Friday 5: Portland ‘will always be a special place’ to AJ Allmendinger

0 Comments

The memories remain fresh to AJ Allmendinger 16 years later. 

The last time he was at Portland International Raceway, Allmendinger won his first Champ Car race and shared the podium with one of his best friends and one of his toughest competitors. 

Allmendinger returns to the 1.97-mile road course for Saturday’s inaugural Xfinity Series race there. He arrives as the series points leader. 

Allmendinger says he remembers the events around that Portland Champ Car race in June 2006 “like yesterday.”

It started with fellow competitor Paul Tracy, who had supported a teen-aged Allmendinger in go-kart racing, telling Allmendinger he heard that his friend was about to lose his Champ Car ride. 

Allmendinger soon did. It wasn’t long before he was contacted by Forsythe Racing about a ride but was told that it might not happen for a week or so. The timetable accelerated. Forsythe Racing let go one of its drivers and hired Allmendinger the week of the Portland race.

At ease with the new team, Allmendinger was fast in practice and qualifying. He started the Portland race second, took the lead after the green flag and surrendered it only during green-flag pit cycles. 

His only concern came from close friend Justin Wilson.

“I had gotten out to a decent sized lead and then J Wil (Wilson) kind of ran me down through traffic,” Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “I remember thinking, ‘Of course, anybody but J Wil.’ It was good and bad. We had so much love and respect for each other, I knew he wasn’t going to come barreling down the inside and take me out. But I was like, ‘Man I’d rather take Sebastian (Bourdais, the two-time reigning series champion then) at this point.’

“It was surreal to be able to win the first race there. It was Father’s Day and my dad was there. It will always be a special place to me.”

Allmendinger won by 5.4 seconds over Wilson. Bourdais, who went on to win four consecutive series titles from 2004-07, placed third.

Sharing a podium with Wilson carries extra meaning for Allmendinger. Wilson died a day after he was struck in the head by debris during the August 2015 IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway. 

“I truly felt like — and this is the type of the person he always was — of course he wanted to win the race, but I almost felt like he was happier that I won than if he had won it,” Allmendinger said. “At least that’s the way he acted toward me. That was really special.”

Wilson’s excitement was evident as soon as the race ended.

“As I was getting out (of the car), he had parked and immediately come over,” Allmendinger said. “The guy that he was, he let, of course, my family and the team (get to Allmendinger first).

It also was meaningful for Allmendinger to be on the podium with Bourdais after beating him.

“He was the guy to always beat in Champ Car; Newman-Haas was the team to beat,” Allmendinger said. “It was one of those things, Sebastian, for sure, hated not winning because he won so much in Champ Car. Anytime he didn’t win, he was pissed off.

“But there’s pictures of us, him dumping champagne into my pocket. Stuff like that where I even felt like, ‘OK, he’s happy for me. As mad as he probably is about not winning.’ 

“Looking back on those photos and just sharing moments like that on the podium, that was really special. I couldn’t imagine two better guys (to share the podium) with at that point.”

Allmendinger seeks to make more memories this weekend. Should he win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, it would mark his third consecutive road course victory, tying Terry Labonte for the most Xfinity road course wins in a row. A victory also would give Allmendinger a win in six of the last 14 Xfinity road course events. 

COTA Xfinity race
AJ Allmendinger has one victory (shown here at Circuit of the Americas), six top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 Xfinity Series races this year. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The 40-year-old has seen his career revived since joining Kaulig Racing in 2019.

“NASCAR is unique,” said Allmendinger, who also will drive for Kaulig Racing in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“In my head it’s the only top-tiered sanctioning body that has different levels that you can drop down and still race. Like (two-time NTT IndyCar Series driver) Josef Newgarden is not going to drop back down to Indy Lights if Penske, all of a sudden, starts struggling. F1 guys are not going to drop down to F2 and F3, things like that. 

