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Greetings, my friends. It's your Uncle Matty here to bring you yet another addition of America's favorite twice-weekly NASCAR statistical blog.
As you might've realized, especially if you're a regular reader of my blog, this is the halfway point to the Chase. What better way to celebrate it than with 500 miles of triangle-related goodness at Pocono?
Subsequently, what better way to celebrate that than with a Matt Willis mailbag? The big issue, of course, being that I don't really get questions in my e-mail inbox.
That, obviously, is a call to action for my readers.
So, what to do than to ask those sitting closest to me, my fellow ESPN researchers, for their NASCAR questions heading to Pocono?
Is Kyle Busch going to end up on anybody's Christmas card list this winter?
-- Tom McKean, fifth row
Well, Tom (everybody check out Tom McKean's F1 blog), you have to imagine that those wins are doing somebody some good. He has about 800 sponsors on his Cup car, most of which are edible and make for great gift baskets.
In light of Jim Joyce blowing Armando Galarraga's perfect game, could somebody screw up a milestone for a driver?
-- Jason McCallum, fourth row
The thing is that NASCAR decisions are made by people sitting in a mysterious trailer that I presume doesn't have doors or windows. You can only get in by teleportation. Luckily everything timing-wise is decided by electronic scoring, which I imagine incorporates lasers and mirrors and stuff like that.
Well, I only get so many words per blog, so let's move on to some loop data preview for Pocono.
Denny Hamlin leads every stats blog on Pocono. There's a good reason for that: The dude cleans up there.
Hamlin won each of his first two starts at the track, and also won the most recent race there last summer. That's three wins in eight career visits to Pocono.
Predictably, the numbers there are beyond excellent. He leads all drivers over the past five years in all categories, and his driver rating is 10 points higher than the second-highest, Kurt Busch.
What's even more amazing is that Hamlin doesn't just have certain situations he excels in. He's the fastest early and late in runs. On restarts and in traffic.
Kurt Busch has won his past two trips to the racetrack. Only one was for points, but the other netted him a cool million dollars.
We could see the blue deuce make it to Victory Lane again this weekend. Busch has a pair of Pocono wins, one apiece with Penske and Roush Fenway Racing, and put up a perfect driver rating in both races.
He comes into the race second behind Hamlin in both overall speed and fastest laps run. But if he wins, look for a dominating performance.
We won't add any ugly, we're keeping things beautiful on this blog.
Now that we're at the halfway point, it's a great time to take a look back at what the first 13 races brought us.
A few guys who might've been considered Chase favorites and championship contenders have been off the pace this season in terms of driver rating. Carl Edwards has the 19th-best driver rating through 13 races. Kasey Kahne is 20th, Joey Logano is 21st.
On the flip side, several drivers have been running better than their finishing positions have suggested, quick list time!
Clint Bowyer: eighth in driver rating (13th in points). David Reutimann: 11th in DR (19th in points). Juan Pablo Montoya: 10th in DR (20th in points).
Look for these guys to make a move in the second half.
That's all I have for you this week. Enjoy the race!