VICKERS, BUSCH ONLY BUBBLE DRIVERS WITH SHOT AT MAKING THE CHASE

With one race left before the Chase field is set, you can almost throw out all of the old probability tables we have discussed before. Obviously, anything can happen in this final race.

Fortunately we have a guide: the previous 25 races this season. If we simulate this Saturday night’s race at Richmond by taking the results from the past 25 races this year, we can narrow the possibilities of what the standings could look like on Sunday. Most importantly, we can use these numbers to get a good sense of each driver’s probability of making the top 12.

The only exception in this simulation is if a driver performs better or worse than he has all year. A good example of this is Kurt Busch, who scored only 49 points last weekend at Atlanta. That was his worst performance of 2009. It took him down from a 100 percent chance of making the Chase to a 96 percent chance. If the Atlanta results repeat themselves at Richmond, he will fall out of the chase to 13th place in the standings. It’s a crazy possibility, but anybody from Carl Edwards down can crash out of Richmond and knock themselves out of the top 12.

Some other interesting items:

1) The 20-point gap between Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth in the standings translates to a 12 percent point difference in making the top 12.

2) If the results this weekend match exactly with the spring race at Richmond earlier this year, then Kyle Busch will replace Matt Kenseth in the top 12.

3) Everybody below Kyle Busch in points is out. ESPN/ABC should stop highlighting those guys in yellow on its scrolling leaderboard. It’s misleading. Let’s only focus on Vickers and Busch as the two guys outside the bubble. The rest are toast. Sorry David Reutimann. Better luck next year.

4) We see in this table, the range for 12th place points is 3,168 to 3,237. The range for 13th place is 3,103 to 3,211. The two ranges have a big overlap with each other. Also, 3,125 to 3,162 is the range between fifth in points and eleventh in points. Everybody is very close to the bubble.

Like I said, if somebody has his worst performance of the year, even a 100 percent chance of making it in won’t help now. What I mean by 100 percent is they will make the top 12 as long as they perform within the range of their previous finishes this year.

The one thing I do know ? There is a 100 percent chance of one exciting race this Saturday night.

(All Left Turns contributor Dale Watermill is the creator of the Watermill Score and edits the racing statistics blog 36 Races. E-mail him at 36races@gmail.com.)

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