2014 Daytona 500 analysis

In this post I’m outlining whom I think will contend and win this year’s Daytona 500, being held a bit later today. But a few things before this, in reflection of the 2013 season first:
I will not root for any driver or team involved in last year’s Chase incident. That means, from a pure fan perspective, if you’re a NASCAR fan, and you hate the Chase, you should pull your fandom from:
For Toyota:
Michael Waltrip Racing (drivers Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler, Martin Truex, Jr.)

and 2 for Ford:

Penske Racing (drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano)
Front Row Motorsports (drivers Josh Wise, Michael McDowell, David Gilliland)
I’m intrigued at the reboot of the Chase qualification, which does put more value at winning than placing. I think part of the problem has to do with the fact that there are 43 cars. 43 is a lot. Why not have fewer, like 33, like the Indy 500 does? Even better, here’s how I’d run things:
Make every race, maybe every 2nd or 3rd race, a true eliminator. Yes, I mean taking out the drivers who can drive, but can’t race competitively enough. Those who place, say, last or next-to-last should be out for the season. Say we whittle the field by 3 or 3 every 3rd race, and by July 5, when NASCAR visits Daytona again for the Coke Zero 400, we are down to 25 drivers. With 9 races to go, we eliminate 2 drivers per race for the first 7, then the last driver in the last 2 races. With that, the Chase would begin with 10 drivers, with points reset to zero, and a simple 10 to 1 points rating to rank each.

Now for the 500 analysis: Terry Labonte is appearing in his 62nd race, Mark Martin his 55th, Ken Schrader his 45th. Neither have won here.
In terms of ‘batting average’, Jeff Gordon has won 6 of 42 races, Tony Stewart 4-for-30, Jimmie Johnson 3-for-24 and Trevor Bayne 1-for-6.
Top 10s: Kurt Busch 13-26, 50%, best of this field, yet he hasn’t won either.

Laps led without win: Schrader 298, Martin 273, Kurt Busch 239, Denny Hamlin 237, Terry Labonte 158, Clint Bowyer 150
Best gain in position per average finish in relation to average start, 3 races minimum: David Reuitermann gains spots per race at Daytona. Others: Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who averages a 14th place finish after 3 races, Terry Labonte 15th, and Elliott Sadler, 17th.
Running at finish: Not much to see here, every driver falls rather short of perfection but a few drivers have had just 1 race here out of their career not running at finish: Denny Hamlin is 15 of 16, Kurt Busch is 25 of 26. Regan Smith 10 of 11.
Lead lap finish: Mixed results here, tho lower in the stats, Clint Bowyer is 13 of 16.
No one else over 80% in the field.

Stats gently borrowed from http://www.racing-reference.info  I love this site; you should, too.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:

1 Kenseth
2 Gordon
3 Kahne
4 Kurt Busch
5 Truex Jr.
6 Menard
7 Landon Cassill
8 Hamlin
9 Gilliland
10 Ambrose