Just before Christmas, NASCAR handed out a few gifts of its own in the form of its seventh-annual Loopies. The Loopies are unofficial awards by NASCAR, based on Loop Data statistics. Here are the winners for 2013:
Most Improved Driver: winner — Kurt Busch. This award is based on driver rating. At the end of 2012, Busch has a rating of 71. This year, he improved to 93. That jump was the largest among Sprint Cup regulars. Finishing second and third in the category were Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.
Least Improved Driver: winner (or loser, in this case) — Denny Hamlin. With a dismal 2013, despite a win in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, in a season that saw the driver miss four races because of injury, Hamlin wound up with a season-ending driver rating of 82.4, down from 100.9 the year before. On the bright side, Hamlin has been tabbed by NASCAR as a 2014 pre-season favorite to nab the Most Improved Driver Award next year. I guess for Hamlin, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Jimmie Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award: winner — Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has been tops in Loop Data stats on a regular basis since Loop Data was born nine years ago. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since he’s won six Sprint Cups during that span of time. This year, he set the Loop Data world on fire, especially once the Chase got underway, with records in driver rating (125.8), average running position (5.165) and laps in the top-15 (3001).
Project Makeover Award: winner — Matt Kenseth. According to NASCAR’s list of winners, this honor went to the driver who switched teams and made the most of it. In addition to finishing out the year second in the championship standings, Kenseth also wound up the year second in the most-laps-led category, spending a total of 1783 laps out front. He averaged a rating of 9.8 in the category the previous five seasons. Also, his 2013 laps-led stat was higher than his combined laps led the previous four years.
It’s Go Time Award: winner — Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kevin Harvick may have entered the 2013 season with the nickname of “The Closer,” but according to 2013 Loop Data, Earnhardt was this year’s closer. Earnhardt made up 68 positions in the final 10 percent of races in 2013; that’s the most of any other driver over the course of the season.
No, Really, It’s Go Time. Why Aren’t You Going? Award: winner (or loser) — Clint Bowyer. This award is the negative opposite of the aforementioned award. While Earnhardt was making up 68 spots in the closing laps in 2013, Bowyer was giving up almost all of those spots. Bowyer gave up 67 positions over the course of the final 10 percent of races in 2013.
Stefan Kretschmann Lifetime Achievement Award: winner — Jeff Gordon. This award, named for Stefan Kretschmann of Stats, LLC, considered by NASCAR to be the “godfather of Loop Data.” Gordon received this award, because, according to NASCAR statistics, he would lead most Loop Data statistical categories over the course of the history of Loop Data, if not for Johnson. Since Loop Data began in 2005, Gordon’s stats put him second in the categories of fastest laps, average running positions, laps in the top-15 and percentage of laps on the lead lap.
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