More Analytics: Gaining Speed For "Crunch Time"

LewTheShoe

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As a fan of Brad Keselowski, I tend to follow his progress closely during cup races. Looking just at the final dozen races of 2018 plus the early portion of 2019, I'd nominate Brad, Paul Wolfe, and the 2 team as "The Real Closer." Over that span of 27 races, Brad won six times, and only once did he have the fastest car on the day (Martinsville 2019). But in each of the other five wins, he had the fastest car in the waning laps, running down the leader and passing for the win.

The best part of this streak was two crown jewel wins at Darlington and Indy. On the flip side, not a lot of stage points were earned in these five wins as Brad's early speed just wasn't that good. But no complaints...it's been a good time to be a Kez fan.

Racing analytics guru David Smith has posted an analysis of "crunch time" speed rankings in The Athletic (link for subscribers). He looks at 2019 speed rankings using all laps vs. just the final 25%. It's a useful premise IMO. The 4th quarter is when races are won or lost. If you're fast in crunch time, then you're usually in the game. If you're fast in the early laps but fail to keep up with the track... no bueno.

Smith's overall finding: There is a lot more speed parity in the 4th quarter than for the race as a whole. The Gibbs #18 leads in both categories, but in "crunch time," the Penske duo (#22 and #2) are right there, followed closely by Harvick's #4 and Truex's #19.

Full race stats indicate Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have a material speed advantage. But in the 4th quarter, it is a five-way dog fight for best crunch time speed ranking. And Smith highlights some other comers and goers, based on 4th quarter speed rankings that are better (or worse) than the full-race numbers...

Crunch Time Comers:
Impressive late race speed gains by #41 Daniel Suarez, #10 Aric Almirola, and #37 Chris Buescher. Also, all four Penske/Wood Brothers cars, with late-race speed gains leading directly to three wins and two P2 finishes.

Crunch Time Goers:
In addition to Kyle Busch and Harvick losing their gap over the field, Smith highlights late race speed concerns for #20 Erik Jones and #42 Kyle Larson. (Please remember... Smith's speed metric excludes laps that are slowed by crash damage and/or mechanical failures.) Also, all three of the young guns at HMS... Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron... rank lower in crunch time than for the full race. Smith speculates about youthful inexperience and feedback for in-race adjustments.

Below are the 20 fastest cars in crunch time speed over 15 races of 2019. The numbers shown are speed rankings for full race >> then 4th quarter = improvement or (impairment).

1 JGR#18 4.93 >> 8.27 = -3.34
2 TP#22 7.00 >> 8.53 = -1.53
3 TP#2 7.50 >> 8.67 = -1.17
4 SHR#4 6.00 >> 9.14 = -3.14
5 JGR#19 9.27 >> 9.29 = -0.02
6 SHR#41 14.87 >> 9.80 = +5.07
7 SHR#10 11.20 >> 10.07 = +1.13
8 TP#12 10.67 >> 11.07 = -0.40
9 HMS#9 9.07 >> 11.33 = -2.26
10 CGR#1 11.40 >> 11.67 = -0.27
11 JGR#11 10.50 >> 11.79 = -1.29
12 SHR#14 9.15 >> 12.23 = -3.08
13 HMS#88 12.87 >> 13.14 = -0.27
14 CGR#42 10.60 >> 13.62 = -3.02
15 HMS#48 16.07 >> 14.87 = +1.80
16 JGR#20 11.92 >> 15.57 = -3.65
17 WB#21 18.27 >> 15.80 = +2.47
18 HMS#24 13.93 >> 16.53 = -2.60
19 RCR#3 15.87 >> 16.71 = -0.84
20 JTGD#37 19.93 >> 16.93 = +3.00
 

Turtle84

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This is all some interesting analytical breakdown. I don't necessarily agree with the findings, but it is nice to see how that stacks up to an eye test. It is suggesting that KB, Chase, and Bowyer are all falling off in crunch time, when I see quite the opposite (for the majority). I am guessing it is including late pit road mistakes which would skew the numbers?

Just as a small example, KB at Kansas had a fast car all race but struggled to make head way due to difficulty passing, he got to the lead late and was set in prime position to win that race (plenty good enough on speed), only to be relegated to the back on a late speeding penalty which changed the entire dynamic for them. Getting stuck mid-pack or worse with this package at a crucial moment, can mask what your true speed might be. This also happened to them in a similar fashion only earlier at Richmond. The exception being Fontana where they were able to use their speed relative to everyone else

My other question would be does failing qualifying tech with a fast car and then moving up through the field affect these numbers? That happened to both Suarez and Almirola at Kansas as well. Suarez has had some good move up in late race, notably last week Michigan and Texas. But, he has also run strong early/mid and experienced fall off at Charlotte too. Small sample size, but Almirola for sure fell off last week at Michigan after running well early/mid. Some of his early season portion probably makes up for that though.
 

AuzGrams

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Just going off eye test, I feel like Brad is the 4th best car behind the 18, 19, 22 so far. I think Brad is better at closing out races, but those other guys have a lot more raw speed in their cars which is what I care about at Homestead.
 

Truex_rox

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Just going off eye test, I feel like Brad is the 4th best car behind the 18, 19, 22 so far. I think Brad is better at closing out races, but those other guys have a lot more raw speed in their cars which is what I care about at Homestead.
Right? Brad does not seem bad fast, except for his stonking performance at Martinsville. Kansas really was not his to win, but he and his crew pulled a champion move out of the hat to win that one. He wasn't even the fastest at Atlanta towards the end, but he held his own pretty well. He's making the most of what he's got. I see him, Kyle, and Truex making the most of their equipment. Joey hasn't been blatantly lightning fast except for when he smoked out Michigan, but he has been super consistent and has been ringing up stage points like nobody else.
 

Team Penske

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I think the point was 4th quarter speed vs full race speed and NOT what happened with that speed. All cars were slower although a few were pretty close to being the same.
The speed could be affected by Traffic. Worn tires. Race accidents. and the list goes on.
I would say a determining factor would be driver tiredness.
 

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Daniel “The Closer” Suarez

Good example of why I hope he gets an extension at SHR, he’s performing better than at JGR and just needs to become more consistent in races and qualify a little better to be a regular threat to win races. Most recently he’s been finishing better than where he qualifies.
 

LewTheShoe

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This is all some interesting analytical breakdown. I don't necessarily agree with the findings, but it is nice to see how that stacks up to an eye test. It is suggesting that KB, Chase, and Bowyer are all falling off in crunch time, when I see quite the opposite (for the majority). I am guessing it is including late pit road mistakes which would skew the numbers?

Just as a small example, KB at Kansas had a fast car all race but struggled to make head way due to difficulty passing, he got to the lead late and was set in prime position to win that race (plenty good enough on speed), only to be relegated to the back on a late speeding penalty which changed the entire dynamic for them. Getting stuck mid-pack or worse with this package at a crucial moment, can mask what your true speed might be. This also happened to them in a similar fashion only earlier at Richmond. The exception being Fontana where they were able to use their speed relative to everyone else

My other question would be does failing qualifying tech with a fast car and then moving up through the field affect these numbers? That happened to both Suarez and Almirola at Kansas as well. Suarez has had some good move up in late race, notably last week Michigan and Texas. But, he has also run strong early/mid and experienced fall off at Charlotte too. Small sample size, but Almirola for sure fell off last week at Michigan after running well early/mid. Some of his early season portion probably makes up for that though.
You raise some great questions! The data purports to show "what is" but it does *not* show what woulda coulda shoulda been. If a so-called fast car gets relegated to mid-pack... and just stays there... the data will show that was a slow car on the day.

David Smith computes his "Central Speed Ranking" metric using lap times directly from scoring loop data. He divides each race into quarters, and collects lap times for each car for each lap. Then he excludes data points that are affected by yellow flags and other aberrations such as crash damage. I'm assuming he also excludes data points where the car pits... how could he not exclude those lap times?

After these exclusions, each car will have lap times that represent its true on-track speed during each quarter of the race. Those get ranked... for each quarter of each race... a total of 60 rankings over 15 races so far this year. Kyle Busch ranks lowest (fastest), then Harvick, Logano, Keselowski, Elliott. But this does not mean Kyle ranks fastest in every race. For example, Harvick has been fastest at four races... Dover, Kansas, Charlotte, Michigan. Kez was fastest at Martinsville... etc.

Or you could isolate the 15 results from the 4th quarter of each race, as Smith has done for this analysis. Busch still ranks fastest on average over the 15 weeks, followed by Logano, Kez, Harvick, and Truex. But the gaps are much smaller... it's close to a toss-up. According to Smith, Kez was fastest in the 4th quarter at Atlanta and Kansas, and won both races. Logano ditto at Michigan.

Smith's analysis doesn't say if Chase and Clint got faster or slower in "crunch time" but it does say others did better at surging toward the front. Chase ranked fifth fastest using full race data, and ninth using just 4th quarter data. He got passed by Truex, Suarez, Almirola, and Blaney. Clint slid from sixth to twelfth... passed by Truex, Suarez, Almirola, Blaney, Kurt Busch, and Hambone.

Disclaimer: 15 races isn't much for data analytics in terms of drawing forward looking conclusions. Let's see how things look after 26 or 36 races.
 

LewTheShoe

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Just going off eye test, I feel like Brad is the 4th best car behind the 18, 19, 22 so far. I think Brad is better at closing out races, but those other guys have a lot more raw speed in their cars which is what I care about at Homestead.
After the 18, the 4 has had more raw speed than anyone else, according to the loop data. But one thing has always made NASCAR different from other forms of racing... the races are very long and get interrupted by yellow flags for crashes etc. So the cars get adjusted on, and line up for a restart. And I'd rather have late-race speed than be fastest at the Boogity Boogity... jus' sayin.
 

LewTheShoe

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Daniel “The Closer” Suarez

Good example of why I hope he gets an extension at SHR, he’s performing better than at JGR and just needs to become more consistent in races and qualify a little better to be a regular threat to win races. Most recently he’s been finishing better than where he qualifies.
I think Daniel has shown progress, and potential for more, and I hope he has a home in the 41. Experience matters in cup racing, and Daniel arrived in cup without much of it... due to circumstances.

I think for SHR to renew Bowyer but not Suarez would be a major blunder. I hope that doesn't happen. Just my $0.02.
 

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Back in the day veteran drivers saved the car for the end of the race. The middle segment of the race was typically logging laps (rookies used up the car trying to impress early). I kinda thought these days they run full out the whole race but the stats suggest they still save the equipment for the end of the race. Or the cream of the crop rises to the top because they are the better than the field.
 

LewTheShoe

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Back in the day veteran drivers saved the car for the end of the race. The middle segment of the race was typically logging laps (rookies used up the car trying to impress early). I kinda thought these days they run full out the whole race but the stats suggest they still save the equipment for the end of the race. Or the cream of the crop rises to the top because they are the better than the field.
I think gaining speed at "crunch time" mainly comes from a trial-and-error process to optimize the setup... rather than logging laps early and then getting up on the wheel toward the end. That's just an opinion, but at most every venue, track position is king and stage points are also important. So I think most drivers who aren't leading the race are trying to improve their track position, and driving hard from the beginning.

But there also is a definite late-race desperation that also happens. More risks are taken in the final quarter. Ride the rim six inches from the wall. Aggressive side drafting in to corners. Wreck a guy rather than lifting to cut him a break. Stuff like that.
 

Turtle84

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You raise some great questions! The data purports to show "what is" but it does *not* show what woulda coulda shoulda been. If a so-called fast car gets relegated to mid-pack... and just stays there... the data will show that was a slow car on the day.

David Smith computes his "Central Speed Ranking" metric using lap times directly from scoring loop data. He divides each race into quarters, and collects lap times for each car for each lap. Then he excludes data points that are affected by yellow flags and other aberrations such as crash damage. I'm assuming he also excludes data points where the car pits... how could he not exclude those lap times?

After these exclusions, each car will have lap times that represent its true on-track speed during each quarter of the race. Those get ranked... for each quarter of each race... a total of 60 rankings over 15 races so far this year. Kyle Busch ranks lowest (fastest), then Harvick, Logano, Keselowski, Elliott. But this does not mean Kyle ranks fastest in every race. For example, Harvick has been fastest at four races... Dover, Kansas, Charlotte, Michigan. Kez was fastest at Martinsville... etc.

