Article originally ran in the New York Times on Sunday, May 21. To view The New York Times online go to www.nytimes.com.
Amid Countless Left Turns, Nascar Is Crunching Numbers
Through nearly 25 years of racing in Nascar's
premier series, Mark Martin has competed
against an all-star list of champion drivers
from Dale Earnhardt to Richard Petty, Jeff
Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Cale
Yarborough. But ask Martin to name the
best he has ever chased, and he mentions
none of them.
"Tony Stewart," Martin said Tuesday during a
telephone conference call with reporters.
"He's just the man, in my opinion."
Martin has no statistics to back up his choice,
no numbers to quantify Stewart's talent and
dominance beyond the 25 career victories
and two points titles since joining Nascar's
Cup Series in 1999 after winning the Indy
Racing League title.
But Nascar has come up with a statistic that
might prove Martin is right, at least among
today's Cup competitors. It is the driver
rating, a ranking based on eight factors from
speed to finish. Nascar officials want it to
become the equivalent of the quarterback
rating in football, a ranking that goes beyond
victories and points to consider all of the
factors that make some drivers better than
This season, the series has been offering
driver rating with a package of new statistics
from quality passes to top closers, a chart of
drivers who make up the most places in the
final 10 percent of races.
"Everyone knows who won the race; this
helps talk about how the race was won,"
Ramsey Poston, Nascar's managing director
of corporate communications, said of the
new statistical package during a telephone
interview last week. "This sport is certainly
more than just making left turns. This sport
is about strategy, it's about speed, it's about
"We wanted a rating that measured
something more than just the number of
races any driver wins, and I think we've
For years, Nascar had no way to accurately
track drivers on each la