Racermetrics race-database.com

A Pre-Chase Stock Car Model Update

by Sean Wrona

Last Monday, just a few days after I completed my previous column rating all the open wheel drivers of the post-World War II era, I abruptly found out that I was losing my job. I worked in a CapTel center for the deaf and hard of hearing, where I intended to stay for ten years to be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. However, most of the CapTel centers across the country have been closing and my center closed two days ago. The company that I worked for also has a relay division, which also relays calls for the deaf and hard of hearing using a different technology and I had worked there before. I assumed I would be able to transfer back into that division when the center closed but they declined my transfer a half hour before my last day of work after previously intimating that I would be retrained for the other division. It was shocking and abrupt, and this week, I escaped in part by rushing out this column, but I suppose it was good timing regardless since NASCAR's Chase for the Championship is beginning this weekend and I suppose for that reason it is an appropriate time to update my stock car model.

Obviously, the model continues to have the same issues and biases when it comes to evaluating the 20th century drivers, most of whom have wildly inaccurate ratings. Just as before, the '50s and '60s drivers tend to have absurdly inflated ratings while the '70s, '80s, and '90s drivers are generally far lower than they should be (likely because Darrell Waltrip was one of the few drivers who regularly had teammates, so the years when he was beaten badly by Jimmy Spencer in 1999 and 2000 probably wreak havoc on the entire model since Neil Bonnett and most of the Hendrick drivers were also underrated for that reason, which caused ripple effects that underrated all their teammates and so on. Since these drivers have all been retired for a long time and most of their teammates have also been retired for many years, these drivers hardly shifted at all with almost none of them moving more than .002 in any direction. Unlike with the open wheel model, where I included many new teammate relationships for drivers already in the model, which led to some wild swings for certain drivers who had appeared in previous versions of the model, the same did not happen here. I had already included all teammate comparisons for drivers who made NASCAR Cup starts in any stock car series I could find (including minor leagues) in the original 2021 model. As a result, the drivers who made large shifts were almost entirely current drivers, and I expect that to also be the case whenever I update my open wheel model again as well. Since there are about twice as many races in most stock car series than there are in most open wheel serie and also since stock car drivers tend to have more teammates than open wheel drivers do, I required at least ten teammate comparisons for drivers to be eligible for the list.

Although on the surface it seems like Kevin Harvick is declining and I would agree with that consensus, he continues to dominate his teammates just as much as ever and actually went up from .248 to .251; he remains the highest-rated active driver in the model although he certainly hasn't been anywhere near the best driver this year. Even though I would definitely say Chase Elliott has been better than Kyle Larson by a pretty wide margin, Larson actually overtook Elliott for 2nd place among active drivers in the model and I will explain why later. Ross Chastain has certainly been one of the hottest drivers of the year, and that is reflected here as he went up from .078 to .088, jumping over both Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano this year. William Byron dropped below Alex Bowman and Chris Buescher, but I'd still say he's better than both of them and has been arguably the most unlucky driver this entire season. Since my model only evaluates finishes and not actually performance, the fact that Byron only has five top ten finishes (which drastically underrates how well he is running) is costing him substantially, but I do think his luck will even out in the end (and frankly, this may largely be a reversal of the first half of Byron's 2021 when he usually wasn't running as well as he has since but went on that long top ten streak.)

The most noteworthy shift overall is the rapid rise in Christopher Bell from being the most average driver in the model as of 2021 to shooting all the way up to .064 now. Although I would honestly say Bell's still been the slowest driver at Joe Gibbs Racing and his rating for this year is certainly drastically inflated, I don't think he's been very far off Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. overall and he's certainly been a lot better than Kyle Busch in the second half of the season. The main reason he's so inflated this year is the same reason Scott McLaughlin is inflated in my open wheel model. First of all, both drivers haven't been around nearly as long as their teammates, which means the impact of each new teammate comparison carries more weight. More importantly, the fact that Bell, like McLaughlin, was rated basically average entering the year and was far behind his established teammates, meant that if he ever got good enough to match them, he would gain a lot while they lose and that has happened. Bell's teammate records are pretty much 50/50 against all three teammates but I would say he's been a little lucky and I'm not sure that's sustainable.

