I love the Gen-6 car. Not as much as I love the Nationwide cars (but that’s got more to do with what I drive than it does the cars). The big question is whether the decrease in cautions is going to be changed because of the new car. Let’s start (as we usually do here) with the data.
I’ve tabulated the data for cautions for the last twelve seasons and found that cautions have been decreasing since 2005, as shown, for both the Nationwide and the Sprint Cup series.
In order to compare the two series and to compare between seasons within a single series, I’ve plotted the number of cautions per 100 miles.
In 2012, the Sprint Cup series had 1.57377 cautions per 100 miles. They drove 13725 miles total, so that was 216 cautions total.
In 2012, the Nationwide series had 2.23969 cautions per 100 miles. They drove 8240 miles, with comes out to 189 cautions — essentially the same number of cautions per mile they had last year.
Conclusion #1. If the Nationwide drivers had driven the same number of miles as the Sprint Cup drivers, they would have had 307 cautions.
You’ll notice that I’ve drawn lines through each set of data. They aren’t just a best fit by eye – I actually did a non-linear least-squares fit that determines the line that goes closest to all the points. The data are decidedly linear and, more importantly, there aren’t any bumps or jump in, say, 2008, when the COT (which I guess is now the Gen-5 car) was introduced, or in 2011 when the Nationwide car was changed. The data remained pretty consistent.
Conclusion #2. Cautions are not affected much by the car that’s being driven. Sure, I expect there to be some driver errors when a car doesn’t handle the way the driver expects it to behave; however, these guys catch on really quickly, so that’s going to be maybe 5 cautions. Five out of 216 is like 2.3 percent, which is well within the error in the fit parameters.
Why are the cautions decreasing? I’ve gone into this before, but I believe it is essentially because the drivers have a lot more experience now than they did in previous years. There are a lot of veteran drivers in the Cup series right now, and I calculated that if you add up all the races run by the current crop of drivers, they have run a total of about 1000 more races in 2011 than they did in 2005. That’s a whole lot of experience, and it’s distributed amongst the drivers. Compare just two drivers: Tony Stewart had run 248 races in 2005 and at the end of 2012, had run 500. Carl Edwards had only run 49 races in 2005 – compare that to the 301 races he’d run as of today. (I am only counting points paying races. If you could somehow quantify the number of practice laps, time testing, etc., I think that would only make my argument stronger.)
So, in short, I don’t expect there will be any significant change in cautions because of the new car — up or down. What do you think?