NASCAR Cup Series Warnings Rise – NASCAR Talk
We’re a third into the NASCAR Cup Series season, and we’ve ridden every type of track we’ll be visiting this year. Twelve runs also means we’ve accumulated enough data to start looking at trends.
The trend that caught my attention is the high number of warnings in 2022. I show them below, by breed and type.
We had a total of 110 warnings in 12 races. Twenty-five of these warnings are competition or end-of-stage warnings, which leaves us with 85 unforeseen or “natural” warnings. That’s significantly higher than last year’s 59 natural warnings after 12 races.
To be fair, we ran one more superspeedway this year than last year at this time. Atlanta has contributed an average of five cautions over the past five races. This year, there were 11. But that’s just six more precautions. And Martinsville was eight warnings below its five-year average in 2022.
We had 10 more accidents this year (49) than last year at the same time.
Even more interesting: we had 19 laps in 12 races, only one less than in the whole 2021 season. We will probably exceed last season’s total rotations in the next race or two.
Last year we had no stalls in the first 12 races. This year we have seven. We also have three more debris warnings than last year at this time.
The biggest novelty this year is, of course, the Next Gen car. Higher conservative numbers may reflect a learning curve. Or, the Next Gen car could be much harder to drive than the Gen-6 model. If the former is the case, the caution rate should slow as the season progresses. If the trends in the first third of the season continue, we are looking at a possible total of 255 natural cautions for the 2011 season, up from 172 last year.
Who is involved in warnings?
A note on how NASCAR records crashes, spins, and stalls: Late-lap incidents that do not produce a warning are not included in official totals. Also remember that being involved in a wreck or spin does not necessarily mean the driver caused it. Below I show the crashes, spins and stalls for riders who ran all 12 races this year.
There’s no obvious model for which drivers are having the hardest time (or having the most bad luck) this year.
The three biggest contributors to the total are Austin Cindric (eight crashes), Brad Keselowski (seven crashes and one lap) and Erik Jones (seven crashes and a stall. He’s a Daytona 500-winning rookie, mid-career driver with two race wins and a former series champion Keselowski has had just 12 crashes in 2021.
The next four riders each have seven crashes/spins/stalls combined. They include two former champions (Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott), a very experienced pilot (Denny Hamlin) and rookie Todd Gilliland. Last year, Hamlin was involved in nine crashes and one spin-off all season. Although most of the races this year have been won by young drivers, this data shows that some young drivers are adapting better than others.
A history of precautions
To rule out the possibility that last year was an anomaly, let’s take a look at the past 20 NASCAR Cup Series racing seasons. I only include natural precautions to eliminate the differences introduced with stage races.
Although the caution figures vary from year to year, the data shows a clear overall downward trend. Over the past 20 years, the series had a high of 368 natural caveats in 2005 and a low of 166 in 2018.
The most obvious trend is a significant decrease in debris warnings. NASCAR introduced the Damaged Vehicle Policy in 2017 that requires teams to repair cars well enough to reach a minimum speed within a specified time (now six minutes). The Cup Series had the most debris warnings in 2005 with 89. That’s an average of 2.47 debris warnings per race. Since implementing the damaged vehicle policy, the series has never had more than 21 in a season.
The number of accidents has decreased overall, but this is more of a general trend than a change in policy or equipment. In 2005, drivers counted 199 accidents. In 2012, the drivers managed the same number of races with only 104 accidents. 2012 was the low point in a series of four years with steadily declining prudential rates. The Gen-6 car hit the track in 2013, but that was also the year the series set a track record of 15 cautions at Kansas and had a 17 caution race at Martinsville.
Rotations have also decreased over the years, from 73 in 2002 to 20 (in 2016, 2017 and 2021).
Since 2018, the series has had no more than 189 natural caveats in a year.
What about just 12 races?
To really narrow down our comparison, I plotted the same data for the first 12 races of each season. You can’t predict the outcome of a season based on a handful of races, but if you compare this graph with the full season’s data, you can see that it already shows the main trends.
The Cup Series has recorded the highest number of cautions in a year since 2016 – and is just four short.
This week the series takes place at Kansas Speedway, its first visit to a 1.5-mile non-superspeedway track from Las Vegas in March. Prior to the 2022 race, Las Vegas had averaged 6.0 warnings over the past five races. This year, that number has doubled.
Kansas is averaging 7.6 cautions over the past five runs. Will we see a significant increase from that number in this week’s race? Or have the teams learned enough that the rate of warnings begins to decline?
If the Next Gen car increases caution simply because it’s harder to drive, the series could revert to high caution levels for the season that we haven’t seen since the vehicle policy went into effect. damaged. If it’s just drivers and teams on a learning curve, the rate of caution should start to slow.
What do you want to know? Send your questions to ask (at) buildingspeed (dot)org and I’ll try to answer them in future articles.