“I think sometimes in the outside world people don’t look at it and fully understand what the Trucks and the Xfinity Series is. For sure, they’re still a development series to get the young guys into Cup, but it’s also really competitive.”

And Allmendinger has held his own. Since 2020, Allmendinger has won eight of 57 Xfinity races (14%) and scored 30 top-five finishes (52.6% of his starts in that time).

“It’s not even always about winning, it’s trying to run up front,” he said. “When you have to do it 38 weeks of the year, it can become miserable, at least for me.”

“I used to always talk to David Ragan and I would always laugh. He either fakes it well or this is true. David used to always talk about, yea, at the racetrack he would be mad and all that, but when he walked into his house that week was over and he was OK, he was done. 

“I don’t know how to do that. Believe me, I’ve been talking to my wife Tara about it over the last couple of weeks because in the Xfinity Series we’ve been finishing decent and we’ve got the points lead, but we haven’t been as competitive as we want.”

That’s something Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice told NBC Sports last month at Darlington Raceway even after the team’s cars finished sixth (Landon Cassill), eighth (Allmendinger) and 10th (reigning series champion Daniel Hemric).

NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
AJ Allmendinger celebrates his Cup win last year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice (left) and team owner Matt Kaulig (right). (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I think some of the rule changes that were implemented in the offseason … we just haven’t caught back up,” Rice said then. 

“We’re not laying down. … We’re going to work hard to get it fixed before we go to the playoffs. It’s just bad because we only go to Texas (and Charlotte) and then we hit a stretch of road courses and different style of racetracks. 

“Hopefully, by the time we get back to the mile and a halves after Texas that you’ll see a difference in our cars, because we’re really going to put a big push on trying to get better on these style (of tracks).”

Although JR Motorsports placed three cars in the top four at Charlotte, including winner Josh Berry, Allmendinger saw positives after his 19th-place finish. Allmendinger’s finish was hurt by a tire going down and hitting the wall. He finished two laps down.

“Charlotte was finally the first kind of bad luck that caught us out,” Allmendinger said. “We had kind of been playing with fire for the last few weeks. The funny part of it is — this is the way auto racing is — it was actually, probably one of our better races in (terms) of speed on a mile-and-a-half racetrack. 

“We weren’t going to win. The JR (Motorsports) cars have, for sure, found something and they are succeeding. … We had tried some new stuff going into Charlotte, and I felt like we actually made gains.”

2. Work to do  

Although Alex Bowman has scored nine top-10 finishes, including a win, in the last 12 races, he’s looking for better results.

“I feel like the stat sheet probably looks pretty consistent, (but) we’ve definitely had a rough couple of weeks,” Bowman said. “Texas wasn’t great (sixth in the All-Star Race), Kansas wasn’t amazing (ninth) and Charlotte (10th) was pretty rough. Just got to keep working at it. 

“I think we’ve learned a lot. We were awful in Darlington (29th due to an accident). I feel like we learned a ton from that race. Just being able to go back to the simulator afterwards and identify things and kind of go there.

“It could always be worse. I feel like the summer has always been rough on us. We’re just doing our best to put together the best races that we can. Unfortunately, the ones lately haven’t been great, but we’ve had a lot of really fast race cars this year, too.”

Hendrick Motorsports will field a car for Bowman in one Xfinity race this season. He will compete in the Indy road course event, the day before the Cup race there in July. He said running in the Camping World Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas helped him in the Cup race. He finished second in the Cup race.

“I felt like I did a poor job at COTA last year and needed to be better,” he said. “We ran the Truck and had a really good day on Sunday. Hopefully, more of that same there.”

3. Can the streak continue?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell each have finished in the top 10 in the last four races, the best active streak in the series.

Stenhouse’s streak comes after he had finished 21st or worse in eight consecutive races.

“We were in a valley but we were kind of hanging our hats that we had good races and good speed,” he said. “We just didn’t have those finishes to go along with the effort that the team was putting in at the racetrack and the shop.”

