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NEW MATH

USC coach Lane Kiffin told Men’s Journal that, to stay cool under pressure during rocky stops with Tennessee and the Raiders, he drew inspiration from President Obama. Strange, considering that last year CBS’s Tim Brando compared Kiffin to another politico, Sarah Palin.

The world according to us

MOTORSPORTS

Heading into Bristol, the Chase field was nearly set. But questions remain, like ... Who will win?! To answer that one, we devised a formula to predict the Chase champ, filling a big hole in NASCAR’s driver-rating system—past performance. Here’s how it works: For the 10 Chase races, we awarded points to the 12 drivers eligible for the Cup based on where they rank in starts, as well as their averages in wins, top 10s, finishes and laps led for each track. The top driver in each category got 12 points, second got 11 and so on. The most each driver could earn per track is 60 (five categories x 12 points) minus one point per DNF. To start, we gave each driver three points for a regular-season win. Finally, for your fortune-telling pleasure, we predict how the Chase will play out, highlighting races where our formula tells us the big moments are likely to occur.

By LaRue Cook

RACES KEY

Points to Start Race 1: Loudon Race 2: Dover

3rd

Race 3: Kansas

2nd

Race 4: Fontana

Jeff Gordon

Tony Stewart

4th

Matt Kenseth

312 points

419 points

440 points

Race 5: Charlotte 1st

Race 6: Martinsville

Jimmie Johnson

476 points

Race 7: Talladega Race 8: Texas Race 9: Phoenix Race 10: Homestead

7th

Kevin Harvick

267 points 9th

6th

260 points

248 points

11th

Jeff Burton

309 points

Denny Hamlin

Kyle 10th Busch

5th

Kurt Busch

304 points 7th

Carl Edwards

267 points

Greg Biffle

234 points 12th

Clint Bowyer

143 points

Dover Race 2

Kansas Race 3

Charlotte Race 5

Talladega Race 7

Phoenix Race 9

Homestead Race 10

This is where Matt Kenseth makes a move, with the second-highest top-10 average (15 in 23 career starts). Real-life points leader Kevin Harvick will start to stumble thanks to zero wins in 19 starts and being winless at six other Chase tracks. Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the bottom at Dover.

Hamlin has five regularseason wins this year. But he hasn’t won in a combined 14 career starts at Dover and Kansas, so he’ll drop. Jeff Gordon, though, is nearly perfect at this track (56 points—the highest score in our exercise) and will be hot on Jimmie Johnson’s heels after the race.

Tony Stewart will settle into third after Charlotte. He’s top three in laps-led average (26) and finish (13.4) even with a 15th-place race here in May. Jeff Burton, behind only Gordon and JJ in wins per start, could rebound here. That would help him stay in the top half of the Chase for the next five races.

After slogging through the bottom half of the top 12 through Martinsville, Greg Biffle will be doomed after Dega; he has just two top-10 finishes in 15 starts here. Clint Bowyer also gets his lowest mark at Talladega; look for his single-digit totals to continue in Texas and Phoenix.

JJ’s super Phoenix stats—four wins, 12 top 10s, 61 laps-led average and an average finish of 4.9 in 14 career starts—will be a nail in the Chase coffin. Kyle Busch, with seven top 10s in 11 career starts, will finish with his secondbest Chase showing. Too bad he has to go to ...

Poor Kyle will drop due to eight total points here. In fact, only Carl Edwards can truly tame South Beach (49 points). But the overall winner? JJ. Don’t be fooled by his slump. Last year he had one top 10 over the final six regular-season races, then four Chase checkereds and title No. 4.

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ESPN The Magazine

Sept. 6, 2010

NASCAR New Math  

ESPN The Magazine

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