In 2018, only three races were won by drivers starting outside of the top ten. Qualifying has always been recognized as a pivotal part of the race weekend as it is what sets drivers up for a good result on Sunday.
Using data from 2008-2018 which includes 187 races, I took a look at three interesting questions related to starting position and how races play out.
New for 2019, I will be keeping track and updating Expected Points (xPts) for every race and for the season as a whole. xPts is the number of points we would expect to see a driver earn in a race given how he ran as judged by their average track position (ATP) and ATP25. The last 25% of the race is given extra weight as it is when the race is finally coming down to the wire and performance is more crucial. If two drivers both had an ATP of 5 but one had an ATP25 of 3 and then other an ATP25 of 18, while they both had good days from their general ATP, we would still expect the former to score more points than the latter.
The third and final full length practice session has finished up at St. Pete and now teams will head out and qualify this afternoon. A few red flags came out this morning that took away some practice time, but every driver still got some solid time on the track on the black tires.
St. Petersburg has had on average about four cautions per race since 2005, making it very likely we’ll see multiple caution flags waved on Sunday. Frequent cautions are a product of street courses, and St. Petersburg has some especially tight sections that make it prone to contact with the wall and other cars.
With St. Pete also the first race of the year after a long offseason, drivers are itching to get going and start off the season well when they are here (meaning they’re more likely to make dumb mistakes or be extra aggressive).