The best of 2007 loop data awards

"The Loopies": A Best-Of For 2007 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2007) -- NASCAR's Loop Data has completed Year Three of its existence, and a banner year it has been. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson earned season bests in two...

"The Loopies": A Best-Of For 2007

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2007) -- NASCAR's Loop Data has completed Year Three of its existence, and a banner year it has been. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson earned season bests in two key categories -- Driver Rating with a 110.3 and Fastest Laps Run with 962.

To celebrate the three-year anniversary, NASCAR PR pored through the Loop Data and assigned a few awards to drivers not named Johnson. You can call them "partying gifts." We're calling them "The Loopies."

The envelope, please:

The "It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish" Award: This award goes to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had one of the weirdest seasons of his career. He finished the season 16th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, yet owned some of the top statistics -- like an eighth-best 93.2 Driver Rating. So what gives? All you need to look at is Earnhardt's "Closer" number, which is the number of positions gained or lost in the last 10% of races. He's last. Earnhardt lost a total of 104 positions in the last 10% of the 2007 races -- proving it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

The "Movin' On Up" Award: This one goes to the driver who improved the most from last year in Driver Rating. The first-ever recipient is Martin Truex Jr. In a breakout season that saw his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Truex earned a Driver Rating of 90.3. Last season, as a rookie, he earned a Driver Rating of 71.3 (an improvement of 19.0 points).

The "Oh, So Close!" Award: The motto of every fan whose driver has come oh so close. This award goes to Ryan Newman, who is this close to returning to his Rocket Man form of 2003. He flirted with victory a few times this season and finished 13th in the series standings. Most telling, he dramatically improved in Driver Rating by 10.2 points, the largest of those drivers who did not make the Chase. In 2006, Newman had a Driver Rating of 76.3; this season, he earned an 86.5.

The "Penthouse To The Outhouse" Award: This award goes to Kasey Kahne, who didn't visit Victory Lane after a series-high six appearances last season. Highlighting the fall is the dramatic decrease in Kahne's Fastest Laps Run. In 2006, Kahne's 706 Fastest Laps Run led the series. This season, he was 16th-best in the category with 183 Fastest Laps Run, a drop of 523 laps...OR...

The "How The Mighty Have Fallen" Award: This goes to the driver with the biggest drop-off in Driver Rating, and it's an award you obviously don't want to win. Sorry (again), Kahne. Kahne -- who likely will boycott next year's Loopies ceremony -- plummeted 22.8 Driver Rating points this season. Last season, Kahne earned a Driver Rating of 94.3. In 2007, he had a 71.5.

The "Family Bragging Rights" Award: This goes to the Busch brother who edged the other in the most Loop Data stats. There are 17 Loop Data stat categories. Kurt Busch led nine (including key categories Average Running Position, Driver Rating and Fastest Laps Run), narrowly edging little brother Kyle and thus owning bragging rights at the Busch family holiday dinner.

The "It's About Quality And Quantity" Award: This also goes to Kurt Busch, for leading the Quality Pass category. Busch had 1,854 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 50 more (there's the quantity) than second-place driver Denny Hamlin.

The "Buffalo Bills Of The '90s" Award: This goes to Jeff Gordon, who suffered a Buffalo Bills-esque season. The Bills came up second-best with four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the early '90s. Gordon knows the feeling -- he was the runner-up in seven different Loop Data categories. And of course, he was runner-up to teammate Jimmie Johnson in the final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.

-credit: nascar

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