Crunching The Numbers: Track Edition

We know that the champion is Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon is officially retired from racing, but what about what happened each weekend on the track from a racing perspective? How many cautions were thrown and how many were due to “debris” debris? I think it is time to review what the NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule brought to the racing surfaces during the 36 races.

36 races are scheduled; 26 of those races set up the Chase and the remaining 10 are to determine the champion. There are 23 unique tracks that are visited across these great United States of America; 8 of those visited twice during the year show up during the Chase. 27.78% of the schedule consists of Short Tracks (1 mile or less), 38.89% are Intermediate tracks (greater than 1 mile but less than 2 miles), 11.11% are Restrictor Plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega), 16.67% are Super Speedways (at least 2 miles but not Daytona or Talladega), and 5.56% are Road Courses.

Track Make Up

Diving a bit more into the tracks, we can see how many races finished their scheduled distance, how many went over, and how many went under. It was best to break the numbers down based on the track type, then a step further was separating out the regular season and the Chase. For instance, the chart below shows us that there were 10,537 laps scheduled for the season but 10,425 were ran. From there, it is broken down to a more granular level.

 Scheduled LapsActual LapsDifferenceScheduled MilesActual MilesDifference
Season (36 races)1053710425-1.07%13966.2413823.405-1.03%
Regular Season (26)73687339-0.40%9970.269896.145-0.75%
Chase (10)31693086-2.69%3995.983927.26-1.75%
OVERALL
Intermediate (14)429742990.05%6143.686146.680.05%
Restrictor Plate (4)7367481.60%1900.161931.441.62%
Road Course (2)2002000.00%439.4439.40.00%
Short Track (10)42244147-1.86%30833000.863-2.74%
Super Speedway (6)10801031-4.75%24002304-4.17%
REGULAR
Intermediate (8)252825280.00%3622.783622.780.00%
Restrictor Plate (3)5485520.72%1400.081410.080.71%
Road Course (2)2002000.00%439.4439.40.00%
Short Track (7)301230280.53%21082118.8630.51%
Super Speedway (6)10801031-4.75%24002304-4.17%
CHASE
Intermediate (6)176917710.11%2520.92523.90.12%
Restrictor Plate (1)1881964.08%500.08521.364.08%
Short Track (3)12121119-8.31%975882-10.54%
LONGER/SHORTER RACES
Season (10 races)25872475-4.53%3979.083835.223-3.75%
Regular Season (7)18201791-1.62%2766.52691.363-2.79%
Chase (3)767684-12.13%1212.581143.86-6.01%
OVERALL
Intermediate (1)2672690.74%400.5403.50.74%
Restrictor Plate (3)5485602.14%1400.081431.362.19%
Short Track (3)12121135-6.78%978.5896.363-9.16%
Super Speedway (3)560511-9.59%12001104-8.70%
REGULAR
Restrictor Plate (2)3603641.10%9009101.10%
Short Track (2)9009161.75%666.5677.3631.60%
Super Speedway (3)560511-9.59%12001104-8.70%
CHASE
Intermediate (1)2672690.74%400.5403.50.74%
Restrictor Plate (1)1881964.08%500.08521.364.08%
Short Track (1)312219-42.47%312219-42.47

The scheduled and actual number of laps is greater than the circumference of Mars. In other words, the NASCAR drivers made it all the way around the planet Mars (and then some) during 2015. In terms on Earth, they made it about half way around the planet this season.

 

Some more statistics around what went down on the track, at a high level, that can be looked in are the margin of victory, lead lap drivers, and race speed to name a few.

 Average Drivers On Lead LapAverage Race SpeedAverage Margin Of VictoryTotal Lead ChangesAverage Lead ChangesTotal CautionsAverage CautionsTotal Caution LapsAverage Caution LapsAverage First Caution LapAverage Last Caution Lap
Season (36 races)20.97121.6051.68463817.722988.28161344.8126.14262.06
Regular Season (26)22.08120.1201.54446417.852208.46118545.5825.46253.88
Chase (10)18.1125.4672.08817417.4787.842842.827.9283.3
OVERALL
Intermediate (14)18.79130.6832.00426018.571248.8661143.6419.5267.64
Restrictor Plate (4)30155.9200.1410626.5256.2511127.7544.25178.5
Road Course (2)2983.0972.903178.51053718.524.579
Short Track (10)16.995.9480.77315715.7949.465565.530.1389.4
Super Speedway (6)24.17133.1482.6249816.33457.519933.1723.5153.5
REGULAR
Intermediate (8)20.25129.7781.76015919.88779.62538247.7521.75271.875
Restrictor Plate (3)31152.1220.147625.33227.33933114.67172.67
Road Course (2)2983.0972.9025178.51053718.524.579
Short Track (7)16.5794.7790.56911416.29669.4347467.7136.29404.14
Super Speedway (6)24.17133.1482.62449816.33457.519933.1723.5153.5
CHASE
Intermediate (6)16.83131.8892.288510116.83477.8322938.1716.5262
Restrictor Plate (1)27167.3113030331818133196
Short Track (3)17.6798.6751.4874314.33289.3318160.3315.67355
LONGER/SHORTER RACES
Season (10 races)21.9128.9900.39619619.6676.741841.840.7241.3
Regular Season (7)23.29125.7630.37713719.57557.8633247.4328.71250.86
Chase (3)18.67136.5180.4915919.671248628.6768.67219
OVERALL
Intermediate (1)15135.7320.491212177393931264
Restrictor Plate (3)29.33154.7300.1227926.33196.338829.3352.33185
Short Track (3)12.67100.3220.3614414.67206.671866245.67364
Super Speedway (3)26129.6690.5215217.332171053527.33167.33
REGULAR
Restrictor Plate (2)30.5148.440.1224924.5168703512179.5
Short Track (2)1297.2270.361361818915778.547.5447.5
Super Speedway (3)26129.6690.5215217.332171053527.33167.33
CHASE
Intermediate (1)15135.7320.491212177393931264
Restrictor Plate (1)27167.3113030331818133196
Short Track (1)14106.5128822292942197

