Loop update 2006-10-03

In the Loop: Talladega "Wild Card" in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2006) -- The stars of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series are heading to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for what many consider a "wild card" --...

In the Loop: Talladega "Wild Card" in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2006) -- The stars of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series are heading to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for what many consider a "wild card" -- because of its unpredictability -- in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson -- the winner of the spring race at Talladega -- are the only Chase drivers that have visited Victory Lane at the 2.66-mile oval. Another Talladega win for Martin would mean solidifying his spot in the top five, while a win for Earnhardt, Gordon or Johnson would be just what they need to help propel them closer to a spot in the top five.

NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics from the last three races at Talladega show Gordon with the best chance to repeat. Gordon's Driver Rating of 103.9 ranks third-best at Talladega. He also has the second-highest Percentage of Quality Passes -- a pass over a car running in the top 15 -- at 92.6% and most impressively, he has led 201 laps, or 35.1% of all laps run at Talladega over the past two seasons.

Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and standings leader Jeff Burton are among the six remaining Chase drivers who have not won at Talladega.

Kenseth is the fourth-best driver at Talladega based on his Driver Rating of 103.0. He also has the highest Average Finish (6.7) of all Chase drivers at Talladega. Kenseth has completed 83.4% of his Laps in the Top 15 and has a Quality Passing Percentage of 82.0%. He also has led 8% of the laps run at Talladega over the past three years.

Johnson's Driver Rating of 86.9 makes him the eighth-best driver at Talladega. His Average Starting Position of 10.3 is one of the best among the Chase drivers. Additionally, Johnson has completed 68.5% of his Laps in the Top 15. Johnson also has been able to pass cars running at the front of the field with 749 of his 808 Green-Flag Passes coming over a car running in the top 15, making them Quality Passes.

If Burton wants to remain in the lead, he will need a strong finish this weekend. He will need to improve on his Average Finish of 16.3. He also has been able to pass cars that are running up front, with 72.7% of his 1,148 Green-Flag Passes coming over cars running in the top 15, making them Quality Passes.

PASSING ZONES

Talladega Superspeedway generates some of the best racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The frontstretch is where the most passing happens. The backstretch ranks second.

Passing Thoughts ...

• Jeff Burton has completed the most Green Flag Passes at Talladega with 1,148. Burton has been passed 1,077 times, giving him a Passing Differential of 71.

• Kurt Busch has more Quality Passes than any driver at Talladega with 861, giving him a Quality Passing Percentage of 77.6%. This also has helped Busch amass the fifth-best Driver Rating of 93.4.

• 2005 Talladega winner Dale Jarrett has a Passing Differential of -110, the lowest of any driver.

• Matt Kenseth's Passing Differential of 82 is the highest of any driver.

LOOP LOGIC

Others Drivers to Watch ... Who has a chance to be a spoiler this weekend? Loop Data reveals other notables:

• Jamie McMurray: Ranked first in Driver Rating 107.1. ... Has an Average Finish of 7.3 at Talladega. ... Has a Quality Passing Percentage of 83.3%. ... Has completed 87.4% of his Laps in the Top 15. ...Has led the third-most laps at Talladega over the past two seasons.

• Tony Stewart: Ranked second in Driver Rating 105.4. ... Has an Average Start of 5.7 and an Average Finish of 2.0. ... Has led the second-most laps at Talladega. ... Has a Quality Passing Percentage of 61.4%. ... Has gained more points (530) at Talladega over the last seasons than any other driver.

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

"Jeff Gordon last visited Victory Lane in Talladega in May of 2005, but despite his recent poor finishes at restrictor-plate tracks, he's looking to finish up front this weekend. Gordon's best finish at a restrictor-plate track this season is 15th place at Talladega in the spring (to go along with 26th and 40th at Daytona). But his Loop Data numbers show he's driven much better. At restrictor-plate tracks in 2006, Gordon has a Driver Rating of 95.5 and an Average Running Position of 10.287. In his past three races at Talladega, Gordon has the third best Driver Rating (103.9) and carries the most speed through Turns 1 and 2 (192.788 and 189.759 mph). He's also spent 73.4% of his time in the top 15 (fourth-best) and has led more than twice as many laps at Talladega than the nearest competitor (201 laps to Tony Stewart's 78). After his 39th place finish at Kansas this past week, he needs a great finish to compete for his fifth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship. " -- Stefan Kretschmann, STATS LLC.

FAST FACTS

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

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
1. Jamie McMurray 107.1
2. Tony Stewart 105.4
3. Jeff Gordon 103.9
4. Matt Kenseth 103.0
5. Kurt Busch 93.4
6. Elliott Sadler 92.5
7. Brian Vickers 89.6
8. Jimmie Johnson 86.9
9. Jeff Burton 84.9
10. Reed Sorenson 84.1

Chase Drivers at Talladega
1. Jeff Gordon 103.9
2. Matt Kenseth 103.0
3. Jimmie Johnson 86.9
4. Jeff Burton 84.9
5. Denny Hamlin 81.0
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 78.4
7. Kevin Harvick 70.3
8. Kasey Kahne 60.0
9. Kyle Busch 54.6
10. Mark Martin 52.6

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin