How Predictive is Starting Position at Different Tracks?

Today I just wanted to drop a very brief article here on a question I recently looked at. How useful is starting position in terms of predicting finishing position for different tracks? This is a slightly different question than the three I explored in this article on qualifying position, but if you’re interested in qualifying and its relationship to the race I urge you to check out that post as well.

Looking at data from 2008-2019, and at tracks that were raced a minimum of five times during this period, I calculated the correlation between starting position and finishing position for each track separately. Here are the results:

This highest correlation (.56) came at Sonoma, which means that about 31% of the variation in finishing position we see there can be explained by variation in starting position. For being the highest track on our list, that still isn’t that high. Pocono had the lowest correlation (.21) by a significant bit and Indianapolis (.33) placed second-lowest. Seeing two huge super-speedways at the bottom of the list isn’t too surprising considering the length of those races and the space available for overtaking. What is surprising (to me) is that Toronto and Belle Isle, two street courses, are the next two lowest after those super-speedways. Polar opposites in terms of track design but very similar in terms of correlation between starting and finishing position.

If you have any theories about specific tracks or trends, let me know in the comments!

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