This post first went up back in March 2010. I’m re-posting it during this off week because it’s assertions remain valid. Hopefully it’ll stir up some discussion! —Jed Henson
“Kevin Harvick has run well for the past three weeks, and that gives him momentum going into this weekend. Put him on your roster.”
I see recommendations like this in lots of fantasy NASCAR blogs, forums, and articles written by experts. Dan Beaver, a columnist for Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing, seems especially smitten with momentum. Pretty much every race preview he writes for Yahoo!’s fantasy players contains recommendations based on driver momentum.
So, what’s this all about? Is there some sort of mysterious force at work that prolongs lucky streaks? Do drivers on a hot streak gain some sort of mental advantage over their competitors? Does success on one type of track beget success on another?
The Luck Factor
Let’s start with a simple game that does not have any human input. Say you flip a coin and it comes up heads five times in a row. On the sixth flip, does momentum make it more likely to come up heads again? Or less likely? Neither, of course. The odds are 50-50 every single time you flip the coin no matter what happened on the previous flips. In a pure, luck-based game with zero human input, momentum does not exist. Continue reading