NASCAR by the Numbers, 2020 Edition, Part 1

Hard to believe it’s already time for NASCAR by the Numbers, isn’t it? With another season in the record books (and what a year it was!) it’s time to look at what the numbers say about the year that was…

The Races

Ordinarily, the fact that we ran 36 races wouldn’t be notable. We ran 36 races last year. And the year before. And…

But given that this year was one giant dumpster fire, the fact that NASCAR got in all 36 races, plus the All-Star Race merits a special note.

NASCAR did an amazing job, especially considering the difficulties other major league (and college) sports had (and have). NASCAR was a model of how to make sports work during COVID. Nice job, folks.

Where We Raced

We only raced 22 different tracks this year, down from 24 last year, despite adding the brand-new Daytona road course. Although we ran three races at Darlington, we didn’t get to Chicagoland, Sonoma or Watkins Glen. We only raced once at Richmond this year.

18: The number of states we raced in this year

  • 4: Florida leads with four races
  • 3: South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia
  • 2: Alabama, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona

When We Raced

2020 was a bumper year for racing on different days of the week. Some of that was planned. Mother Nature took care of the rest of it for us.

A pie chart showing the days that had races.

Here are the actual number of races on each day

  • Sunday: 23
  • Saturday: 6
  • Wednesday: 3
  • Monday: 2
  • Thursday: 2

Compare this to 2019, when we ran 28 races on Sunday, 5 races on Saturday and 3 races on Monday.

Four races were delayed a day (or more) by weather: the Daytona 500, Charlotte (2), Talladega (2) and Texas (2). While it seems like Mother Nature was especially cruel this year, we had four delayed races last year, too.

Going the Distance

10 races didn’t run the scheduled number of laps. 9 of those races went into overtime, while the last (Darlington, Race #5) ended early due to rain.

All told, we ran 24 more laps than scheduled and 70 additional miles.

ScheduledActual
Laps Run98909914
Miles Run1343713507
Scheduled numbers are those we expected to run with the revised schedule.

How Far we Ran

13,507: The maximum number of miles a full-time driver had the opportunity to drive in 2020 including rain-shortened races and overtime.

The Earth’s circumference is 24,902 miles. The length of all the races this year is a little more than half the way around the world at it’s equator!

497,241 miles: The total of all the miles driven by all the drivers in all the Cup races. The mean distance between the moon and the earth is 238,855 miles. You could drive to the moon and back and still have about 20,000 miles left over.

Who Raced?

  • 54: The number of drivers who turned at least one lap in 2020.
    • Last year, there were 64 different drivers. The difference is likely due to COVID and the economy. This was not a great year to run an extra car or break in a new driver.
  • 46: How many car numbers were run in 2020
  • 17: The smallest number of laps any one driver ran in 2020
    • That was poor Justin Allgaier subbing for Jimmie Johnson and getting knocked out of the race 17 laps in
  • 28: The number of drivers who ran all 36 races. (50% of all drivers)
    • Last year 31 drivers ran a full schedule.
    • This year might have had 33 drivers if it weren’t so weird.
      • Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon both missed a race due to positive COVID tests.
      • Ryan Newman missed 3 races after his Daytona 500 crash
      • Kyle Larson
      • Daniel Suárez missed the Daytona 500, but otherwise ran a full season.
  • 34: The number of cars that had a single driver all season (74%)
  • 9: The maximum number of drivers for one car number: the 77
  • 6: The number of drivers who only ran one race this year
  • 37: The number of drivers (out of the 54) eligible to win points in the Cup Series. That’s 68.5.

And even though there’s a lot of talk about car count, there was an average of 39.3 cars per race, which is pretty good given the situation this year.

NOTE. There were 89 different drivers in the XFINITY series. Of those, 72 were eligible to earn points, which is 81%. There is a higher percentage of interlopers in the Cup series than in the XFINITY series. Of course, the interlopers in the Cup series rarely win.

How They Raced

13: The number of distinct winners, which is the exact same number we had last year. It’s pretty close to the average over the last five years.

196: The number of DNFs. There were 1,414 cars entered, which means 13.9% of the cars failed to finish the race.

86.1%: The percentage of cars running at the finish.

129 cars had to start from the back of the field. That’s about 9%.

247: The number of free passes handed out

337: The number of in-race penalties NASCAR assessed

Margin of Victory (MoV)

2: The number of races ending under caution this year. That’s the same as last year and one more than 2018.

A column chart showing the margins of victory for all tracks in the 2020 season, with a boxplot inset showing two outliers and a media on 0.49 seconds

The box plot on the right side tells us that 50% of all races had a margin of victory between 0.272 seconds and 2.19 seconds.

  • 0.007 seconds: The smallest MoV, at second Talladega. For reference, the blink of an eye is about a third of a second, for reference. I didn’t even change this sentence from last year.
  • 0.093 seconds: The smallest MoV at a non-superspeedway track – the second Michigan race.
  • 8.9 seconds: The largest MoV was at Auto Club speedway, where Alex Bowman ran away with the win.
    • The next highest MoV were both at Martinsville. (Martin Truex, Jr. and Chase Elliott in Spring and Fall, respectively)
  • 7 races (19.4%) were won with less than a 0.2 second MoV
  • 17 races (47.2%) were won with less than a 0.5 second MoV
  • 23 races (63.8%) were won with less than a 1 second MoV
  • 1.54 seconds: The average MoV, compared with 1.6 seconds in 2019 and 1.8 seconds in 2018.