All-Star Race
In his last four points races, Ricky Stenhouse finished second at Dover, eighth at Darlington, eighth at Kansas and seventh in last week’s Coca-Cola 600. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Stenhouse classifies World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway as a short track even though it is a 1.25-mile track. He classifies it that way because the braking drivers do in Turns 1 and 2 is similar to what they do at Phoenix, Martinsville and Richmond — all tracks 1 mile or less. 

Stenhouse notes that JTG Daugherty Racing’s short track program has struggled, so his goal is more modest this weekend.

“Going to Gateway this weekend, we’re not shooting for a top 10,” he said. “I feel like the way our short track program started this year, if we could make some improvements and have a top-15 car, I think that would be a win. 

“If something happens like at the end of the Coke 600, you never know what kind of finish you can get out of it. We’re just trying to make sure we stay consistent and keep executing like we have been.”

Stenhouse’s hot streak has helped him go from 31st to 24th in the points. Even with five top-10 finishes this season, he hasn’t scored as many points as he did last year when he had only one top-10 finish through the first 14 Cup races. Stenhouse had 281 points at this time last year. He has 267 points this year.

“I probably feel better about this year, just knowing that at tracks we were capable of winning, Daytona and Atlanta, we put ourselves in the position that we needed to be in when chaos broke loose,” he said, alluding to accidents in both events. “We got a top 10 at (Auto Club) and ran in the top five. 

“We were top 10 at Vegas and had that engine issue. I felt like COTA we were good on the long run and felt like we could have finished top 15 (before a drivetrain issue led to a 37th-place finish) … so I feel good about where our road course program is going into Sonoma in two weeks.”

4. Taking away the positives 

Cole Custer was in position to score his first top-10 finish of the season when last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 went to overtime. Custer restarted seventh. He was 10th when he was collected in a multi-car crash triggered after contact between Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson  at the front.

Custer’s car could not continue and he finished 21st. It marked his fifth consecutive result of 15th or worse.

“You just have to keep grinding,” said Custer, who is 27th in the points, of his predicament. “It’s a really long year and you just have to stay at it and keep working with your team and get your cars better and go week-by-week.  

“But I think the biggest thing from last week is that we can take a lot of positives and a lot of momentum from that. I mean, being able to run up there in the top five and have a shot to win the race at the end, that makes you pumped to go to the track the next week.

“I think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just a matter of cleaning some things up and having some good luck.”

That’s something he and his Stewart-Haas Racing team haven’t had.

He ran in the top 10 for much of the race at Circuit of the Americas and spun off course on a restart with less than 10 laps left. He finished 23rd.

Custer started third, ran in the top five for the first two stages at Martinsville before a penalty for an uncontrolled tire put him in the back of the field. He never recovered, finishing 21st.

And there was Coca-Cola 600 result.

“We’ve had tires roll away, we’ve had motors blow, and we’ve gotten wrecked I think six or seven times, so it seems like one thing after another,” Custer said. “But if you bring fast cars to the racetrack, it’ll eventually turn around,” he said.

5. Inaugural Cup race winners

With Cup heading to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for its inaugural race there, here is a look at drivers who have won inaugural Cup races since 2000:

2021 Indianapolis Road Course — AJ Allmendinger

2021 Road America — Chase Elliott

2021 Nashville — Kyle Larson

2021 Circuit of the Americas — Chase Elliott

2021 Bristol Dirt — Joey Logano

2020 Daytona Road Course — Chase Elliott

2018 Charlotte Roval — Ryan Blaney

2011 Kentucky — Kyle Busch

2001 Kansas — Jeff Gordon

2001 Chicagoland — Kevin Harvick

2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

0 Comments

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season brought something new (a race inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!) and something old (a win by the No. 43!) and a lot in-between.

