NASCAR Cup Series on pace for record-breaking 2022 season

There’s been a fairly strong consensus so far this season that the Next Gen car has produced some exceptional racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But what do the statistics say?

NASCAR Cup Series on pace for record-breaking 2022 season
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With 10 races remaining before the start of the 2022 playoffs, the Cup Series has already seen higher TV ratings, strong race-day crowds and plenty of on-track action, particularly on intermediate tracks.

While the Next Gen car hasn’t been a smashing success everywhere – short track races at Martinsville and Richmond were sub-par for instance – overall, the car has received good reviews from drivers and fans alike.

Statistics kept by NASCAR seem to bear that conclusion out.

A variety of race winners

There have been a total of 12 different race winners through the first 16 races, which ties the 2000 and 2012 seasons for second-most winners through 16 races in the Modern Era (since 1972). The 2003 season had the most with 13.

Of those 12 different race winners, four have earned their first career victory this season. They are Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez. The series record for the most first-time winners in a single season in the Modern Era is five, and it has occurred three times – in 2001, 2002 and 2011.

The different winners have helped keep the playoff points battle close up and down the standings, unlike in years past where a handful of drivers had won multiple times by this point in the year and built up a sizable cushion.

“You want to create some separation for yourself amongst the rest of your competitors,” said Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, who has one win and is third in the series standings. “That betters you throughout the playoffs.

“With everyone being so close together and keeping bunched up, and with the season being as unpredictable, up and down for everybody, the playoffs could be that exact same way – where there are just way more unknowns.”

No clear playoff leader

Ross Chastain and William Byron currently are tied in playoff points with 13 each, while Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin both have 12. After that, there are eight drivers with six or more playoff points.

“We’ve seen in previous years; guys rack up a ton of wins and a ton of playoff points to lean on. Typically, they’re the best guys in the playoffs anyways,” said Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman.

“So, it’s a little bit interesting, but, yeah, I think it’s pretty wide open right now. I think you’re going to have teams get hot and then kind of cool off even between now and the playoffs. I think so much changes with this race car.”

Strictly in terms of the on-track product, the 2022 Cup season has so far produced 786 green flag passes for the lead, which is the most recorded through the first 16 races since the data began to be collected in 2007.

No lack of on-track action in 2022

Each race this season is averaging 49.1 green flag passes for the lead – a 35.3 percent increase over the average of 31.8 per race since 2007.

In addition, seven tracks have set records in green flag passes for the lead – Circuit of The Americas (30), Atlanta (141), Las Vegas (57), Bristol Dirt (20), Darlington (28), Kansas (41) and the Charlotte oval (64).

Five of those tracks are intermediates – which for years were criticized for their lack of drama and side-by-side action. They have easily seen the most improvement this year in terms of the quality of racing.

“I think (the car) drives worse, which makes it a better race. Like I think at the short tracks, Martinsville in particular, it drove way too well and it made for a bad race,” said Bowman.

“The 1.5-mile tracks, it seems to race really well. It definitely isn’t as comfortable to drive as the old car, but the rules package that we’ve ended up with and where everything shook out, it’s put on really good races.”

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