Number-Crunching Amazing Race Seasons 1-29: Who is the Most Dominant Team?

Who is the most dominant team across all seasons of Amazing Race? To be honest, this question isn’t really difficult to answer. With a staggering eight legs won, Rachel and Dave definitely takes the top spot. However, which one is second, third, fourth? Among all winners or finalists, which teams belong to the top 10 most dominating?

In this post, we’ll answer all these questions. We’ll look at the domination index of each team that reached the final leg of their respective season. In the process, we will be able to determine which teams dominated the race and which ones just got a lucky break at the end.

At the end of the post, we will also look at the top 50 most dominant racers in Amazing Race history, regardless of placement.

This is the third post in my Amazing Race Domination series. The other posts in the series are:

  1. Who Dominated Amazing Race 29? A Computational Approach
  2. Do Underdog Teams Always Win the Amazing Race?
  3. Number-Crunching Amazing Race Seasons 1-29: Who is the Most Dominant Team?
  4. Predicting the Amazing Race Winner with Random Forests

The Domination Index

To quantify how teams dominate, we defined a domination index in the first article in the series.

The domination index of a particular team on leg j is a value between 0 and 1 which can be intuitively thought of as the average fraction of other teams that placed below the team from leg 1 up to leg j. This means that a team with a domination index of 0.8 on the final leg had, on average, 80% of the other teams placing below them on each leg of the race.

In the following, we consider the domination index on the last leg that the teams participated in. So for the finalists, it’s the last leg; for the non-finalists, it’s the leg that they were eliminated on.

Winners

winners

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Rachel and Dave

In terms of winners, Rachel and Dave takes the top spot, followed quite closely by Meghan and Cheyne, who won seven legs, one less than Rachel and Dave. Season 24 winners Dave and Connor are third. The top three all surpassed the 0.8 level of domination, which means that, on average, they placed 80% higher than other teams on the race.

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Josh and Brent

On the other side of the spectrum, Josh and Brent have the lowest domination index, not even reaching the 0.4 mark. Interestingly, the four most recent winners of the show all rank in the lower half of winners in terms of domination.

Finalists

If we now include in our roster the other teams who participated in the final leg (that is, second and third placers), we obtain the plot below. The bars are color-coded such that the darker the shade, the higher the placement.

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The top three still remains the same if we include the second and third placers. However, the fourth and fifth spots occupied by Nick and Starr and Tammy and Victor are transferred to second placers Justin and Diana and Erik and Jeremy. The two teams undoubtedly dominated their respective seasons, only coming up short on the final leg. Justin and Diana actually surpass the 0.8 domination level, the only non-winner to do so.

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Amy and Maya

Amy and Maya and Josh and Brent, the two least dominant winners, actually get surpassed by a number of third-place finishers.

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Tyler and Korey

On the opposite side, Tyler and Korey actually managed to crack the Top 14 most dominant finalists even if they only finished third.

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Sheri and Cole

Looking at the low scorers, we see that the bottom five teams all are way below the 0.4 domination level, and all are third place finishers except for Sheri and Cole.

What was the Tightest Finale in Terms of Skill?

Let’s shift our focus a bit by answering another interesting question. What was the tightest last leg in terms of racing skill of the final three teams?

To answer this question, for each season, we calculate the domination indices of the top three teams on the pre-final leg. We look at the largest index and the smallest index and get the difference of the two to get the domination range.

Intuitively, the domination range is the average fraction of racers between the best performing and worst performing teams in the final three during the race. That is, a domination range of 0.20 means that the best and worst teams in the final three are, on average, separated only by 20% of the other teams during the race.

Thus, the season with the tightest finale in terms of skill is one with a low domination range. Analogously, a season with very strong and very weak teams has a high domination range.

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We can see here that Seasons 18, 23 and 26 have the lowest domination ranges, and thus have the tightest final legs in terms of skill of racers. The final three racers in these seasons were all quite evenly matched. All three of these seasons have domination indices less than 0.1, meaning only 10% of the other racers separated the best and worst teams in the final three.

Seasons 13 and 28 have the highest domination ranges. In Season 13, this is because of the presence of a very dominant team, Nick and Starr, and a very weak team, Andrew and Dan. In this scenario, the dominant team won. In Season 28, Tyler and Korey took up the role as the dominant team while Sheri and Cole were the weak team. Dana and Matt, another underdog team like Sheri and Cole, won while Tyler and Korey settled for third..

Top 50 Most Dominant Teams

Let’s segue back to looking at the most dominant teams. But now, let’s remove the restriction that the team must have reached the final leg – let’s look at all the 300+ racers from seasons 1 to 29. Again, the darker the shade, the higher the placement.

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The top 50 teams all have domination index greater than 0.6, meaning that they placed above 60% of their respective competitors during the time they were in the race.

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Rob and Amber

The top five remains the same, but now Tyler and James are displaced by Rob and Amber (All Stars) in the top 9 spot. Rob and Amber placed 8th in the race, but also placed 1st in the three legs prior to their elimination leg, which led to their high domination index. Similarly, Jessica and John performed really, really well in the first three legs, but were eliminated at 9th on the fourth leg.

To summarize, we can safely say that the top four teams in terms of domination are

  1. Rachel and Dave,
  2. Meghan and Cheyne,
  3. Dave and Connor,
  4. Justin and Diana.

Only the four above teams reached the 0.8 level of domination, an incredible feat.

In Conclusion

In this article, we looked at the best racers in Amazing Race history using team placement data. If you’re interested to see the Python code I wrote to analyze the data, check out my Github.

One final interesting question I want to ask is, given previous placement data for each finalist and some context on the other racers, can we build a model to predict who is most likely to win the final leg?

 

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