Better late than never!
2016 Week 6 - By-The-Numbers Recap: San Diego 2
Abbreviated (and belated) recap this week due to the flu. Pretty ho-hum race, in a lot of ways, with no major stories. But I wonder if that is the story of the week: watching the race, there wasn't much action -- no one was doing almost any passing, except for Jason Anderson (of course). At least one remark was made (Jason Thomas, here, after looking at the course setup) that the San Diego 2 track would be difficult to pass on with limited opportunity to do so. Can we analyze that after the fact -- look at the number of position-changes-by-lap during the race and infer the amount of passing? And from there can we get sort of an "excitement" rating of the race? I'll get into more detail at the end.
Ryan Dungey - (yawn.) Another holeshot, another uncontested victory.
Cole Seely - great finish for him, but started in 4th then only had to pass Marvin Musquin (who fell) and Vince Friese.
Ken Roczen - he actually did some passing, moving up from 7th, then passing Canard in Lap 12.
Jason Anderson - he DEFINITELY has the most interesting line on the chart up there. Hole shot at 17th -- he just can't shake that bug for poor starts -- and came out of Lap 1 in 8th, then he made passes on laps 5, 11, 15, and 17 to move all the way up to 4th.
Trey Canard - I'm sure he's excited to get a finish in 5th considering his partially injured state, but maybe less so considering he was in 3rd up until Lap 12.
Eli Tomac - got another bad start, opening in 14th, then couldn't climb back up past 5th, and the even worse news was that Anderson passed him, possibly another sign that Tomac still has a ways to go before he's 100% back.
Marvin Musquin - could have been a great race for him since he came out of the first turn 2nd behind Dungey, but he immediately bobbled himself off his bike and dropped a few spots. Still, finishing 7th is his second best on the season. On one hand, that could mean he's getting accustomed to the bike and the competition; on the other, it could be that he just got a decent enough start on a track that muted racing ability and highlighted the holeshot.
Chad Reed - had the same story as many others -- didn't get a good enough start (8th) and then couldn't work his way up.
Weston Peick - also had the same story, but I think he'll take it, considering it was his best result so far in the season. He finished every single lap in 9th -- after the first lap he was not passed nor did he pass anyone.
Justin Brayton - stop me if I'm repeating myself: he finished Lap 1 in 11th, Lap 2 in 10th, then he remained in 10th the rest of the way, neither being passed nor passing anyone.
So, I think there's a pattern. The more I look at it the more clear it is, so possibly this has already been called out by the Supercross world in general and I'm just piling on.
To get a rough estimate of how much passing was going on at each race so far in 2016, I compiled how many "position changes" there were. I put that in quotes because by "position change" I mean when a position is occupied by a different rider at the end of a lap than it was at the end of the previous lap. For instance, if 5th place belonged to Eli Tomac at the end of Lap 14 but 5th place was taken over by Jason Anderson by the end of Lap 15, that would be considered a "position change". Now do this for every spot 1 through 22 and for every lap except the first -- I'm not considering changes from the starting gate or holeshot to the end of Lap 1**. Here are the results.
As I was saying, it's pretty clear that something is up with SDSX2 (that's what I'm using as shorthand for San Diego 2, though I apparently may be the only one). It had only 56 position changes, which is less than half of SDSX1 or A2. Perhaps they thought SDSX1 was too easy to pass? Is that even a thing? In the next column, just for fun, I threw in how many laps during the race had ZERO position changes -- every spot was occupied by the same rider for an entire lap. Again, SDSX2 was the stingiest track, with just over a quarter of the laps having no positions changed at the end of the lap compared to the beginning.
Now, this doesn't take into account a rider getting passed then recovering his spot during that same lap, but I think those situations are pretty limited and wouldn't affect the outcome. Also, we see a general trend that I don't think is related to the courses. You can see the Position Changes going down with each race after SDSX1, and the Zero-Position-Change laps going up. My guess is that it's due to the competition being thinned out by injury: if the crowd is not as dense throughout the race, there's probably less passing as a result. But the gap between SDSX2 and all the others can't just be a natural trend -- something was distinctly different at SDSX2, and personally that made for a less interesting race, though I'm willing to hear arguments otherwise. I'm not really sure we need an "Excitement Rating" that I mentioned earlier, but then again, why not? I think it would reward position changes at the top spots more than the bottom spots, and potentially show preference for ones in the later laps rather than the earlier ones. Something to consider, anyway.
**One note is that I'm taking a shortcut -- the numbers are sort of doubled because if one rider moves up, another had to move down, which creates 2 "position changes" rather than 1. Which is fine, as long as we understand the definition, EXCEPT in the case when one rider passes multiple other riders in one lap. If you're willing to accept that there's a small flaw and move on, then stop here. If not, it gets pretty wordy the rest of the way. If a rider passes 2 others in one lap, it creates 3 "position changes" rather than 2, and if he had passed 2 others in two laps, it would have created 4 "position changes" rather than 2. So every once in a while we're dropping a position change, but I think it's so minor as to not really matter. But, the downside is that I can't just cut the "position change" number in half and call it the number of passes, because that also would be incorrect, and I think a bit more misleading. Since exact accuracy in this case is not so crucial, it's probably not worth worrying about either way.