Friday, February 24, 2012

Introducing IndyCar Engine Power Rankings

This season, the IZOD IndyCar Series will have something it hasn’t had in some time—direct engine competition. Honda, Chevy, and Lotus will all be squaring off for bragging rights based on performance. In evaluating that performance, many series use some manner of manufacturer’s points, as I’m sure IndyCar will as well.

However, I’m not really satisfied with many of the manufacturer’s points schemes I’ve seen as determining actual overall performance of an engine. For example, in NASCAR, the top-placing manufacturer gets 9 points, the manufacturer with the 2nd-highest placing gets 6 points, and the 3rd and 4th-highest manufacturers end up with 4 and 3 points apiece, respectively. That’s fine as it goes, but it doesn’t really give enough of a sampling for my liking. What if Chevy finishes first, but all their other engines grenade and end up with a DNF?

For IndyCar this year, I’m going to be maintaining Engine Power Rankings. Basically, it will use the IndyCar points scheme, giving points on the basis of where a car finishes in the race. The top 3 positions for each manufacturer will be considered, so that means if Chevy finishes P1, P2, and P4 in a race as their three highest positions, they’ll get the points for those finishes. If Lotus finishes P3, P10, and P12 for their top 3, they’ll get those points. The points from the top 3 finishes for each manufacturer will be added together, plus the bonus points for laps led or pole position if applicable. That will be their points total, and will determine where they rank among manufacturers.

Let’s take a look at how it could work:

Let’s say, just for our example, the following happens at St. Pete for a Top 10:

1) Justin Wilson (Honda)
2) Will Power (Chevy)
3) Ryan Hunter-Reay (Chevy)
4) Dario Franchitti (Honda)
5) Sebastien Bourdais (Lotus)
6) Simona De Silvestro (Lotus)
7) Mike Conway (Honda)
8) Alex Tagliani (Honda)
9) Tony Kanaan (Chevy)
10) Oriol Servia (Lotus)

Pole Position: Will Power (Chevy)
Laps Led: Sebastien Bourdais (Lotus)

In the above example, Honda takes points from its top 3 finishers, which are Justin Wilson in P1 (50 points), Dario in P4 (32), and Mike Conway in P7 (26). They do not receive points for the Pole Position or Laps Led, giving them a point total of 108 for the week.

Chevy looks to its top 3 finishers, and sees Power (40), Hunter-Reay (35), and Tony Kanaan (22). They also get the bonus point for Power nabbing the pole (1), giving them a point total of 98 for the week. You can see there’s a steep drop-off after the first few positions in terms of points already.

Lotus does the same as its two competitors above, and comes up with Bourdais (30), de Silvestro (28), and Servia (20). However, Bourdais leads the most laps, giving them a couple extra points (2) for a total of 80.

So after the first race of the season, the Engine Manufacturer Power Points would stand as follows:

1) Honda 108
2) Chevy 98 (-10)
3) Lotus 80 (-28)

Easy enough?

I firmly believe this system better rewards overall engine performance through the field. If a team wins the race, but no other engines of that type come close to the Top 10, they’ll fare relatively poorly compared to a team that’s consistently managing Top 5s through the season. If you get 35 or 40 points for one driver, but only 10 or 12 from your next two, you’re going to be in some trouble. We’re looking for consistency, not just who managed to win the race that week. If a team can go 1-2-3, grab the pole, and lead the most laps, well, obviously, that’s going to reflect well on them. If engines are blowing up left and right but one team manages to eke out a win, that’s going to appear more as an anomaly than any sort of field dominance.

You’ll note a tab for the IndyCar Engine Power Rankings above on the website (blank now, updated once we go racing). I’ll be updating the standings after each race, and I hope you take the time to check it out. This system should be simple enough to calculate, yet just deep enough to offer a better view of overall competitive engine performance. Watching the engine manufacturers duke it out this year should be a lot of fun; hopefully these rankings add to that tracking and enjoyment.


  1. Interesting and I too love this kind of work. I had to reinvent our private fantasy football league's scoring years ago because it 'wasn't fair or accurately representative of the athletes' play on the field.

    Looks pretty good. Should there be a negative for blow-ups or mechanical failures as DNFs?

    1. I’ve been thinking about adding in the lowest finish as a penalty. So if the worst Lotus car finishes P25, that’s 25 points off the final score for Lotus. The only issue is who’s to say it’s engine-related? A lower finish is not as good an indicator of a solid engine as a top finish, simply because a great car might get caught in a pile-up on the first lap, despite qualifying well and having the speed. So I’ve sort of gone back and forth on that a few times.

      Yeah, I, too, love this sort of stuff! I'm not a hard numbers guy, but I like seeing the different systems of ranking/evaluating.

  2. Sounds cool. But I have to take exception with your top-10. If the top five were made up of TK, Wilson, Servia, RHR and Simona (TK wins and the other four can be in any of the remaining slots, that could quite possibly be the best top-5 ever. ;--)

    1. lol...feel free to create your own examples, of course! :)