The Frontstretch: Surprise! NASCAR's Version of Reality Slightly Skewered by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday July 25, 2007

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Surprise! NASCAR's Version of Reality Slightly Skewered

Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday July 25, 2007


In case you didn't know it, the competitiveness in NASCAR's highest ranks has never been better. Don't take my word for it, though; just ask NASCAR. On second thought…you don't have to. This sport is more than willing to tell you what to believe.

Here is an excerpt from a July 16th NASCAR press release titled “NASCAR's Golden Age of Competition is Now.”

"Present-day NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races offer closer competition than anytime in history, a new NASCAR statistical analysis has shown. Taking into account such statistics as cars on the lead lap, average leaders per race and margin of victory, racing since 1970 has become more competitive and more unpredictable than ever.
Consider this: In 1970, 22 of the 48 races "featured" only ONE car on the lead lap at the end of the race. Not since 1994 has a race ended with one car on the lead lap (Geoffrey Bodine at North Wilkesboro)."

This "new" statistical analysis (the first four letters of the word "analysis" sums it all up in my opinion) goes on to provide the following informational tidbits:

Percentage of cars on the lead lap: 1976 - 6.3%
1986 - 15.6%
1996 - 30.7%
2006 - 43.6% Average leaders per race by decade:

1970-1979: 5.4 1980-1989: 8.1 1990-1999: 8.3 2000-2007: 9.8

On the surface, those are some pretty impressive statistics, especially the increase of the percentage of cars on the lead lap over the years. So impressive, in fact, that it set my feeble mind to wondering, just what overall factor has made NASCAR so gosh darn competitive nowadays compared to the days of yore. Was it that the equipment has gotten better? Perhaps it is the drivers. Could it be that all those great drivers "back in the day" just wouldn't be able to cut it, even in their prime, against today's "young guns?" What is it in the NASCAR of today that makes these racers so cotton pickin' close together?

It was that last question that caused a flag to fly in my befuddled brain, and I started to do a statistical analysis of my own. I asked myself, if I were in charge of NASCAR, what would I do to keep the cars closer together? (Sort of WWJD: What Would Jeff Do.) What follows are the statistics that NASCAR did not disclose. You look at my findings and see if you come to the same conclusion I did.

1970-1979, of 336 races, 1499 caution flags thrown. Average: 4.46 per race.
1980-1989, of 296 races, 2080 caution flags thrown. Average: 7.02 per race.
1990-1999, of 307 races, 2019 caution flags thrown. Average: 6.57 per race.
2000-2007, of 269 races (so far), 2276 caution flags thrown. Average: 8.46 per race.

The best way to keep the cars close together is to essentially "start the race over" whenever any one man gets too far ahead. Throw that yellow flag! The more yellow flags you throw, the more leaders you have during a race because of those backmarker cars staying out one more lap just to lead a lap! Perfect! Throw the "Lucky Dog" in there and it gets even better.

Now, I am not suggesting that all caution flags are bogus. That would be absurd…but the numbers do not lie. The number of cautions nowadays is obscenely higher than it used to be.

Between 1970 and 1999, the lowest number of cautions thrown in one year was 125 in 1976. The highest was 236 in 1988. Since the year 2000, the lowest has been 244! (2000) So far in 2007, after only 19 races, there has already been 160 caution flags thrown! At the present rate, using a formula that only I and Duke Bush are privy too, by the end of the decade, out of 358 races, the caution will have flown an amazing 2896 times. That’s almost 900 times more than in the 1990s.

So, no wonder the racing is so competitive now days! A yellow flag is all you need. Who'd have thunk it!?

Stay of the wall, (and on the lead lap!)

Jeff Meyer

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
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Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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07/26/2007 01:31 AM

Hmm? Didn’t Tony Stewart basically say the same thing a few months ago with a bit different twist. He got called to the red trailor before he was even allowed on the track to practice. What is your penalty going to be from Nascar? Thanks for the research to back up Tony’s earlier comments.

Sally B
07/26/2007 03:59 AM

What’s that old saying about the 3 ways to fudge the truth…“Lies, damn lies, and statistics?” I guess Nascar figures that fans are too stupid to realize how twisted the stats are?

07/26/2007 05:48 AM



07/26/2007 06:17 AM

Smoke and Mirrors is all that piece of propaganda is. NASCAR has to keep saying how good they are to re-inforce their own dillusions of grandeur.

A rather notorious figure once said “If you tell a big enough lie long enough, people will believe it”. That’s exactly what NASCAR is doing. Too bad for NASCAR that we’re smart enough to figure out the lies.

M. B. Voelker
07/26/2007 06:26 AM

I find it interesting how people who are determined to badmouth today’s Nascar in favor of a memory heavily tinted by the rose-colored mists of time wriggle and twist when presented with actual HARD DATA comparing the two.

There are more cautions today because greater attention is paid to safety and because more cars running closely together will bump into each other more often. Its easy to go green when the top 10 cars are each on their own, individual lap and no one is actually racing anyone.

