Warnings were up in 2022 although there have been fewer stage end warnings and competition in any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the Numbers focuses on causes (and causalers) of alerts.
I divide the alerts into those that are planned—such as competition and end-of-stage breaks—and so-called “normal” alerts. Normal warnings include accidents, turns, stalled vehicles, debris or liquids on the track, and weather.
My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions is the most since 2014. That’s despite having 73 cautions planned, the fewest since stage races began.
The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions compared to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. These are the most normal warnings since 2016.
Caution rating is subjective. Obviously, a car spin is a spin and a car collision is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, does it spin or is it an accident? If an accident occurs in a break, do you record the warning as an accident or a phase break?
This year presented a more complex problem.
The 2022 season saw more blown tires and wheels from cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR has classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris warnings, and others as crashes.
To me, a blown tire looks fundamentally different from the car part straying on the track.
Countless tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 alerts. I added three additional warning categories: wheel, fire, and tire problems.
Tire problems are classified as such only if the blown tire has preceded a crash or spin. Tires that inflate due to contact with the wall or flat spots are not included. If I can’t be sure the blown tire came first, I’ve left caution in its original class.
The complexity of my reclassification process is comparing warnings by category to previous years. Offsetting this concern is the need to set a standard against which next year’s data can be measured.
The table below compares the details of my cautions to NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit I’m not entirely objective either. But I think my rating better reflects the general nature of the 2022 season.
The most surprising statistic is the sheer number of spins. Cup Series drivers have spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. In 2022 drivers have spun 60 times.
There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series scored 66 spins. That was the Gen-5’s first year; However, this year the number of laps is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was tough to drive. Turnover stats are a good argument that they got their wish.
Drivers in accidents, turns and stalls
I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of questions about differentiating them. Incidents combines all courses, all accidents, and all stalls.
And remember: being involved in an accident is not that driver involved it causes the incident.
The chart below shows all drivers who have had 12 or more crashes during the 2022 season.
Also, remember that this number does not include wheel or tire problems. A driver crash due to a tire blowout is fundamentally different from an accident or a spin.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Russ Chastain were involved in the most accidents in 2022. Both drivers were involved in 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led the caution causing accidents in 2021 with 17.
Kyle Busch is third in total crashes, and first in laps with seven. For comparison, no other driver has more than four turns.
No full-time driver has completely avoided an accident. Justin Haley has participated in the fewest number: four. William Byron totaled six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell brought in eight each.
Cautions by race
The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history by miles. Her 18 warnings helped make her a longtime standout, too.
But longer races provide more opportunities to crash. A better measure is the number of accidents per 100 miles of racing. I’ve removed stage and competition alerts because planned alerts are not dependent on race length.
Bristol’s dirt race’s 14 cautions was 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.
This gives the Bristol Dirt Race 9.0 tremendous natural nudges for every 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol Dirt Race was also at the top of the list with a total of 7.4 pit stops per 100 miles of racing.
The Bristol asphalt race had the second most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4, followed by the Bristol COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8) races.
What about super speed?
The only ultra-fast race in the top 10 100-mile Alerts chart is Atlanta II. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.
But breakneck speeds demand more cars per crash. The summer Daytona race involved 46 cars involved in five crashes, at a rate of 9.2 cars per crash. Some cars have had multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is greater than the number of cars that are racing.
The fall Talladega race has the second highest number of debris per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The Talladega Spring Race is associated with the Bristol Asphalt Race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per crash.
Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only one stage pit stop caution, Road America had a normal 0.0 caution per 100 miles. Sonoma had a 0.72 Natural Alert per 100 miles and Charlotte Roval had a 0.78.
We usually use alerts as a proxy for calculating incidents and turnover. The problem is that not every accident calls for caution – especially on road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, and some wheels were cut off by a pothole. Some drivers put their cars back in the pits after losing their wheels.
And there were a lot of laps that didn’t lead to the cautions.
Next week, I’m going to tell you all about those.