2023 Summer Atlanta Race Report

The 2023 Summer Atlanta Race Report is all wet. After being called for rain after 185 of 260 scheduled laps, pundits hailed the aggressive racing as a sign that Atlanta has become perhaps the best track on the circuit. While Marcus Smith, Steve Swift and the SMI team have led the way in innovative track development, a single race under exceptional circumstances is a single data point.


As usual, I start with the lead/caution-o-gram, which gives us a gestalt picture of the race.


There were 7 cautions for 43 laps:

  • 5 accidents for 32 laps
  • 1 spin for 6 laps
  • 1 stage-end caution for 5 laps

That makes 6 natural and 1 stage-end caution. A total of 17 cars were involved in caution-causing spins or accidents. The No. 7 (Corey LaJoie) and the No. 43 (Erik Jones) were each involved in two incidents.

I identified another 5 non-caution incidents:

  • 1 accident (Jones and Ty Gibbs battle, sending Gibbs into wall)
  • 1 spin (Kevin Harvick)
  • 1 wall contact (Jones)
  • 1 minor contact (Austin Cindric and Tyler Reddick – what a great save by Reddick!)
  • 1 pit-road contact (Michael McDowell hits Martin Truex Jr. coming out of his pit stall)

Lead Changes

There were 18 lead changes among 12 drivers:

  • 13 were green-flag lead changes (72.1%)
  • 3 were inherited leads during yellow-flag pit stops
  • 1 was taken on pit road during yellow
  • I think we attribute Chris Buescher’s lead to the accident, but I’m not totally sure about that.

Regardless of the Buescher classification, the lead changes were primarily green-flag.

Only B.J. McLeod led no quality laps.

Comparing Atlanta

There have been four races at the ‘new’ Atlanta, with reactions ranging from ‘they ruined it’ to ‘has become the best track on the circuit.’

This was no typical Atlanta race. Everyone knew going in that race-ending rain was highly likely, which meant different strategies relative to a full race. Almirola led most of stage 1, but dropped from battling for the lead all the way back to 9th place after he lost the outside lane. There was a great battle for the stage 1 win because track position at the end of stage 1 would be much more important than usual.

As stage 2 drew to a close, every crew chief on pit road knew there was 10-to-15-minute window to rain. Some risks paid off and some didn’t. But they wouldn’t have taken those risks in the absence of rain. To extrapolate how ‘fit’ a track Atlanta is from Sunday’s race is like evaluating a student on the best grade they got on a single test rather than looking at all the tests.

Data from Four Atlanta Races

What is the 2022 summer Atlanta race report without a table? So here are a couple of numbers from the four Atlanta-as-superspeedway races.

MetricSummer 2023Spring 2023Summer 2022Spring 2022
Passes per GF Lap22.826.823.724.8
Lead Changes per 100 Laps 6.97.710.414.2
# Cars on Lead Lap27232123
% Laps Led by One Driver24.9%53.8%37.0%34.2%
  • Sunday’s race had the fewest lead changes per 100 laps and the fewest passes per green-flag lap. More proof that lots of passing isn’t always necessary for an enjoyable race.
  • Sunday’s race also had the most cars finishing the race on the lead lap.
  • The most recent race also spread out the leading. There were 4.61 leaders for every 100 laps run last Sunday. That ties with the summer 2022 race.

I’m not saying that this race wasn’t enjoyable. The ticking clock put a little more pressure on everyone. But it wasn’t a representative race.

Today’s world doesn’t encourage complexity. Everything has to be good or bad, friend or enemy, celebrated or cancelled. And remember all of this when we next visit Atlanta and there’s no rain, and the people who say things just to say things start crying that they ruined Atlanta by changing it.

That’s your 2023 summer Atlanta race report.

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