Add the streets of Chicago to NASCAR’s list of strange places to race

Cautions increased in 2022 despite fewer cautions at the end of stages and races in each year since stage racing began. The third part of 2022 by numbers focuses on the reasons (and the reasoners) of warnings.

Warnings

I divide warnings into those that are planned — such as races and end-of-stage breaks — and so-called “natural” warnings. Natural precautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or fluid on the track, and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 warnings are the most warnings since 2014. This is despite only 73 scheduled cautions, the fewest since stage racing began.

The 2022 season had a total of 43 more warnings than 2021 and 57 more natural warnings than last year. These are the most natural warnings of 2016.

reasons

The classification of attention is subjective. Obviously, a car turning is a turning, and a car colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is that a spin or an accident? If an accident occurs during a stage break, do you record the warning as an accident or stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more flat tires and rims on cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classifies some incidents resulting from flat tires as debris warnings, others as accidents.

To me, a flat tire looks very different from a stray part of the car on the track.

The countless problems with tires and rims caused me to go through all 302 warnings. I’ve added three additional categories for attention: wheel problems, fire problems, and tire problems.

Tire problems were labeled as such only if a flat tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that crack due to contact with the wall or flat spots are not included. If I couldn’t say for sure that the flat tire came first, I left the warning in its original category.

My re-categorization makes it difficult to compare warnings by category with previous years. This concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The chart below compares my caution breakdown to NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit I’m not completely objective either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

Table comparing alert breakdowns

The most surprising statistic is the extremely high number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. This was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the lap numbers this year are similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin stats are a good argument that they got their wish.

Drivers in crashes, spins and traffic jams

I treat crashes, spins, and jams as one category because of the issues of distinguishing them. “Incidents” combines all spins, all mishaps and all stalls.

And remember: being involved in an accident does not mean that driver caused The incident.

The chart below shows all drivers with 12 or more accidents in the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stops

Also remember that this number does not include problems with rims or tires. A driver who crashes because of a flat tire is fundamentally different from an accident or a spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most accidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two turnovers and one interception, while Chastain had three turnovers. Stenhouse is the leader in high-profile incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch is third in accidents and first in spins with seven. By comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver has ever completely avoided accidents. Justin Haley starred in the fewest: four. William Byron scored six, while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell each had eight.

Warnings by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. His 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time as well.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I have removed warnings for stages and races because scheduled warnings do not depend on the length of the race.

The 14 cautions at the Bristol race were the third-highest total behind the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’ 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

Vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 mile races

This gives the Bristol race an incredible 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year the Bristol dirt race also topped the list with a total of 7.4 cautions per 100 miles of racing.

The asphalt race at Bristol had the second most cautions per 100 miles with 3.4. The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superhighways?

The only superspeedway race on the schedule with a top 10 caution at 100 miles is the second race at Atlanta. The fall race at Talladega had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways require more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents with an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars have been involved in multiple crashes, so the total number of crashed cars is greater than the number of cars competing.

The fall race at Talladega ranks second in debris per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race connects with the Bristol asphalt race. Both averaged 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage interruption cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We usually use warnings as a substitute for counting incidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident gets attention – especially on road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels falling off cars, some wheels coming off the pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were many more spins that didn’t bring warnings.

I’ll tell you all about them next week.

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