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Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday November 19, 2009
Nearly two and a half years ago, I penned an article titled, Surprise! NASCAR’s Version of Reality Slightly Skewered.
What prompted that fine piece of writing, besides having a bit too much time on my hands that day, was a July 16th, 2007 press release by NASCAR telling us that we were, in fact, witnessing the “golden age of competition” at that very moment. The premise of the press release was… well, I’ll let you read a part of it for yourself, again.
“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).”
That press release set me to wondering, just exactly how had the competition gotten to be so darn close now, as compared to back in the day? Well the one thing that I could think of, the one tool NASCAR had at its disposal to make the races more competitive was… the yellow flag! As I stated back then, the easiest way to create closer racing is to essentially “start the race over” when things get a bit strung out. That led me to a statistical analysis of NASCAR’s use of the yellow flag throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and the present decade.
Recently, in the comments section of one of Tom Bowles’ fine articles, the subject of NASCAR’s use of the yellow flag came up once again and, seeing as how my original data was over two years old, I decided to revisit it and see how my predictions were holding up. At the time, I predicted that by the end of this decade, NASCAR would throw a total of 3027 cautions. Well, that number has already been exceeded to the tune of 3079. With one race left to go in this decade, here are the revised results:
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.
2000-2009, of 357 races (so far), 3079 caution flags thrown. Average: 8.62 per race.
_Editor’s Note: A more “in depth” breakdown of these figures can be found on our forums page.
As I revisited these astounding figures, a colleague wondered just how many yellow flags had been thrown in the name of “debris” nowadays compared to days of yore. Well, not being too keen on wasting an entire day sorting through all the races of the past 40 years, I did decide to do a quick sampling of “debris” cautions in 2009 (so far) compared to 1999. The results surprised even me, to say the least.
In ’99, there were a total of 191 cautions thrown, with 11 of those caused by “debris”. At least one “debris” caution was thrown in 9 out of 34 races. Of those 9 races, only 2 races had more than one, and they each had 2.
In 2009, with one race yet to be run, there have been a total of 298 cautions thrown, with 68 of those listed as “debris.” At least one “debris” caution has been thrown in 31 of 35 races (so far)! Of those 31 races, an astounding 18 races had 2 or more “debris” cautions, with the May Dover race having a high of 6 “debris” cautions out of a total of 10! Five other races this year have had 4 “debris” cautions, and another five races have had 3!
Which brings us to the final race yet to be run at Homestead.
So far this decade, there have been 77 caution flags waved at Homestead. With 9 races run there since 2000, the average number of cautions per race is currently at 8.5. The lowest number of cautions at Homestead occurred in the ’01 and ’02 races, where there were six, with ’04 coming in with the highest at 14. Of the total of 77 so far for the decade, 16 have been for “debris.”
Contrary to the title of this article, I am NOT going to say that NASCAR will throw exactly 8 cautions during the last race of this decade. What I AM saying is that, using the historical data available, the actual number of cautions thrown should be pretty darn close.
Unless, of course, NASCAR reads this article and goes out of their way to prove me wrong… but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that! On the bright side of things, I guess it does give me a reason to actually watch the race — even if that reason is to cheer on the yellow flag!
Stay off the wall (lest you leave “debris” on the track and either prove or disprove my figures!)
©2000 - 2008 Jeff Meyer and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
As much as you folks on the Frontstretch mock NASCAR for their concern of “Saftey” you HAVE to admit that NASCAR is exponentially safer in the 21st century than ever before.
For example: Today you would NEVER see pit crew members in t-shirts and jeans gasin up the car with a light cigarette in their mouth… that’s just asinine!!!!
Despite the fact that HDTV provides greater oppourtunity for NASCAR to see “debris” on the racetrackf, in these days of corporte sponsorship caution laps provide an oppourtunity for commercials.
AND don’t blame it all on “NA$CAR” either, today’s technology has decreased the average attention span and whether you want to believe it or not… the view appreciates the break in the action, both AT THE TRACK and at home.
i blame a lot of the fans who hang out here. they bitch and moan all week about how boring the races are. nascar reacts and throws cautions to bunch up the field and try to create something exciting for all these whining @#$%^. its fans like this who are as much to blame as nascar. i cant tell you how many races i have watched over 15 years where the cars would string out in the middle part of the race or even at the end and the race would end and that would be that. everyone would take the whippin. nowadays the fan of today wants nailbiting racing for 500 miles and finished decided by 10ths of a second every weekend. they claim it was that way in the 70s and 80s. well i am the caped nascar crusader and i am here to say they are full of shit. there have been countless times this season where it has been well demonstrated that if the drivers choose to they can hang these cars out just like they have at any other time in the history of this sport. if you don’t believe that just ask jeff burton. what did he pass last sunday? about 35 cars on his way to second place?
