Qualifying Matters at Las Vegas

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is a long, arduous process — and makes surprisingly little difference. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway (our first mile-and-a-half track) qualifying makes more of a difference.

If you want to review how to interpret graphs like these, here’s my how-to on correlations. The graph below shows qualifying vs. finishing positions for spring races from 2015 to 2019 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

An x-y plot of finishing vs. qualifying positions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The straight line shows what would happen if everyone finished in the same position as they started. That (thankfully) doesn’t happen, but you’ll notice that there’s a lot of clustering around that line.

There are also some trends

  • The points in the lower right-hand corner are the drivers who started up front and finished in the back. The points that are farthest from the line are generally drivers who crashed or had a penalty they couldn’t recover from.
  • The points above and away from the line on the lower left are drivers who started closer to the back and ended up with good finishes. It probably won’t surprised you that a good number of those cars are drivers that had to go to the back and race their way back.

Compared to Qualifying at Superspeedways

The qualifying vs. finishing graph for Las Vegas might look like a mess of data points, but compare it with the same graph for the super speedways.

An xy plot showing the starting vs. finishing positions for Daytona and Talladega races

Even though qualifying gets less attention at Las Vegas than it did last week at Daytona, it’s actually more important here!

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