IndyCar is a sport of imperfect information.
In almost any other sport, you get to see every play, shot, hit, and throw live or at least on a replay. But not IndyCar. Cameras don’t cover every single section of the racetrack and broadcasts follow pockets of action at a time. And even if the cameras do capture everything, the feeds from tracks aren’t posted online anywhere after to watch. Usually just the TV broadcast is available.
Because of this, tracking different statistics for IndyCar becomes pretty difficult. For example, when it comes to tracking on-track passes, you can get a pretty good idea of passes that take place just by looking at the order of the cars as they pass the start-finish line each lap. But this isn’t perfect. Cars can pass and repass multiple times throughout a lap and although track sector times are available, it’s sometimes difficult to work with and it also can have gaps.
The same is true for pit-stop coverage as not every pit-stop is captured on camera during the broadcast. Calculating pit-stop time, for example, is really hard. It can be approximated by looking at pit-lane deltas as a whole, but unless the network is showing a particular pit-stop as it’s happening and has the stopwatch graphic up, it’s hard or sometimes impossible to get an accurate measurement.
Other sports analytics blogs have the benefit of being able to go back after the fact and rewatch every single play to track the advanced stats that you see on sites like Football Outsiders or FanGraphs. They can see the angles and everything that goes down, which means they can count and turn anything they want into a statistic. While we can rewatch the races, we still don’t get to see every angle or part of the race.
These are just some of the reasons why IndyCar stats are so hard to deal with. But it doesn’t mean useful insights can’t be gained by looking at the data, it just means you have to a) get a little creative b) try really, really hard and c) be okay with imperfect and incomplete data.
And that’s exactly what I try to do here on this blog. I’m trying to gain insights about IndyCar by analyzing the statistics of the sport and along the way coming up with my own. These insights might be looking at upcoming races and what makes a race winner, or discovering things that go against what the common eye-test would reveal.