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Driver Ratings: Kentucky through Bristol

Dan Beaver

When we first undertook this experiment in April Brad Keselowski topped the list with a perfect rating of 150 at Martinsville. A couple of months later, we revisited the Driver Ratings in June and it was Kyle Busch who topped the chart with his 147.6 in the first Pocono Raceway event.

The Driver Rating is NASCAR’s formula that looks at strength-based categories to determine who is the best on a given week. Often, but not always, the top rating goes to the driver who wins the race. Of particular use is as a way to determine who ran well before either an incident or errant strategy robbed them of a strong result.

Starting out with the strongest performers, no one scored a perfect rating of 150 during the past 45 days, but Chase Elliott came closest with his Go Bowling at the Glen victory. For that race, he scored a rating of 149.7. Among other things, this helped prove that his performance in this race last year was no fluke – and if anything he improved – because he earned a Driver Rating of 148.8 in 2018.

Elliott struggled badly during the summer, but his win at the Glen changed his momentum. Last week he had one of best ratings at Bristol Motor Speedway (122.6) before his fifth-place, which gives him two spots among the top 25 during the past 45 days.  

Kyle Busch had the second-best Driver Rating of 134.7 during our look-back period. This preceded his second-place finish at Kentucky Speedway and as with Elliott such a strong performance signaled a reversal of fortune. In the two races preceding this runner up result, Busch finished outside the top 10 twice. Mostly these were because of mistakes made by the driver, but running so well at Kentucky gave him the confidence he needed.

Denny Hamlin has been the most productive driver in the past 45 days and it shows in his ratings. He has five slots in the chart below with a best performance at Pocono in the Gander 400 that resulted in a victory. Last week’s win at Bristol garnered only the fourth-best Driver Rating of 115.3, but it was enough to give him an almost clean sweep of this chart.

The only time Hamlin does not make the list is because of his rating at Kentucky where a 100.0 is not quite enough to be among the 25-best in the past 45 days. Still, he finished fifth in that race and was rated fifth, so it is cannot be truly classified as a stumble.

One of the strengths of the Driver Rating is that it underscores who ran well in strategy races. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski both ran short on fuel at Michigan International Speedway in the Consumers Energy 400 two weeks ago to finish 17th and 19th respectively. They had the third- and fourth-best Driver Ratings, however. That was not only good, it was good enough to be included in the recent top 25 and should be considered next season when the series returns to the 2-mile oval.

Likewise Busch’s eighth-place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was better than it appeared on paper. In that race, his temperament got the better of him and mired him in traffic for a time before he was forced to drive to the front again.

One cannot ignore the current Cinderella Story in the garage. Matt DiBenedetto has earned top-10s in half of his last 10 races. Three of these came after he scored a top-10 Driver Rating with his fourth-best ranking at Sonoma Raceway preceding a fourth-place finish and a ninth-best performance at New Hampshire preceding his ninth. But it was his performance at Bristol that really stole the show. With the second-best rating of 119.3, he proved that was not a fluke and that he truly deserved his shot at Victory Lane.

The Driver Rating chart reveals something else and it is that certain drivers are beginning to return to dominance.

Five drivers occupy 68 percent of the chart with 17 appearances. Hamlin’s five easily tops the list, but four others have been almost as stout in recent weeks with Busch, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. showing up three times apiece.

During the past 45 days, Harvick’s performance at Michigan and Truex’s strength at the Glen gave them their best Driver Rating.

 

Best Driver Ratings
Last 45 Days

Driver

Driver
Rating

Finish

Race

Chase Elliott (1)

149.7

1

Go Bowling at the Glen (Best at Watkins Glen)

Kyle Busch (1)

134.7

2

Quaker State 400 (Best at Kentucky)

Denny Hamlin (1)

133.5

1

Gander 400  (Best at Pocono)

Kevin Harvick (1)

131.2

6

Gander 400

Kyle Busch (2)

129.8

8

Foxwoods 301 (Best at New Hampshire)

Kurt Busch (1)

129.2

1

Quaker State 400

Kevin Harvick (2)

126.7

1

Foxwoods 301

Martin Truex Jr. (1)

125.9

2

Go Bowling at the Glen

Denny Hamlin (2)

125.0

2

Consumers Energy 400 (Best at Michigan)

Kevin Harvick (3)

124.7

1

Consumers Energy 400

Denny Hamlin (3)

124.6

2

Foxwoods 301

Chase Elliott (2)

122.6

5

Night Race at Bristol (Best at Bristol)

Kyle Larson

121.1

6

Night Race at Bristol

Matt DiBenedetto

119.3

2

Night Race at Bristol

Kyle Busch (3)

118.2

9

Gander 400

Brad Keselowski (1)

117.0

10

Foxwoods 301

Denny Hamlin (4)

116.4

3

Go Bowling at the Glen

Denny Hamlin (5)

115.3

1

Night Race at Bristol

Joey Logano (1)

115.1

17

Consumers Energy 400

Joey Logano (2)

114.4

7

Quaker State 400

Brad Keselowski (2)

114.3

3

Night Race at Bristol

Brad Keselowski (3)

114.2

19

Consumers Energy 400

Martin Truex Jr. (2)

113.9

4

Consumers Energy 400

Martin Truex Jr. (3)

113.8

3

Gander 400

Erik Jones

111.0

2

Gander 400