Martinsville: In the loop

'In The Loop' At Martinsville Speedway Loop Data Provides Insight To Scouting Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 28, 2007) -- First it was Elliott Sadler who was forced to pit because of a loose lug nut. Then Tony...

'In The Loop' At Martinsville Speedway
Loop Data Provides Insight To Scouting Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 28, 2007) -- First it was Elliott Sadler who was forced to pit because of a loose lug nut. Then Tony Stewart suffered the fate of a faulty fuel pump. Later it was Denny Hamlin, whose fuel pump also broke.

All three had tremendous runs at Sunday's Food City 500, but the final results showed none of it. That's where the Driver Rating comes in.

Luck, good and bad, plays more of a part in NASCAR than any other sport. Who could have predicted Stewart would have fallen victim to a faulty fuel pump? For more than half of Sunday's race, he seemed destined for Victory Lane. If not him, at least his teammate Hamlin would have capped off an impressive race with a win. But neither finished in the top 10. Both suffered some rotten luck.

The Driver Rating in these instances give credit where credit is due, telling the whole story of a particular race.

Stewart, Hamlin and Sadler all led laps, while Kahne ran up front for much of the race. Each of those drivers' finishes aren't indicative of how they performed that day. That's where the Driver Rating comes in.

The same goes for the entire season. It is interesting to compare the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver standings with the Driver Rating standings, especially this early in the season. With just five races run, the sampling is smaller and the results of the comparison are much more telling.

The chart shows Stewart -- though he's not in the top 10 in the driver standings -- as the top driver over the first five races of this season. Additionally, the Driver Rating standings have Kurt Busch as the 10th rated driver, yet he sits in 20th place in the series standings. Busch has run strong (he's led in three of the five races this season), but bad luck has often bitten him.

Over a full season, the numbers should shake out more evenly as talent overcomes bad luck and good drivers and good cars get the finishes they deserve. For instance, only Stewart and Greg Biffle were in the top 10 in Driver Rating -- but not the top 10 in points -- after Homestead in 2006. They finished 11th and 13th, respectively, in the series standings.

Look for Stewart to rebound this weekend at Martinsville. His name is at or near the top of a number of pre-race Loop Data statistics. Stewart has the top Driver Rating (129.4) and the top Average Running Position (4.168).

And Stewart leads in arguably the two most important speed factors -- especially at a short track like Martinsville. Stewart has the highest number of Fastest Laps Run (252) and the fastest Speed in Traffic.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin