In my previous article about the Watermill Score, I explained how we can simplify the NASCAR points system to just four basic metrics: finishing the race, finishing on the lead lap, top 10s and wins. I also suggested how this allows for smarter gambles by crew chiefs. Another way to think about this concept is to use the analogy of counting cards in blackjack.

The point in blackjack is that you have 52 cards in a deck, but only certain cards are worth points. In a simple counting scheme, many cards are worth zero points, but some are worth plus one or minus one. Savvy gamblers keep track of the cards with point values, and based on the count, they use different tactics. We can see the same analogy in NASCAR. If you take that same card-counting approach, instead of keeping track of all 43 positions, all you need to do is keep track of the four important metrics:

1 point for finishing the race
1 point for finishing on the lead lap
1 point for a top 10
1 point for a win

Every other place in the final results is worth zero.

Remember that over the past decade the Watermill points ranking has a .98 correlation with the real NASCAR points ranking. It is equally valuable whether you are fighting for first in points or 35th. If you can maximize your Watermill score, you’ll also maximize your real place in the standings. Crew chiefs and teams just need to "count" these four points, ignore everything else, and let the rest of math’s magic work in their favor.

They can quickly use this counting device to decide whether or not to risk a fuel mileage gamble, figure how much they should gamble on over-adjusting a mediocre car, decide if it’s worth pitting for a tire they aren’t sure is going down, etc. They can stop focusing on the complicated points system of 43 places and instead focus on those four factors. If they keep track of the count, they’re all set.

(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


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The Watermill Score: How to win a Sprint Cup title
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