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Power Cleared For Sonoma

Most people figured this would be the case, especially with two weeks before the final race, but now it's official. Will Power was cleared after having concussion-like symptoms and will race in Sonoma.

The important parts about all of this are (a) Power is okay and (b) he can participate in the test on Thursday at Sonoma. That'll not only help us get an early indication of how this final race is likely to play out, but it'll also give Power a chance to find that extra speed he'll need to take the title fight to Pagenaud.

by Drew

Power Needs Pagenaud To Pull a Montoya

There's just a 16 percent chance that the points lead (and championship) will shift to Power in the last race of the year. Pagenaud has looked strong all season leading wire to wire and sits with a 43 point lead heading to Sonoma. That's the fourth biggest lead a driver has held heading into the last race in the past eleven years. Of the drivers who had a larger points lead, only one ended up losing the title: Montoya in 2015.

A Quick Model Update -- 9,000 More Simulations, Please

Our IndyCar Championshipmodel has been updated and will now run 10,000 simulations of the remaining races instead of the previous 1,000.

This will help improve the accuracy of the model, especially early on in the season when more championship possibilities are at play. As it sits right now, there are only two contenders for the championship, so simulating the remaining race 1,000 times works just fine. It's really more of a benefit for next season than this one.

The graph on the site has been updated after running these 10,000 simulations.

by Drew

Championship Update: That's Not What Power Wanted

Watkins Glen was pretty much a disaster for Will Power. 
He got taken out of the race after coming together with Charlie Kimball on lap 38, resulting in a 20th place finish for the Aussie. Not only did the crash end his race, it may have ended his championship hopes too. 
Here's how the odds look with one race remaining. Pagenaud pretty much has this locked up barring a DNF out in Sonoma along with a top-four finish for Power. 

You can read about how our model works here, and the latest forecast can be found here.
by Drew

What If Power Had Started At St. Pete?

If you haven't already read about how we're forecasting the 2016 IndyCar Championship, you can read about it here. Our latest forecast is here.

One of the benefits of having a model is that we can play with it to see how the championship odds would be different if certain events happen/happened. That's what I'm going to be doing today.

Will Power didn't race in St. Petersburg because he had concussion-like symptoms, so he scored zero points in round one. What if he had just (carefully) whipped the car around the track once? Coming in and retiring after the first lap would have put him in P22, securing him eight points. Here's how the championship odds would be different:

Current odds for Power to win: 29.3%
Odds if Power had scored eight points in round one: 32.1
Change: +2.8


What about if the first race hadn't happened at all? That would put Power 15 points ahead of Pagenaud in the points standings right now. Here's how that would change the picture:

C…

Championship Update: Pagenaud's Lead is Looking Strong With Two to Go

After a crazy Saturday night at Texas that saw the win decided by 0.008 seconds, Pagenaud heads to Watkins Glen in firm control of the championship. His title odds sit at just over 70 percent with two races -- both road courses -- left to go, according to our model.

Both Power and Pagenaud said after the race that they were playing it safe out there, trying to avoid losing the championship instead of going out and winning it. While that strategy may be fine for the leader, Power lost eight points to his rival and teammate by finishing four places behind him. The play-it-safe tactic will have to be left behind this week by the Aussie.

Power has a 29.3 percent chance of winning the championship, primarily because of the double points on offer out in California. That ensures that the title won't be decided this weekend.

This leaves the field with a 0.6 percent chance of pulling the ultimate upset.

Oh and for those of you who are looking forward to a championship that will be extremel…

How The IndyCar Championship Model Works

For the past couple days I've been working on a model that gives the odds of each driver winning the IndyCar championship. In this article I'll do my best to explain how it works and what it means for the title race this season.

The Model The basis of the model is the probability of each driver finishing in each position. Using data from the current season, I found what the odds were that Power would finish in first, second, third, etc. I did that for all drivers with a chance of winning the championship with two races remaining. I chose to only use data from this season as a way of 1) accounting for momentum and 2) not diluting the model with data from a prior season when 14 races have already been run this year, which is a fairly good sample size for IndyCar. In the future I plan to include past season's data on a weighted scale, valuing the current season more than recent ones while still including them in the model. 
As you might imagine, not every driver finished in ev…

Power Has a 28% Chance of Winning Watkins Glen or Sonoma

The IndyCar championship is down to just two races: Watkins Glen, where the series hasn't raced since 2010, and Sonoma. Will Power is trailing Simon Pagenaud by 28 points right now and most people say he'll need a win to have a shot at the championship. His rival has been very good at finishing races this year, so banking on another DNF from him isn't a worthy strategy. 
Using a binomial distribution -- which gives the chance of a certain number of successes (in our cases wins) occurring in a given number of trials (races) -- I calculated the odds of both Pagenaud and Power winning zero, one, or both of the races remaining. Their expected win probability was based off of their winning percentage from 2014 through Texas 2016. Here's what I found:

Both drivers are more likely than not to go winless over the last two races, which hurts the chaser more than the leader. Power has slightly better than a one in four chance of picking up a win. Securing two wins has less than…

The Qualifying Lap That Could Have Been: Belgium 2016

Vettel's best qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix was 1:07.108. His theoretical best lap time was almost a full tenth faster at 1:07.013.

