Looped In: Daytona driver ratings

July 04, 2013, Mike Forde, NASCAR.com

Kyle Busch's high marks rare at superspeedways

Kyle Busch sits atop the driver rating chart at Daytona, a stat nearly as rare as days that end in ‘y.’ Busch also ranks first in the Loop Data statistic at Bristol and Kentucky, and a plethora of NASCAR Nationwide Series tracks.

It’s Busch’s Daytona rating -- and not so much the rank -- that makes the above statement noteworthy. His driver rating at Daytona International Speedway is 97.0.

Of the 23 race tracks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the top-ranked driver in driver rating eclipses the 100-point rating at 21 of them. At Watkins Glen, for instance, six drivers average a driver rating over 100.

Not a single driver cracks the 100-point rating at NASCAR’s two restrictor plate tracks, Daytona and Talledega. (At Talladega, Matt Kenseth ranks first in Driver Rating with 91.5).

Here's the reason for that low number, along with a detailed explanation of how the driver rating -- arguably the most prominent Loop Data statistic -- is calculated.

In the driver rating formula, no statistical factor weighs as heavily as average running position. (For the full formula, see below.)

At Talladega and Daytona, with the unique and varying drafting strategy, it’s difficult to maintain a consistently strong average running position. During this season’s Daytona 500, only one driver had an average running position of 6th or better: Jimmie Johnson. During last week’s race at Kentucky, three drivers accomplished the feat: Johnson, Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

Another key piece of the formula is fastest laps run, another stat that’s tough to pile up. At Kentucky, Johnson boasted a race-high 62 fastest laps run. At Daytona, a race he won, he had five fastest laps run. Brad Keselowski ranked first in fastest laps run with 13.

And get this: All but two drivers -- Joe Nemechek and Jamie McMurray -- registered at least one fastest lap run in the 2013 Daytona 500. Pack drafting skews the numbers; many of the fastest laps run at a restrictor plate track come from the middle of the pack. 

That’s why you’ll never see a perfect driver rating of 150.0 at a restrictor plate track.

To accomplish the increasingly rare 150 -- it’s only happened 12 times in Cup -- a driver needs to clear a number of statistical hurdles. One of them is an average running position under 2.0. Another is a tad more complicated. To attain a perfect driver rating, a driver’s green flag fastest laps run and green flag laps led must equal more than the total green flag laps in the race. With such low fastest laps run figures, that’s practically impossible.

Hopefully the following clears it up a little bit. Below is the complete formula of how NASCAR calculates the driver rating, and an example from the 2008 Darlington Raceway event:

Driver Rating Formula Explained

Driver Rating is a Loop Data statistic which is based on several statistical components. Below is an explanation of the formula, which is broken down into three different sections.

SECTION 1 – Primary Statistics

            The “Primary Statistics” are those that are most important to the formula – and therefore awarded the most points.

            The points assigned to each “Primary Statistic” are based on the point structure in place when the Driver Rating was developed in 2005, and use the points structure in place from 2004-2006. In the interest of continuity, the formula still uses the old points structure, even though the point structure was changed in 2007.

          In the formula, the first place driver earns 180 points and the 43rd-place driver earns 34, with the increments in between the same as NASCAR’s points distribution scale. Each statistic is then “multiplied” or “weighted” depending on its importance to the formula. All ties in the “Primary Statistics” are broken by finishing position.  

          “Primary Statistic” points are then added together.

Primary Statistics                               Max     Min      Multiplier

      Finish                                             180      34            1

      Average Running Position 1           360      68            2

      Average Speed 2                            180      34            1

      Fastest Lap 3                                  20        3.8           1/9


1        Average Running Position are while on the lead lap and under a green flag.

2        For restrictor-plate races average speed in turns is used instead of overall average.

3     Fastest Lap is the average of the fastest three laps by that driver.

Example: At Darlington, Jimmie Johnson’s Average Running Position ranked fourth. His point total would be 160, the point total of a driver who finished fourth in a race. In the Driver Rating formula, Average Running Position is important, and multiplied (or weighted) by two. Johnson’s total for that particular Primary Statistic would be 320.

