Chase loop update 2006-10-02

BURTON LEADS POINTS, CHASE DRIVER RATING, HEADING TO TALLADEGA * Loop Data illustrates Burton's dominance in Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup * Gordon looks to rebound from bad break at Kansas DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2006) -- Things are...

BURTON LEADS POINTS, CHASE DRIVER RATING, HEADING TO TALLADEGA

* Loop Data illustrates Burton's dominance in Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

* Gordon looks to rebound from bad break at Kansas

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2006) -- Things are starting to heat up in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway. After three races, the top-five drivers are separated by only 96 points, making this the closest battle for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series since the Chase format was instituted in 2004.

Talladega -- considered by many to be a "wild-card" event in the Chase because of its unpredictability -- poses a great challenge for drivers. Strategy and the use of the draft are paramount, for drivers trying to find their way to the front.

Jeff Burton remains the points leader after three races in the Chase and is closing in on his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.

Burton is the only driver to record a top-10 finish at each of the Chase races so far and leads all Chase drivers in the Average Running Position category, at 6.943. Despite having an Average Start of 17.0, Burton has been able to advance each week, evidenced by his Chase-leading Average Mid-Race Position of 5.7. He also leads all Chase drivers in Average Finish, at 4.3, five positions better than the second-place driver in that category, Mark Martin who has an Average Finish of 9.3.

Additionally, Burton has completed more Laps in the Top 15 than any other Chase driver, at 88.8%.

All of this has contributed to Burton's top Chase Driver Rating of 113.3.

Although Burton has been the dominant driver thus far in the Chase, he faces a challenge in Talladega. His only career victory at a restrictor-plate track came in the 2000 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. As for car owner Richard Childress, his last restrictor-plate win came in October of 2000 when Dale Earnhardt won at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jeff Gordon has to be looking forward to Talladega Superspeedway this week after having trouble at Kansas that dropped him to sixth place in the standings. He has the second-best Chase Driver Rating of 102.9 and also has the best Average Starting Position of any Chase driver.

Gordon has recorded two top-five finishes so far in the Chase and has the third-best Average Running Position (9.327) of Chase drivers. He has also recorded the second-most Laps in the Top 15 during the Chase with 87.4% of his laps being run in the top 15.

The most encouraging stat for Gordon heading into Talladega is his record at restrictor-plate tracks where he has 10 wins, four at Talladega.

Loop Data Analysis from STATS LLC:

From Stefan Kretschmann of STATS LLC (the company that compiles NASCAR's Loop Data):

"Kevin Harvick enjoys an incredible advantage after running well in the NASCAR Busch Series on weekends where the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series shares the track.

"In the 22 races where the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series share a track for the weekend, Harvick has raced his way to a top-five finish in the NASCAR Busch Series 14 times.

"In the 14 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races after those NASCAR Busch Series top fives, he has an Average Finish of 10.4 opposed to an Average Finish of 19.9 in the other eight paired NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.

"After the impressive NASCAR Busch Series finishes, Harvick has a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Driver Rating of 98.9, compared to his 83.4 after the sub-top-five NASCAR Busch Series finishes. His Average Running Position improves from 20.360 to 11.376 when he runs well in the NASCAR Busch Series. Harvick spent 77.8% of his Laps in the Top 15 after the top-five NASCAR Busch Series finishes opposed to only 46.8% in the other races.

"His numbers are even more impressive when looking at his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup performance after a NASCAR Busch Series win at the same track. In those four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races after the NASCAR Busch Series win, he has two wins and three top fives with an Average Running Position of 7.898. His Driver Rating is an incredible 118.0 and leads 24.4% of the laps."

Loop Logic ...

• Following week three of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup there are only two drivers who have yet to record a top-10 finish, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.

• Looking ahead to the remaining Chase tracks, Johnson may have his best shot at winning a championship. Johnson leads all Chase contenders in cumulative Driver Rating at the remaining Chase tracks with 96.8 and has the best Average Point Gain at the remaining tracks averaging 134.7 point per event.

• If Matt Kenseth hopes to win his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship, he needs to start finishing in the top five. Although he has led more laps than any other driver in the Chase (22.3%), Kenseth is the only driver in the top five of the point standings who has not recorded a top-five finish in the Chase.

FAST FACTS

Loop Data -- Chase Drivers <pre> Driver Rating NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Chase Season-to-Date 1. Jeff Burton 113.3 98.6 2. Jeff Gordon 102.9 98.7 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 102.3 92.8 4. Matt Kenseth 98.0 104.0 5. Kevin Harvick 96.6 96.7 6. Mark Martin 92.2 91.1 7. Jimmie Johnson 92.0 98.4 8. Denny Hamlin 86.5 93.3 9. Kyle Busch 74.7 93.0 10. Kasey Kahne 70.7 91.4

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin