Racermetrics race-database.com

Head to Head NASCAR Teammate Records

by Sean Wrona

I haven't done a column in a while as I've been focusing on my simultaneous typing history book and I decided I wanted to go in a different direction this time. Although I still plan on going through the year-by-year lead change statistics for Formula One and IndyCar and have some other stuff on tap too including a subjective ratings system for seasons, which I plan on using to evaluate historical careers, I decided I wanted to do something a bit more objective this time.

A number of people criticized me for caring too much about on-track passes for the lead and not enough about the actual result as if I believe the terminal natural leader in a race always had a better race than the winner. I certainly wouldn't make that case. There have been plenty of road course races where drivers like Michael Schumacher and Scott Dixon have stayed in a close 2nd place before jumping the previous leader in the pits because they had faster in and out laps; that does take skill. Obviously if the leader makes a mistake, hits the wall, runs off track, or the like, the winner had a superior race. Especially if a driver beats the previous leader on a green flag pit cycle and holds off faster cars for the rest of the race, as we saw from Josef Newgarden's Texas win it is impressive. The TNL is merely another statistic to consider to determine who had the most pace in the race, and sometimes I would say the TNL was more impressive than the winner and sometimes I would not depending on the nature and context of the individual race. For instance, rookie Felix Rosenqvist has now already earned 2 TNLs while fellow rookie Colton Herta has none despite winning in Austin (and surprisingly Santino Ferrucci has one too.) I would not say Rosenqvist had the best race at St. Petersburg because the more experienced veterans Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Will Power, beat him straight up on a green-flag pit cycle, but I would say Rosenqvist was more impressive than Dixon at Mid-Ohio last weekend because he managed to lose a caution-free race in a photo finish despite pitting three times to Dixon's two. Every race is not the same and every race has to be judged differently. Regardless considering both the TNL and the winner gives a broader perspective of who was strong in a race than the winner alone. There's naturally a bit of subjectivity to it considering not everyone agrees which passes should count and which should not.

However, this time I'm going to be doing something more completely objective that I haven't seen much elsewhere. Once again I was inspired by F1metrics's list of the greatest drivers in F1 history, which has probably influenced me more than any other column ever written both positively and negatively. It influenced my ranking of the top 100 IndyCar drivers in history in the sense that my list made too many mistakes. While I generally think I had the right drivers, I tended to rate drivers with short dominant careers too highly and drivers with longer but somewhat less dominant careers too lowly, even if they posted greater career stats. The F1metrics list definitely caused me to think too much in terms of short-term peak and not enough in terms of an extended run of success.

One thing I have definitely been putting more emphasis on recently after reading the F1metrics analyses is that one of the most important measures of driving talent is one's head-to-head record vs. one's teammates. While people generally agree with this on principle, few people have actually tried to calculate it outside Formula One, where such analyses are common. F1metrics did not list all the teammate head-to-heads but did mention them when applicable for its top 60 drivers to make it clear where the rankings come from. F1metrics counted all races where neither driver had a mechanical DNF, but also counted races where drivers were judged as responsible for their own DNFs, which is a view I find fairly controversial. Determining which driver was responsible for a wreck in a situation where two drivers make contact is often a highly debatable and subjective judgment. Similarly, a large number of wrecks are caused by mechanical failures or sheer dumb luck. Some drivers get collected in wrecks that are unavoidable (IndyCar's track-blocking street course crashes or NASCAR's Big Ones for example; this is somewhat less true in Formula One where the cars are usually more spread out but there are unavoidable crashes everywhere.) I understand the counterargument that drivers make their own luck. Generally, drivers who qualify better will be in front of the cars that will be more likely to make mistakes and can therefore avoid crashes more readily, but this is in part crediting them for how well they qualify than their actual ability to avoid crashes. Obviously drivers in less reliable cars will often be more likely to crash as well unless they are conservative drivers who do not take risks and overdrive above the level of their equipment. Personally, I think F1metrics tends to overrate drivers who finish consistently but rarely fight for the lead as a result.

I honestly think judging which drivers were responsible for their crashes and which were not is far more subjective than even judging whether lead changes are natural or not, which is usually a lot more straightforward. Generally, people who attempt to do this like F1metrics and David Smith with his crash frequency statistic, count every driver who was involved in a crash as equally responsible, but anybody watching a race knows that is not the case. I believe there is too much of a luck element in crashing that can't be gotten rid of easily, particularly when you consider that mechanical failures, especially tire failures, often cause crashes. My personal opinion on DNFs is that while there are certainly drivers who crash more and are more reckless than others, that is already reflected in the points standings (often too much in series that reward consistency too much as NASCAR does, or at least did historically.)

As usual, I'm more interested in who had the faster race pace, so I've decided for my analysis to remove all races where either driver DNFed for any reason because I believe that is the best way to tell which teammate had a historical advantage over the other when removing luck as much as possible. That's not to say I agree with all my results, but they can lead to a much different perspective than the conventional perspective nonetheless when you see who had the greater race pace versus who had the greater finishing results, which is much easier to determine. When I did this analysis for IndyCar, a work already in progress, I discovered that Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy were tied with a 19-19 record. Each of them finished ahead of the other in 19 races where neither of them DNFed. This implies that Tracy was just as fast as Franchitti but Franchitti outperformed him for other reasons (primarily because Tracy crashed much more.) I'm not going to say Franchitti wasn't better than Tracy (he was), but I think their tied record by this metric means they are conventionally closer than people think. Similarly, in the NASCAR list that follows, Ernie Irvan actually came closer to matching Dale Jarrett than Ricky Rudd did, which is not what I think most people would expect. After all, Jarrett beat Irvan by a substantially greater margin in the points standings than he beat Rudd, but Irvan arguably came closer to matching his race pace (in an era when Jarrett was running stronger, no less) and Rudd's main advantage is simply that he crashed less. I do think this may change perceptions on some drivers.

I am starting with NASCAR first because there are simply fewer teammate comparisons out there because for most of NASCAR's history prior to the mid-'90s. I figured it would take me significantly longer to complete the IndyCar and Formula One lists since teammates have been more commonplace there for longer, although I have done a lot of the work for IndyCar already as well, including most of the CART and IRL/IndyCar eras. I have decided to only list sets of teammates where both teammates were entered and finished five or more races against each other; that meant there were 432 teammate comparisons in total. Generally speaking, which driver wins each head-to-head is predictable, but there are definitely exceptions. Many of the all-time legends had relatively few teammates and not always at the pinnacle of their career (as was the case for Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace), so they are harder to evaluate, but for drivers from the past 25 years especially, it should be fairly possible to use these data directly to come up with an overall objective ranking for recent drivers. I will be doing IndyCar and Formula One next, and those will probably be the next two columns. I realize I've been doing too much subjective material and this is one of the most objective analyses I thought of that I could do that would be meaningful that I haven't seen elsewhere.

The main criticism most people would have with regard to this analysis would probably be that the cars within a team are not and cannot be equal, such as the argument that the Hendrick #25 car was "cursed" after Tim Richmond was replaced. I do not believe anything like that is ever particularly the case, but merely believe that Ken Schrader, Ricky Craven, Randy LaJoie, Wally Dallenbach, Jerry Nadeau, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, and Casey Mears were not as good as Geoff Bodine, Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch, which is not exactly a hard argument to make. Perhaps surprisingly, Ken Schrader actually comes out quite well here for his Hendrick-era period, beating Bodine and coming a lot closer to Rudd and Waltrip than I think most would expect. While obviously not all teams will precisely have the same chassis in each car and different drivers will have different feels for slightly different chassis and car setups and the like, I don't tend to buy the conspiracy theory stuff you'll often see. Very rarely do drivers seen as inferior actually lead a head-to-head match up against great teammates in their prime. I don't doubt there are some instances where one driver gets more attention than another within a team, but I also believe if a team favors one driver over another, it will favor the driver who is more likely to run well. Any team that did not do this would be hurting their eventual results over time. Hence it's possible that some wildly unbalanced matchups might be less unbalanced in IROC cars or something, but it still wouldn't change the result of the matchup.

Obviously more than just head-to-head finishing records matters. For instance, there are certain head-to-heads that surprised me and I wouldn't say the driver who came out on the losing end of the head-to-head was outperformed. Mark Martin beat Carl Edwards here but in the races where Martin and Edwards were teammates, I would say Edwards outperformed Martin since he fought for the lead a lot more. These factors matter too, and there are probably some drivers who are overrated by their head-to-head comparisons and others who are underrated, but I do think this is something not many people have looked at (except for Formula One fans) and something worth adapting to other series.

These data are updated through the July 28, 2019 NASCAR race at Pocono.

Mike Alexander - 7Bobby Hillin - 5
Justin Allgaier - 20Michael Annett - 8
Bobby Allison - 27Bobby Hillin - 18
A.J. Allmendinger - 20Marcos Ambrose - 14
A.J. Allmendinger - 32Chris Buescher - 23
A.J. Allmendinger - 17Paul Menard - 14
A.J. Allmendinger - 47Elliott Sadler - 21
A.J. Allmendinger - 20Reed Sorenson - 14
Aric Almirola - 46Marcos Ambrose - 43
Aric Almirola - 26Sam Hornish - 7
Aric Almirola - 9Paul Menard - 7
Aric Almirola - 4Elliott Sadler - 1
Aric Almirola - 20Brian Scott - 6
Aric Almirola - 12Daniel Suarez - 6
Aric Almirola - 7Regan Smith - 2
John Andretti - 7Steve Grissom - 4
John Andretti - 5Jerry Nadeau - 3
John Andretti - 15Buckshot Jones - 6
John Andretti - 65Kyle Petty - 37
Michael Annett - 19Reed Sorenson - 7
Buck Baker - 17Buddy Baker - 9
Buck Baker - 23Neil Castles - 6
Buck Baker - 3Tim Flock - 2
Buck Baker - 4Marvin Panch - 2
Buck Baker - 8Jack Smith - 5
Buck Baker - 6Herb Thomas - 4
Buck Baker - 21Speedy Thompson - 11
Buddy Baker - 14Neil Castles - 1
Johnny Benson - 8Ted Musgrave - 6
Johnny Benson - 5Jerry Nadeau - 0
Johnny Benson - 47Ken Schrader - 13
Johnny Benson - 4Mike Skinner - 2
Johnny Benson - 5Mike Wallace - 1
Greg Biffle - 36Trevor Bayne - 25
Greg Biffle - 76Jamie McMurray - 40
Greg Biffle - 107David Ragan - 47
Greg Biffle - 71Ricky Stenhouse - 57
Dave Blaney - 6Jeremy Mayfield - 1
Dave Blaney - 4David Reutimann - 3
Dave Blaney - 18Michael Waltrip - 6
Dave Blaney - 16J.J. Yeley - 8
Brett Bodine - 7Elton Sawyer - 2
Geoff Bodine - 7Benny Parsons - 5
Alex Bowman - 24William Byron - 19
Alex Bowman - 30Jimmie Johnson - 28
Alex Bowman - 9Ryan Truex - 4
Alex Bowman - 3J.J. Yeley - 2
Clint Bowyer - 25Aric Almirola - 19
Clint Bowyer - 26Michael Annett - 3
Clint Bowyer - 30Kurt Busch - 25
Clint Bowyer - 20Mark Martin - 11
Clint Bowyer - 23Casey Mears - 12
Clint Bowyer - 19Paul Menard - 9
Clint Bowyer - 5Brett Moffitt - 2
Clint Bowyer - 18Danica Patrick - 5
Clint Bowyer - 12David Ragan - 5
Clint Bowyer - 13Daniel Suarez - 6
Clint Bowyer - 35Martin Truex, Jr. - 27
Clint Bowyer - 29Brian Vickers - 18
Clint Bowyer - 10Michael Waltrip - 2
Chris Buescher - 18Landon Cassill - 13
Chris Buescher - 12Ryan Preece - 2
Chris Buescher - 3Cole Whitt - 3
Jeff Burton - 45Johnny Benson - 7
Jeff Burton - 22Greg Biffle - 18
Jeff Burton - 102Clint Bowyer - 90
Jeff Burton - 9Robby Gordon - 3
Jeff Burton - 21Dave Blaney - 10
Jeff Burton - 57Kevin Lepage - 4
Jeff Burton - 67Matt Kenseth - 66
Jeff Burton - 69Chad Little - 14
Jeff Burton - 20Casey Mears - 13
Jeff Burton - 46Ted Musgrave - 25
Ward Burton - 40Dave Blaney - 10
Ward Burton - 8Hut Stricklin - 5
Ward Burton - 22Kenny Wallace - 10
Kurt Busch - 21Aric Almirola - 10
Kurt Busch - 50Greg Biffle - 32
Kurt Busch - 58Jeff Burton - 46
Kurt Busch - 25Carl Edwards - 15
Kurt Busch - 61Sam Hornish - 23
Kurt Busch - 40Brad Keselowski - 24
Kurt Busch - 10Kyle Larson - 6
Kurt Busch - 72Mark Martin - 70
Kurt Busch - 45Ryan Newman - 38
Kurt Busch - 92Danica Patrick - 15
Kurt Busch - 53Tony Stewart - 23
Kurt Busch - 20David Stremme - 4
Kyle Busch - 27Carl Edwards - 20
Kyle Busch - 176Denny Hamlin - 153
Kyle Busch - 38Erik Jones - 12
Kyle Busch - 75Matt Kenseth - 59
Kyle Busch - 9Terry Labonte - 3
Kyle Busch - 84Joey Logano - 38
Kyle Busch - 19Casey Mears - 14
Kyle Busch - 20Tony Stewart - 11
Kyle Busch - 45Daniel Suarez - 14
Kyle Busch - 31Brian Vickers - 29
Landon Cassill - 10Alex Kennedy - 3
Landon Cassill - 8David Stremme - 0
Ross Chastain - 15Reed Sorenson - 2
Ricky Craven - 5Andy Houston - 3
Matt DiBenedetto - 14Jeb Burton - 8
Matt DiBenedetto - 13David Ragan - 12
Matt DiBenedetto - 14J.J. Yeley - 12
Austin Dillon - 3Jeff Burton - 2
Austin Dillon - 4Ty Dillon - 3
Austin Dillon - 10Daniel Hemric - 7
Austin Dillon - 68Paul Menard - 60
Austin Dillon - 8Brian Scott - 3
Dale Earnhardt - 85Mike Skinner - 26
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 10John Andretti - 2
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 6Jeff Green - 1
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 99Kasey Kahne - 60
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 4Brad Keselowski - 3
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 20Casey Mears - 9
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 24Paul Menard - 3
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 47Steve Park - 33
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 37Martin Truex, Jr. - 20
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 10Kenny Wallace - 4
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 87Michael Waltrip - 46
Carl Edwards - 197Greg Biffle - 133
Carl Edwards - 90Jamie McMurray - 30
Carl Edwards - 136David Ragan - 26
Carl Edwards - 48Ricky Stenhouse - 19
Bill Elliott - 18Casey Atwood - 12
Bill Elliott - 17Sterling Marlin - 7
Bill Elliott - 33Jeremy Mayfield - 29
Bill Elliott - 9Jerry Nadeau - 0
Bill Elliott - 9Jimmy Spencer - 7
Bill Elliott - 16Hut Stricklin - 3
Chase Elliott - 38Alex Bowman - 16
Chase Elliott - 30William Byron - 12
Chase Elliott - 27Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 16
Chase Elliott - 63Jimmie Johnson - 45
Chase Elliott - 40Kasey Kahne - 22
Bob Flock - 3Tim Flock - 3
Fonty Flock - 5Slick Smith - 0
Tim Flock - 8Fonty Flock - 4
Harry Gant - 11Phil Parsons - 5
David Gilliland - 4Chris Buescher - 2
David Gilliland - 14Kevin Conway - 2
David Gilliland - 37Travis Kvapil - 32
David Gilliland - 15Brett Moffitt - 8
David Gilliland - 46David Ragan - 41
David Gilliland - 8Tony Raines - 3
David Gilliland - 13Ricky Rudd - 9
David Gilliland - 16Josh Wise - 1
Jeff Gordon - 52Kyle Busch - 31
Jeff Gordon - 25Ricky Craven - 5
Jeff Gordon - 32Wally Dallenbach - 4
Jeff Gordon - 146Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 103
Jeff Gordon - 8Chase Elliott - 4
Jeff Gordon - 79Kasey Kahne - 50
Jeff Gordon - 9Brad Keselowski - 0
Jeff Gordon - 230Terry Labonte - 69
Jeff Gordon - 60Mark Martin - 31
Jeff Gordon - 50Casey Mears - 10
Jeff Gordon - 44Jerry Nadeau - 15
Jeff Gordon - 28Joe Nemechek - 7
Jeff Gordon - 55Ken Schrader - 25
Jeff Gordon - 68Brian Vickers - 15
Robby Gordon - 4Dave Blaney - 3
Robby Gordon - 21Jeff Green - 19
Robby Gordon - 8Joe Nemechek - 2
Robby Gordon - 13Steve Park - 6
Robby Gordon - 7Johnny Sauter - 3
Henley Gray - 3Frog Fagan - 2
Jeff Green - 32Kyle Petty - 21
Jeff Green - 16Johnny Sauter - 11
Pete Hamilton - 6Richard Petty - 2
Denny Hamlin - 32Carl Edwards - 26
Denny Hamlin - 30Erik Jones - 19
Denny Hamlin - 4Bobby Labonte - 2
Denny Hamlin - 82Joey Logano - 39
Denny Hamlin - 6David Ragan - 3
Denny Hamlin - 41Daniel Suarez - 15
Denny Hamlin - 43J.J. Yeley - 15
Kevin Harvick - 38Aric Almirola - 11
Kevin Harvick - 32Dave Blaney - 8
Kevin Harvick - 162Clint Bowyer - 107
Kevin Harvick - 175Jeff Burton - 89
Kevin Harvick - 101Kurt Busch - 49
Kevin Harvick - 5Austin Dillon - 0
Kevin Harvick - 67Robby Gordon - 31
Kevin Harvick - 24Jeff Green - 18
Kevin Harvick - 19Casey Mears - 15
Kevin Harvick - 71Paul Menard - 27
Kevin Harvick - 21Steve Park - 0
Kevin Harvick - 102Danica Patrick - 13
Kevin Harvick - 10Johnny Sauter - 2
Kevin Harvick - 15Mike Skinner - 3
Kevin Harvick - 62Tony Stewart - 17
Kevin Harvick - 13Daniel Suarez - 5
Sam Hornish - 13David Stremme - 9
Dale Jarrett - 10David Gilliland - 1
Dale Jarrett - 28Ernie Irvan - 22
Dale Jarrett - 43Kenny Irwin - 6
Dale Jarrett - 6David Reutimann - 6
Dale Jarrett - 52Ricky Rudd - 35
Ned Jarrett - 5Johnny Allen - 1
Jimmie Johnson - 236Jeff Gordon - 187
Jimmie Johnson - 60Kyle Busch - 30
Jimmie Johnson - 27William Byron - 18
Jimmie Johnson - 186Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 101
Jimmie Johnson - 112Kasey Kahne - 62
Jimmie Johnson - 8Brad Keselowski - 1
Jimmie Johnson - 84Terry Labonte - 16
Jimmie Johnson - 62Mark Martin - 32
Jimmie Johnson - 48Casey Mears - 12
Jimmie Johnson - 8Jerry Nadeau - 2
Jimmie Johnson - 28Joe Nemechek - 10
Jimmie Johnson - 77Brian Vickers - 15
Erik Jones - 20Daniel Suarez - 11
Kasey Kahne - 40A.J. Allmendinger - 23
Kasey Kahne - 6Alex Bowman - 2
Kasey Kahne - 16Patrick Carpentier - 4
Kasey Kahne - 6Bill Elliott - 2
Kasey Kahne - 42Jeremy Mayfield - 29
Kasey Kahne - 15Paul Menard - 10
Kasey Kahne - 36Scott Riggs - 12
Kasey Kahne - 25Reed Sorenson - 8
Kasey Kahne - 86Elliott Sadler - 34
Kasey Kahne - 5Scott Speed - 0
Kasey Kahne - 22Brian Vickers - 8
Matt Kenseth - 173Greg Biffle - 130
Matt Kenseth - 79Kurt Busch - 62
Matt Kenseth - 165Carl Edwards - 153
Matt Kenseth - 72Denny Hamlin - 64
Matt Kenseth - 19Kevin Lepage - 4
Matt Kenseth - 16Chad Little - 6
Matt Kenseth - 110Mark Martin - 94
Matt Kenseth - 90Jamie McMurray - 28
Matt Kenseth - 126David Ragan - 38
Matt Kenseth - 18Daniel Suarez - 8
Brad Keselowski - 11A.J. Allmendinger - 4
Brad Keselowski - 32Ryan Blaney - 14
Brad Keselowski - 33Sam Hornish - 13
Brownie King - 3George Green - 2
Travis Kvapil - 17Landon Cassill - 16
Travis Kvapil - 15Kevin Conway - 0
Travis Kvapil - 9Tony Raines - 1
Travis Kvapil - 11David Reutimann - 10
Bobby Labonte - 8Terry Labonte - 3
Bobby Labonte - 8Jason Leffler - 2
Bobby Labonte - 5Chad McCumbee - 2
Bobby Labonte - 46Kyle Petty - 15
Bobby Labonte - 4J.J. Yeley - 1
Terry Labonte - 22Ricky Craven - 6
Terry Labonte - 21Wally Dallenbach - 14
Terry Labonte - 5Randy LaJoie - 1
Terry Labonte - 28Jerry Nadeau - 23
Terry Labonte - 24Joe Nemechek - 16
Terry Labonte - 51Ken Schrader - 21
Corey LaJoie - 6Gray Gaulding - 3
Corey LaJoie - 4Brett Moffitt - 2
Kyle Larson - 90Jamie McMurray - 52
Mel Larson - 3Jabe Thomas - 3
Kevin Lepage - 21Johnny Benson - 14
Jimmie Lewallen - 3Jim Paschal - 2
Chad Little - 26Johnny Benson - 22
Chad Little - 30Kevin Lepage - 26
Joey Logano - 30Ryan Blaney - 20
Joey Logano - 104Brad Keselowski - 99
Fred Lorenzen - 7Dick Hutcherson - 1
Fred Lorenzen - 8Fireball Roberts - 5
Fred Lorenzen - 8Nelson Stacy - 1
Sterling Marlin - 10Geoff Bodine - 8
Sterling Marlin - 9Jeff Green - 2
Sterling Marlin - 10Kenny Irwin - 4
Sterling Marlin - 17Jason Leffler - 4
Sterling Marlin - 46Casey Mears - 23
Sterling Marlin - 5Ted Musgrave - 4
Sterling Marlin - 52Joe Nemechek - 41
Sterling Marlin - 18Jimmy Spencer - 4
Mark Martin - 138Jeff Burton - 102
Mark Martin - 49Johnny Benson - 5
Mark Martin - 63Greg Biffle - 54
Mark Martin - 35Wally Dallenbach - 5
Mark Martin - 62Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 36
Mark Martin - 43Carl Edwards - 32
Mark Martin - 4Brad Keselowski - 2
Mark Martin - 56Kevin Lepage - 3
Mark Martin - 78Chad Little - 6
Mark Martin - 9Sterling Marlin - 2
Mark Martin - 20Jamie McMurray - 8
Mark Martin - 25Paul Menard - 5
Mark Martin - 96Ted Musgrave - 22
Mark Martin - 13Joe Nemechek - 0
Mark Martin - 8Danica Patrick - 2
Mark Martin - 23Regan Smith - 1
Michael McDowell - 22David Ragan - 21
Michael McDowell - 9Matt Tifft - 8
Michael McDowell - 7J.J. Yeley - 0
Jamie McMurray - 49Sterling Marlin - 23
Jamie McMurray - 59Casey Mears - 21
Jamie McMurray - 3Scott Pruett - 2
Jamie McMurray - 51David Ragan - 41
Jamie McMurray - 67Juan Pablo Montoya - 56
Casey Mears - 22David Stremme - 6
Casey Mears - 17Reed Sorenson - 13
Paul Menard - 56Jeff Burton - 40
Paul Menard - 6Ty Dillon - 1
Paul Menard - 23Elliott Sadler - 8
Paul Menard - 10Brian Scott - 3
Paul Menard - 19Regan Smith - 13
Juan Pablo Montoya - 4Aric Almirola - 1
Juan Pablo Montoya - 8Dario Franchitti - 0
Juan Pablo Montoya - 29Reed Sorenson - 20
Juan Pablo Montoya - 14David Stremme - 11
Juan Pablo Montoya - 21Martin Truex, Jr. - 10
Ralph Moody - 3Bill Amick - 2
Ralph Moody - 10Fireball Roberts - 8
Ted Musgrave - 13Chad Little - 9
Jerry Nadeau - 4Kyle Petty - 4
Joe Nemechek - 8Wally Dallenbach - 3
Joe Nemechek - 5Jeff Green - 4
Joe Nemechek - 14Bobby Hamilton - 11
Joe Nemechek - 40Scott Riggs - 11
Joe Nemechek - 16Kenny Wallace - 7
Ryan Newman - 92Austin Dillon - 64
Ryan Newman - 4Ty Dillon - 2
Ryan Newman - 24Sam Hornish - 5
Ryan Newman - 8Mark Martin - 3
Ryan Newman - 87Paul Menard - 38
Ryan Newman - 26Danica Patrick - 3
Ryan Newman - 11Brian Scott - 1
Ryan Newman - 12Ricky Stenhouse - 6
Ryan Newman - 75Rusty Wallace - 43
Benny Parsons - 14Phil Parsons - 3
Benny Parsons - 8Darrell Waltrip - 8
Jim Paschal - 7Joel Million - 1
David Pearson - 5Billy Wade - 1
Kyle Petty - 4Christian Fittipaldi - 2
Kyle Petty - 21Bobby Hamilton - 20
Kyle Petty - 9Buckshot Jones - 4
Kyle Petty - 15Kenny Wallace - 4
Lee Petty - 30Richard Petty - 11
Richard Petty - 11Buddy Baker - 4
Richard Petty - 21Jim Paschal - 15
Richard Petty - 40Kyle Petty - 3
Richard Petty - 10Maurice Petty - 1
Scott Pruett - 3Sterling Marlin - 2
Scott Pruett - 4Casey Mears - 3
David Ragan - 15Landon Cassill - 13
David Ragan - 11Matt Tifft - 6
David Ragan - 15Josh Wise - 3
David Ragan - 7J.J. Yeley - 1
Tony Raines - 4Scott Riggs - 4
David Reutimann - 13Michael McDowell - 2
David Reutimann - 49Michael Waltrip - 19
Bill Rexford - 4Lloyd Moore - 2
Tim Richmond - 13Geoff Bodine - 6
Tim Richmond - 4Darrell Waltrip - 2
Scott Riggs - 18Jeremy Mayfield - 7
Scott Riggs - 6Johnny Sauter - 0
Fireball Roberts - 4Bill Amick - 3
Fireball Roberts - 6Marvin Panch - 4
Ricky Rudd - 9Jeff Gordon - 6
Ricky Rudd - 4Greg Sacks - 4
Ricky Rudd - 44Ken Schrader - 39
Ricky Rudd - 9Darrell Waltrip - 9
Elliott Sadler - 14Patrick Carpentier - 4
Elliott Sadler - 17Scott Riggs - 13
Elliott Sadler - 19Reed Sorenson - 15
Elliott Sadler - 56Dale Jarrett - 45
Leon Sales - 1Billy Myers - 0
Ken Schrader - 21Geoff Bodine - 18
Ken Schrader - 5Greg Sacks - 2
Ken Schrader - 15Kenny Wallace - 11
Bill Seifert - 19Cecil Gordon - 7
Bill Seifert - 5Raymond Williams - 1
Reed Sorenson - 9Derrike Cope - 0
Reed Sorenson - 5Dario Franchitti - 2
Reed Sorenson - 6Gray Gaulding - 0
Reed Sorenson - 7Scott Speed - 3
Reed Sorenson - 29David Stremme - 23
Jimmy Spencer - 14Todd Bodine - 7
Jimmy Spencer - 29Darrell Waltrip - 9
Gwyn Staley - 8Jimmy Massey - 1
Ricky Stenhouse - 59Trevor Bayne - 40
Ricky Stenhouse - 8Matt Kenseth - 6
Tony Stewart - 56Denny Hamlin - 44
Tony Stewart - 120Bobby Labonte - 84
Tony Stewart - 13Jason Leffler - 2
Tony Stewart - 82Ryan Newman - 64
Tony Stewart - 60Danica Patrick - 32
Tony Stewart - 51J.J. Yeley - 6
Speedy Thompson - 5Jack Smith - 3
Speedy Thompson - 5Herb Thomas - 0
Martin Truex, Jr. - 15Aric Almirola - 2
Martin Truex, Jr. - 10Kyle Busch - 9
Martin Truex, Jr. - 10Denny Hamlin - 8
Martin Truex, Jr. - 31Erik Jones - 11
Martin Truex, Jr. - 33Mark Martin - 27
Martin Truex, Jr. - 49Paul Menard - 14
Martin Truex, Jr. - 37David Reutimann - 24
Martin Truex, Jr. - 28Regan Smith - 3
Martin Truex, Jr. - 5Michael Waltrip - 3
Curtis Turner - 4Marvin Panch - 1
Curtis Turner - 6Joe Weatherly - 2
Brian Vickers - 17A.J. Allmendinger - 7
Brian Vickers - 21Terry Labonte - 19
Brian Vickers - 4Mike Skinner - 1
Brian Vickers - 26Scott Speed - 9
Brian Vickers - 9Martin Truex, Jr. - 7
Rusty Wallace - 61Jeremy Mayfield - 36
Rusty Wallace - 5Mike Wallace - 2
Darrell Waltrip - 34Geoff Bodine - 26
Darrell Waltrip - 40Neil Bonnett - 15
Darrell Waltrip - 5Greg Sacks - 3
Darrell Waltrip - 33Ken Schrader - 29
Michael Waltrip - 5John Andretti - 3
Michael Waltrip - 9Jeff Green - 1
Michael Waltrip - 5Dale Jarrett - 4
Michael Waltrip - 9Michael McDowell - 8
Michael Waltrip - 30Steve Park - 22
Michael Waltrip - 6Kenny Wallace - 3
Kyle Weatherman - 3Landon Cassill - 2
Bob Welborn - 5Possum Jones - 0
Bob Welborn - 8Ken Rush - 0
Rex White - 5Bob Welborn - 4
Cole Whitt - 18Alex Bowman - 2
Cole Whitt - 17David Gilliland - 13
Cole Whitt - 18Brett Moffitt - 4
Cole Whitt - 11Reed Sorenson - 2
Cole Whitt - 8Ryan Truex - 2
Cole Whitt - 5J.J. Yeley - 0
Scott Wimmer - 4Kenny Wallace - 2
Cale Yarborough - 8Earl Ross - 0
J.J. Yeley - 13Jeb Burton - 7
J.J. Yeley - 5David Gilliland - 1

The first surprise in the above results is that Richard Petty does not appear as otherworldly looking at this as one would expect considering his reputation. If one is to believe there is any argument at all that one driver is preferred over another within a team (which I think usually does not happen until one driver is proven superior to another), one would expect that a driver for a family operation would get substantially better results than his teammates. While Richard Petty's record versus his son Kyle is very impressive, his other records are substantially less so. Unlike Jimmie Johnson basically taking over Hendrick Motorsports from Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty did not exactly take the team from his father Lee in the same way. Lee and Richard's record of 30-11 is surprisingly lopsided in favor of Lee and while that was based largely on Richard's first two seasons before Lee had an essentially career-ending injury in the 1961 Daytona 500 qualifier. While I don't doubt that Richard likely would have won that matchup had it extended into several more years especially considering Lee was in his late 40s at the time, I expected it to be much closer than that especially because Richard beat Lee in the 1960 championship in his first full-time season (but Lee did beat him in almost all statistics that year, such as having 5 wins to Richard's 3 and 13 lead lap finishes to Richard's 6, so Richard probably only beat him because he scored more points in races that were weighted higher.) If Richard Petty is to be considered the greatest NASCAR driver ever, I think he would have needed to come closer to his father than this.

The other big shocker is that Pete Hamilton, who is frequently regarded as one of the weaker Daytona 500 winners in history, actually substantially beat Petty in the 1970 season. Granted, Petty was injured for part of that season but he still won eighteen races, and Hamilton beat him rather soundly 6-2 before being replaced by Buddy Baker the next season. Although Petty did do better against Buddy Baker (11-4) than his father Buck did against Buddy (17-9), the difference wasn't that huge and when you consider that Buck was well in decline by the time he and Buddy were teammates (although Buddy admittedly had not emerged as a star yet), that also doesn't look good for Petty. Jim Paschal didn't even make the 50 Greatest Drivers List (though he probably should have) and only lost to Petty (21-15.) It does seem that based on the basis of these data, there are probably some other drivers who could have done something similar to what Petty did. Perhaps not a lot but there are other drivers who had a lot more teammates they raced a lot more often who were even superior to most of Petty's who had significantly greater records, and foremost of these is Kevin Harvick.

Harvick is the only driver in Cup history who had Cup teammates full-time for his entire career and has a winning record against every single one, which is very impressive for an almost 19-year run. Several of his matchups are more ridiculous than one might even guess, such as beating Jeff Burton nearly 2-1 (while Mark Martin beat him 1.35-1 and Matt Kenseth actually lost to him), beating Kurt Busch by over a 2-1 ratio (who most people tended to rate higher before they were SHR teammates, and considering Harvick is older than Kurt and that was towards the end of both of their careers, that is especially impressive), posting the largest winning record against any driver with his 21-0 matchup against Steve Park (who admittedly was much slower after his injury), and he also beat Mike Skinner by a lot greater margin than his predecessor Dale Earnhardt did (although to be fair Skinner was also injured in 2001.) As highly rated as he is, he might still be underrated. There probably isn't really a justification to rate him below Tony Stewart or Rusty Wallace anymore based on this. Several drivers with greater reputations than Harvick and far fewer teammates have worse teammate records than he does. At this point, he might very well be top ten all time, as resistant as I have been to that in the past. I do think it's funny the teammate who came closest to Harvick was Casey Mears, who many might argue was his worst, solely because that came in 2009, which was probably Harvick's worst ever season. The sixteen teammates he beat were the most of any driver without any losses. This is an even more impressive record than I think most would imagine even with his recent dominance. Even counting the drivers Harvick competed against fewer than five times, he only lost to one: road course ringer Brian Simo (1-0.)

Ten other drivers competed against two or more teammates with five shared non-DNFs for each and beat them all. Ward Burton, Matt DiBenedetto, Corey LaJoie, and Bill Seifert are difficult to evaluate because they didn't really beat anyone of consequence, although I find it noteworthy that Ward Burton's record against Dave Blaney matches Harvick's 4-1 ratio and doubles his brother Jeff's, which may support the popular perception of Ward as underrated, which I have often tended to resist (to be fair Blaney was teammates with Ward during his rookie season when Ward had his absolute career peak, but still...) Buck Baker, Fred Lorenzen, and Curtis Turner beating all their teammates is not a surprise since they didn't have many. Baker's record is especially impressive since 6 of his 7 teammates had 17 or more wins; most of this came in the period he was driving for Carl Kiekhaefer and they had 3 or 4 cars in each race. He was clearly the preferred driver on the team to the point that Speedy Thompson intentionally took out Herb Thomas in a wreck that ended his career near the end of the 1956 season (after Thomas had previously left the team) and the way he went on to win the title was sickening, but it seems like based on this record he still deserved it. Lorenzen's record at Holman-Moody is especially amazing as Dick Hutcherson and Nelson Stacy were definitely perceived as top tier in their heydays and he dominated them 7-1 and 8-1 respectively, and also beat Fireball Roberts solidly 8-5. Based on Roberts losing to Lorenzen and also surprisingly losing to Holman-Moody boss Ralph Moody (who also beat both of his teammates), I think my opinions of Lorenzen and Roberts need to be reversed. Lorenzen seems like he was likely more talented, especially when you throw in his USAC championships as well. Both of the drivers Curtis Turner beat were excellent also, but then again, he regularly beat Joe Weatherly in the Convertible Series as well, so there isn't much new revealed here.

One of the other interesting things I reveal here is how evenly matched the late '80s/early '90s Hendrick drivers were, which I definitely was not expecting. Despite Darrell Waltrip having the reputation of an all-time great, Ricky Rudd and Geoff Bodine having the reputations of legends, and Ken Schrader having the reputation of a second-tier driver, they were all shockingly close to each other and barely able to distinguish. Rudd beating Schrader only 44-39 (and losing by a large margin to him even in 1991 when he finished 2nd in points) is the big shocker here but many of the other matchups are equally surprising. Kind of puts that "curse of the #25" myth to bed, huh? Schrader actually beat Bodine, which I don't think most people will be expecting (21-18), but then again, he also tied him in wins and beat him in the points standings both times even if Bodine was more dominant in the races. Despite Darrell Waltrip's reign of dominance before he started at Hendrick, he doesn't really come out any better, tying Rudd (9-9), barely beating Bodine (34-26), barely beating Schrader (33-29), and most shockingly tying a rapidly declining post-prime Benny Parsons (8-8.) Parsons was Richmond's replacement in 1987 and did have Harry Hyde, but still based on Waltrip's reputation before this point, I think people should expect a lot more than that. Based on what I revealed in earlier columns about how Rudd and Schrader were basically tied three out of their four years in driver ratings and that Waltrip and Schrader were basically tied in all lead change data in 1989 (with Waltrip only beating Schrader 6 wins to 1 because he was luckier), I think NASCAR fans are clearly now unfair to Schrader and it seems like he should have won a lot more than four races, as almost all the stats I've collected seem to be pointing to. But I think it makes all these other drivers look substantially weaker than their reputations as well, except for Parsons, who looks better than you'd expect considering he was post-prime competing against those drivers in their primes. Even Greg Sacks, who many might argue as the worst Hendrick driver ever, tied Rudd at 4-4 and came close to Waltrip at 5-3. It's puzzling how all these drivers with wildly different reputations come out virtually the same, but it does not make many of them look good, nor do Rudd's and Bodine's records against other drivers (with Rudd losing solidly to Jarrett and Bodine losing to every teammate except Parsons, including the then-career winless Sterling Marlin the year after his highest points finish.) Waltrip clearly takes the biggest hit and when you consider that his much stronger results at DiGard and Junior Johnson came at the two teams that may have had the worst reputations for cheating in NASCAR history, one wonders if he even belongs in the top ten. Although I don't think anyone has ever said this before, Harvick genuinely looks better than him. He was dominating better teammates by a much greater margin at the same age.

Cole Whitt might be the most underrated driver in NASCAR history in the teammate era. His 18-2 record against Alex Bowman and 18-4 record against Brett Moffitt have aged really well considering what Bowman and Moffitt have done since. His 11-2 record against Reed Sorenson isn't too far off Ross Chastain's 15-2 and Chastain has gotten a lot of deserving hype for his underratedness while Whitt didn't as much. Both of them had larger ratios against Sorenson than even Kasey Kahne or Juan Pablo Montoya did. Whitt didn't have a completely winning record as he tied Chris Buescher (3-3), who is also largely regarded as underrated (although much to my surprise, Buescher lost to A.J. Allmendinger, which I would not have expected.) This is a guy who really deserved some better cars in his heyday.

Honorable mention goes to both Bill and Chase Elliott, who never lost to a full-time teammate (Bill only lost to Kasey Kahne and Chase only lost to Jeff Gordon) but I've got to say Chase's teammates were generally better than Bill's (Bill's only major teammate was Sterling Marlin, after all, and Marlin had an inexplicably bad season for him given the dominance of the Ford equipment that year - Elliott was the only teammate Marlin lost to before his Kansas crash), and Bill shockingly lost to Ted Musgrave 3-1 when Bill hired Musgrave to drive the Dan Marino-owned #13 car in 1998 after he was fired from Roush, which only misses the list due to lacking one shared finish. Most of the uber-legends who had teammates their full career only lose to a couple. Perhaps I shoul give Jimmie Johnson an honorable mention as well since he does beat every single teammate until his late career slump when he has been outpaced by Chase and Bowman. It seems possible Johnson could reverse this, but less and less likely with each passing week and I'd say it's more likely William Byron will overtake him at this rate. Johnson did clearly outperform every teammate in his first 16 years though, but he didn't outlast them all to the degree his contemporary Harvick did. Jeff Gordon only loses to Johnson and Ricky Rudd from his rookie season. Kyle Busch only lost to Johnson and Gordon until last weekend's race at Loudon when Martin Truex, Jr. actually overtook him to take a 10-9 lead at JGR. I did not count performance at satellite operations so Truex had no teammates in his Furniture Row heyday except for Erik Jones for one year. I did however count teams that were effectively the same team with different listed owners: Penske/Kranefuss were grouped together, as were MB2/MBV, and Petty Enterprises/pe2. Nobody who was watching at the time considered these to be separate teams. I draw the line at situations like Hendrick/Stewart-Haas however. Even if Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart called themselves teammates in the media a lot, I personally don't agree.

Another thing that surprised me is how well Ryan Newman comes out. He's become a bit of a joke among some auto racing stats guys over the years and I have harshly criticized him for being the worst on-track passer among major drivers (although I'm fully aware that is partially skewed by the fact that he was a prolific polesitter in his heyday), but he beats every teammate he ever faced except two champions: Kurt Busch (who he only lost to 45-38, closer than Brad Keselowski managed vs. Kurt) and Tony Stewart (82-64.) Both of those head-to-heads were way closer than I was expecting, I must admit, and I didn't think his head-to-head with Rusty Wallace would be as stark as 75-43. With him also solidly beating most of the recent Xfinity championship contenders like Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish, and presently Ricky Stenhouse right now, it's not difficult to see why he's still around. I may tend to value (overvalue?) on-track passing for the lead but I guess this tells me what I already knew: since Newman is the master of finishing better than he runs, I guess it makes sense that that's reflected in the results here.

