Just out of curiosity, I pulled up some data from racing-reference.info on different drivers’ rookie years in the Cup series. The data are from each driver’s first full year as a Cup driver. I picked out some drivers who have gone on to become series champions, some that will likely go on to become champions, and some who are struggling. I was wondering how predictive first year stats are of future performance.
The first graph shows how good drivers were at finishing races. The blue bars are the percent of races in which the car was running at the end of the race, and the red bars are the percent of races in which the driver finished on the lead lap.
The second graph and third graph analyze finishing position. The second graph summarizes wins (blue), top fives (red), top tens (green) and poles (purple). All are expressed as a percentage because not all drivers ran 36 races in their first year. The data are a lot more scattered here than they were in the first graph. It’s striking that Stewart, Johnson and Edwards each finished in the top 10 in over (or almost over 50% of the races).
Finally, the third graph compares how each driver finished compared to other drivers. The blue bar is where the driver finished in the drivers points at the end of the season. (Lower is better, of course.) The red bar is the average finishing rank over all races that season. Again, Johnson, Stewart and Edwards stand out in contrast to the other drivers.