Dr. Diandra: DNFs up 55 percent in 2022

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Drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have racked up 151 DNFs (did not finish) through 23 races this season. That’s 55.6%  more cars leaving the race before the final laps than during the first 23 races of 2021. The 2022 total is the highest after 23 races since 2017, but it is only short by three.

The graph below shows DNFs by year, all after 23 races. This year’s total is nowhere near the peak of 247 DNFs in 2012. However, the large number of start-and-park cars in the mid-2010s complicates comparing DNF numbers directly.

A vertical bar chart showing the numbers of DNFs after 23 race from 2001 to 2022

Start-and-park cars typically ran a small number of laps before retiring. They usually cited electrical, brake and vibration problems as the reason. I estimate that about 75 of the 247 DNFs in 2012 were start-and-park drivers, so the actual number is more like 172. That’s still above the total this year, but not by much.

Aside from the start-and-parkers, DNFs have gone down over the years because engine failures have decreased significantly. There were almost 100 engine failures in 2004, for example. In the last few years, engine failures caused about 11% of DNFs in a season.

Crashes (in which I include cars eliminated due to the damaged vehicle policy and failure to make minimum speed) remain the most significant cause of DNFs. They usually comprise 60-75% of the total number. The pie chart below shows the reasons for DNFs in 2022.

A pie chart showing the reasons for DNFs in 2022

Where DNFs happen

One reason for the jump in DNFs is Atlanta transforming into a faster superspeedway. As the graph below shows, Atlanta recorded 12 and 11 DNFs in the spring and summer races, respectively. In 2021, the two Atlanta races claimed only three cars.

A vertical bar chart showing the numbers of DNFs in 2022 through 23 races by track.

Atlanta cannot account for the entire increase, however. Some tracks saw increases, while others saw decreases in DNFs relative to 2021. I’ve summarized some of the larger changes in the table below.

A table showing the tracks with the largest changes in number of DNFs from 2021 to 2022

In 2021, only the Daytona 500 had more than 8 DNFs at this point in the year. In 2022, seven races top that number.

Who isn’t finishing?

DNF numbers wouldn’t be so important if most of the drivers involved were well out of the championship race. That’s not the case this year.

No full-time driver has entirely escaped DNFs. The only top-10 driver with no DNFs in 2021 — Denny Hamlin — has five DNFs already this year.

The graph below compares the number of DNFs by driver rank as of the 23rd race of the season for 2021 and 2022. They’re plotted on the same vertical scale, and both include only the top 25 drivers. This is one of those graphs that’s meant to provide an overall feel for how a statistic trends rather than focusing on individual pieces of data.

Two bar charts comparing the numbers of dnfs by driver rank in 2021 and 2022

Hopefully, you can see that the number of DNFs generally rises as you move to higher-ranked drivers. There are always exceptions, but there is an overall trend. The 2022 season shows much less correlation between rank and DNFs.

  • The highest-ranked driver with 3 DNFs came in at 11th in 2021. In 2022, the second-ranked driver has 3 DNFs.
  • 2021’s highest-ranked driver with 5 DNFs was 13th. This season, he’s fifth.
  • Only one top-25 driver had five or more DNFs in 2021. This year, three drivers in the top 25 have six DNFS each: Austin Dillon, Cole Custer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The increases in DNFs are across the board, too.

  • In 2021, the top-five drivers had five DNFs total. This year, the top-five drivers have 15 DNFs — three times more.
  • Last year, the top-10 drivers accounted for 15.9% of DNFs. This year, the drivers ranked one through 10 take credit for 24.8% of the DNFs.
  • Drivers ranked in the top 20 had 33.6% of all DNFs in 2021. In 2022, they have 49.7%.

That last stat shows that the top-20-ranked drivers went from making up a third of the DNFs in 2021 to half the DNFs in 2022.

About the only obvious 2022 trend is that just about everyone has more DNFs this year than they did at the same time last year.

You can see the changes by driver in the graph below. Red indicates a driver with more DNFs in 2022 than in 2021, while blue shows a decrease. Drivers whose DNF totals didn’t change are shown as black dots.

A scatter plot showing dnfs by driver for 2021 and 2022. Arrows indicate whether the driver has fewer or more dnfs this year relative to the same time last year

Two drivers on this graph have a single DNF: Chase Elliott, who is in the playoffs, and Michael McDowell who, so far, is not.

Only three drivers (Elliott, Aric Almirola and Justin Haley) have fewer DNFs now than at this time last year. Three more drivers (McDowell, Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski) have the same number of DNFs as last year. All the rest have more.

Playoff implications

Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. — the two drivers battling for what is currently the last available playoff berth by points — have three and two DNFs, respectively.

Richmond had only two DNFs in April. Watkins Glen generally has one to three DNFs, but in 2016 seven drivers failed to finish the race. And, of course, the drivers entering Daytona without a win have nothing to lose.

But the high DNF rate also affects those drivers competing for the championship. Drivers don’t stop crashing just because the playoffs start.

A driver with four DNFs in 23 races has a 17.4% DNF rate. That suggests they should expect at least one DNF and possibly two during the playoffs.

Five DNFs in 23 races is a 21.7% DNF rate, suggesting at least two DNFs for those drivers during the playoffs.

Given that the most playoff points earned by any one competitor is 25 (Elliott), drivers have little in the way of insurance policies. One DNF at the wrong time in a round could eliminate a driver.

Even a Chase Elliott.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.