Early-Season Predictions Require Caution

Predictions: The Peril of the Early-Season Off-Week I can post only when I have something to contribute. The professionals who cover NASCAR don’t have the luxury of waiting until there’s news. The content monster remains perpetually hungry. That need to fill space is probably why, every year about this time, we see…

The Reason for Decreasing Cautions

This was the first year that most people noticed a decrease in the number of cautions, but (as I’ve pointed out), 2012 is merely the latest in a six-year trend of decreasing cautions. The same downward trend is evident in the Nationwide Series. This year is perhaps notable for it being so extreme.

The data clearly shows the trend: The question, of course, is why?

The Six-Year Downward Caution Trend: In the Nationwide Series, too!

ust out of curiosity, I decided to do a similar analysis on the Nationwide Series caution record as I did on the Cup record. My intent was that if there was something specific to the Cup series – the new car, the Chase, etc.), it would show up because the Nationwide would follow a different trend. Not at all! Remember that I’m plotting number of cautions per 100 miles run

Cautions: A Historical Downward Trend Over the Last Six Years

Being the data geek that I am, I was really curious if the decreasing number of cautions was specific to this year. It’s not: Cautions have been decreasing since 2005,as the graph below shows. The squares are the cumulative number of cautions per 100 miles, obtained by adding up all the cautions in a season and dividing by the total number of miles in the races. (This is a more accurate number than total cautions, given rainouts, shortening races and different venues from year to year.)

Are Cautions Really Going Down?

I honestly cannot help it – scientists are naturally skeptical. If you make an assertion, I will have to question you on what data you have that supports it. This is second nature to the people I work with, but I realize it is damned irritating to non-scientists (aka “normal”) people.

So when I started reading everywhere that “cautions were down 35%”, I had to go look into it. This is a preliminary post – more detailed analysis will follow as soon as I’ve read my students’ final projects and gotten comments back to them.

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