Denny Hamlin’s Bracket Challenge: Odds of a Perfect Bracket

Denny Hamlin’s Bracket Challenge: Odds of a Perfect Bracket article feature image

Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Denny Hamlin (NASCAR)

The stakes have been raised by Dirty Mo Media for Denny Hamlin's Bracket Challenge!

Update. @DaleJr was right. We all have enough tumblers so I’m upping the stakes for the #DHBracketChallenge. Anyone with a perfect bracket will win VIP access to unlimited races over the next two years.

All brackets must be submitted before the green flag this Sunday:…

— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) May 5, 2023

You heard that right. If you enter the FREE contest and pick a perfect bracket, you and a guest can be VIP to as many NASCAR races as you want through the end of 2024.

We all know the outrageous odds of a perfect bracket for March Madness. If every game were a coin flip, the odds of a perfect bracket would be about one in 9.2 quintillion. With some educated picks, you can whittle those odds down to around one in 100 billion.

But that's a 63-game tournament for basketball.

We're talking a 31-matchup tournament in NASCAR. So, while we have a smaller tournament, the high variance nature of NASCAR means making correct picks is a bit harder.

So, what are the odds of a perfect bracket in Denny Hamlin's Bracket Challenge? Let's dive in.

Odds of Perfect Bracket

For starters, if every driver matchup at every race was a pure coin flip, the odds of a perfect bracket would be one in 2^31. That's one in 2,147,483,636 or about one in 2.1 billion. Not great.

At the time of writing, there are 30,180 brackets. If each bracket were unique, that means there would be a 1 in 71,156 chance that Hamlin would have to hand out a couple of VIP passes to at least one lucky winner.

But that's in the coin flip scenario.

Thankfully, like NCAA basketball, we can make some educated guesses to improve our chances.

I simulated each race 10,000 times to get the odds for each matchup. In the first round, the average probability of picking correctly is 71.1%. In the second round that drops to 61.1%, as the matchups get tighter. From there, matchups become very close to a coin flip in success probability.

Overall, I forecast that with educated picks, a user can pick a matchup correctly a shade over 64% of the time.

Using those odds, we can improve our chances to about one in 1,013,227, or one in a million. Not so bad!

As a result, with 30,180 brackets, if every single one was unique and they used an educated method to make picks, the three-time Daytona 500 winner would be giving away VIP passes once in every 34 contests.

Now, not every bracket is going to be unique.

Using March Madness data, it's estimated that 94.4% of brackets are unique. But again, that's with an extra round of madness.

By eliminating a full round, we eliminate over half of the number of games/matchups (31 instead of 63). With fewer variations, we can expect more similar brackets. Some back of the napkin math tells me we should have about 75% of the brackets be unique.

That helps reduce the number of unique brackets from just over 30,000 to about 22,500.

Thus, if all entries were cut off now, a perfect bracket would have a one in 45 chance of happening. That seems like a fitting number, as Hamlin is the car owner of the No. 45 car driven by Tyler Reddick.

However, with this announcement the number of entries is sure to soar, so there will undoubtedly be a better chance that someone has a perfect bracket.

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Fill Out Your Bracket with Expert Advice

With a one in a million chance of landing on the perfect bracket by making educated picks, you should definitely take your shot.

I've filled out my bracket, and Action Network's PJ Walsh has also filled one out.

In addition, Stephen Young who is my co-host on Action Network's motorsports podcast, Running Hot, gave his bracket out on a special episode of our podcast this week dedicated specifically to Denny Hamlin's Bracket Challenge.

In that podcast we also created a Running Hot bracket combining the brains of Young and myself.

Go fill out your FREE bracket, and good luck!

Maybe you'll be the lucky winner of NASCAR VIP passes for two years.

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