In many ways, it was one of NASCAR’s best seasons. There were new winners, the Next Gen car kicked up competition a bit and there was a race finish (see the Ross Chastain file) like none other in the history of the sport.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The name game

There were downsides, too: The safety of the new car came under fire (figuratively and literally, as wheel-well flames ended more than a few rides), drivers’ seasons were interrupted or ended because of hard wrecks and some races were less than stellar.

Looking back over the February-to-November marathon, some races stand out:

Rocking the City of Angels – Despite the naysayers, the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was a roaring success. A platter of questions, including whether the purpose-built track inside the stadium would hold up under heavy stock cars and generate good racing, awaited as teams rolled into LA. The racing wasn’t sensational, but it was good, and there were no problems with the track. A huge crowd showed up, and NASCAR left town with many ideas, having proven that it could run a race on a temporary track inside a large stadium. It has escaped no one’s notice that there are many other large stadiums in the country – and, by the way, outside it.

Wiggling at Watkins Glen – The venerable New York road course produced another hot finish as teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott battled for the win. Larson forced Elliott out of the main groove and took the lead for good with five laps remaining. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it’s what I had to do to get the win,” Larson said. Elliott didn’t publicly criticize Larson, but it was clear he wasn’t pleased with Larson’s move.

MORE: Fighting knights and pie in the sky

Six hundred miles, and then some – The long history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 600-mile race has produced some great competition – and some races that prompted long naps. This year’s was one of the craziest and, by the way, the longest. The race went to two overtimes, finally ending after 413 laps and 619.5 miles, making it the longest race in NASCAR’s 75 years. The winner – perhaps most accurately described as the survivor – was Denny Hamlin, who outran teammate Kyle Busch over the final two laps.

The King is back…but where is he? – The Cup playoffs opened at Darlington Raceway with the storied Southern 500, but the playoffs took a back seat to other storylines. Erik Jones scored an upset win in Richard Petty’s No. 43, marking the iconic car’s first victory since 2014. Petty, however, missed the Victory Lane festivities. He and Dale Inman, the No. 43’s former crew chief, left the race early for the drive home to North Carolina. The long night held several incidents, including one involving Kevin Harvick, who criticized NASCAR after his car caught fire, uttering his now-infamous diatribe about what he called “crappy-ass parts.”

No watermelon, but a lotta juiceThe finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway generated international interest. Christopher Bell won in a must-win situation to advance in the playoffs, but the post-race spotlight was on Ross Chastain, who rode the outside wall through the final two turns at speeds rarely seen on the short track and finished fourth, good enough to stay in the championship hunt. Chastain’s remarkable move drew comment from observers outside NASCAR, including Formula 1 drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 5: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

0 Comments

The end of the season provides a chance to look back and each year I go through the photos on my phone and find those that show the highs and lows of a sport that goes from February to November. 

Here are some of the photos that stood out for me:

1. Daytona 500 

Although the time spent in Daytona Beach, Florida, has shrunk in recent years with a more compact track schedule, the intensity remains. As do the emotions. 

Cup rookie Austin Cindric accomplished “a racer’s dream” in winning the Daytona 500, accomplishing something in his second attempt that took Darrell Waltrip 17 times and Dale Earnhardt 20 times to accomplish.

Cindric blocked teammate Ryan Blaney coming to the finish line and beat Bubba Wallace by half a car length. 

It was the second time Bubba Wallace had finished runner-up in this race. Unlike 2018, when Wallace was excited with finishing second, Wallace felt no such emotion this time. 

“2018 was awesome,” Wallace said of his runner-up result in the Daytona 500. “2022 was not awesome.

“I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time in 2018. This one being that close, it’s like a gut punch.”

The photos that stand out to me are of the picture of Cindric’s car covered in red, white and blue confetti before going through post-race inspection and the disappointment Wallace wore on pit road after the race.

Austin Cindric‘s car after winning the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

A dejected Bubba Wallace after finishing second in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

2. Road America 

The Cup Series is not returning to the Wisconsin road course after two years there. Instead, this race will be replaced by the Chicago street course event in 2023.

