In the end, only 4 points separated the top two drivers this season. With last year's champion Stephen Peeples
just edging out former two-time champ Don Tatum.
The rest of the top 10 was a mix of regulars and break-throughs. Michael Polcen runs his streak of top 10 finishes to 5 seasons (1 short of Don's 6 seasons). Chris Long and Tim Mossman have had multiple top 10 seasons before but Tim was 40th last year and Chris hasn't been top 10 since he finished 3rd in 2018. James Benham made his first top 10 last year.
Jason Schultz ended the season 20 points behind our champion but in only his second season of organized play. Will Kennington, Justin Swaine, and Brent Fitz also made their first appearances in the top 10 this year.
But lets dig into how Stephen beat out Don this year. Below is a break-out of how each of them got points this year -- their top 5 race results and their top 2 tournament results. And some general data as well.
That general data tells an interesting story. Stephen beat Don despite Don winning more races (and even a higher percentage of races) and more tournaments. But you can also see the first clue here of how Stephen overcame that -- tougher competition. By design a field rating of 1 should be average (the median race field rating was 0.97 this year). So we can see that Stephen's average race was considered above average in difficulty of competition while Don's was -- on average -- considered below average.
This doesn't mean that Don was racing against shlubs. What it really means is that most of Don's wins came against smaller groups of opponents and/or not the very best of competition Below are the top 11 races, ranked by field rating this year.
As you can see, Stephen won 4 of those races. Don won 2. Stephen also had a second place in one of these races. In fact, those are the five results that add into Stephen's score for the year. Because the points you get for results in a race are multiplied by the field rating of that race, you can see how Stephen ended up with more points than Don.
To find Don's other wins, we scroll down that list a little.
Don's 3rd best win was against decent competition but not the very best. A bit further down the table, Don's 4th and 5th (... and 6th) wins were against smaller fields. Anything less than 8 people is considered a smaller field and will tend to have smaller field ratings.
That last bit is based on my most recent adjustment to the scoring (see this post
for some detail on that change). And yes, this change was made mid-season as I saw more than the usual number of smaller fields seem to really skew results. I acknowledge that this might be controversial. But I will have more to say about that in a future post.
For now, lets congratulate Stephen on his #1 ranking and Don for another outstanding season.
Don Tatum participated in what I am going to assume is a record 35 races this season (and season high 6 different tournaments). That comes out to 40% of the number of races Don could possibly have participated in (and almost 40% of the tournaments). Will Kennard participated in 28 races and Kevin Keller in 25.
Rookie of the Year
Rookies did not show prominently in the rankings this season. But Chris Manning gets the nod by ranking 68th in his first season, powered by a 2nd place finish in one of the the two races he participated in. Andrew Koerber was close runner up at 70th.
Doug Galullo had a down year in 2021. Having been ranked as high as 2nd in 2018, he fell to 97th last year. But bounced back this year to 17th. Much more his usual territory. Honorable mention to Jason Schultz Who won 6 races this year and jumped from 73rd ranked last season to 3rd this season.
Steward of the Year
This is probably my favorite award. Stewards make CFR happen. Especially organized play. I try to find new people to highlight every year but in a first... (I think) a repeat for Brian DeWitt. Brian not only has people nominate him every year... he ran a very impressive 12 races this year. Often as double-headers.
This season saw a record number of races in organized play at 87 -- 4 more than 2020. And a larger increase in the number of racing opportunities at 53 -- up from 45 in 2019. Many tournaments are set up such that you can't race in every race because there are effectively or literally multiple races going on at the same time, the number of racing opportunities is always a bit lower than the total number of races. The total number of drivers participating in organized play was up from last year to 122 from 104. But 122 is still down from the 219 high of 151. Field size shrunk this year from 9.4 to 8.3. Field size has generally been shrinking over the last 10 years or so. Although it had held pretty stead around 9.5 drivers per race from 2017 through last year.