Green Flag Passing

113,379: the total number of green-flag passes according to NASCAR’s loop stats.

48,158: The number of quality passes, meaning that a pass of a car in the top 15. That’s about 42.5% of all green-flag passes.

A column chart showing the rate of green flag passing per 100 miles for NASCAR by the Numbers

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the biggest number of passes are the two Talladega races and the two Daytona races, even when we normalize to passes per 100 miles to take into account that some races are longer than others. But after the superspeedways we have…

  • The Charlotte Road Course (1204/100 miles)
  • Auto Club Speedway (992)
  • Bristol (first race) (894)

At the bottom, we have Dover (race 25) at 300 GF Passes per 100 miles, followed by Darlington (race 5) at 318 and Indy at 346.

Percentage of Quality Passes

A column chart showing the percentage of quality passes for each race in the 2020 NASCAR season
  • Two Talladega races and the Daytona 500 take the top 3 spots, with 57.7%, 55.7% and 53.3% Quality Passes.
  • Bristol (race 9) came in fourth with 50% quality passes.
  • Tracks with the lowest percentage of quality passing this year: Daytona RC at 20.4%, Charlotte RC at 24.4%
  • The vast majority of the tracks are between 30 and 45% quality passing.

Cautions

  • 284: The number of cautions.
    • There were 248 cautions last year. Given that most races after the first four had an extra competition caution, that’s 32 additional cautions right there.
    • The spring Bristol race had the most cautions, with 17
    • Fall Talladega was second with 13
    • Auto Club and Richmond tied for the lowest number of cautions, with 3 each.
  • 1,437: The number of yellow-flag laps run.
    • Compare with 1292 in 2019
  • 14.5%: the average percentage of cautions in a race

Caution Rates

Because races are different lengths, it’s helpful to look at the rate of cautions: How many cautions are there at each race per 100 miles?

A column chart showing the number of cautions per 100 miles for all the races in the 2020 NASCAR season
A column chart showing the number of cautions per 100 miles for all the races in the 2020 NASCAR season

6.4: Highest number of cautions per 100 miles – Bristol Spring race. Other caution-prone tracks include

  • Martinsville (race 35) – 4.6
  • Darlington (race 6) and Phoenix (race 4) – 3.8

0.75: The smallest caution rate per 100 miles, at Auto Club Speedway

  • Atlanta and Richmond tie at about 1
  • Phoenix (race 36) was at 1.3.

You’ll note that Phoenix made the top list and the bottom list. Race 6 at Darlington was high, but race 7 — the next day — was 7th lowest. The fall race at Bristol didn’t even hit 2 cautions per 100 miles.

Accidents and Spins

Over the years, NASCAR is getting less accident prone. That doesn’t mean we don’t have accidents, but the number is down historically

  • 125: The number of accidents in 2019
    • Up slightly from 121 in 2019 and 111 in 2018
  • 26: The number of cars involved in spins:
    • Down one from 2019, but up two from 2018.
  • 343: The number of cars involved in accidents in 2020
  • 19: Most number of cars involved in a single accident. (Daytona 500).
    • Down from 21 last year
  • 57 (45.6%) The number of single-car accidents. Up one from last year
  • 37 (29.6) The number of two-car accidents. Up three from last year
  • 75.2%: The fraction of all accidents that involve one or two cars.
  • 24.8%: The fraction of accidents involving three or more cars.

  • 38: The most cars involved in accidents in one race (The Daytona 500)
    • This didn’t even come close to beating last year’s Daytona 500, which had 51 cars involved in accidents. A number of cars were involved in more than one accident. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. himself was involved in four different accidents.
    • Fall Talladega came in a close second with 37
  • 28: The largest number of cars involved in accidents at a non-superspeedway race. That was spring Bristol.

Caution Rates

Of course, we again must consider that some races are longer than others, so let’s plot the number of accidents and spins per 100 miles.

A column chart showing the number of cars in accidents and spins broken down by track
  • The spring race at Bristol is the likeliest track at which to have an accident, with 4.5 accidents every 100 miles.
    • But also note that the fall race only had 1.5 accidents every 100 miles.
    • Bristol also held the record for highest accident rate in 2019, at 2.62 accidents per 100 miles. So it outdid itself this year.
    • Spring Phoenix was a distant second in 2020 with 3.16 accidents per 100 miles But again, note that the fall race only had 0.32 accidents per 100 miles
  • 2: The number of tracks with no accidents (Richmond and Atlanta) In 2019, four tracks were accident free.
  • Fall Bristol was also the most likely place to spin, with 0.75 spins every 100 miles.

Most Dangerous Track of the Year

Some tracks are just more conducive to accidents than others, a fact I’ve quantified in the DDI, which variously stands for DLP Danger Index or Diandra Danger Index. This quantity considers the number of accidents, as well as the average number of cars per accident.

A column chart showing the Diandra Danger Index for races in the 2020 NASCAR season

10.5: The DDI for Spring Bristol, which takes the title of most dangerous race this year, beating out even the 2020 Daytona 500 by three full points.

This breaks the record last year, which was 9.86 for the 1919 Daytona 500.

Daytona and Talladega did, however, come in first and second

More NASCAR by the Numbers Coming

This entry covered the general information, but next blog, I’m going to be delving into the drivers. Who had the most accidents? Who got the most lucky dogs?

If you’re curious about a statistic, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

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