MONTOYA AND STEWART HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN HUGE EGOS

Just for fun – because this is what I do for fun – I correlated driver finishes for 2009. What does that mean? It means I looked at how individual drivers finished at each track to see which drivers shared strengths and weaknesses. The results – I hope – will tell you a little more about your favorite driver.



High positive correlation means drivers often finished well together and poorly together, while high negative correlation means one driver finished well while the other finished poorly, and vice versa. Correlations close to zero means the two drivers had performances unrelated to each other.

The correlation matrix table is too large to include on this site, but I recommend that you click here to check it out. Green is a high positive correlation. Numbers in parenthesis are negative, and those in orange are in the high negative range.

Among the 12 Chase drivers the most correlated pairs were:

  • .37 Mark Martin and Ryan Newman
  • .32 Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya (good news for fans who enjoyed their feud at Homestead)
  • .31 Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards
  • .30 Edwards and Brian Vickers

The least correlated Chase pairs were:

  • .36 Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle
  • .32 Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne
  • .31 Martin and Vickers

The overall highest correlation was .41 between teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick. Harvick also paired in the other two highest correlations – .40 with both Jeff Gordon and A.J. Allmendinger. As Bowyer, Gordon and Allmendinger go, so goes Kevin Harvick.

The most negative correlation pairs were:

.48 Marcos Ambrose and Gordon
.45 Ambrose and Harvick
.45 Montoya and Jeff Burton

What is interesting here is how well teammates do with each other. Positive correlations between teammates mean they tend to perform well together and badly together, a sign that their teams have them dialed in about the same. We already saw that with Harvick and Bowyer, and we notice it as well with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, who score a very high .38 between each other.

The correlations also suggest which drivers have similar driving styles. Smart, conservative drivers like Martin and Newman have high correlations, as do aggressive pairs like Montoya/Stewart, Johnson/Edwards and Edwards/Vickers.

Pairs of drivers with opposite driving styles will have negative correlations, so it is not surprising to see Montoya and Burton with a very negative number. Montoya is aggressive and Burton is smart and smooth. Maybe that’s also why you see two very rough drivers in Kyle Busch and Hamlin have a high correlation.

Check out the table yourself, if only to see how your favorite driver stacks up with the rest of the field.

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

Related links:
How the 2009 season would have ended using different point systems
Drivers with momentum entering 2010
Replacing crew chief did not help Junior
Congratulations to Paul Menard, your 2009 FLOPPER Award winner
Winning in NASCAR is like counting cards
Chase bonus points are meaningless
Jimmie Johnson has most points at Chase tracks this season
The Watermill Score: How to win a Sprint Cup title