SECTION 2 – Fixed Bonus Points

          Bonus points are given for reaching certain goals. Below are the goals and the bonus points for each.  (Note: All ties in “fixed bonus points” result in the bonus being added to all applicable drivers.)

          Each “Fixed Bonus Points” total is then added together.

Fixed Bonus Points

      Win                                                                  20

      Top-15 Finish                                                  10

      Leading Most Laps                                          10

      Lead Lap Finish                                               5

      Average Running Position better than 10.0 1   5

      Average Running Position better than 6.0 1     5

      Average Running Position better than 2.0 1     5


1        Average Running Position are while on the lead lap and under a green flag.

Example: At Darlington, Kyle Busch earned every “Fixed Bonus Points” except for Average Running Position better than 2.0. Therefore, in this section, he earned 55 points.

Example 2: At Darlington, both Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch had an Average Running Position better than 6.0. They would each receive five points for having better than 10.0 and another five for having better than 6.0.  Each would get a total of 10 for their Average Running Position.

SECTION 3 – Variable Bonus Points

          These are bonus points that are dependent on two statistics a driver earns in a given race – green flag laps led and green flag fastest laps.

          The two stats are added together and then divided by the total green flag laps the driver has run in the race. The resulting number is then multiplied by 100.

          The maximum number of points a driver can get in this section is 100.

Example: At Darlington, Greg Biffle led 94 green flag laps and had 33 green flag fastest laps run. He ran 217 green flag laps in the race. The formula here is 94 + 33 = 127.  Then: 127 / 217 = .585.  Then: .585 x 100 = 58.5.




          When all three sections are tallied, the points from each section are added together (the maximum number possible is 900 points) and then adjusted by dividing by six, which makes a perfect Driver Rating 150.0.


                                                                        Max           Min

Total Possible Points                                      900            139.8

Adjusted Driver Rating                                   150.0         23.3


          Also, if a given race has less than 43 participants – the points awarded are adjusted accordingly to prevent inflated ratings. This is by design with reference to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series which has a standard field of 36 trucks.


*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *


Below is an example of how Jeff Gordon’s Driver Rating was calculated for the 2008 race at Darlington Raceway:



Driver Rating Example: Jeff Gordon at Darlington, 2008

          Below is the formula used to tabulate Jeff Gordon’s Driver Rating at Darlington this season.

          Gordon, who finished third, scored a Driver Rating of 116.5, which was third-best in the race.


Primary Statistics                               Value               Rank    Pnts     Multiplier         Total Points

      Finish                                             3                      3          165      1                      165

      Average Running Position 1           4.381               4          160      2                      320

      Average Speed                              165.394 mph   3          165      1                      165

      Fastest Lap                                    172.166 mph   9          138      1/9                   15.3

                                                                                                            Total for Section: 665.3


1        Average Running Position while on the lead lap and under a green flag.


Fixed Bonus Points                                        Achieved?      Pts Worth        Points Earned

      Win                                                                  No              20                    0

      Top-15 Finish                                                  Yes                        10                    10

      Leading Most Laps                                          No              10                    0

      Lead Lap Finish                                               Yes                        5                      5

      Average Running Position better than 10.0     Yes                        5                      5

      Average Running Position better than 6.0       Yes                        5                      5

      Average Running Position better than 2.0       No              5                      0

                                                                                                            Total Points for Section: 25


Variable Bonus Points

      (GF Fast Laps + GF Laps Led) / GF Laps X 100

Gordon’s Number:

Green Flag Fastest Laps: 11

Green Flag Laps Led: 18

Green Flag Laps on Track: 326

Formula: (11 + 18) / 326 X 100 = 8.9                                                   Total Points for Section: 8.9


When sections are added together:

665.3 + 25 + 8.9 = 699.2

Then divide by 6, per the formula:

699.2 / 6 = 116.5