 

Moving on to more information from the visits to these tracks; CAUTIONS!!! Cautions made up 15.47% of the laps clocked during the season with 298 cautions recorded, and now we will see where and why.

Caution Reason - Graph

We see from this data that accidents were the majority of the reason why a caution came out followed by debris. Another interesting note taken from the data is that 16 times a caution was thrown because it was a competition caution. 5 times the competition caution was the first caution, 10 times it was the second caution, and 1 time it was the third caution; rain has been a big story in some way during this season. The next level of cautions is where the caution occurred on the track. Where was the most dangerous part you ask?

Caution Location - Graph

Turn 4 produced the most cautions this season, followed by Turn 2, and the Backstretch rounded out the podium (finish). What can this tell us as fans/viewers and even the teams? Exits were the most trouble for the teams and thus caused the most incidents. What incidents occurred where? Well, I am glad you asked because I crunched those numbers as well!

Caution Location, Reason,Type x2

The table on the left (yellow highlight) tells us the location on the track of the incident and what incidences happened there. An explanation of these numbers would be as follows: the backstretch saw 42 cautions (or 14.09% of the cautions). 19 (45.24% of the 42 cautions) of those cautions came from an accident, 19 (45.24% of the 42 cautions) were the result of debris, and 4 (9.52% of the 42 cautions) were from a car spinning. The table on the right (gray highlight) tell us the location of the caution and what track (type) those cautions occurred at. So with the cautions on the backstretch, we see the break out of what track type those cautions occurred at (i.e. 16 [38.10% of the 42 cautions] cautions on the backstretch were on intermediate tracks).

Another way we can view the cautions is by track (type) and the location:
Caution Track & Location

Intermediate tracks are the most visited types during the season so it comes as no surprise that they accumulate the most cautions. It is also no surprise that, given the previous above information about Turn 4 possessing the most caution occurrences is near the top of most tracks, especially for Intermediate tracks. This view gives a look into where the danger zones are by track type, and not just calling our Turn 4; we see, for instance, that on Restrictor Plates, the backstretch is the most dangerous.

Now, we have explored the location & caution reason and track type & caution location, but what happens if we combine the caution location, caution reason, and track type? Well, we will get a very detailed view of the cautions during this season, that’s what!
Caution Reason, Track, Location

Now, the chart on the left (red highlight) has the caution at the high level then is broken out into the track type and then by caution location; the chart on the right (blue-green highlight) has the caution at the high level then is broken down into the caution location followed by track type. These two charts (more or less) tell us the same story but in a slightly different way. To read this chart, let’s look at the accidents. 47.99% of the cautions were from accidents, which we saw previously. The chart on the left then tells us that 59 (41.26%) of those accidents occurred on Intermediate tracks and of those 59 accidents on Intermediate tracks, 7 (11.86%) occurred on the backstretch. The chart on the right tells us that 19 (13.29%) of the accidents occurred on the backstretch with 7 (36.84%) taking place on the Intermediate tracks. So we see the same story being told but in two unique ways.

So much information can be told from data and analysis and I have thrown a lot out here about the races during this season. Starting off the season in February in Daytona until the middle of November in Homestead, a lot happens and stories can be told from what one might normally not look into. Accidents off of Turn 2 and Turn 4 caused a lot of trouble this season, and keep an eye on spinning cars in those turns as well, while debris seems to find its way onto the backstretch and frontstretch most often. Data analysis and statistics can paint a picture to almost anything, if you let your mind take off a bit.

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If there are any statistics you would like to see, just let me know! As long as there is data, something can be done! If you haven’t yet, please give your favorite NASCAR statistician a follow on Twitter and Facebook so you can be first to see my awesome stats!

Ashley Hobbs

I was born on the 9th of March in a year which you need not know. I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey, but I now reside in Florida. Here is a bit about myself:

I make friends in random places ?
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I hope you enjoy my segment, Crunching the Numbers, and getting insights into each weekend's NASCAR race!

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