The Third Annual Loopies
An Awards Ceremony For The Best -- And Worst -- Of NASCAR's Loop Data
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2009) -- Because a week's worth of award ceremonies in Las Vegas wasn't nearly enough time to divvy out accolades, NASCAR Public Relations needs one more opportunity to dole out some final pats on the back.
It's time for the "Third Annual Loopy Awards," a ceremony commemorating the best -- and worst -- Loop Data performances of the 2009 season.
The envelopes please...
The "Ink Hog" Award: On the Loop Data box score on NASCARMedia.com, the leader in each statistical category is bolded. This award goes to the driver who has led the most categories, owns the most bolded numbers, and thusly hogged the most ink. Congrats to Jimmie Johnson, who led five of 10 Loop Data box score categories, including Average Running Position (8.7), Fastest Laps Run (1,299), Laps in the Top 15 percentage (83.6%), Laps Led (2,238) and Driver Rating (112.2). We're sure this is his most coveted award to date.
The "No Passing Zone" Award: The 2009 Mark Martin highlight reel is a lengthy one: five wins, a series-high seven poles, his fifth career runner-up points finish. But why? And how? That's where Loop Data comes in. One Martin number jumps out more than any other: 1,897. That's the amount of times Martin was passed this season, by far the fewest in the series. For comparison's sake: Jimmie Johnson got passed 2,039 times.
The "Don't Call It A Comeback" Award: Kurt Busch won a Loopy last year, but not one any driver wants. In 2008, Busch took home a Loopy for the biggest Driver Rating drop from 2007 to 2008 -- 25.9 points. This season was the complete opposite. Busch enjoyed the biggest Driver Rating increase from last season. With a Driver Rating of 101.2, Busch bettered 2008 by 27.4 points. He also launched 14 spots in the points, going from 18th in 2008 to fourth this season.
The "Jimmie Is A Nickname for James, And Apparently So Is Denny" Award: This award is a little mislabeled. Jimmie Johnson's name is not James. But Denny Hamlin's is (his middle name is Dennis). Unfortunately, that would make Hamlin the second-best Jimmie/Jimmy in the series. But statistically, he might be the second-best anything in the series. Yes, Mark Martin finished second. And yes, Tony Stewart had the best season by an owner-driver since Alan Kulwicki, who won the series championship in 1992. But Hamlin had the second-best Driver Rating in the series at 102.4, and his two Chase wins were second only to Johnson's four.
The "We Get It, He Had A Terrible Season" Award: Sorry Dale Earnhardt Jr. You know it, the fans know it, the media knows it: 2009 was not a banner year in the 88 household. The stats prove it. Earnhardt had the largest Driver Rating drop over last season: 22.7 points. In 2008, a championship contending season, Earnhardt had a Driver Rating of 99.0. This season, one in which Earnhardt finished 25th in the points, he had a 76.3.
The "NASCAR Going Green" Award: Congrats to Dale Earnhardt Jr. More than any other driver, he embraced NASCAR's green initiative in 2009. According to the statistics, Earnhardt was pretty much out of contention in the final 10% of races, thereby limiting his fuel use and minimizing his carbon footprint. Good for him. Earnhardt lost a total of 121 positions in the final 10% of the races this season, by far the most in the series. Martin Truex Jr. lost the second-most, dropping 68 positions in the final 10%.
The "He Loves Dogs, But Not The Planet" Award: Well, if we gave Earnhardt the aforementioned trophy, we have to give the driver on the other side of the spectrum some credit (or blame?). Congrats to Greg Biffle, who improved a series-high total of 80 positions in the final 10% of races this season.
The "Nobody's Perfect ... Except Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin" Award: This award goes to Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin. Congrats guys, you each scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 this season. Johnson did it at Dover in May; Busch did it at Atlanta in March; and Hamlin did it at hometown track Richmond in September.
The "Mr. Autumn" Award: This goes to four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. What he does in the Chase, under playoff pressure, is simply astounding. Of course, Reggie Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October for his playoff prowess. In the baseball playoffs, Jackson owned a batting average of .278. In NASCAR's playoffs, Johnson has a winning percentage of .300. Just sayin'.