Its really pathetic how so many so-called “fans” continually cry about Nascar as if having tight, competitive racing in a field of unprecedented competitive depth were a bad thing. And now, presented with data to PROVE that Nascar is more competitive than ever, those same fans look for crazy excuses to pretend the data is wrong.

One more time, …

If you hate Nascar so much why do you watch? Isn’t there something more interesting for you to do with your Sunday afternoons than watch a sport you despise?

07/26/2007 06:55 AM

If the racing is so competitive and “exciting” why does NASCAR need to release a press release to clue everybody in?

07/26/2007 07:51 AM


You need to stop drinking all of that NASCAR koolaid and start seeing what reality is like.

07/26/2007 09:05 AM

Yes there are more yellow flags, but there also is a LOT more competitive cars than there used to be also.
If you want to go statistic picking, who cares about the yellow flags, look at the gaps in qualifying speeds from first to last in those same decades, also look into how many of the cars that did qualify had DNFs for bown engines and other failures because of not having the quality of equipment that the front runners had? I think that racing today is way better then it was in the 60-70s.
Are you sugesting that without NASCARs debris cautions, we would have even close to 1970s 22 (close to half the total 48 races) with only ONE car on the lead lap. Do you realy think there are any cars that are that dominant in that many races anymore? And if there were, how many of todays fickle fans would sit in the stands and watch it without complaining or just walking out?

M. B. Voelker
07/26/2007 09:46 AM


Well said.

Though, of course, those who want to believe Nascar is horrible will refuse to believe that any evidence of any kind that shows any improvements could possibly be accurate.

07/26/2007 10:48 AM

Who cares, I love watching the races, I don’t care how far in front my driver is, throw a caution, bunch them up, I tune in to see cars racing, bumping down the front stretch to the checkers, I don’t want to watch a parade

07/26/2007 11:18 AM

Good work, Jeff!

But in addition to the mystery cautions, a major difference between then and now is that, a couple of decades back, NA$CAR decided to keep the brands “competitive.” That accelerated the journey down the slippery slope from “strictly stock” to COT.

Back in the day, those were REAL stock cars out there on the track and the fans’ brand loyalty and braggin’ rights rode with them. Once in a while back then—perhaps with a little Smokey Yunick-style “creativity” or a 500-car production run “special”—one car would go out there and stink up the show.

Now we have virtually generic hand-made race cars. They produce much closer racing. In many ways, that’s better, and I’m sure that’s all Brian France can see. But is all has a plastic, manufactured feel to it.

The Chase may be more exciting, but does the driver holding the hardware at Homestead really deserve to be called a real champion?

Worse yet, when the sanctioning body put itself in the role of equalizer, its integrity got just a little bit pregnant.

Maybe the good old days weren’t really that good. Maybe we should all just lay back, relax and enjoy all of this excitement and competition. But to me, this just isn’t the same sport anymore.

07/26/2007 12:49 PM

Good points, Jeff. Let me add one more. I think some of todays many cautions are caused by the large number of inexperienced “star” drivers on the track. They do a lot of stupid things that the older, more experienced drivers wouldn’t dream of attempting. A lot is made of their “talent” but talent plus experience means much more.

Finally, it’s a shame that there are those who can’t accept the fact that the NASCAR experiences we had before them might just be a little better than today. NASCAR isn’t all bad, but it’s pretty close these days.

07/26/2007 02:40 PM

One other thing not mentioned was that ‘back in the day’ a lot of the drivers owned their own cars or at least had to fix them if they wrecked them or broke them. That can be a mighty powerful incentive to NOT bring out a caution.

J. Meyer
07/26/2007 04:28 PM

For a complete 37 yr chart of cautions/races AND and explaination of my projected figures for the rest of this decade, go the Frontstretch Forums – Frontstretch Soundoff – NASCAR’s Version of Reality.

07/26/2007 05:04 PM

You can have statistics and analyze something to death. Lucky dog pass puts slow cars back on the lead lap. The cars all look just alike, except for the Bowtie, Oval, Rams Horns, whatever the heck that Toyota thing is. The racing is tainted because the procedure is tainted. I remember Bodine being the only car on the lead lap. It was because of a caution during routine pit stops. He didn’t outrun anybody that day, just caught a lucky break. If there had been lucky cat passes then, there would have been 15 cars on the lead lap, or if Matt Kenseth had been there leading, he would have let everybody back on the lead lap. Sorry racing does not equate to great racing. Who cares how many people are on the lead lap? Race the cars and let the big dog eat. Falcon, I see you watched the ESPN special last night.

07/26/2007 05:09 PM

MB, we do not hate NASCAR. We hate what it has been/is becoming. Generic cars with generic drivers following a law laid down from Brian France, to the letter is not my idea of good racing. I have tried to quit watching many times, but then I think, I might miss some real racing or something good happening. It is no different than a golf hacker hitting a good shot in a round and coming back the next day because he loves it, no matter how horrible his game..


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