Stat Darlings: Celebrating the best drivers of 2021

Stat Darlings: Celebrating the best drivers of 2021

For the last couple several years and across distinctive media shops, I’ve recognized “Stat Darlings” for

For the last couple several years and across distinctive media shops, I’ve recognized “Stat Darlings” for each individual NASCAR Cup Series period. These awards are doled out subjectively with goal, statistics-primarily based reasoning.

Let’s hand out some components!

Finest Rookie: Chase Briscoe

NASCAR’s award for Rookie of the Year isn’t as uncomplicated as it appears.

Take into account Cole Custer’s 2020 award, given to him quickly following the initially 26 races solely for the reason that of his team’s playoff qualification. He was, by definition, the award’s receiver. But a cogent argument could be manufactured that fellow rookies Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek had improved statistical creation throughout 36 races.

This 12 months, the award and the designation coalesce with Briscoe smack in the center of the Venn diagram.

Granted, 2021 saw a slender rookie class – Anthony Alfredo was the only other eligible newcomer. Briscoe displayed some slow-burn development that, to the surprise of some, shone brightest on 550-horsepower tracks.

A former dust racer who scored 9 Xfinity Sequence victories in 2020, the 27-yr-old’s most effective times beforehand came at tracks of all types where by the horsepower is higher. This 12 months, he proved most productive as a passer on the greater oval tracks using the 550 bundle, ranked 13th amongst collection regulars in surplus passing value.

He was also, throughout all tracks, an earlier mentioned-regular restarter on chosen groove attempt, with a 71.43% position retention level – a mark besting all of last year’s rookies and Stewart-Haas Racing stable mate Aric Almirola, whose enhanced figures regressed mightily through the season’s residence extend. Among the drivers averaging jogging positions 20th-25th, Briscoe ranked 1st in placement retention level and 2nd in weighted positions acquired on restarts.

How Briscoe improves from this stage is a sizeable issue, given the age at which he entered the Cup Sequence. He’s older than all of the drivers in the rookie course that preceded him. He’s also more mature than William Byron, Erik Jones and 2020 champion Chase Elliott.

The ceiling on his possible is unclear, but it’s inarguable that the competitiveness he’ll probable see for the remainder of his profession received a head start off on getting worthwhile knowledge at stock automobile racing’s best level.

Most Enhanced: William Byron

Based on prior job benchmarks, no other driver savored an improvement wherever near Byron’s magnitude in 2021.

The 24-calendar year-aged driver noticed a .625-level raise above his 2020 Generation in Equivalent Tools Ranking a nine-place advancement to his velocity position (calculated by his normal median lap rank) his posture retention price on restarts bounce by around six percentage points and his surplus passing on non-drafting ovals shift from +.16%, rated 12th among collection regulars, to +1.67%, ranked fifth.

Put together, these improvements manifested in 3 instances as several top-5 finishes (12) than what he secured last calendar year (four).

Extremely, it appears his advancement isn’t completed. Byron was one particular of five motorists competing in the Cup Series at age 23 or youthful, and the only a single of the 5 who capable for the playoffs in 3 of his four seasons. On average, the age-24 period, which will arrive in 2022 for Byron, sees a monumental advancement in the over-all production of Cup drivers.

It’s entirely probable we’ll be back again listed here in a year’s time detailing much more advancement from a driver that’s a lot more routinely turning very good statistical endeavours on paper into tangible race finishes.

Very best Restarter: Kyle Larson

Larson was great at almost everything in 2021 — much more on that later — but if we were to pinpoint his greatest peripheral category, it’d be restarts. His 76.77% place retention level ranked 1st among the sequence regulars, more than 6 proportion points better than the second-best rate (Elliott at 70.56%). He also ranked first in retention (with a 77.22% charge) precisely on restarts employing the choose rule.

Now, it is less complicated to manage positioning when, as the leader, you have all the thoroughly clean-air pros of the entrance row. And Larson routinely led, restarting from the P1 spot on nearly 32% of his attempts. He also chosen his positioning very well around 62% of his restarts from within the initially 14 places originated from a desired groove slot, putting the odds of retention in his favor.

But his makes an attempt at mitigating decline from non-chosen groove restarts, commonly a supply of positional drops, was a minimize above everyone else in the series. His was the only retention amount hitting the 60% mark, although his ordinary loss of .41 spots served as the most group-welcoming clip – plenty of drinking water treaded for the runs that’d soon observe.

Most effective Passer: Chase Elliott

Elliott and Larson had been somewhat neck and neck when it came to passes on shorter runs and extended runs. But whilst the latter saw 8% of his altered pass differential arrive from positions gained within the two-lap window for restarts, the former produced standard passes throughout long eco-friendly-flag runs his main wellspring for keep track of position.

Elliott’s +2.59% surplus passing worth rated very first amongst sequence regulars, as did his +446 altered move differential. In spite of his excellent positional defense on restarts, ranked next in retention price to Larson, his seasonal web achieve inside the window was -1, indicating the totality of his ahead movement was the final result of the perform currently being finished on long operates.

This was a power exploited by his team, who took a lot more threats than most through the pre-race buildup. Elliott commenced from the tail stop of fields 6 occasions in 2021 as a outcome of inspection penalties or unapproved adjustments, and scored at minimum one level for the duration of the 1st levels of all 6 races.

Most effective All-Around Driver: Kyle Larson

Larson gained 10 times in 36 starts, a testomony to the two a very good driver and a good group. But independently, the 29-calendar year-outdated impressed thanks to rankings in important statistical types:

  • 1st in Generation in Equivalent Equipment Rating (PEER)
  • 1st in PEER on 550-horsepower tracks
  • 1st in PEER on 750-horsepower tracks
  • 1st in PEER in races with zero late restarts
  • 1st in PEER in races with at minimum 1 late restart
  • 1st in situation retention fee on all restarts
  • 1st in situation retention charge on select-rule restarts
  • 1st in place retention price on favored groove restarts
  • 1st in situation retention price on non-most popular groove restarts
  • 1st in adjusted go effectiveness on non-drafting tracks
  • 2nd in surplus passing value on non-drafting tracks
  • 2nd in surplus passing price on 750-horsepower ovals
  • 4th in crash avoidance

The 2021 title went to its most worthy possible recipient – in no way a guarantee in the playoff period.

Larson crashed just .19 occasions for each race, a charge trailing only Joey Logano (.14), Chris Buescher (.17) and Erik Jones (.17) among those people routinely operating within the best 30. His clear driving put together with elite creation, restarting and passing is a difficult riddle for all others to remedy and contains a statistical profile unquestionably deserving of this designation.

Across the total of 2021, Larson was the greatest stat darling and the most important cog of a team with one of the finest seasons in contemporary NASCAR record.