Or you could isolate the 15 results from the 4th quarter of each race, as Smith has done for this analysis. Busch still ranks fastest on average over the 15 weeks, followed by Logano, Kez, Harvick, and Truex. But the gaps are much smaller... it's close to a toss-up. According to Smith, Kez was fastest in the 4th quarter at Atlanta and Kansas, and won both races. Logano ditto at Michigan.

Smith's analysis doesn't say if Chase and Clint got faster or slower in "crunch time" but it does say others did better at surging toward the front. Chase ranked fifth fastest using full race data, and ninth using just 4th quarter data. He got passed by Truex, Suarez, Almirola, and Blaney. Clint slid from sixth to twelfth... passed by Truex, Suarez, Almirola, Blaney, Kurt Busch, and Hambone.

Disclaimer: 15 races isn't much for data analytics in terms of drawing forward looking conclusions. Let's see how things look after 26 or 36 races.
Lap times from scoring loop data, got it. That tells me that failing tech and moving up in running position means nothing, unless it's a combined metric with running position. Being mid-pack will hurt like you said, until you're able to break free and unleash your true speed, that seems to be a prolonged period with this specific package. This seems as accurate a measurement on speed we could hope for metrics wise.

Agreed, 15 races is a small sample size.

I am a little confused on the differential number, + indicates forward surge, - indicates backward slide? but that doesn't necessarily mean that their speed changed during "crunch time"? Chase and Clint both have negative numbers, along with Larson, Jones, and Byron.
 

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Right? Brad does not seem bad fast, except for his stonking performance at Martinsville. Kansas really was not his to win, but he and his crew pulled a champion move out of the hat to win that one. He wasn't even the fastest at Atlanta towards the end, but he held his own pretty well. He's making the most of what he's got. I see him, Kyle, and Truex making the most of their equipment. Joey hasn't been blatantly lightning fast except for when he smoked out Michigan, but he has been super consistent and has been ringing up stage points like nobody else.
Been saying this since 2012. How many drivers have gotten the better of Brad in a race that he's dominated, aside from Jimmie Johnson?

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 

JohnHill

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Great information in the OP! That 27 race stretch for Brad is highly impressive.

I’m really impressed with the 41 though! What a difference from the way it seems they run the early parts of a race to the way the 41 team closes a race!
 

LewTheShoe

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I am a little confused on the differential number, + indicates forward surge, - indicates backward slide? but that doesn't necessarily mean that their speed changed during "crunch time"? Chase and Clint both have negative numbers, along with Larson, Jones, and Byron.
Yes, a negative differential indicates backward slide in the 4th quarter speed ranking compared to the full-race ranking.

I'm out of my league trying to explain the math, but I'll try. I believe the rankings shown in the OP are, for each car, the average of 60 individual rankings (15 races x 4 quarters per race). These 60 rankings are ordinal rankings, i.e. from 1 for fastest through 40 for slowest. In the OP, Kyle Busch is fastest with an average rank of 4.93. This indicates that over 60 periods of speed measurement, his average rank was a little better than 5th fastest. I don't have the underlying data, but I'm sure his 60 data points included a lot of 1's and 2's and 7's and 8's... and a few 18's or 23's as well. Average them all, and you get 4.93.

When looking just at 4th quarter crunch time data, Kyle's average is 8.27 (and his differential is 4.93 - 8.27 = -3.34). He was still the fastest over the 15 crunch times measured, but the field was closer, clustered more tightly. He had fewer 1's and 2's I would imagine. Did Kyle lap slower in crunch time? I don't know. Maybe it's just that others lapped faster. The data clearly shows that Logano and Keselowski passed Harvick and *almost* caught Kyle in the averages.

Same thing for Chase and Clint. Using full-race data (60 ordinal rankings), Chase had the 5th best speed with an average ranking of 9.07 for the 60 data points. The only cars faster on average than Chase were Busch, Harvick, Logano, Keselowski.

