The 2023 Spring Martinsville lead changes comprise the first installment of our race review. Counting them is simple, but numbers are meaningless without context. You miss a lot of the important details you need to know if you’re trying to compare races.
I documented how bad last year’s race was. Is this year’s race better? If so, in what ways?
Answering that question requires more than a handful of numbers. A lot of people complain that there’s not enough passing when what they really mean is that there were as many lead changes as they would have liked to have seen.
And, of course, everyone’s view of the race is colored by how their favorite driver(s) did.
I always start with this plot for every race because it gives me a good overview of what happened. Also, I can’t make it without reviewing all the lead changes and cautions. So I start the analysis with a gut-level feeling for the race.
This graph lets you see who led, for how long, plus the flag(s) under which they led and under which they took the lead.
It’s also, under the right circumstances, sort of pretty. (Note to self: Change the wheel issue color.)
I review each caution because sometimes I classify them in a slightly more specific way than NASCAR does.
For example: NASCAR classified the lap 304 caution as a debris caution. The debris was the No. 78’s wheel. I classify that as a wheel-issue caution so I can keep track of how many there are.
That leaves us with:
- 5 cautions for 50 laps.
- 2 stage-end cautions
- 1 spin
- 1 wheel coming off
- 1 accident
- That means 12.5% of the race was cautions.
- Cautions by stage (excluding scheduled cautions):
- Stage 1: 0
- Stage 2: 1
- Stage 3: 2
- 10 lead changes among nine different drivers
- Chastain took the lead on lap 136 during the stage-break pit stops. He stayed out while everyone ahead of him pitted (INHERITED-YF)
- Harvick made the first green-flag pass of the race on lap 167 (GF)
- Briscoe took the lead on Lap 186 during the stage-2 pit stops (ONPR-YF)
- Hamlin made the second green-flag pass of the night on lap 257 (GF)
- Keselowski (lap 293) and Suárez (lap 300) inherited the lead during green-flag pit stops (INHERITED-GF x 2)
- Briscoe took the lead on pit road during a caution (ONPR-YF)
- Harvick took the lead on pit road under yellow on lap 345 (ONPR-YF)
- Logano took the lead a lap later because Harvick’s tire blew (and 15 crashed) (INHERITED-ACC)
- Larson made the last green-flag pass of the race on lap 371
That adds up to
- 3 green-flag passes
- 4 inherited leads (i.e. driver took the lead because someone else pitted or had an accident): 1 YF, 1 GF, 1 due to accident
- 3 lead changes on pit road, all under yellow flags.
Comparing with 2022
Here’s the same data, compared with the diagram for the 2022 Spring Martinsville race.
So was the 2023 race ‘better’ than in 2022? For everyone except Chase Elliott and William Byron, I’d say pretty much yes.
Does that mean it was a great race? I wouldn’t go quite that far. I like races where strategy and having a good pit crew is important, so I probably liked it more than people who like lead changes.
These were the 2023 Martinsville lead changes. It takes quite a bit of effort and time — and a few judgement calls — to translate the race report numbers into meaningful numbers. Next time: laps led.