Dr. Diandra: DNFs up 55 percent in 2022


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.

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.