I used to frequently compare Bobby Allison's late career with Dale Earnhardt in that they were both matched with inexperienced Cup drivers at the tail end of their careers who nearly matched them in a breakout season before their teammates slowly faded shortly before their career-ending crashes (Bobby Hillin for Allison and Mike Skinner for Earnhardt.) Those comparisons aren't nearly as close as I was expecting. Hillin came way closer to Allison than I was expecting (27-18) and Earnhardt blew out Skinner by more than I was expecting (85-26, although Harvick still beat him by a larger margin.) The comparison isn't close and seems to definitely imply Earnhardt's late career was objectively better, especially when you consider that almost all NASCAR fans I think would take Skinner over Hillin, regardless of the fact that Hillin won and Skinner did not (officially.) I guess that shouldn't be too surprising when you remember that Earnhardt won the last two IROC championships of his life. My standard take on Earnhardt was that he stopped being an elite driver after his 1996 Talladega crash and was a 6th-10th place driver from then until his death. Maybe I need to reconsider. Perhaps it simply had more to do with Hendrick having faster cars and the rest of Chevy generally struggling than Earnhardt's injuries.

There were a handful of teammates who were matched up with each other several different times, and they tended to have wildly different results depending on the team, which was interesting. Harvick has clearly improved in the 2010s compared to what he was in the 2000s. This should be no surprise to anyone, but at Childress Harvick beat Bowyer 110-88 while at Stewart-Haas he has beaten him 52-19, which is a pretty astounding difference (especially when you consider that Bowyer actually beat Kurt Busch in their Stewart-Haas head-to-head, which shocked me.) Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, on the other hand, were pretty much the same both at Roush and at Gibbs. Kenseth won both of those matchups narrowly by almost even the same percentage (135-127 at Roush and 30-26 at Gibbs.) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. beat Mark Martin at DEI 4-2 but then got trounced by him at Hendrick 60-32 (which is pretty embarrassing for Junior since Martin was in his fifties at the time, but those were the worst years of Junior's career.) The situation was reversed with Junior's protege Martin Truex, Jr., whom Martin beat 17-12 at DEI but lost to Truex 21-10 at MWR (by that point, Martin was probably washed up.) Kyle Petty lost to Bobby Hamilton at SABCO 8-6 but beat him at Petty Enterprises at 15-12, basically an even match. The Labonte brothers were teammates twice at Gibbs and Petty Enterprises, but that's almost not worth mentioning since they were both washed up by then. Sterling Marlin beat Joe Nemechek 36-18 at SABCO (which I hardly would have even noticed at the time, since Nemechek was getting a lot more media hype for his qualifying and his Loudon win, but Marlin quietly beat him handily and no one seemed to care), but lost to him 23-16 at MB2/Ginn at the tail end of his career. Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield were maybe the weirdest and most unexpected pair of teammates to be matched up twice, and Riggs dominated Mayfield both times, 13-5 at Evernham and 5-2 at Haas.

There were a number of other matchups that surprised me that I didn't find a way to fit in the earlier paragraphs. These included the huge disparity between Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader (considering how very bad Benson looked compared to his Roush teammates, even losing to Chad Little and Kevin Lepage, and how genuinely good Schrader looked compared to most of his Hendrick teammates, the 46-13 disparity here is odd), Dave Blaney's domination of Jeremy Mayfield and Michael Waltrip, Austin Dillon only barely beating Paul Menard (68-60), and Benny Parsons in general. In addition to Parsons's good Hendrick records, he also beat his brother Phil by a more substantial margin than Harry Gant did, but Gant was considered in his prime then while BP was post-prime. Benny Parsons seems to look bette than most of us previously thought, although it's a small sample size and he didn't have many teammates. While I was not surprised Clint Bowyer beat Martin Truex, Jr. since he wa considered the MWR leader there, I was very surprised Brian Vickers beat Truex. I did not expect that one especially considering what Truex has done since.

Obviously there is more to consider when evaluating driving talent than strictly head-to-head records. Drivers who finish better than they run like Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman will put up impressive records that tend to overrate their driving talent in my opinion (Bowyer actually beat Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, and Martin Truex, Jr. while only losing to Harvick and Jeff Burton.) However, I do think this largely corrects for the flaw of drivers who run better than they finish at the same time. There have been many Cup seasons where one teammate won more races than the other but finished lower in points: Ricky Rudd/Ken Schrader in 1991, Terry Labonte/Jeff Gordon in 1996, and Bobby Labonte/Tony Stewart in 2000, for instance. In all three of those cases, the driver who finished lower in points had a higher head-to-head record in races they both finished. Rudd and the Labontes' points finishes were entirely due to avoiding DNFs so it seems, and it's telling that Gordon and Stewart pretty much instantly took over Hendrick and Gibbs after this. While I wouldn't say Schrader outperformed Labonte or Gordon at Hendrick in 1994 regardless of what the points say, I can now at least understand how he beat them both in points that year. But I can definitely no longer take Ricky Rudd over Terry Labonte or even close. Like a contrarian, I used to prefer Rudd for his greater longevity, greater road course/short track record, and greater performances in weak cars, but the difference between Rudd's 44-39 vs. Schrader and Labonte's 51-21 is stark considering Labonte replaced him in the same car. Stark enough to convince me that there is no argument for Rudd being in the same league as Labonte as I previously thought based on all their stats except for their championships. Labonte is clearly superior, but not solely for his championships. And I guess that shouldn't be a surprise. Labonte won on short tracks and road courses too after all, but he wasn't really considered a specialist on them: he was equally likely to run well everywhere. Rudd was not.

After years' worth of fairly subjective analyses regarding lead changes, this more objective analysis delivered a lot of surprising results and is certainly worth replicating for lots of other series and I fully intend to do it for IndyCar and Formula One in the next few months. The big takeaways were that Buck Baker, Ralph Moody, Benny Parsons, Ken Schrader, and Cole Whitt are especially underrated (maybe even Kevin Harvick), and that Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Geoff Bodine, and Ricky Rudd are overrated. Most of this wasn't news as I've been steadily rating Waltrip, Bodine, and Rudd lower and lower over time but even having said that, I expected much better records for Petty at Petty Enterprises and Waltrip at Hendrick than I found. Further analysis might involve using some of these data to attempt to estimate some sort of ELO or simple ratings system-style ranking but I definitely want to get to other series first.

Sean Wrona is the Managing Editor of racermetrics.com, the Webmaster of race-database.com, the winner of the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, and the ratings compiler and statistician for the Mensa Scrabble-by-Mail SIG. 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. You may contact him at sean@racermetrics.com.