Other drivers besides Bell who gained considerable ground in the model included Austin Cindric (+.175), which is largely a reflection of how underrated he was because he didn't have a consistent teammate during his Xfinity championship run but also because he's having an absurdly inflated season by the model now, Josh Berry (+.112), who has definitely had a breakout recently but his teammates Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson are still clearly better than him as is reflected by the model, Ryan Ellis (+.107), Chase Briscoe (+.063), who certainly did have a breakout that is sort of like a poor man's version of what Bell did this year, Anthony Alfredo (+.053), Cody Ware (+.043), Bill Seifert (+.036), who had a ratings shift I don't really understand, Jesse Little (+.028), A.J. Allmendinger (+.024), who now for the first time has a higher stock car rating than his open wheel rating, Ryan Preece (+.024), whose increase I don't think all that highly of since it has been entirely a result of minor league races, Scott Heckert (+.023), Ryan Reed (+.019), Bubba Wallace (+.017), Josh Bilicki (+.016), Corey LaJoie (+.016), Matt Mills (+.015), James Davison (+.014), Kaz Grala (+.014), Justin Haley (+.012), Brownie King (+.011), Dylan Lupton (+.010), and Ryan Truex (+.010.) Most of these do make sense since for the most part these are relatively inexperienced drivers who were rookies in the Cup Series in the past couple years and hadn't had a complete career arc yet, but I'll definitely admit some of these drivers, especially the drivers from the mid-20th century like Bill Seifert and Brownie King definitely baffle me. I suspect maybe I miscalculated their ratings on one or the other occasion. Finally, Spencer Boyd shot up massively by .083 despite still being by far and away the lowest-rated driver in the model because he finally beat a teammate for the first time, beating Kaz Grala at the Bristol dirt truck race. He is still clearly the worst driver in the model and no one else is even close as he remains last in both teammate rating and winning percentage.

Only five new drivers who were not already included in the model were added this year. The highest-rated of those is Noah Gragson, who has a rating of -.066, clearly indicating he is ready to make the jump to Cup when you consider he's already ahead of some Chase drivers like Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, and Daniel Suarez, as well as some others who had Chase-caliber speed like Bubba Wallace. The other four are Josh Williams (-.095), Zane Smith (-.125), Ty Gibbs (-.202), and Todd Gilliland (-.215.) One old driver Dexter Bean became eligible for the list because he was teammates to one of the drivers newly added, but he was by far the lowest-rated of these drivers at -.512. Gibbs is probably lower than you likely expect considering how much he's been winning and dominating races, but he is hotheaded and badly struggles with consistency compared to a lot of more veteran teammates who don't have higher peaks. Just this season alone, he has negative records against a bunch of below-average drivers, going 1-4 against Bubba Wallace when combining both Xfinity and Cup starts, 2-4 against Trevor Bayne, and even 1-2 against Ryan Truex. Those are small sample sizes and I think he is clearly better than all three of those drivers (although you can certainly debate Wallace) because his performance is much better than his finishing record. However, since most people are assuming he's going to take over the #18 Cup car and replace Kyle Busch next year, I do think this is enough evidence that he might struggle more than people are expecting (granted, I'm aware he is still 19 years old and will likely improve dramatically in future seasons.) I probably would still not predict that Gragson will beat Gibbs for Rookie of the Year next year mainly because of the car difference. This year in Xfinity, Gibbs has more wins, more points, and a slightly better average finish, but Gragson has a slightly higher average percent led in a faster car. I would say Gibbs has been better, but it hasn't been a massive difference (although when you adjust for age and experience level, it has.) Gragson's Cup appearances have also been arguably better since I don't think Gibbs has yet at a run in Cup comparable to Gragson's Michigan race, even though it resulted in a crash. Although despite what my model says, I still think Gibbs is probably the favorite for ROTY (assuming he takes over the #18 car next year, which I think he will), don't allow your monocles to pop if Gragson somehow upsets him.

