Smaller teams and franchises in sports often have disadvantages, and funding is almost always the reason why smaller teams struggle to keep up with larger teams and franchises.
Small NASCAR teams usually aren’t in contention for championships, and they have to rely on other strategies to win races and compete for titles.
That’s why Andrew Maness is looking to lead a statistical revolution in NASCAR to help smaller teams find advantages and compete.
If you ever watched or read “Moneyball,” it’s a similar strategy to what Billy Beane used with the Oakland Athletics. The A’s don’t have the same money as, say, the New York Yankees, so they used advanced analytics to help contend.
According to AutoWeek, Maness — a lifelong racing fan — founded the website NASCARnomics.com while working for the Federal Reserve in 2013. He then got a job at Rho A1, a strategy firm that gives recommendations to Richard Childress Racing.
Maness, 29, said the moment he became obsessed with numbers was after watching Ricky Rudd win the 1997 Brickyard 400 due to his pit strategy.
“That was my first inkling of race strategy,” Maness said. “And since then, I’ve tried to understand how that happens — and, more recently, how to make it happen.”
The website was eventually shut down by NASCAR because it brought up so many concerns with the sport, so he teamed up with Josh Browne at Rho A1 to develop a software that teams could use to track things analytically.
“We had software developers working on the back end, but we knew we needed more industry expertise,” Browne said. “We found that in Andrew because he has such a total database of racing knowledge. We saw an opportunity.”
Austin Dillon used their analytics to win the Coca-Cola 600 on fuel mileage, and Ryan Newman won at Phoenix based on his tire strategy.
“We’ve Moneyballed NASCAR,” Browne said. “We’re doing lap-by-lap decisions. By the time a car exits turn 2 at Bristol, we’ve already uploaded 2 million different scenarios to the pit box. They have access to when we think the caution is most likely to come out and optimal strategies for every car on the track.
Maness uses numbers to determine when a driver should pit to maintain or improve position, or if they should change two tires or all four. Every split second can help a team improve position, and Maness has figured out a way to maximize strategy for drivers.
Other teams will likely start implementing similar strategies soon, and using analytics can any team gain ground and have a chance to contend for wins and titles.