This past season’s race was memorable. Tyler Reddick scored his first career Cup win on July 3. Nine days later came the announcement that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing in 2024 (That timetable moved up to 2023 after RCR signed Kyle Busch to replace Reddick in the No. 8.).

Among the special moments from the Road America race was Austin Cindric walking the length of pit road to victory lane to congratulate Reddick.

Austin Cindric hugs Tyler Reddick in victory lane at Road America on July 3, 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Walking with Cindric, I asked him why he was making the trip to see Reddick.

“I think of anyone in the field, he probably deserves that win more than anybody else,” Cindric told me. “I think he’s put himself in position. He’s a really likable guy, and I feel like you can see how hard he works. 

“I’ve seen him mature as a driver and a person and as a friend and a father. It’s cool to see somebody you’re close to go through that.”

When Cindric arrived in victory lane, he walked up to Reddick and gave his friend a bearhug, lifting Reddick well off the ground.

In all the excitement, Reddick’s son, Beau, was not impressed. He was sound asleep in victory lane.

Tyler Reddick’s son Beau sleeps in victory lane after his father’s first Cup win in July 2022 at Road America. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Special moments

One never knows what you’ll come across in a season that stretches so long through the calendar. 

These are a few such moments that proved special for one reason or the other.

As storm clouds gathered over Daytona International Speedway in February, the sun was settling, creating a sky both ominous and spectacular. The photo captures that scene as Cole Custer walks through the garage. After this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was replacing Custer with Ryan Preece in the No. 41 Cup car and that Custer would run in the Xfinity Series for the team.

Cole Custer walks under an ominous sky at Daytona in February 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo that stands out to me comes from the Clash at the Coliseum. There were so many questions about the exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, such as if the specially built track would withstand the rigors of cars, what would the debut of the Next Gen car be like and would fans really be interested in such an event.

The track held up. So did most of the cars and the fans came. While not a sellout, more than 50,000 people attended the event and NASCAR noted that many had not purchased tickets to a NASCAR event before. The event was a success.

What stood out to me was the lines of people waiting to buy souvenirs the day of the race. In some places, lines stretched well away from the merchandise trailers. 

Fans stand in line for merchandise at the Clash at the Coliseum in Feb. 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Sometimes you never know what you’ll see at at event. At an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Inman and Ray Evernham all stood together. That is 18 Cup championships (eight by Inman, seven by Petty and three by Evernham).

NASCAR Hall of Famers Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Dale Inman at the NASCAR Hall in April 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

4. New winners 

This season saw five first-time Cup winners: Austin Cindric (Daytona 500 in February), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix in March), Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas in April), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma in June) and Tyler Reddick (Road America in July).

I caught this scene of Suarez alone in his thoughts in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway in his first race since that Sonoma victory.

Daniel Suarez at Nashville Superspeedway in June 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

5. Martinsville

Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the playoff race was stunning. Needing two positions to advance to the championship race, Chastain put his car into fifth gear, planted his car against the wall in Turn 3, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his Chevrolet around the final two turns while he floored the throttle.

Amazingly, it worked. He passed five cars and earned a spot in the championship. Although he didn’t win the Cup title, Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

As I was leaving the infield late that Sunday night. I stopped to take a picture of the wall and the marks Chastain’s car had left on its remarkable charge.

Turn 4 wall after Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the October 2022 race. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Dr. Diandra: 2022 accidents steady, spins up 200%

0 Comments

Cautions were up in 2022 despite fewer stage-end and competition cautions of any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the numbers focuses on the causes (and causers) of cautions.

Cautions

I divide cautions into those that are planned — like competition and stage-end breaks — and so-called ‘natural’ cautions. Natural cautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquid on track and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions are the most total cautions since 2014. That’s despite only 73 planned cautions, the fewest since stage racing started.

A stacked bar chart showing the planned and natural cautions from 2013 to 2022

The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions relative to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. That’s the most natural cautions since 2016.