The Model

Driver20212022Teammate RecordShared RacesTeammate Winning %
Roger McCluskey0.5210.52020-32386.96
Lee Petty0.4350.43544-186270.97
Tim Flock0.3750.37423-113467.65
Paul Goldsmith0.3330.33229-114072.50
Fonty Flock0.3300.32914-82263.64
Curtis Turner0.3270.32652-136580.00
Bobby Isaac0.3030.3037-81546.67
Fred Lorenzen0.2540.25336-114776.60
Kevin Harvick0.2480.2511488-554204272.87
Jimmie Johnson0.2460.2491063-646170962.20
Richard Petty0.2480.248115-6518063.89
Ned Jarrett0.2420.2419-11090.00
Ron Fellows0.2380.23919-72673.08
Kyle Larson0.2180.226276-13040667.98
Chase Elliott0.2200.224451-28773861.11
Jeff Gordon0.2150.2171084-610169463.99
Buck Baker0.2130.21299-5315265.13
Rex White0.2120.21111-61764.71
A.J. Foyt0.2080.20827-134067.50
Kyle Busch0.2020.2001081-691177261.00
Parnelli Jones0.1930.19219-102965.52
Bob Welborn0.1890.18856-248070.00
Mark Martin0.1850.1871083-694177760.95
Matt Kenseth0.1850.1861185-865205057.80
Carl Edwards0.1830.1851025-664168960.69
Kurt Busch0.1720.173750-565131557.03
Jim Paschal0.1730.17241-327356.16
Denny Hamlin0.1650.163796-616141256.37
Speedy Thompson0.1600.15930-316149.18
Austin Cameron0.1560.15914-31782.35
Sam McQuagg0.1570.1565-51050.00
Martin Truex, Jr.0.1510.153477-34882557.82
Norm Nelson0.1520.15116-324833.33
Junior Johnson0.1480.1476-41060.00
Cole Whitt0.1420.144138-5118973.02
Jack Smith0.1390.13816-173348.48
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.0.1260.128665-640130550.96
Buddy Baker0.1230.12335-316653.03
Jeff Burton0.1200.122845-766161152.45
Jim Hurtubise0.1210.1219-101947.37
Tony Stewart0.1200.121472-38385555.20
Gwyn Staley0.1200.11917-92665.38
Brad Keselowski0.1180.116551-38293359.06
Ryan Newman0.1110.113530-34987960.30
Greg Biffle0.1110.113839-795163451.35
Dale Earnhardt0.1070.10992-2711977.31
Len Sutton0.1050.1058-81650.00
Clint Bowyer0.0960.099604-594119850.42
Ross Chastain0.0780.088275-9937473.53
Kasey Kahne0.0820.087558-510106852.25
Joey Logano0.0890.084559-505106452.54
Alex Bowman0.0690.079216-28550143.11
Chris Buescher0.0640.077227-14136861.68
William Byron0.0730.074237-27851546.02
David Pearson0.0690.06818-102864.29
Christopher Bell0.0000.064142-14128350.18
Ward Burton0.0610.06382-4212466.13
Corey LaJoie0.0420.05844-166073.33
Robby Gordon0.0520.05596-11421045.71
Kevin Swindell0.0440.05313-72065.00
Joe Weatherly0.0530.05224-497332.88
Darel Dieringer0.0500.04914-82263.64
Bobby Labonte0.0460.047215-19941451.93
Fireball Roberts0.0470.04639-428148.15
Ryan Sieg0.0390.04432-134571.11
John Hunter Nemechek0.0550.04429-235255.77
A.J. Allmendinger0.0140.038263-19645957.30
Joe Ruttman0.0310.03260-288868.18
Ralph Moody0.0260.02516-183447.06
Jamie McMurray0.0220.025444-558100244.31
Brennan Poole0.0160.02497-5014765.99
Juan Pablo Montoya0.0160.018138-11925753.70
Eddie Pagan0.0170.0166-61250.00
David Reutimann0.0110.013151-12027155.72
Brian Vickers0.0100.013249-34159042.20
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.0.0080.013236-28952544.95
Marvin Panch0.0110.01016-254139.02
Ryan Blaney0.0110.010303-33063347.87
Tim Richmond0.0080.01024-113568.57
Rusty Wallace0.0050.007155-13128654.20
Nelson Stacy0.0060.0067-121936.84
Jim Inglebright-0.0010.0025-61145.45
Larry Frank0.0000.00132-84080.00
Bill Seifert-0.0360.00024-93372.73
Parker Kligerman-0.0030.00018-153354.55
Bill Elliott-0.005-0.002112-7018261.54
Matt Crafton-0.007-0.004245-15640161.10
Jeff Purvis-0.007-0.00535-225761.40
Frank Mundy-0.005-0.0065-101533.33
Mike Bliss-0.007-0.006166-6022673.45
Rodger Ward-0.007-0.0084-101428.57
Don White-0.009-0.0108-101844.44
Austin Dillon-0.012-0.012391-31971055.07
Jon Wood-0.015-0.01355-6512045.83
Cale Yarborough-0.015-0.01512-31580.00
Jeff Green-0.021-0.018186-15734354.23
Brownie King-0.031-0.0208-31172.73
Aric Almirola-0.025-0.020327-39372045.42
Dale Jarrett-0.024-0.021188-12731559.68
Chad McCumbee-0.024-0.02211-92055.00
Bobby Allison-0.029-0.02432-215360.38
David Gilliland-0.026-0.024192-15134355.98
Justin Allgaier-0.026-0.027384-29668056.47
Possum Jones-0.027-0.0288-202828.57
Bill Amick-0.027-0.0289-112045.00
Trevor Bayne-0.035-0.029156-17733346.85
Sterling Marlin-0.032-0.029228-19041854.55
Regan Smith-0.031-0.03198-17427236.03
Scott Pruett-0.037-0.03512-112352.17
Erik Jones-0.041-0.036204-30851239.84
Ernie Irvan-0.042-0.03827-285549.09
Terry Labonte-0.044-0.042298-46876638.90
Dave Blaney-0.045-0.043112-14225444.09
Michael McDowell-0.047-0.043133-10223556.60
Paul Menard-0.049-0.047477-723120039.75
Owen Kelly-0.050-0.0475-51050.00
Drew Herring-0.051-0.04811-112250.00
Mike Alexander-0.056-0.0507-51258.33
Marcos Ambrose-0.062-0.05486-9418047.78
Tyler Reddick-0.057-0.055119-11423351.07
Hank Parker, Jr.-0.059-0.05641-276860.29
Joe Nemechek-0.060-0.057202-22742947.09
Robert Pressley-0.060-0.05836-235961.02
Ron Hornaday, Jr.-0.069-0.06680-11619640.82
Noah Gragson-0.066180-14832854.88
Casey Mears-0.069-0.067194-35955335.08
Jimmie Lewallen-0.066-0.0677-222924.14
Ben Rhodes-0.074-0.068113-12123448.29
David Ragan-0.070-0.069380-683106335.75
Michael Waltrip-0.072-0.070151-21636741.14
Johnny Allen-0.069-0.0704-71136.36
Stacy Compton-0.072-0.07049-5710646.23
Elliott Sadler-0.076-0.071479-579105845.27
Travis Kvapil-0.070-0.071147-14429150.52
Brad Coleman-0.072-0.0719-172634.62
Landon Cassill-0.045-0.073170-14331354.31
Jack Bowsher-0.073-0.0749-182733.33
Jimmy Massey-0.075-0.0779-162536.00
Steve Park-0.080-0.07871-11919037.37
Tim Sauter-0.081-0.0796-71346.15
John Andretti-0.084-0.082116-8620257.43
Bubba Wallace-0.100-0.08397-9819549.74
Todd Bodine-0.086-0.084198-11831662.66
Jerry Nadeau-0.087-0.08555-10115635.26
Dennis Setzer-0.088-0.08730-316149.18
Chase Briscoe-0.150-0.08797-12722443.30
J.J. Yeley-0.091-0.090219-26248145.53
Reed Sorenson-0.097-0.092230-24447448.52
Ryan Preece-0.117-0.09366-8515143.71
Bobby Hamilton-0.094-0.093100-6316361.35
Daniel Suarez-0.097-0.095149-30945832.53
Josh Williams-0.09520-42483.33
Daniel Hemric-0.082-0.096157-13929653.04
Johnny Benson-0.100-0.098245-22346852.35
Jeremy Mayfield-0.101-0.099109-16627539.64
Cole Custer-0.112-0.099101-18828934.95
Herb Thomas-0.100-0.10113-142748.15
Sam Hornish, Jr.-0.103-0.102102-21331532.38
Scott Wimmer-0.105-0.10342-6510739.25
Ricky Rudd-0.106-0.104115-12323848.32
Ted Musgrave-0.107-0.105157-24540239.05
Jimmy Spencer-0.108-0.10667-6813549.63
Johnny Sauter-0.115-0.107233-27550845.87
Kelly Bires-0.115-0.10823-275046.00
Dick Hutcherson-0.108-0.1094-121625.00
Justin Haley-0.122-0.11087-10919644.39
Brett Bodine-0.112-0.11014-82263.64
Tiny Lund-0.111-0.1125-131827.78
Harry Gant-0.118-0.11515-52075.00
Dylan Lupton-0.128-0.1187-61353.85
Neil Castles-0.121-0.12219-405932.20
Tony Raines-0.124-0.12354-5010451.92
Zane Smith-0.12531-326349.21
Gray Gaulding-0.133-0.12639-347353.42
Bobby Hamilton, Jr.-0.135-0.13319-193850.00
Brett Moffitt-0.121-0.13556-7413043.08
Matt DiBenedetto-0.139-0.136104-18528935.99
Bobby Hillin, Jr.-0.136-0.13830-407042.86
Josh Berry-0.251-0.13941-539443.62
Jay Sauter-0.146-0.1416-61250.00
Billy Myers-0.142-0.1422-81020.00
Mike Dillon-0.150-0.1484-303411.76
Ryan Truex-0.159-0.14932-528438.10
Bayley Currey-0.145-0.15131-255655.36
Benny Parsons-0.153-0.15129-194860.42
Todd Kluever-0.155-0.15433-9512825.78
Austin Cindric-0.330-0.15549-7612539.20
Jason Keller-0.159-0.15659-7513444.03
Danica Patrick-0.158-0.15785-37045518.68
David Stremme-0.158-0.15794-13322741.41
Mike Skinner-0.162-0.160140-21835839.11
Rick Mast-0.161-0.16011-92055.00
Kyle Petty-0.161-0.160137-22736437.64
Jabe Thomas-0.164-0.16514-112556.00
Randy LaJoie-0.170-0.16847-489549.47
P.J. Jones-0.171-0.1707-81546.67
Kevin Lepage-0.173-0.17295-20029532.20
Ty Dillon-0.171-0.172206-21041649.52
Casey Atwood-0.174-0.17244-519546.32
Darrell Waltrip-0.175-0.173145-13127652.54
Ken Schrader-0.176-0.174180-28646638.63
Scott Riggs-0.179-0.175100-15325339.53
Chad Little-0.179-0.177103-24534829.60
Andrew Ranger-0.102-0.17734-316552.31
Kenny Wallace-0.180-0.178107-14224942.97
Jason Leffler-0.181-0.179116-20732335.91
Maurice Petty-0.179-0.1791-13147.14
Kyle Weatherman-0.183-0.18613-162944.83
Jason White-0.188-0.1878-91747.06
Jesse Little-0.215-0.18746-267263.89
Timmy Hill-0.187-0.19030-245455.56
Timothy Peters-0.192-0.19144-6010442.31
Blake Koch-0.195-0.19445-388354.22
Scott Heckert-0.218-0.19520-274742.55
Chuck Bown-0.197-0.1967-192626.92
Geoff Bodine-0.199-0.19676-10017643.18
Wally Dallenbach, Jr.-0.202-0.20028-10613420.90
D.J. Kennington-0.125-0.20234-387247.22
Ty Gibbs-0.20219-254443.18
David Green-0.207-0.20491-14123239.22
Nelson Piquet, Jr.-0.208-0.20529-8311225.89
Erik Darnell-0.208-0.20732-8211428.07
Boris Said-0.210-0.20814-223638.89
Jack Sprague-0.212-0.21013-183141.94
Cody Ware-0.255-0.21254-419556.84
Harrison Rhodes-0.217-0.21523-456833.82
Ken Rush-0.214-0.2153-202313.04
Todd Gilliland-0.21529-447339.73
Dick Trickle-0.220-0.21610-152540.00
Ricky Craven-0.219-0.21724-638727.59
Curtis Crider-0.218-0.2185-61145.45
Mike McLaughlin-0.221-0.21948-6711541.74
Greg Sacks-0.221-0.21912-162842.86
Matt Tifft-0.225-0.22462-12218433.70
Billy Wade-0.224-0.2243-111421.43
Steve Wallace-0.228-0.22662-5711952.10
Scott Speed-0.230-0.22726-537932.91
George Green-0.225-0.2344-81233.33
Chad Finchum-0.225-0.24012-122450.00
Ray Black, Jr.-0.246-0.24120-264643.48
David Starr-0.245-0.24595-9819349.22
Cecil Gordon-0.216-0.24610-213132.26
Kaz Grala-0.261-0.24740-579741.24
Harrison Burton-0.189-0.24755-12317830.90
Brian Scott-0.250-0.250138-28842632.39
Elton Sawyer-0.253-0.25015-223740.54
Mike Wallace-0.249-0.25132-589035.56
Austin Theriault-0.255-0.2536-131931.58
Chad Chaffin-0.256-0.25428-376543.08
Anthony Alfredo-0.310-0.25725-416637.88
Hermie Sadler-0.266-0.26231-659632.29
Patrick Carpentier-0.268-0.2639-314022.50
Ryan Reed-0.284-0.26565-18124626.42
Andy Houston-0.272-0.27012-203237.50
Michael Annett-0.275-0.270142-35950128.34
Hut Stricklin-0.272-0.2709-283724.32
Jeb Burton-0.275-0.27268-14621431.78
James Davison-0.288-0.27428-336145.90
Tim Fedewa-0.283-0.28175-12920436.76
Garrett Smithley-0.294-0.287114-19831236.54
Josh Wise-0.294-0.29116-486425.00
Alex Kennedy-0.272-0.2964-101428.57
Shane Hmiel-0.298-0.29611-182937.93
Matt Mills-0.313-0.29823-305343.40
T.J. Bell-0.301-0.30013-253834.21
Allen Adkins-0.301-0.3024-61040.00
B.J. McLeod-0.305-0.30374-10417841.57
Will Kimmel-0.317-0.3168-111942.11
Dave Marcis-0.322-0.3175-61145.45
Brendan Gaughan-0.318-0.318163-34550832.09
Buckshot Jones-0.320-0.31810-243429.41
Frank Kimmel-0.312-0.3267-142133.33
Joey Gase-0.344-0.33858-8714540.00
Stephen Leicht-0.345-0.34225-497433.78
Steve Grissom-0.349-0.34810-192934.48
Neil Bonnett-0.353-0.35221-416233.87
Jeffrey Earnhardt-0.348-0.35233-8111428.95
Kerry Earnhardt-0.364-0.3624-38429.52
Kenny Irwin, Jr.-0.367-0.36311-556616.67
Justin Marks-0.370-0.3678-455315.09
Terry Cook-0.375-0.3748-142236.36
Robert Richardson, Jr.-0.376-0.3754-91330.77
Max Papis-0.378-0.37719-476628.79
Ryan Ellis-0.496-0.3898-182630.77
Phil Parsons-0.393-0.3918-253324.24
Wendell Scott-0.396-0.3955-61145.45
Brent Sherman-0.400-0.3974-141822.22
Patty Moise-0.400-0.3982-81020.00
Dario Franchitti-0.404-0.4002-131513.33
Quin Houff-0.423-0.4163-121520.00
Don Gray-0.421-0.4215-141926.32
Spencer Gallagher-0.434-0.4276-303616.67
Josh Bilicki-0.446-0.43040-10814827.03
Bill Lester-0.434-0.43230-12615619.23
Kevin Conway-0.436-0.4355-364112.20
Earl Brooks-0.460-0.4566-111735.29
Eric McClure-0.471-0.47018-15116910.65
Willy T. Ribbs-0.482-0.4811-23244.17
Donald Thomas-0.499-0.4992-111315.38
Derrike Cope-0.500-0.5005-212619.23
Dexter Bean-0.5121-11128.33
Shep Langdon-0.552-0.5532-20229.09
Jacques Villeneuve-0.570-0.5741-13147.14
Hershel McGriff-0.580-0.5802-131513.33
Spencer Boyd-0.809-0.7261-50511.96

2022 Stock Car Driver Ratings

Even though Kyle Larson is the highest-rated driver in my model this year, his teammate Chase Elliott has absolutely been better. Although that is mainly reflected in Elliott's greater dominance, consistency, and passing numbers, he also has a narrow 10-9 lead over Larson this year in his shared teammate record as well. So how come Larson is actually rated higher? It's mainly because Larson has a 13-4 record against Alex Bowman while Elliott's record is only 11-8. That's not nearly enough for me to say Larson has had the better season. He hasn't. It's just a reflection of how an individual season isn't nearly enough for luck imbalances to equalize. Larson has been fairly lucky as far as my model is concerned that his lower finishes happened to be DNFs while Elliott tended to finish most of the races where he didn't finish well, which created some weird skews here. Elliott has been better.

Christopher Bell has absolutely not been the second driver this year but he has been a major benefactor of the fact that Denny Hamlin has been arguably the most unlucky driver this season in addition to Kyle Busch having one of the biggest collapses of his career as his contract negotiations went south (he actually led the 2022 stock car ratings for this year several months ago.) It's not very common for non-Cup seasons to appear in the top five, but A.J. Allmendinger has been really killing it: he is so much higher than Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs, and Justin Allgaier that I would still say he's had the best Xfinity season this year even though the other three were much more dominant. Think of it this way: for all that Daniel Hemric got criticized last year for never winning a race before the championship finale, he actually beat Gibbs in his teammate head-to-head and had a higher average percent led than Gibbs did. This year, Allmendinger is dunking on Hemric 14-3 and Landon Cassill 13-4 in Xfinity, and Justin Haley 8-2 in Cup. All of these are well above what an average driver would do against those drivers, and it's not as if any of those drivers aren't veterans at this point (although I'll grant that Haley is still relatively inexperienced in Cup.) I'm starting to think this may indeed be the best season of Allmendinger's NASCAR career, although a lot of people would say 2010 instead. Hemric had a genuinely strong year in 2021 and his championship rival Austin Cindric left the series, but Hemric has done nothing this year while Dinger is still winning. However, he isn't the all-time best road course driver in NASCAR history, guys.

Even though the Stewart-Haas equipment continues to get slower and slower, Kevin Harvick still remains a machine and continues to dominate his teammates, but it really seems like he's not going to do so for much longer as it really feels like Chase Briscoe is poised to overtake him soon and Cole Custer's been better than he looks. Ross Chastain was a few weeks ago as high as second but has since dropped to sixth. The problem with drivers like Chastain and his teammate Daniel Suárez is that both of them are genuinely peaking at the same time, so both of them are generally outperforming their expectations, which means their performances by these ratings can't be entirely accurate since they're also including their results in weaker years. Since they have only one full-time teammate each, these results are extremely zero-sum so Suárez ends up being far lower rated than he should be in the model as a result.

Chris Buescher has been one of the biggest curiosities of my model since I initially developed it. He was one of the top ten highest-rated Cup drivers in each of the last three seasons and was actually the highest-rated Cup driver of 2021 because he dominated a washed-up Ryan Newman. It seemed like Brad Keselowski would pose a formidable challenge to him since he has been a prolific winner and Buescher has not and he was also higher-rated in my model. Most people expected Keselowski to utterly dominate Buescher due to past history, but I was not so sure. Based on my model, I felt that Keselowski would be better but Buescher would be close. I did not expect Buescher to regularly outperform him, and since the lower-rated driver entering the season is narrowly winning their head-to-head (and Keselowski also finished behind Zane Smith on his debut), there is a large distance between them, which seemingly continues to justify Buescher's rating from previous years (he even went up in the model this time, which I was not expecting.)

