We’ve got a nice earth-tone lead-o-gram for this one, with three leaders in the short (57 minutes and 39 seconds) race.
- Five cautions
- Caution laps didn’t count in this race
- 2 accidents, 1 stalled car, 1 slowed car and a halftime break
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got two free passes in 150 laps and finished on the lead lap
- No one starting outside the top four led a lap of the race.
- The biggest shame of the race was that Tyler Reddick went out with a drivetrain issue and Justin Haley got taken out in a crash. Both young drivers were fast all weekend and qualified well.
There were five lead changes, with two true green-flag passes: the rest happened at the race start or restarts.
- Kyle Busch led the most laps (64) and Reddick the second most (51).
- Logano didn’t lead until Lap 116 and held the lead until the race end.
- This breaks the two-race pattern of the winner leading only the last lap. But given the venue change, that’s not really a surprise.
What Can We Learn from the 2022 Busch Light Clash?
The first race with the NextGen car was at a unique track and you know me: I’m the one warning not to start drawing conclusions until five or six races in. But having said that, I think there are a couple notable things we should keep our eye on.
JGR had a span of results, from Kyle Busch, who won the pole, to Martin Truex, Jr., who struggled the whole weekend. Perhaps the 78 team just got off to a bad start, but MTJ’s performance was a surprise.
I wasn’t as surprised about Brad Keselowski from the newly minted RFK team not making the race. Roush has struggled mightily the last few years and expecting them to suddenly move into the top tier club is unrealistic — although I do expect they will improve.
It was nice to see Harvick looking a little more like his old self at times this weekend.
Quick Change Artists
One metric I look at is where in the race each driver ran his fastest lap. I show that below, with the grey bars showing the total laps run. They are listed from left to right in order of fastest lap time.
With two stages, we can see that there are basically two classes of cars: Those who ran their best last before the break and those that did so after.
- Some drivers (Logano, Haley, KyBu) ran their best laps early. They had really good cars and didn’t need big improvements.
- Other drivers, like Erik Jones, improved after the break. These driver/crew chief pairs were able to learn something from the first half of the race to make their cars better.
- Other cars (like the 99) had raw speed in qualifying, but fell back once the race started and didn’t seem to be able to improve in the second half.
At most races, it’s not who’s good unloading: it’s who can keep making their car better throughout the race.
Interestingly, Truex, Jr. ran the third fastest lap of the race and did so when he was running 20th (out of 23) as he made his way from the very last spot. Hamlin, before he left the track, ran his fastest lap while running 21st.
A 1/4-mile is more about getting out front, then getting through traffic. Most of the racing was back in the pack.
Better Now Than Later
We saw five DNFs, with only one due to a crash. The others were problems with parts: oil lines, drivetrains, and steering. Some of this is to be expected with a brand-new car. The experiences at the 2022 Busch Light Clash will inform how the teams prepare cars (and drivers) for the Daytona 500 in two weeks.