This late-race crash in the spring Texas race took out the top two cars in the 24 and 14. (Photo Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
This week the Sprint Cup series returns to the lightning-fast cookie-cutter track known as Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). TMS is a 1.5-mile D-shaped track with progressive banking. The NASCAR tracks at Charlotte and Atlanta are almost identical, and the Las Vegas and Homestead tracks are pretty close, too.
Handicappers therefore have a wealth of historical data to review this week in the numbers from practice, qualifying and the race from each event at these tracks this year.
Handicapping Texas II
I examined the practice, qualifying and race data for the 2010 races at Charlotte, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Homestead and of course Texas to produce initial rankings. Then I crunched the numbers for the just the April race at Texas and merged those results with the initial rankings to bias the results toward the Texas numbers. In addition, for the first time I factored in the loop data from the 2010 races at the cookie cutter tracks. Finally, I tweaked the rankings after reading my race recap from the April race at Texas.
I came up with this top 10: Continue reading
Dale Jr. and crew chief Lance McGrew talk turkey during practice Friday. (Photo John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Practice and qualifying are in the books at Talladega, but unfortunately we still don’t have a great idea of how Sunday’s race will unfold because the prelim data’s value is extremely limited. If you look at the practice speed charts, the cars at the top are the cars that just happened to run fast while practicing running in the draft. Those numbers come from a relatively small number of laps and don’t provide much of a window into what will transpire during the 500 mile nail-biter. Qualifying helps give an idea which cars have the most total speed, but that’s probably the last time the cars will run solo this weekend. Plus, a number of drivers didn’t even get on the track in Happy Hour, and that throws the numbers way off.
That’s not to say the data is totally worthless, however. And if you add in the 10-lap averages, impressions gleaned from watching the prelim telecasts (including driver and crew-chief interviews), and the historical data, at least a fuzzy handicapping picture emerges.
That’s what I did, and I came up with this top 17: Continue reading
This late race bash-up took out nine cars at Talladega this spring. (Photo John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The series returns this week to the king-size track in Talladega, Ala., the track that provides the most unpredictability on the circuit (Daytona is a close second). NASCAR forces the teams to run a restrictor plate on the carburetor on this 2.66 mile, high-banked track because without it, drivers would reach speeds well over 200 mph, posing an unacceptable risk to everyone near the track.
The problem with capping horsepower, of course, is that it tends to bunch the cars up in packs, and packs increase unpredictability in two ways. First, they produce an intense form of drafting tactics in which the cars form lines two- and three-wide. To get up front, drivers must draft in line and shuffle between the lines to move forward. This means drivers with average skills and equipment have a greater chance running well than they do at non plate tracks. Continue reading