Unfortunately, this does nothing to resolve what is currently the biggest flaw of my stock car model: the underrating of the Penske drivers. When you look at any advanced statistics, particularly those that take differences in equipment strength into account, Ryan Blaney usually ranks in the top five, often in the top three. My model seems to consistently rate him as an average driver and despite how strong his season has been, he actually went down this time unlike Bell who has skyrocketed. I think I know why. In his early seasons before he was good, Brad Keselowski had terrible records against the Hendrick drivers: going 1-8 vs. Jimmie Johnson and 0-9 vs. Jeff Gordon. In his early Penske seasons, he went 25-40 against Kurt Busch, even losing the head-to-head against Busch in 2011 despite winning more races and finishing higher in points (Busch definitely outperformed him that year, but Keselowski's breakout was enough for Penske to justify firing Busch after his outburst even though he was still the better driver.) Similarly, Joey Logano was utterly blown out by Kyle Busch 150-34 and Denny Hamlin 94-42. At Penske, Keselowski and Logano were extremely evenly matched with each other with Logano only barely winning that matchup 142-139 but most of the time they didn't have any other teammates. I eventually added in the drivers of the #21 car as teammates to the Penske cars because the Wood Brothers car has in recent years been run out of the Penske shop and prepared like a team car. However, that meant Blaney was being compared to Keselowski and Logano in his early years in the #21 car before he was as good as he is now, and Keselowski and Logano themselves were already rated as second-tier according to the model because they had gotten blown out by their truly elite teammates earlier in their career. Blaney was 71-128 against Keselowski and 72-123 against Logano and Keselowski and Logano were not judged as elite according to the model. See the problem here? Because both Keselowski and Logano got better together at the same time, similarly to Chastain and Suárez, they both ended up being significantly underrated. Although I think they're overrated in general, I would certainly not put Keselowski in the same tier as Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle and I would not put Logano in the same tier as Kahne and Alex Bowman and even behind Clint Bowyer. Basically, all the Penske drivers in this model should be taken with a grain of salt. And this year hasn't helped things. I hoped that once Keselowski got matched up with Chris Buescher he would outperform his expectation and give him a more reasonable career rating, which would help resolve this issue. Unfortunately, that did not happen as Buescher has actually outperformed his expectation, which hurts Blaney even more. Insanely, Austin Cindric ends up being the highest-rated Penske driver in the model while both Blaney and Logano, who have had very good to great seasons, are slightly below average because Cindric has been arguably the luckiest driver this year and is actually tied with Blaney in their season head-to-head, which is insane to me, and only barely behind Logano. That does not reflect how their seasons have gone at all, but until Cindric's luck runs out, this (incorrect) trend looks like it might continue. Probably with time, all these ratings will eventually resolve themselves, but in the case of Penske, it looks like it's definitely going to take years or even a decade. Just ignore any Penske drivers in my model.

My choice to do a model based on finishes instead of performance has its benefits and its weaknesses. The benefits are that it allows me to include data for the entirety of major league stock car history and also include data from minor league and non-NASCAR series, and I find that very valuable, particularly since I am more interested in historical comparisons more than current ones, unlike a lot of other analysts. But don't get me wrong: I totally acknowledge that the finish is merely the final data point in a race, albeit the most important one, and when there are performance-based metrics available, especially in the loop data era for NASCAR, I do consider them more accurate than these teammate comparisons. As I said in the previous article, a single season (even a single NASCAR season, which has substantially more races than an open wheel season) is not a long enough period for luck to even out (it's even worse in a ten-race Chase, especially a winner-take-all finale.) As a result, there will always be bizarre discrepancies this year and besides the Penske drivers, the most notable ones here are William Byron and Tyler Reddick. Although you might think Byron has run worse this year than he has last year and I'd probably agree, the difference has been negligible. Byron has been extremely unlucky to not get top ten finishes but he's been dominating more races to compensate for that and in my opinion dominance predicts future success more than consistency does (consistent drivers who hardly ever led like Ted Musgrave ended up not winning while erratic drivers who either ran well or busted like Jerry Nadeau tended to; Nadeau is also higher rated in my model.) If Byron had not increased his dominance from last year and had a significant decline in finishing results, that would matter. However, his dominance increased by about as much as his consistency declined, which suggests more of a change in strategy to focus exclusively on winning (which is smart for a win-and-in chase) as well as an absurd bad luck streak. As I said earlier, this is sort of a bizarre mirror image of last year when he had that long top ten streak at a time he was hardly leading. We've seen this happen before. In 1984, Dale Earnhardt was very consistent and even led the points for a little while despite leading far less than he did in the surrounding seasons; the next year, he was way more dominant but erratic. The year after that, he managed to combine the consistency of 1984 with the dominance of 1985 and thus his dynasty was born. Could something similar happen with Byron next year? It's definitely something to think about.

The other driver who has been hurt even worse by my model's idiosyncrasies has been Tyler Reddick. Ever since I abruptly switched my focus from dominance and passing statistics to teammate comparisons in the past year or two, Reddick has probably become the model's biggest test and failing, maybe even more than Blaney. Several of the other members of the TRC Discord where I post started counting teammate head-to-heads themselves the same way I do it excluding DNFs for both drivers and it's become a running joke there that Reddick has had a losing record to Austin Dillon for pretty much the entire season even though Reddick is actually third in average percent led right now and has absolutely been one of the most dominant drivers of the year. Reddick clearly outperforms Dillon about 80% of the time yet is still losing the head-to-head 10-7 for this year. Reddick has essentially made the same year-by-year transition that Byron has made in that he is way more dominant than he was last year when both drivers were more or less consistency robots who did not lead much until their relative breakouts in the second half of the year. However, both drivers have been way less consistent to compensate. Byron ended up substantially higher in the model here just because his teammates Larson, Elliott, and Bowman are all well above average so that limited how low he could go despite his bad luck. Unfortunately, Reddick's teammate Dillon is below average, which means Reddick certainly rivals Blaney and Suárez as one of the absolutely most underrated drivers in the model. Fortunately, I think this is the one that is most likely to correct itself as the sample size increases. Blaney is hurt because he had so many races alongside Keselowski and Logano, who were also underrated. Suárez is hurt because he and Chastain are peaking at the same time. Reddick is clearly going up while Dillon is going down. If Reddick stays at Childress for 2023 and is not released from his contract early, I expect Reddick to utterly dominate Dillon in both consistency and dominance next year and then finally he'll be an above-average rated driver in the model like he deserves (or at least close.) I especially think that because Dillon's secret weapon Justin Alexander, who I think might be the strongest strategic crew chief in the entire series and responsible for so many races where Dillon finished much better than he ran, is leaving and Dillon will likely crash down to earth and stop finishing better than he runs without him. Reddick will never have an accurate rating for this year but don't get me wrong: he's been top eight on performance at least and probably slightly higher.

