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Statistically Speaking

2019 Driver Rating

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 31, 2020, 2:44 pm ET

Throughout the 2019 season, we looked at NASCAR Statistical Services’ Driver Rating as one of the measures of a driver’s strength. While no system is perfect, this complex formula looks at various strength-based categories during a race and tries to determine who was strongest.

Primary statistics (Finishing Position, Average Running Position, Average Speed in Traffic, and Fastest Laps) are supported by fixed bonuses for winning, finishing in the top 15, leading the most laps, and finishing on the lead lap. There are some other factors, but those are the highlights and the overall effect is to determine who was strong each week – regardless of finishing position.

All of those factors added together provide a perfect ranking of 150. Occasionally the top ranking driver does not win, but it is impossible to earn a perfect rating without the victory.

More importantly, the Driver Rating removes the peaks and valleys that might be experienced during a race – such as drivers who run out of fuel on the last lap or are involved in a late-race accident.


In 2019, two drivers earned perfect ratings. Brad Keselowski was the first to do so in the spring Martinsville STP 500. While stage wins do not factor into the rating, it is nevertheless notable that he won both of those in route to his overall win. Leading those critical laps were just the tip of the iceberg as he logged 446 circuits at the head of the field, easily outpacing Chase Elliott’s 49.

That was Keselowski’s best rating by a wide margin, but it is notable that his next two best Driver Ratings also came on short, flat tracks when he logged a 117.0 at New Hampshire and a 116.6 in Richmond 2.

When we look at a driver’s record on a track type, Driver Rating plays a critical role. Keselowski’s effort at New Hampshire resulted in a 10th-place finish, but he ran well enough throughout the race to finish in the top five if he had not lost track position late.

Kevin Harvick was the other driver with a perfect rating in 2019. His effort came in the Brickyard 400 when he led 118 of 160 laps in route to victory. This race turned out to be critical in what was to become a pivotal moment in his season. The confidence instilled in Harvick is detailed at greater length in this season’s profile as he went on to earn the top Driver Rating three more times before the end of the year.

One of these top performances came at Texas 2 when he recorded a rating of 136.3 in Race 2 of the Round of 8. That was part of a five-race streak of top-10 performances that closed out the season. More importantly, it locked him into the Championship 4.

 

25 Best Driver
Ratings of 2019

Driver

Driver Rating

Race

Brad Keselowski

150.0

STP 500

Kevin Harvick

150.0

Brickyard 400

Chase Elliott

149.7

Go Bowling at the Glen

Kyle Busch

149.7

TicketGuardian 500k

Martin Truex Jr.

149.7

First Data 500

Martin Truex Jr.

148.7

Toyota 350k

Kyle Busch

148.5

Auto Club 400

Kyle Busch

147.6

Pocono 400

Denny Hamlin

147.3

Bluegreen Vacations 500k

Joey Logano

143.7

Firekeepers Casino 400

Denny Hamlin

140.0

Hollywood Casino 400

Chase Elliott

139.2

BoA Roval 400k

Martin Truex Jr.

138.9

Toyota Owners 400

Kyle Busch

138.7

Ford 400

Martin Truex Jr.

137.2

Coke 600

Martin Truex Jr.

137.2

Federated 400

Kevin Harvick

136.3

AAA Texas 500

Kyle Busch

134.7

Quaker State 400

Kevin Harvick

134.4

Pennzoil 400

Kyle Larson

133.6

Drydene 400

Denny Hamlin

133.5

Gander 400

Kyle Busch

132.4

Federated 400

Joey Logano

132.3

Food City 500

Aric Almirola

132.2

AAA Texas 500

Joey Logano

131.5

Pennzoil 400

 

Three other drivers came close to achieving perfect ratings. Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. each logged a 149.7 in winning efforts.

Notably, Truex’s near-perfect effort came in Martinsville 2, leading credence to the fact that this course type is a rhythm track. Truex has five notations in the chart above with efforts that were among the 25-best in the season. His performance on short, flat tracks was underscored by dominant wins in both Richmond races, his Sonoma win, and a victory in the Coke 600.

Elliott’s Watkins Glen victory was another near-perfect effort.

Coupled with a 139.2 at the Charlotte Roval, it shows just how strong Elliott is on road courses. More importantly, Elliott’s Driver Rating at Sonoma shows how important this statistic can be. Despite developing a mechanical issue on that twisty track, Elliott had the seventh-best rating of 95, which is much more predictive of how he will run in 2020 than his 37th-place finish.

Busch’s 149.7 at Phoenix 1 and his 148.5 at Auto Club the next week served as an early indication that he would be strong throughout the season. That proved to be true and he ended the year with a 138.7 in the Ford 400 – easily outpacing the field in route to his 2019 championship.

NASCAR Stats adds up the Driver Rating and provide a season-to-date ranking. It comes as little surprise that Busch, Harvick, and Truex all landed in the top three, but the fourth-best driver in this regard was not the other member of the Championship 4.

Joey Logano narrowly edged Denny Hamlin with a 98.4 to 98.0.

Each race is an entity of its own – and the final slot in the championship race came down to Race 3 of Round 3. Once again, the Driver Rating tells a story. With the ninth-best rating of the season, Hamlin posted a 147.3 in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k; more importantly, he won. Logano’s 112.2 was significantly less than Hamlin’s mark, but it was the third-best of the race behind Hamlin and second-place finisher Busch’s 126.5.

The Driver Rating reveals who is strong, but it also shows that parity among the top 10 drivers is not necessarily complete. The falloff in the season rating between third-place Truex and fourth-place Logano is significant and suggest their dominance.

Will these drivers continue to be the Big 3 in 2020? Only time will tell.

 

Season Driver Rating

Rank

Driver

Driver Rating

Avg. Fin

1.

Kyle Busch

108.4

8.94

2.

Kevin Harvick

105.2

10.03

3.

Martin Truex Jr.

103.4

9.75

4.

Joey Logano

98.4

10.75

5.

Denny Hamlin

98.0

9.47

6.

Brad Keselowski

94.8

12.86

7.

Ryan Blaney

93.8

13.72

8.

Chase Elliott

92.2

15.14

9.

Kyle Larson

90.4

15.06

10.

Kurt Busch

87.9

13.11

11.

Clint Bowyer

86.6

15.17

12.

Erik Jones

85.1

16.25

13.

William Byron

85.0

14.86

14.

Aric Almirola

83.3

15.42

15.

Alex Bowman

82.0

14.36

16.

Daniel Suarez

79.7

16.39

17.

Jimmie Johnson

78.7

17.36

18.

Ryan Newman

71.7

14.56

19.

Paul Menard

70.4

16.60

20.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

70.1

20.47

21.

Austin Dillon

70.0

19.47

22.

Matt DiBenedetto

69.9

18.31

23.

Chris Buescher

67.4

17.83

24.

Daniel Hemric

62.1

22.50

25.

Ty Dillon

57.2

20.56

26.

Ryan Preece

54.6

23.06

27.

Bubba Wallace

53.6

23.94

28.

Michael McDowell

53.1

24.17

29.

David Ragan

52.2

26.30

30.

Matt Tifft

45.0

26.00

31.

Corey LaJoie

44.6

25.92

32.

Ross Chastain

38.8

28.20

33.

Landon Cassill

38.2

26.03

 

Related Articles:
Running at the End
Average Running Position
Segment Points
Place-differential Points
Strong Starters

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.