Wait what? His theoretical best time?

A driver's theoretical best time takes his best time from each of the three sectors throughout the qualifying session, no matter what lap or round they came in, and adds them together. This new theoretical best (from now on referred to as TB) is the best time the driver could have hoped to achieve if he ran all of his best sector times on the same lap.

Now, this isn't a perfect indication of what could be done by the driver. For example, perhaps the reason one driver has such a low sector one time (helping his TB) is because he braked for the corner that began sector two way too late and ran off the track. That sector one time he posted will still be included in his TB, but it's important to note that he could never complete a full lap while posting such a fast sector one time. So his TB tim…

We're Experiencing The Most Top-Heavy Championship Since 2011

It looks to me like we are having an unusual year of two strong title contenders followed by a big drop off. The gap between first and second place in the championship is 28 points with two races remaining. Kanaan is 113 points away from the leader in third place.
To see if this is actually unusual or simply the norm, I went back to all seasons 2009 and on and checked how many points per race the top two contenders were averaging together with two races remaining. I adjusted to account for double points races by making them count for two races. 
Here's what I found:

Power and Pagenaud are averaging 68.7 points per race together this year, the most by any championship-leading duo since 2011. These two drivers are running away with the championship and are the strongest in the field by a wide margin. You have to go back to the 2011 season led by Franchitti and Power to find a stronger pair of leaders. The two years preceding 2011 were also particularly strong, perhaps a sign of Ind…

Long Beach Win Probability: Pre-Race

Here's the pre-race win probability for the top five qualifiers at Long Beach. The race gets started a little after 4 p.m. today.
Pre Race win prob. for Long Beach:

CAS 24.1%
DIX 12.0
PAG 13.9
KAN 11.1
JPM 9.3 — Single Seater (@thesingleseater) April 17, 2016 I'll be tweeting out live win probability updates throughout the race, so be sure to follow me on Twitter @thesingleseater. You can also read about how win probability (also called win expectancy) works here.

by Drew

How Fast The New Track Record at Long Beach Will Be

There have been two races so far this season, and two lap records have been set. Power ran a 1:00.2450 and claimed the lap record at St. Petersburg, and Castroneves put in a 19.0997 second lap at Phoenix, besting the previous record.

I wouldn't be surprised to see another lap record fall this week at Long Beach. Here's a look at the pole-sitter's speed through the years -- qualifying is usually where the track record is broken.


Dixon bested the previous record by 0.4 mph last year, and I would bet that the record will be beat again this year by an even greater margin. (The new track record at St. Petersburg beat the old by 0.8 mph.)

Expect the new track record to be between 106.9-107.2 mph.

As to who will set that record? My money's on Castroneves or Power, two of the best qualifiers in the field.

by Drew 

A Note About Win Expectancy Early on in the Race

If you haven't read about it already, I've made a win expectancy tracker for IndyCar. Something interesting I came across while developing it...

Below is the win expectancy for the driver in first place at different stages of the race.

You'll notice that the win expectancy actually drops off from the initial 24 percent during the 10-30 percent of the race completed stages. Why would the driver in first be less likely to win the race when 10 percent of the race is completed than when he started on pole (and thus had more of the race left to complete)?

First, I think that the beginning of the race is pretty chaotic and a lot of overtaking happens, so it's pretty easy for the guy who started on pole to get overtaken.

And second (and more likely), if a driver started on pole and knows he has a competitive car, he may not be too worried about leading right away. He'll let the aggressive guy in second place overtake him and then just focus on strategy, conserving fuel an…

Tracking Live Win Expectancy

I've been working on a win expectancy tracker for IndyCar similar to the one FanGraphs uses for baseball. Based on the driver's current position and how much of the race is completed, it calculates the percent chance he will win the race -- using historical data from the 2013-2016 seasons.

It works by finding the win percentage of drivers who were in similar situations in the past. For example, if a driver is running in second place with 60 percent of the race completed, he has a 13.9 percent chance of winning the race. That's based on five drivers in the database (36 races as of writing) being in second place with 60 percent of the race completed going on to win the race.

If a driver has a 23 percent chance of winning, that means 23 percent of drivers in the same situation went on to win the race.

Besides telling how likely each driver is to win the race, it's also beneficial to see which drivers need to make big strategy moves to have a shot at winning. If a driver o…

Vote For the Greatest Driver of All Time (If You Have a Facebook and It's One of These Five Drivers)

The Drive published an article today entitled "We Rank IndyCar's Greatest Drivers of All Time."

It's really just a top five list of the drivers who have the most race wins, so I don't really get it. But anyway, they have a poll setup on their Facebook page where fans can pick who they think the best driver of all time is: as long as it's Unser, Foyt, Dixon, Michael or Mario Andretti.

You can go vote in that poll here.

Five hours in, here's how the votes look:

Driver% of voteFoyt69.7Mar Andretti23.1Unser5.4Mic Andretti1.8Dixon0
by Drew

Did Chevy Really "Sandbag" the IMS Test?

Andretti said after this week's test at Indianapolis that Chevy was sandbagging -- intentionally running slower than they truly could in an attempt to make the two manufacturers look even. The test took place on a cold and windy day, slowing down both the Honda and Chevy cars equally -- so we can't strictly compare speeds from last year to this year.

But we can compare how the leaderboard stacked up with Chevy and Honda at this test against the opening practice of the Indy 500 last year. Honda took the top two places at the open test compared to their high of fourth at the first practice last season.

At this week's test the gap between the third place Chevy of Pagenaud and the first place Honda of Andretti was over 2 mph. The gap between first and 13th place at last year's opening practice was the same. And I don't think the windy and cold conditions causes more disparity among the cars (I could be wrong). Last year's Indy 500 winner, Montoya, ran a 219.102 mph…

Who's On Pace for the Title?

Over the past five seasons, the championship winner has accumulated an average of 569 points. I'll be tracking which drivers are on pace to hit that number by the end of the season. This will give us an indication of who is setting themselves up for a good shot at the championship and which drivers are falling behind. The real winner may have more or less than that this season, but the pace tracker will still be able to tell us how drivers are doing relative to the field. The pace is represented as a percentage of the target (31.6 points per race, adjusted for double points races). 

You can check out the latest pace update here. There will also be a widget in the sidebar (may not be visible on mobile) showing the top performers. 

-Drew

Championship Update After Phoenix

Dixon took home 53 points from Phoenix last race after leading 155 of the 250 laps. His win, which came under caution, put him in second place in the points -- a five place improvement from where he was at before the race.

Pagenaud's second place finish was good enough to get him to first place in the championship with a four point lead on Dixon. Montoya is nine points out from Pagenaud with 74 points.
Power gained some much needed points (35) after missing the first race, so don't count him out of the championship just yet. The season's still early and there are lots of points left to be earned. That being said, he can't afford three DNF's like he had last season going forward. Every race is going to be important.
Once a couple more races are completed and the standings are less susceptible to drastic change, I'll be including a "one race change" value in these championship updates. 
Here's how the rest of the field shakes out after round two:























-D…

How important is qualifying position in IndyCar?

Saturday is always deemed an important day in the racing world. It's the day qualifying takes place for the following day's race, and the grid is set according to speed. But does it really matter where you qualify? How much of an impact does it have on the race? And does the type of track matter? 

To figure out if it does indeed matter, I looked up the race winner of every IndyCar race at all tracks the series is heading to this year (2016) and noted their starting position. To start, I only looked at road/street courses because they are harder to pass at than ovals -- I'll be doing the same for ovals later. Making and graphing a histogram for all of the starting positions of race winners produces the following:



Starting from pole position gets you the race win 24.1 percent of the time compared to 12 and 13.9 percent from second and third places respectively. That means that the difference between starting in second and first is a 12.1 percent chance of winning. The increase…

How Our Race Predictions Work

Single Seater will be "forecasting" each race of the 2016 IndyCar season, with win probabilities posted to the site after qualifying is over. These will be up either late Saturday or early Sunday morning -- if a driver scratches from a race, an additional update will be posted.

How It Works Our model is a simple one, only taking into account three variables. I chose a simple model for two main reasons: It's easier to update and keep track of. There aren't 20 different variables I have to gather together to make a prediction, so I can easily post them for each race.There is so much randomness in racing. Crashes, mechanical failures, caution flags -- these can all have a drastic affect on the race, and they're almost impossible to predict. Instead of trying to with a ton of variables, I just skip over it altogether. Also, it helps to distinguish the signal from the noise -- data that isn't very predictive. I've chosen variables that are historically very predi…

Perez Is Actually In A Pretty Good Position With Force India

Rookie Look: Matthew Brabham