Michael McDowell has been hyped massively across the NASCAR media all year as one of the series's biggest underdogs because he got a string of top ten finishes for a Front Row Motorsports team that historically did not get such finishes. However, this is a mirage. McDowell's rating of -0.065 is actually his lowest-rated of his five Front Row Motorsports seasons despite how much hype he's getting this year. The other four years were all better. You cannot say the same thing for him that you can say for Byron and Reddick and Blaney because while all of them tend to finish worse than they run, McDowell tends to finish better than he runs. If his runs were more commensurate with his finishes, he would probably lose to Todd Gilliland more often than he currently does and would actually be even lower. McDowell (like most of the drivers his age who aren't as fast in the Next Gen car like Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr., etc...) is actually a driver in decline. He seems better this year because he managed to back into a lot of top ten finishes after bad luck happened to drivers like Byron and Reddick and also Hamlin, and also because the glut of road courses meant he's had more races suitable to his past open wheel and sports car experience. However, what this neglects is that Gilliland has been running well on the road courses too, especially lately. He led by a wide margin in the rain at Watkins Glen. No doubt that probably in part has something to do with McDowell's setups, but Gilliland has actually been closer to McDowell than Anthony Alfredo was last year, and Alfredo is not rated much below Gilliland in the model (although I'll grant that Gilliland is probably underrated in the model himself.) In short: don't be expecting McDowell on my top 200 list. This is the stupidest NASCAR narrative since Ryan Newman, the hardest driver to pass.

Kyle Larson0.257
Christopher Bell0.231
Chase Elliott0.229
A.J. Allmendinger0.215
Kevin Harvick0.212
Ross Chastain0.183
Kyle Busch0.144
Chris Buescher0.142
Alex Bowman0.129
Martin Truex, Jr.0.125
Kurt Busch0.110
Corey LaJoie0.078
Denny Hamlin0.074
Austin Cindric0.025
Brad Keselowski0.017
Erik Jones0.016
Bubba Wallace0.013
William Byron0.009
Austin Dillon0.003
Chase Briscoe0.002
Ryan Blaney-0.005
Joey Logano-0.005
Noah Gragson-0.038
Aric Almirola-0.039
Michael McDowell-0.065
Cody Ware-0.066
Josh Berry-0.069
Matt Crafton-0.075
Ben Rhodes-0.077
Daniel Hemric-0.079
Tyler Reddick-0.100
Justin Haley-0.131
Cole Custer-0.134
Brett Moffitt-0.139
J.J. Yeley-0.163
Ty Dillon-0.190
Daniel Suarez-0.190
Todd Gilliland-0.194
Justin Allgaier-0.225
Ty Gibbs-0.233
Anthony Alfredo-0.242
Landon Cassill-0.267
Jeb Burton-0.284
Harrison Burton-0.320
Kaz Grala-0.329
Josh Bilicki-0.392
Spencer Boyd-0.641

While I obviously know my biggest priority needs to be finding another job, I'm sure in the late evenings I won't be able to help myself and will continue calculating things. Now that I have caught both the open wheel model and the stock car model up to date, I think I want to recalculate all the year-by-year ratings for the stock car model back to 1992 (the first year where I think the stock car ratings have some accuracy) and then I want to make a spreadsheet of all those year-by-year ratings for each driver by age to calculate an age curve for both my open wheel and stock car models, that I can then apply to correct the weird discrepancies that inevitably emerged in my models like Chris Buescher being the highest-rated Cup driver last year by blowing out a washed-up Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch being the highest-rated Cup driver the year before by blowing out a washed-up Matt Kenseth, and Esteban Ocon being the highest-rated F1 driver right now for basically matching a Fernando Alonso who has significantly declined. That will probably be my next project, but I've also already started a touring car model and I'm not sure which I'll do first. Somebody slap me in the head if you see too many more columns from me in the near future because that will indicate that I'm not doing my due diligence in finding a job, but at this point in my unemployment and depression, this is almost the only thing I'm enjoying.

Sean Wrona is the Managing Editor of racermetrics.com, the Webmaster of race-database.com, and the winner of the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin. He earned a master's in applied statistics from Cornell University in 2008 and previously digitized several seasons of NBA box scores on basketball-reference.com. He released his first book, Nerds Per Minute: A History of Competitive Typing, in 2021. You may contact him at sean.wrona@gmail.com.