Overview: Las Vegas

Memories are selective, so let’s look at an overview of this Spring’s Las Vegas race and see how it compares to previous races.

Start vs. Finish

Even though last-lap pitting decisions played a crucial role in determining the outcome of this race, there was still a decently strong dependence of finishing position on starting position.

Overview of the Las Vegas spring race:  starting and finishing positions.
The 2020 data are shown in red against the background data from the other years.

The cars that started in the back tended to finish in the back, but there was still a good amount of moving up (and down)

The biggest loser in terms of positions was Martin Truex, Jr., who started in P2 and finished in P20 after being involved in a single-car accident.

The biggest gainers were

  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (26th =>3rd)
  • Bubba Wallace (27th =>6th)
  • Matt DiBenedetto (19th =>2nd)
  • Austin Dillon (21st =>4th)

This shows you the importance of strategy. DiBenedetto rand only 43.1% of the race in the top 15 and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ran 44.9% in the top 15, yet both pulled out top-5 finishes.

Bubba Wallace, who made only 5 quality passes and spent only 8 laps out of 267 in the top 15 finished in P6.

Ryan Blaney — the only driver in the race who never fell out of the top 15 — ended up in P11. His crew chief, Todd Gordon, took the blame for the call to pit while leading, but honestly, you’re sort of stuck when you’re leading. Whatever you do, the rest of the field will do the opposite.

This shows why having a savvy crew chief and good strategy is so important.

Cautions

This race made me realize that I need to institute something like a ‘quality cautions’ metric.

Overview: The numbers of cautions and caution laps for spring Las Vegas races from 2000-2020

There were 9 cautions, which is the highest number of cautions for a spring Las Vegas race since 2009.

However, there were 37 laps of caution, which is only one more than 2016, where we had only 6 cautions. 13.5% of the race was run under caution.

The difference is clear if you look at the causes. Take out the two stage cautions, plus a competition caution and the #96 stalling on lap 2, and that leaves you with four ‘real’ cautions over roughly the last hundred laps. There were three single-car spins and an accident. They accounted for 16 laps of caution.

The longest cautions were the stage-end breaks, which were 6 and 7 laps respectively.

That left an average green flag run of 25.7 laps.

Lap Stats

As is usual at Las Vegas, most of the cars starting the race finished it. Ryan Preece went out on lap 222 with an engine failure, and Timmy Hill had a rear-end gear problem on lap 175. 94.7% of the cars finished the race.

Overview: The percentage of cars finishing the race and finishing on the lead lap at Las Vegas shown in a column chart

63.2% of the cars finished on the lead lap, which is the highest percentage since 2006. That year, almost 70% of the cars finished the race on the lead lap.

We had seven leaders and 5 ‘quality leaders’ in this race.

Overview of Las Vegas Spring Race: Number of Quality Leaders
Quality Leaders excludes drivers who only led a single lap under caution or during green-flag pit stops

The number of quality leaders is down from 2019 (where we had only the two stage cautions), but consistent overall with the lsat few races.

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