Hey Dans Mom “you HAVE to admit that NASCAR is exponentially safer”
And you suggesting that all the yellow flags are the reason? Or one of the reasons?
Boy, I’m sure glad this season is coming to a close!
And NC, your “they can hang these cars out just like they have at any other time in the history of this sport.”
Now just how funny is that comment!
The POS handles like a BRICK!
how many laps have you turned in a COT or the previous generation car? 0? that’s what i thought.
just continue to lap up eeverything nascar feeds you like a good boy.
Hey Dan’s mom. When you get done here go to your job in Daytona as Brain Fart’s personal secretary. Or better yet, his apologist.
Perhaps the drivers should sue nascar for feeling insulted. If they’re the best drivers in the world, they ought to be able to drive around a water bottle on the track! But apparently nascar thinks they can’t, so we have more cautions.
What we really need, instead of more cautions, is better cars, better tracks, and maybe even better personalities. We had all of those back in 1999 and, hence, there was no need for debris cautions unless there was a really large piece of debris out there.
I love this article. A lot of research to refute NASCAR’s claim of competition. As a long time fan you don’t need this kind of research to know what is the norm now but it is cool to see it in print. As a pureist I cannot stand to see the debris lie caution (I think that it changes the game), but “NASCAR CRUSADER” has a point. How bad would the races have been without that debris caution, espcially since the CoT, is the point rather than how many. NASCAR loves to point out how many cars are on the lead lap nowadays. Well yea. They have “wave arounds” “lucky dawgs” debris cautions and double file restarts to make sure 24 cars finish on the lead lap. For me, they key is this: NASCAR likes to promote that Cup is the “most competitive form of motorsports” in the land, but without debris cautions 42 cars would get a butt whoopin every week (usually by the 48 car) by someone who just stopms the field. The truth is this sport is way less competitive than it ever has been.
Ed, you nailed it. If they didn’t have those yellows to bunch up the field, I would bet the whole field would be lapped on a number of races.
Once that leader gets in clean air, he is gone. Doesn’t matter who it is. Nascar has to try to artificially make a good race out of it with these yellows and then they go by their “loop data” to tell us how wonderful the racing is.
Another issue is the races are too long. These guys are joy riding for a good part of the race which leads to boring racing. The reason the truck series is so exciting is because its “go” time from the drop of the green flag. Shorten up these Cup races. It will save these teams money too.
I believe it was the 2005 Homestead race where Tony Stewart was consistently running in 17th place and everytime he was “about to be lapped” by the leader, a yellow flag magically appeared. (Kind of like what happened to Jeff Gordon a few races ago.) Of course, Tony won the Cup title that day. If I remember correctly, the same thing happened in 2004 for the Roush team. As an executive for SCCA once told me, NASCAR always throws a yellow flag when there’s “a hot piece of metal” on the track! It would be an interesting research project to see how many Cup Championships have been determined by “yellow flags” and “other such rulings” by NASCAR!
Hey but NASCAR is just astounded that we—the lowly common fan with such low intelligence— think there are such things as fake debris cautions. They prance around about safety and loop data. Those Daytona Idiots have no idea that fans can think and see for themselves. The trouble is they have mafia-ed up this sport for so long they don’t have a clue that we are sick of their total control. For me the last straw was when they told drivers at Dega they “want to see daylight betwwen those cars.” Hey let one of their fat butts sit in a race car going 300 feet per second on 30 degrees of banking with 42 cars close by with a closing rate out of sight and then see if they can keep “daylight between the cars.” What a chump-run series now.
RE: “NA$CRAP STATISTICS”!
Now you know why I call myself “The Turnip”, cause NA$CRAP treats all it’s fans, or ex-fans, as though we all just fell off the TURNIP TRUCK!
Yes NA$CRAP, we believe you!
Easy way to fix the debris cautions: no pitting. Pick up the debris and restart the race double file shootout style. There will be a wreck and they can have a real caution flag.
Wow, Dan’s Mom is out there where the buses don’t run!!! One can point to any sport and say it is safer now than it used to be, hmm football with no pads and leather helmets, baseball with no batting helmets, F1, IRL, Baja or any other racing is a quantum leap over the cars that were driven in the “old days”. Bottom line I hate to see a driver get too far out ahead because if they do, you know what starts flying, yep you guessed it the mighty packer upper, known as a yellow flag for some poor defenseless water bottle that some driver tossed out of his car because he was done drinking the water. One might think if a driver thought a plastic water bottle was so dangerous I doubt he would be tossing it out so that he or someone else could run over it.
Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:
Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?
Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.