With the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2012 season in the books, I’ve gone through all my final race rankings and begun evaluating how I did this year compared with all the actual race results. The short answer: Pretty good, with some room for improvement.
Here are the three categories I’ve looked at first:
1. Race Winners
In 2012, I picked 9 winners out of the 36 races. I was right 25% of the time, so if I’d been betting each race, I would’ve needed 3-1 odds on each bet to break even for the year.
I think 36 races is too small a sample size to definitively conclude my handicapping method will pick winners 25% of the time, but it’s probably in the ballpark. I’ve begun looking back at my 2011 and 2010 picks, and that will give me 108 races, a much more substantial data sample size. Initial impression: I think my winner pick rate will end up somewhere from 20%–25%.
2. Top 5 Percentage
I use the stats wizard on Fantasy Racing Cheatsheet (FRC) to crunch loop data each week, and around mid-season I noticed the site’s Experts Picks section. In this section, FRC lists the top 5 picks for each NASCAR race from eight NASCAR handicapping and fantasy experts.
It also lists how successful each expert was picking the top 5 drivers all season. The experts’ 2012 top 5 pick rates ranged from 34%–43%.
This week I calculated how successful I was at picking the top 5 drivers each week. The result: 41.1%.
So, I wasn’t quite as good as FRC’s top two experts, but I was close. Also, it’s worth noting I continually tweaked and improved my handicapping method as the 2012 season progressed, which gives me hope I’ll do even better next year.
3. Average Difference & Standard Deviation
In each race this year, I ranked all 43 drivers; that is, I predicted where each driver would finish in each Sprint Cup race. I’ve since gone back and calculated the difference between each driver prediction with their actual race result. Example: At Homestead, I predicted Jimmie Johnson would finish 1st, but he actually finished 36th, so the difference was 35.
Finally, I calculated the average difference for all 43 drivers in all 36 races. The result: 7.03.
I’ve also calculated the standard deviation (SD) for all my 2012 predictions. Calculating SD involves squaring the differences, adding the results, calculating the mean and then calculating the square root of the mean. The result: 9.60.
This number is higher than I expected, and I’m thinking it’s due to several factors. First, my methodology needs even more improvement. Second, I got absolutely shellacked at the first race of the year, the Daytona 500—I managed only a ginormous 15 SD there. When I subtract that race, my overall SD drops to 9.36.
Third, my feeling is 2012 produced more variation than usual, particularly in the first third or so of the year. Part of that was due to all the track repaves, I think, but there also seemed to be a bit more bad luck than usual on the track this year.
I know, sour grapes, right? Maybe. On my Yahoo! fantasy NASCAR team, I was literally averaging more than one driver catastrophe per race over the first half of the season. I can’t help but think that was unusual.
In the coming weeks, I plan to begin pulling interesting tidbits from my data, such as which tracks I was best at, which I was worst at, etc. If you have anything in particular you want me to look up and post, post a request in the Comments section below.