Causes

Caution classification is subjective. Obviously, a car spinning is a spin and cars colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident happens at a stage break, do you record the caution as an accident or a stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more blown tires and wheels coming off cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris cautions, others as accidents.

To me, a blown tire seems fundamentally different from a stray car part on the track.

The myriad tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 cautions. I added three additional caution categories: wheel issues, fire and tire issues.

Tire issues were so labeled only if a blown tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that blow because of contact with the wall or flat spotting aren’t included. If I couldn’t tell for sure that the blown tire came first, I left the caution in its original category.

My re-categorization complicates comparing cautions by category to previous years. That concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The table below compares my breakdown of cautions with NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit that I’m not totally objective, either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

A table comparing breakdowns of cautions

The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the number of spins this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin statistics are a good argument that they’ve gotten their wish.

Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls

I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of the questions about differentiating between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all the spins, all the accidents and all the stalls.

And remember: being involved in an incident doesn’t imply that driver caused the incident.

The graph below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stalls

Remember also that this count doesn’t include wheel or tire issues. A driver crashing because a tire blew is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led in caution-causing incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch comes in third in total incidents, and first in spins with seven. For comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver evaded incidents entirely. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron tallied six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell came in at eight each.

Cautions by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. Its 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time, too.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition cautions because planned cautions don’t depend on race length.

The Bristol dirt race’s 14 cautions were the third highest total after the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’s 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

A vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 miles of racing

That gives the Bristol dirt race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol dirt race was also at the top of the list with 7.4 total cautions per 100 miles of racing.

Bristol’s asphalt race had the second-most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4  The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superspeedways?

The only superspeedway race in the top-10 cautions-per-100-miles graph is the second Atlanta race. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways claim more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents for an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars were involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is larger than the number of cars racing.

The fall Talladega race comes in second in terms of wreckage per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race ties with the Bristol asphalt race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage-break cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and the Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We normally use cautions as a proxy to count accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident causes a caution — especially at road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, some wheels came off on pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were a lot more spins that didn’t bring out cautions.

Next week, I’ll tell you all about those.

Front Row Motorsports Cup teams to have new crew chiefs in 2023

0 Comments

Both Front Row Motorsports Cup teams will have new crew chiefs in 2023, the team announced Wednesay.

Travis Peterson will be the crew chief for the No. 34 car that has been driven by Michael McDowell. Peterson replaces Blake Harris, who will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman in 2023 at Hendrick Motorsports.

Peterson, 31, has been a race engineer. He spent the past five seasons at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He worked with drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth during that time. Peterson previously served as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and also at JR Motorsports.

“I think there are a lot of people in the NASCAR garage who are noticing what Front Row Motorsports has accomplished with the new car and their truck program,” Peterson said in a statement from the team.

“This is an opportunity to come into a winning and championship organization and help take that next step of getting more wins in the Cup Series and be in the playoffs. I’m ready to get to work. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a crew chief, and now I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Front Row Motorsports also announced Wednesday that Seth Barbour, who had been the crew chief for the No. 38 driven by Todd Gilliland, has been named as the organization’s technical director. Barbour will oversee all track engineering and car preparation processes for the Front Row Motorsports Cup cars.

A new crew chief for the No. 38 team will be announced later.

Also, Ryan Bergenty, car chief for the No. 34 team, has been promoted to performance director and will oversee all body and chassis assembly for all Front Row Motorsports entries.

“The past two seasons Front Row Motorsports has seen success and we’re taking the next steps forward,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement.

“We know that Travis is a person that can immediately come in, take the baton, and continue to move the No. 34 team to the front. We also made several changes internally to help with car preparation and engineering for all our race cars and trucks. Our final piece is finding a new leader for the No. 38 team. We’re confident that with these changes that we’ll be even better next season.”

Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup for next season. Both McDowell and Gilliland have said they plan to be back with the organization.