At the start of the season, the big news was that cautions were remarkably down from last year. As I showed, this isn’t a new trend – it’s a continuing trend since 2007. Since the season’s data are now complete, I thought it was time to revisit the data.
Plotted at right are the caution data from 2012 compared to the data from the previous six years. I’ve normalized the cautions to cautions per 100 miles to account for the changing lengths of some races over the years.
Note how the data jump around pretty wildly until about race 10. That is because averages are only meaningful when you’re averaging enough information. When you average a small number of measurements, the average fluctuates until you get enough data that the numbers mean something. You can’t predict anything from the first five or ten races. Please remember that next year when the prognosticators tell you someone’s season is over just after first Martinsville.
The 2012 data are the green triangles – a whopping decrease in cautions from 2011! In absolute numbers, there were a total of 218 cautions this year compared with 278 in 2011 and 265 in 2010. Where were the biggest numbers of cautions?
The Nationwide Series didn’t experience the same drop in cautions – in fact, they had just about the same numbers of cautions this year as they did last year. The tracks with the largest caution rates per 100 miles for Nationwide are:
Here’s the updated graph, showing cautions per 100 miles since 2001. You’ll notice that 2012 marks a new low for the Cup Series.
I’m still working on the analysis, but I think my original theory holds for why the number of cautions has been decreasing: we simply have more drivers with more experience. There are a lot of veterans and fewer rookies. The average time each driver has been driving in the series is higher, which means that the drivers are simply better.