 88.4
8. Jamie McMurray 88.1
9. Kasey Kahne 85.9
10. Bobby Labonte 85.2

Chase Drivers at Martinsville
1. Jeff Gordon 121.9
2. Jimmie Johnson 106.8
3. Kyle Busch 89.3
4. Kasey Kahne 85.9
5. Jeff Burton 83.5
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 82.6
7. Matt Kenseth 82.0
8. Kevin Harvick 81.3
9. Mark Martin 78.0
10. Denny Hamlin 74.1

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske