Several years ago, NASCAR analyzed the statistics available from other sports. One they particularly liked was the Quarterback Rating that combined several stats to reveal who was best regardless of the system of offense they ran.
They came up with a complicated formula that includes primary statistics (such as finishing result, average running position, average speed, and number of fastest laps), Fixed bonus points (for things such as the win, leading the most laps, and finishing on the lead lap), and variable bonus points (such as fastest green flag laps). The stats are weighted differently and a perfect Driver Rating is set at 150.
Is the Driver Rating (DR) accurate? While nothing is absolutely predictive, this is as better gauge of a racer’s strength than almost anything else. Through Week 4 of the 2020, only one driver in the top 10 in points has a DR outside that mark. The drivers with the five best ratings all sit inside the top six.
The DR also reveals not only who has been the best, but just how much better than the competition they have been. The average difference between first-place Chase Elliott and 11th-place Kurt Busch is 25.9 points (or 17.2% of a perfect total).
Driver Rating is a much better gauge of strength than average finish.
Elliott was involved in a late-race accident at Daytona that kept him from finishing well. He limped home 17th after being involved in a last-lap crash, but he was already damage from an earlier incident. Still, he had the second-best DR of 95.5 in that event and should be watched closely in the next aero-restricted superspeedway race.
Elliott easily had the best car at Las Vegas up until the time he cut a valve stem and spun. He led enough laps and ran strong enough to record the fourth-best rating of 107.1 that afternoon, but finished 26th. In four races this year, Elliott has been ranked among the top five every week, which gives him a commanding advantage in this stat.
Joey Logano has the second-best rating of 105.8. And he would likely challenge Elliott if not for the Auto Club 400 performance. He finished 12th in a race that was not negatively impacted by strategy or any other extenuating circumstance. That is underscored by the fact that he earned the 11th-best DR of 86.4.
Still, Logano has been strong. He had the fourth-best rating at Daytona. He was second-best at Vegas and third-best at Phoenix. Both of those are race he won and the rating system confirms that he did not back into the victory.
Third-place on the chart is hotly contested. Both drivers are a minor surprise with where they are ranked. Fantasy players did not expect nearly as much from third-place Alex Bowman as he has provided and they expected so much more from Kevin Harvick.
No one has earned a perfect rating yet, but Bowman came close in the Auto Club 400. His mark of 149.3 is just .7 short of perfection and his Average Running Position of 1.76 tops that chart as well.
Bowman has been strong, but less consistent than his teammate Elliott. He posted the eighth-best rating at Daytona and was seventh-best at Vegas. His performance at Phoenix was not nearly as strong as he landed 13th on this chart in route to a 14th-place finish.
Harvick has been even less consistent. He was great at Las Vegas and Phoenix with the best DR in both events. This statistic is a big part of the puzzle, but it is important to remember it is not the only piece. Logano was a better closer at Vegas and he had track position in Phoenix to deny Harvick the win.
Harvick managed to stay out of trouble at Daytona and finished fifth, but he did so by trying to find a safe place to run at the back and middle of the pack. He had his worst DR on that track and ranked 21st, but his strategy worked and rewarded players with ample points. He was much more unremarkable at Auto Club. Despite finishing ninth, he was ranked 12th in Driver Rating.
Brad Keselowski rounds out the top five in Driver Rating, but he is only 10th in the points standings. That is because he has been one of the worst closers so far in 2020 as he tends to slip back in the final 25% of a race.
Driver Rating can also validate one’s struggle. Kyle Busch had a bad Daytona 500. He finished 34th after scoring only the 16th-best DR. One expected much more from him the following week at Las Vegas, but he was ranked 15th in that event; Busch finished 15th as well.
Busch is on the rise, however. His last two races have ended in top-five finishes after scoring top-five DRs.
The most remarkable dark horse so far has been Matt DiBenedetto. He has been ranked 14th or better every week and has finished in the top 15 in all three unrestricted races. His best finish was second at Las Vegas, but his best performance earned a DR of 87.2 (ninth-best) at Phoenix with a finishing result of ninth.
Season to Date: Driver Rating
2020 Stats through Week 4