Crunching numbers for Dover

September, 24, 2009
09/24/09
11:21
AM ET

One of the most useful skills to have when working at ESPN is the ability to not be star-struck. While not every day is a "This is SportsCenter" commercial, we have a wealth of analysts and guests wandering around the Worldwide Leader. And mascots, I get a kick out of seeing the mascots.

I've worked or had the opportunity to chat with many of them, and they're all class acts, too. Not the mascots, the analysts. Although I'm sure the mascots are nice, they're just not allowed to talk. Especially classy are the guys we bring in for "NASCAR Now," Ricky Craven, Boris Said, Brad Daugherty, the whole crew.

That being said, it was pretty cool to meet Larry King on Wednesday.

I bet you didn't expect me to say that.

Larry King was in house Wednesday doing the rounds of different shows, and also spoke during a luncheon I was fortunate enough to attend. A class act, and one of the funniest and best storytellers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.

That made me think that I should have my own News and Views section for this week's blog, similar to what Larry King does. Or, which you might remember from the "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Norm MacDonald.

So here's mine.

• I won't be completely happy with NASCAR until I see somebody pedaling with their feet, a la "The Flintstones'" car.

• I would also like a gigantic rack of ribs.

• For me, 50 seems like the perfect number of states.

• I may never be able to remember if you put wedge into or take wedge out of a loose racecar.

• An ice cream sundae is delicious, but put some sprinkles on that bad boy and now we're talking.

• I don't think of myself as a hero, but I'm just not afraid of the Dover Monster.

Is that enough? Probably.

Going different ways

It's still early in the Chase, but already things are starting to take shape and some title contenders have thrown their name into the championship hat.

One of those -- somebody I've labeled as one of the favorites -- is Denny Hamlin. But, Hamlin's going to have to excel at some tracks he's struggled at in his career.

Hamlin's worst three tracks in terms of driver rating are still on the Chase schedule, starting with his worst, Dover.

Denny Hamlin's worst tracks by driver dating
Track -- Rating
Dover -- 74.6
Kansas -- 74.8
Charlotte -- 80.4
Las Vegas -- 81.7

And on the other hand ...

Carl Edwards has fallen off the radar of Chase contenders, even though at this point last season Edwards was leading the points coming into and heading out of Dover.

But now we head to Dover, which, unlike Hamlin, is actually one of Edwards' strongest tracks. Accompanying list!

Carl Edwards best tracks by driver rating
Track -- Rating
Homestead -- 117.2
Michigan -- 112.5
Dover -- 106.6
California -- 105.0
Atlanta -- 105.0

If you were curious, driver rating is about on the same scale as the NFL's passer rating. Anything over 100 is very good, and it maxes out at 150.

Closing notes

So many cool notes to look at going into this weekend, the postrace blog is going to be chock full of information. Literally bursting at the seams. Are you excited? You should be. I'm giddy, downright giddy.

Mark Martin's making his 750th start, Brian Vickers is going to be the youngest driver to reach 200 starts. But that's all for another time. Let's end with one more loop-data note.

I was impressed with the run Greg Biffle had at New Hampshire. He never had a power car on the track, but ended up with a top-10 run that reminded me of what champions do, sneakily finish in the top 10 after what seemed to be a below-average day.

Biffle won the Dover Chase race last year, and dating back to 2005, Biffle leads all drivers at Dover in driver rating, average position, fastest laps and green-flag speed.

Sure, 2009 has been a down year for Roush Fenway Racing, but the numbers point in their favor for a rebound on Sunday. Maybe not a win, but they could put two cars right back in title contention.

That's my two cents for this week, go enjoy the race.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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