Bookings had increased in 2022 despite fewer bookings at the end of the stage and in competitions every year since the start of the stage races. The third edition of 2022 in Numbers focuses on the causes (and causes).he) of warnings.
I break warnings into planned warnings – like competition and stage breaks – and so-called “natural” warnings. Natural precautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquids on the track, and the weather.
My first chart shows that this year’s 302 bookings are the most bookings since 2014. Despite only 73 planned warnings, these are the fewest since the start of the stage races.
The 2022 season had a total of 43 more bookings and 57 natural bookings more than the previous year compared to 2021. These are the most natural warnings since 2016.
Caution classification is subjective. Obviously a spinning car is a spinning and a car crash is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident occurs at a stage stoppage, do you record the warning as an accident or as a stage stoppage?
This year presented an even more thorny problem.
The 2022 season had more tire and wheel bursts from cars than any other season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents caused by blown tires as debris precautions, others as accidents.
To me, a blown tire looks fundamentally different than a lost car part on the track.
The myriad of tire and wheel problems prompted me to check all 302 warnings. I’ve added three additional caution categories: wheel problems, fire, and tire problems.
Tire problems were only so flagged when a blown tire preceded an accident or spin. Tires that burst due to contact with the wall or punctures are not included. Unless I could say for sure that the blowout came first, I kept the warning in its original category.
My recategorization makes it difficult to compare strikes by category to previous years. These concerns are offset by the need to establish a benchmark against which next year’s data can be measured.
The table below compares my booking breakdown to NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I’ll admit I’m not entirely objective either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall character of the 2022 season.
The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. The Cup Series drivers rotated between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 turned 60 times.
There hasn’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen 5 car; However, the number of turns this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen 4 car. The fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin stats are a good argument that her wish has come true.
Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls
I am treating accidents, spins and stalls as a single category because of the question of distinguishing between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all spins, all accidents and all stalls.
And remember: Being involved in an incident does not mean that this driver caused the incident.
The chart below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.
Also remember that this count does not include wheel or tire problems. A car accident because a tire blows out is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse was the 2021 leader in incidents leading to caution with 17 accidents.
Kyle Busch ranks third in total incidents and first in spins with seven. For comparison: No other driver had more than four spins.
No full-time driver has completely avoided incidents. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron had a six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell had eight each.
The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. His 18 warnings contributed to the fact that it was also long in time.
But longer races offer more opportunities to fall. A better metric is the number of accidents per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition warnings because scheduled warnings are not dependent on race length.
The Bristol Dirt Race’s 14 bookings were the third-highest total behind the 16 bookings from the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.
That gives the Bristol Dirt Race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year’s Bristol Dirt Race also topped the list with 7.4 bookings per 100 miles raced.
Bristol’s tarmac race had the second most warnings per 100 miles at 3.4. The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).
What about super speedways?
The only Superspeedway race in the top 10 warnings per 100 miles chart is the second race in Atlanta. The fall race at Talladega had the fewest cautions per 100 miles of any oval this year at .80.
But superspeedways are demanding more cars per accident. At the Daytona summer race, 46 cars were involved in five accidents, an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars have been involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is greater than the number of cars racing.
The fall race at Talladega ranks second in terms of wreckage per accident, averaging 8.0 cars. The spring race in Talladega ties in with the asphalt race in Bristol. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.
Road America had the fewest bookings of any race in 2022. With only two bookings at stage disruptions, Road America had 0.0 natural bookings per 100 miles. Sonoma had .72 natural bookings per 100 miles and Charlotte Roval had .78.
Normally we use warnings as a proxy for counting accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident will result in a warning – especially on street circuits. There were seven warnings for wheels coming off cars, some wheels coming off in the pit lane. Some drivers hobbled their cars back into the pits after losing wheels.
And there were a lot more spins that didn’t produce warnings.
I’ll tell you all about it next week.