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Thursday, June 30, 2011
Bet on a Busch at Daytona?


For us NASCAR statistical bloggers, of which I believe I'm the only one, there are certain nightmare situations.

Like having all your notes written, and then an engine failure or a late-race caution completely destroys your race recap. Or when your calculator overheats, since I don't keep an abacus at my desk anymore.

But, the ones that keep popping up are these darn restrictor-plate races.

Don't get me wrong, I love the wildness and the anyone-can-win style of racing. It's just that trying to break down these races and giving you, my adoring fans, some fine statistical preview is just a lot more difficult than the typical week.

But I've done my best, combing through the numbers, and while I might not know what's going to happen Saturday night at Daytona, there are a number of things that I think I know.

First of all, there's a pretty level playing field. At the Daytona 500, out of the 43-car starting field, 40 drivers ran the fastest lap on at least one circuit. At Talladega, 37 of the 43 drivers had at least one fastest lap run.

The only driver who ran both races but didn't run a fastest lap in either one was Joe Nemechek. So if Front Row Joe makes the field, don't expect great things out of him.

I do know one thing, in both of the prior restrictor-plate races this year, Clint Bowyer topped the field in average running position (just the driver's average position by lap) in both races. He finished 17th at Daytona and second at Talladega.

In fact, expect the whole Richard Childress Racing team to run up front and be in the mix. Jeff Burton was second in average running position at Talladega, and Paul Menard fourth in both prior restrictor-plate races. On top of that, Childress-powered Regan Smith was fifth-highest in both races, and he showed he was among the best pushers in February at Daytona.

Two more? Kurt Busch was third in that category in both races, and nobody ran more fastest laps in the two races combined than Kyle Busch. He had 18; nobody else had more than 14.

But, that's just what I think I know.

The Eliminator: Daytona

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

Last week, my pick was Jeff Gordon, and he finished second. I'm just saying.

1) The last 14 and 25 of the last 26 Daytona winners who had raced there before had a previous top-5 finish there (17 drivers eliminated, 28 left).
2) The last three July Daytona winners had a previous win at Talladega (17 eliminated, 11 left).
3) Six of the last seven July Daytona winners finished eighth or better in that year's Daytona 500 (nine out, two left).
4) The last five Sprint Cup Series winners this season finished in the top 20 in each of the previous three races (one out, one left).

Your winner: Kyle Busch