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COVID's effect on NASCAR handicapping

By Steve Makinen  (VSiN.com) 

makinennascar

With NASCAR taking a couple of weekends off because of the Olympics, this is the perfect time to analyze how my simulations and usual handicapping techniques have performed since the pandemic. COVID-19 has thrown a complete wrench into typical activities at the track each weekend — specifically, qualifying and practice sessions have been removed from most schedules. I have felt a difference in the consistency of my wagering, and I’m speculating that I will be able to discover what has happened in analyzing the simulations.

I have tied together all the simulations and results on a database for races since COVID put a halt to the 2020 season. Since the Darlington event May 17 last year, which essentially restarted competitive sporting events, 54 Cup Series races have been run. But only six have hosted practice or qualifying sessions. In the rest, qualifying was done by car owner points or by a preset formula designed to benefit the drivers who performed best in the last race. To me, this has caused the greatest difference in handicapping strategy. I, and surely many of you, used to rely heavily on starting spots earned at a specific track and performance marks that set drivers apart in practice runs.

I hoped to find out the importance of the practice and qualifying data at the six races that have used them, the importance of the starting spot since it was essentially earned at a previous event, which of my other factors had best predicted success for drivers recently and how my simulation projections had been compared with previous years. Hopefully this will give us a better handle on wins and losses in handicapping NASCAR.

Overall projection of winners by the simulations

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