Now look just at 15 crunch time data points... Chase's average of 11.33 (and his differential of 9.07 - 11.33 = -2.26) was less impressive... just 9th best among all cars. In the crunch time periods, Chase got edged out by four cars that he beat in the full-race numbers... Truex, Suarez, Almirola, and Blaney. Chase might have gained 4th quarter speed, but if he did, those other guys gained *even more* because they passed Chase on average.

Final observation: I think this stuff is interesting and tantalizing... but hard to grasp, hard to visualize. I wish it were simpler. But I've been reading Smith's work for three or four years, and simple has never been an attribute. And he makes it even worse with a writing style that is awkward, complex, and hard to follow. However, there is insight in there at times, and that makes it worth looking at... IMO.
 

LewTheShoe

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Been saying this since 2012. How many drivers have gotten the better of Brad in a race that he's dominated, aside from Jimmie Johnson?
Ha ha ha. Again? You have posted at least 20 times about Texas in November 2015... and used that race to support your claims of how great JJ is..:dual9mm:

Seriously, I'm with you 100% that Jimmie Johnson is clearly the greatest NASCAR driver of his generation... which is the most I will ever say about any driver, ever. JJ is the greatest of his generation because his resume says it clearly and plainly, with nobody else being close.

But that Texas race is not a good example to prove it. That was a case of a blown late-race adjustment by the 2 team for short run speed after a late caution. Chad Knaus got it right, Paul Wolfe got it wrong, and driving skills had just about nothing to do with that outcome. I was there hoping to see Brad win it, and damn that one hurt.

BTW, Brad has quite a list of races that got away right at the end. I think all front runners do. That's just part of this game, where the fastest car on the day wins just 40% of the time... according to David Smith's data 2005-2019.
 

Turtle84

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Yes, a negative differential indicates backward slide in the 4th quarter speed ranking compared to the full-race ranking.

I'm out of my league trying to explain the math, but I'll try. I believe the rankings shown in the OP are, for each car, the average of 60 individual rankings (15 races x 4 quarters per race). These 60 rankings are ordinal rankings, i.e. from 1 for fastest through 40 for slowest. In the OP, Kyle Busch is fastest with an average rank of 4.93. This indicates that over 60 periods of speed measurement, his average rank was a little better than 5th fastest. I don't have the underlying data, but I'm sure his 60 data points included a lot of 1's and 2's and 7's and 8's... and a few 18's or 23's as well. Average them all, and you get 4.93.

When looking just at 4th quarter crunch time data, Kyle's average is 8.27 (and his differential is 4.93 - 8.27 = -3.34). He was still the fastest over the 15 crunch times measured, but the field was closer, clustered more tightly. He had fewer 1's and 2's I would imagine. Did Kyle lap slower in crunch time? I don't know. Maybe it's just that others lapped faster. The data clearly shows that Logano and Keselowski passed Harvick and *almost* caught Kyle in the averages.

Same thing for Chase and Clint. Using full-race data (60 ordinal rankings), Chase had the 5th best speed with an average ranking of 9.07 for the 60 data points. The only cars faster on average than Chase were Busch, Harvick, Logano, Keselowski.

Now look just at 15 crunch time data points... Chase's average of 11.33 (and his differential of 9.07 - 11.33 = -2.26) was less impressive... just 9th best among all cars. In the crunch time periods, Chase got edged out by four cars that he beat in the full-race numbers... Truex, Suarez, Almirola, and Blaney. Chase might have gained 4th quarter speed, but if he did, those other guys gained *even more* because they passed Chase on average.

Final observation: I think this stuff is interesting and tantalizing... but hard to grasp, hard to visualize. I wish it were simpler. But I've been reading Smith's work for three or four years, and simple has never been an attribute. And he makes it even worse with a writing style that is awkward, complex, and hard to follow. However, there is insight in there at times, and that makes it worth looking at... IMO.
Ah! (Light Bulb goes on) I see what you're saying now about it being possible someone like Chase was faster on lap time "in crunch time" compared to early/mid race, but other's dropped their lap times making it seem like Chase got slower, when they did not, just slower relative to some of their competitors "in crunch time". Or, he actually did get slower on lap time. That would be easy to see if we had access to the actual lap time data to pour over.

Lap time example (fictional #s Michigan) might make it easier to see. Would be something like:

1 lap snap shot for race long early/mid race.
1) 38.18 KB
2) 38.22 Harvick
3) 38.23 Logano
4) 38.31 BK
5) 38.35 Chase

1 lap snap shot in "crunch time" when he's actually faster but slower relative (due to good adjustments, clean air track position, temps cooling etc)
1) 37.58 KB
2) 37.65 Logano
3) 37.67 BK
4) 37.71 Harvick
5) 37.74 Truex
6) 37.76 Suarez
7) 37.77 Almirola
8) 37.79 Blaney
9) 37.80 Chase

1 lap snap shot in "crunch time" when he actually got slower and slower relative (due to bad adjustments, being mired in traffic, track temps heating up etc)
1) 38.22 KB
2) 38.25 Logano
3) 38.26 BK
4) 38.29 Harvick
5) 38.31 Truex
6) 38.38 Suarez
7) 38.39 Almirola
8) 38.42 Blaney
9) 38.47 Chase

Obviously they would not shake out in that exact position every time, since they would fluctuate on average lap to lap, eventually reaching their average ranking.

All good stuff Mr. Lew! I appreciate all your attempts at answering. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite topics on this board.
 

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1 other thing I thought of, is if you do a 2 tire stop, fuel only, or stay out under caution it is going to sink your speed ranking, even though it may be the correct call in "crunch time".
 

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I tend to agree, Brad can pull off some amazing tricks to win races. I never count him out
 

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I've never analyzed the data to this degree, but one thing I have sort of informally paid attention to for years was to see what position a person was running with say 100 laps or 100 miles to go, and where they were running at the end of the race. No surprise, but Gordon was a guy that almost always seemed to be moving forward at the end of the race, even if it was say from 14th to 8th.
 

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I've never analyzed the data to this degree, but one thing I have sort of informally paid attention to for years was to see what position a person was running with say 100 laps or 100 miles to go, and where they were running at the end of the race. No surprise, but Gordon was a guy that almost always seemed to be moving forward at the end of the race, even if it was say from 14th to 8th.
Yep, I watch a handful in the closing laps these days on the leader board. The only one that has caught my attention for the most part is Harvick. Besides his pit crew screwing him, he isn't coming on in the last stages this year like he did in the past. Larson for the most part is damaged by that time. :D
 

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Here's a summary of 2018 crunch time speed. The racing was very different last year... with ~750 horsepower every week and sharply lower downforce and drag. There was more of a premium on handling, car control, throttle control, braking. How does that affect who gained (or lost) late race speed relative to the competition?

David Smith introduced the "Central Speed Ranking" metric late last year, and published a summary covering full year 2018 (link for subscribers). As discussed up thread, this includes 144 separate periods of speed measurement and 144 ordinal rankings (36 races x 4 quarters), which are then averaged into something akin to a batting average of being fast. Based on actual lap times for each car for each lap, adjusted to exclude anomalies due to individual crash damage, pit stops, and yellow flags.

Also, there is a separate table that shows Central Speed Ranking just for the 4th quarter of races... the average of 36 ordinal rankings. Below are the fastest cars in the 4th quarter "crunch time"... when races are won or lost.

Crunch Time Speed Averages:

1) Harvick ... 5.74 (also 1 for full race, so +/- = 0)
2) Ky Busch ... 6.03 (also 2 for full race, so +/- = 0)
3) Truex ... 7.15 (also 3 for full race, so +/- = 0)
4) B Kez ... 9.22 (ranks 6 for full race, so delta = +2)
5) Ku Busch ... 9.26 (ranks 4 for full race, so delta = -1)
6) C.Elliott ... 9.63 (ranks 5 for full race, so delta = -1)
7) Larson ... 9.97 (ranks 7 for full race, so +/- = 0)
8) Hamlin ... 10.11 (ranks 10 for full race, so delta = +2)
9) Bowyer ... 10.17 (ranks 9 for full race, so +/- = 0)
10) Logano ... 10.85 (ranks 11 for full race, so delta = +1)
11) Jones ... 10.97 (ranks 13 for full race, so delta = +2)
12) Almirola ... 11.29 (ranks 12 for full race, so +/- = 0)
13) Blaney ... 12.03 (ranks 8 for full race, so delta = -5)
14) Johnson ... 12.91 (ranks 14 for full race, so +/- = 0)
15) Bowman ... 15.06 (ranks 15 for full race, so +/- = 0)
16) Suarez ... 15.68 (ranks 17 for full race, so delta = +1)
17) Newman ... 16.14 (ranks 18 for full race, so delta = +1)
18) Byron ... 16.50 (ranks 20 for full race, so delta = +2)
19) Menard ... 16.61 (ranks 19 for full race, so +/- = 0)
20) A. Dillon ... 16.70 (ranks 21 for full race, so delta = +1)

Comparing full race ranking to 4th quarter ranking... most are pretty similar, within 1 or 2 positions. Blaney slipped -5 positions, ranking 8th quickest overall but dropping to 13th in crunch time. Without access to underlying data, it's difficult to comment why.

Keselowski moved up to 4th fastest in crunch time. He won three races by being fastest in the late laps, without being overall fastest any of those three days. I still think Paul Wolfe and Brad have a knack for making that happen... David Pearson style.
 

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Here's a summary of 2018 crunch time speed. The racing was very different last year... with ~750 horsepower every week and sharply lower downforce and drag. There was more of a premium on handling, car control, throttle control, braking. How does that affect who gained (or lost) late race speed relative to the competition?

David Smith introduced the "Central Speed Ranking" metric late last year, and published a summary covering full year 2018 (link for subscribers). As discussed up thread, this includes 144 separate periods of speed measurement and 144 ordinal rankings (36 races x 4 quarters), which are then averaged into something akin to a batting average of being fast. Based on actual lap times for each car for each lap, adjusted to exclude anomalies due to individual crash damage, pit stops, and yellow flags.

Also, there is a separate table that shows Central Speed Ranking just for the 4th quarter of races... the average of 36 ordinal rankings. Below are the fastest cars in the 4th quarter "crunch time"... when races are won or lost.

Crunch Time Speed Averages:

1) Harvick ... 5.74 (also 1 for full race, so +/- = 0)
2) Ky Busch ... 6.03 (also 2 for full race, so +/- = 0)
3) Truex ... 7.15 (also 3 for full race, so +/- = 0)
4) B Kez ... 9.22 (ranks 6 for full race, so delta = +2)
5) Ku Busch ... 9.26 (ranks 4 for full race, so delta = -1)
6) C.Elliott ... 9.63 (ranks 5 for full race, so delta = -1)
7) Larson ... 9.97 (ranks 7 for full race, so +/- = 0)
8) Hamlin ... 10.11 (ranks 10 for full race, so delta = +2)
9) Bowyer ... 10.17 (ranks 9 for full race, so +/- = 0)
10) Logano ... 10.85 (ranks 11 for full race, so delta = +1)
11) Jones ... 10.97 (ranks 13 for full race, so delta = +2)
12) Almirola ... 11.29 (ranks 12 for full race, so +/- = 0)
13) Blaney ... 12.03 (ranks 8 for full race, so delta = -5)
14) Johnson ... 12.91 (ranks 14 for full race, so +/- = 0)
15) Bowman ... 15.06 (ranks 15 for full race, so +/- = 0)
16) Suarez ... 15.68 (ranks 17 for full race, so delta = +1)
17) Newman ... 16.14 (ranks 18 for full race, so delta = +1)
18) Byron ... 16.50 (ranks 20 for full race, so delta = +2)
19) Menard ... 16.61 (ranks 19 for full race, so +/- = 0)
20) A. Dillon ... 16.70 (ranks 21 for full race, so delta = +1)

Comparing full race ranking to 4th quarter ranking... most are pretty similar, within 1 or 2 positions. Blaney slipped -5 positions, ranking 8th quickest overall but dropping to 13th in crunch time. Without access to underlying data, it's difficult to comment why.

Keselowski moved up to 4th fastest in crunch time. He won three races by being fastest in the late laps, without being overall fastest any of those three days. I still think Paul Wolfe and Brad have a knack for making that happen... David Pearson style.
Jimmie Johnson style 2015 at Texas

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