Crunching The Numbers: 2016 Daytona 500

Well, it has been a long off-season for us race fans (as always), but NASCAR is back on TV and that means the Daytona 500 is looming. There are so many new things this season from drivers and teams to the car itself. The Fox booth is anchored by 4-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon as he is now retired from being behind the wheel to behind the booth. Tony Stewart enters his last season in NASCAR, but sadly will be out for several months. I know all NASCAR fans will be eagerly awaiting his triumphant return to the track. There is now a 40 car field as opposed to the 43 car field we are used to (thanks to the Charter system between NASCAR and the teams) with guaranteed spots to 36 teams. There are also 4 great (full time) rookies this season that are sure to give us a great ROTY battle; #21 – Ryan Blaney, #24 – Chase Elliott, #34 – Chris Buescher, and #44 – Brian Scott (Jeffrey Earnhardt will be part time in the #32). There are also several driver changes from one team to another to count, but those will be covered in a less statistical piece such as this; I just wanted to highlight a few fun (known) facts before jumping into why we are here – to crunch the numbers for the Daytona 500!

Now, with a new season comes new fans. So here is a recap of what I will be providing for y’all:

  1. Track stats: History and what we can expect from that history
  2. Driver stats: How the driver did this year (or previous year until 5 races get in the books) and how they should fair during the race based on their history
  3. Predictions: A top 15 based on a mathematical algorithm that takes into account the following:
    a. Driver’s yearly overall performance
    b. Driver’s yearly performance at the track type
    c. Driver’s overall performance at the track during the time of year (i.e. first visit or second visit)
    d. Driver’s overall performance at the track
    e. Driver’s overall performance at the track type
    f. Team ranking
    g. Manufacturer ranking
  4. Overall fun pieces of statistical information you may not find elsewhere!

With that covered, let us jump right into Daytona International Speedway facts and figures!

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5 mile long tri-oval with some amazing banking of 31° in the turns, 18° in the tri-oval (front stretch area), and 6° on the backstretch. With the size and banking of this track, the racing is fast and can get dicey pretty quickly. Majority of the race will be (relatively) tame, but once that checkered flag gets closer and closer, teammates, playing nice, and the gentleman’s rule will fly out the window and drivers will do whatever they can to take home the Harley J. Earl trophy and stamp their ticket to the Chase.

Daytona Track Stats
*58.3% of races have gone into overtime

Above, we have a break down of what comes out of a typical race at Daytona broken up into the 2 seasons in which NASCAR visits this historic track. We see that the Daytona 500 provides a slightly quicker race than when we come back in July. The margin of victory is closer in the summer, however, and features fewer cautions. Maybe it is the vibe of the Daytona 500 that causes drivers to want to lead more than in July, but whatever it is, swapping up front is something we see a lot of.

Also for a comparison purpose, we have the stats from the 2015 Daytona 500. An extremely quick race was run and 33 drivers were left battling for the checkered flag, which is almost 30% higher than the average Daytona 500. The race did go into over time (which is also another rule change for the 2016 season) but the end results was a finish under caution. With a new car this season, will we see more of an average Daytona 500, or something completely different?

Now that we have covered the history of Daytona, here are some more stats surrounding the Daytona 500 field:

Logano 500 Victory 2015 Daytona 500 Top 5

Driver Finish Start
Joey Logano 1 5
Kevin Harvick 2 11
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3 3
Denny Hamlin 4 42
Jimmie Johnson 5 5

 

2015 Cduring the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.oke Zero 400

Driver Finish Start
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 1
Jimmie Johnson 2 12
Denny Hamlin 3 35
Kevin Harvick 4 34
Kurt Busch 5 28

 

*Joey Logano finished 22nd in the Coke Zero 400 and Kurt Busch did not participate in the Daytona 500

Interesting how 80% of the Daytona 500 top 5 was the Coke Zero 400; or is it??

Past Daytona 500 Winners:

  • The average race winner’s starting position is 14.9
  • Since 2004, no pole winner has gone on to win the race
  • 25% of the winners have come from starting in the top 5
  • 58.3% of the winners have come from starting in the top 10
    • 3 winners have come from starting P9 since 2004 – this may be good news for whoever finishes P4 in the first Can-Am Duel on Thursday (Chase Elliott is locked into P1)
  • Matt Kenseth won in 2009 from starting P39, which is the furthest back a race winner has started
  • Winning drivers have lead an average of 24.2 laps (12.1% of the scheduled 200 lap race)
  • There have been 9 different race winners since 2004; Dale Earnhardt Jr. (x2), Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson (x2), Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth (x2), Ryan Newman, and Trevor Bayne
  • Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart will be noticeably absent from their first Daytona 500 in their career; one due to retirement and one due to injury

We also want to see what manufacturers and teams make the most noise at Daytona, and to what should be no one’s surprise, Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports are at the top of the leader board. 2015 saw a Ford win the Daytona 500 from Team Penske, but 2015 was a beyond incredible year for Joe Gibbs Racing and you can be sure they are still riding that high line (no pun intended).

Daytona 500 Manufacturer Stats

Daytona 500 Team Stats

 

Now, the moment you have been reading (hopefully reading and not just jumping to the bottom to locate this gem) for, the culmination of statistics which will produce a prediction for the 2016 Daytona 500! Now, the restrictor plate factor is not included, but we all know ANYONE in the 40 car field can win the race on Sunday; all they have to do is be on the lead lap at the end and they have a shot at glory. Rookies like Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney can easily turn this field upside down, but with so little information on them, it is virtually impossible for the algorithm to slot those rookies, but please consider them as a dark horses in the Great American Race.

Daytona 500 Predictions

Based on above information, it is no surprise to see the top 6 the way they are. Austin Dillion you ask? 3 Daytona 500 starts with a very solid 18th place average finish is a great resume booster. One driver who has a great record at Datyona, who is just on the outside looking in, would be Casey Mears. That little 1 car team always seems to bring some great cars to restrictor plates, and Mears knows how to keep the car clean and be there at the end. Looking for another dark horse? How about Reed Sorenson. No matter who he is driving for, Sorenson always puts up a very respectable finish! As stated before, anyone can win this race; anyone!

As Darrell Waltrip says, “BOOGITY BOOGITY BOOGITY; LET’S GO RACING BOYS!!!!!!

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Ashley Hobbs

Birthday: 9 March 1989 (so I do not have to update my age each year)
Location: Florida (Jersey native, born and raised)

What better way to combine 2 of my favorite things, NASCAR and statistics, than providing y'all with an analytical report each weekend during the NASCAR season.

When I am not crunching the numbers, I spend time with my hubby, 3 black cats (Ninja, Daytona, and Chronos), and I watch too much TV, especially Doctor Who. Why yes, I am a geek and proud! So join forces with me and follow my weekly Crunching The Numbers segment. Who knows, I may surprise you!

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