2022 Watkins Glen Race Report

The slightly damp 2022 Watkins Glen Race Report has strategy, wet-weather racing, and a late-race pass for the lead.

Caution/Lead-O-Gram

The 2022 Watkins Glen race featured five cautions for 11 laps. That’s two stage-end cautions, two accidents and a spin. (The ‘other’ was a spin, but didn’t show up pink.)

But remember that road courses often have additional incidents that don’t raise cautions. I counted:

  • Four spins
  • One accident
  • Two off-track excursions
  • One unscheduled pit stop for Chase Briscoe to check on possible contact-induced damage.
The caution and lead-o-gram plots for the 2022 Watkins Glen Race Report

Nine drivers led laps, but only five (Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell, Joey Logan and Chase Elliott) were quality leads.

There were 12 lead changes:

  • Five lead changes were true green-flag passes.
  • Four leads changed due to green-flag pit stops.
  • Two leads changed due to yellow-flag pit stops.
  • The last pass of the race was on a restart.

Wet Weather Racing

NASCAR wisely pulled back the restart when drivers reported pooling water on the track. Drivers started the race on wet-weather tires. The first few laps were a little tentative, but the pace sped up as the track dried and the drivers gained confidence.

This was the first trial of Goodyear’s newly designed wet-weather tires, which I show below. The wet-weather tires feature grooves that allow water to get out from under the tire, allowing more tire in contact with the track.

Comparison of three different types of tires: dirt, slick and wet weather
Photo by Mike Siberini of Goodyear

You can see the change in the tires by comparing the photos above to those below, of last year’s tires.

A figure comparing dirt tires, rain tires and normal racing slicks

Goodyear has to be pleased with tire’s performance. In addition to a new tread design, the tire is made to last longer once the pavement dries.

The old wet-weather tires got chewed up pretty quickly once the track started drying. You saw the race leaders searching for lines through the dampest parts of the track until they could get to pit stops.

Wet vs. Dry Lap Times

The wet weather slowed drivers, but getting the cars out on the track helped dry it more quickly. The first driver, Chris Buescher, pitted for slicks on lap seven. Lap times on slicks were much faster than on wet tires.

You can see the different in lap times on Chase Elliott’s race plot.

Scatter plots showing the lap times (upper) and track position (lower) for Chase Elliott at the 2022 Watkins Glen race

Wet racing was five to ten seconds slower per lap than slicks.

Level Playing Field… Mostly

Although we have fifteen different leaders and only one clear favorite for the final four, the teams at the tail end of the field still struggle.

Even on road courses.

A scatter plot of best lap times for the 2022 Watkins Glen race report

Elliott and eventual winner Larson had the fastest lap times, with A.J. Allmendinger a good tenth of second off Elliott. The teams from Harrison Burton on back really didn’t have much of a chance. So even though they’re racing the same parts, there is still a lot of advantage larger teams have in terms of personnel.

Kudos to Kimi Raikkonen, whose best lap was in the upper half of all drivers despite minimal time in a Cup Series car prior to the race.

And that’s the 2022 Watkins Glen Race Report.

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