2021 Daytona 500 Race Report

It was a long, strange race with a lot of good cars lost to crashes and a pleasantly surprising winner. What can we learn by looking at the numbers from the 2021 Daytona 500 race report?

Passing is the Surprise Story


I had to double and triple check this graph before I put it up. There were a surprisingly small number of green-flag passes this year. And I mean really surprisingly small.

The 2020 Daytona 500 had 6,720 green-flag passes. The 2021 Daytona 500 had 2,755. That’s the fewest green-flag passes we had by a whole lot.

2021 Daytona Race Report showing the much-reduced green-flag passing in 2021 relative to every other year since 2005

There were Daytona 500s in the mid-2010s that had 13,000 green-flag passes. Given that we’re switching to a new car next year, I’m not hugely concerned, but I sure am curious.

I can tell you it’s NOT because there were a huge number of caution laps in the 2021 Daytona 500.

  • In 2020, 18.7% of the race was run under caution and we had 6,720 green-flag passes
  • In 2019, 22.7% of the race was caution and we had 8,754 green-flag passes

Lead Changes

The Caution-O-GramTM and Lead-O-GramTM are shown below.

The Caution-O-Gram shows green-flag laps in green, and different types of cautions in different colors. In 2021, we had only accident- and stage-end-cautions. The huge early wreck ate up 14 laps, but the last-lap wreck obviously didn’t cost any laps.

Caution-O-Grams and Lead-O-Grams showing who led and under what conditions

The Lead-O-Gram shows you who led and under what conditions during the 2021 Daytona 500.

  • Tiny dots indicate that the driver got the lead during yellow-flag conditions.
  • Diagonal slashes show that the lead was taken on a restart
  • Cross hatches show drivers who had been leading and continued to lead during the next yellow flag.

You can see from the colors that Harvick dominated the start of the race, but Denny Hamlin held the middle. Christopher Bell had a great green-flag run in the middle as well.

A stacked column chart showing who led laps and under what conditions

The number of lead changes was down from last year (22 in 2021 vs 24 in 2020, but that number is usually around 20-26, so not too different.

All in all, the 2021 Daytona 500 will go down as one of the stranger starts to a season, even though there were no jet dryer collisions or pieces of the track coming apart.

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