Avoiding accidents is a top priority for all drivers attending Saturday’s regular-season end-of-season race (7pm ET on NBC and Peacock) at Daytona International Speedway.
But there is no scientific way to do it.
In 2021, there were 136 high-profile accidents and spins involving 263 cars in the Cup Series. He had 17 accidents in four superspeedway races, or 12.5% of his total for the season.
However, 96 cars were involved in accidents in those four races. Superspeedway only makes up his 11.1% of the schedule, but this is his 36.5% of the total number of cars involved in accidents.
When it comes to multiple car crashes, Daytona and Talladega are overkill.
Between 2001 and 2021, there were 416 accidents involving 1,986 cars at 86 superspeedway races. Out of 86 races, only two were accident-free. The 2001 spring race and the 2002 fall race.
Daytona encourages crashes and spins slightly more than Talladega. Daytona he averaged 4.93 accidents per race from 2001 to 2021, while Talladega averaged 3.65.
The most accidents in a single superspeedway race are 12 in the 2011 Daytona 500. 41 cars were involved in the accident. This includes cars involved in multiple accidents.
The ‘Big One’ isn’t the biggest threat to playoff hopes
Although the “Big One” gets the most attention, most superspeedway accidents involve only a few cars.
- From 2001 to 2021, 31.0% of Daytona and Talladega accidents involved only one vehicle.
- 16.5% of accidents and spins involved two cars.
- This means that almost half of the accidents involved two or fewer cars.
- 56.8% of superspeedway accidents involved 3 or fewer cars.
- About 20% of superspeedway crashes involved seven or more cars.
- Only 4.9% of accidents involved 15 or more vehicles.
Of course, it doesn’t matter if it’s a big accident or a small accident. There is no correlation between the number of cars involved and car damage.
The most cars involved in a single accident is 26. It happened to him three times. Two were the summer Daytona races (2014 and 2018) and the 2005 spring Talladega race.
So far this year, there have been nine accidents involving a total of 35 cars in Daytona and Talladega. The biggest accidents involved him with nine cars, but 55.5% of his accidents involved three or fewer of his cars.
find a safe place
Predicting which running position is the safest is very difficult. Having access to her raw SMT data from NASCAR tracking cars via GPS might allow for meaningful statistical analysis. Loop data is not enough, as a driver can gain or lose six positions in a matter of seconds.
Even with multiple camera angles, it’s difficult to use video to determine where the car was driving when an accident occurred. Also, locating cars, especially behind the field, is very time consuming.
But even with that data, there is no strategy to guarantee that drivers will avoid accidents. The system — 30-odd cars, their drivers, and spotters — is so complex that modeling it is impossible.
Here’s one of the exhibits that shows why you can’t predict which cars will be affected in an accident. The incident started at the Daytona race last summer.
I slowed down the video to emphasize how Martin Truex Jr. missed at least four cars on the way to hitting William Byron. Kyle Busch running right in front of Truex and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. running right behind him both escaped damage. Cars immediately in front and behind Byron also avoided the accident.
Truex was back on the track—again, missing many cars along the way—and clipped Tyler Reddick. Reddick was running his P24.
The 13th driver pushed out the 16th driver, but everyone two rows in front and two rows behind avoided contact.
A “big one” is usually a few “small ones”
Cars brake and disperse to avoid accidents, but some of these cars spin or hit other cars trying to avoid contact.
In the Daytona incident, a group of drivers running P25 to P27 avoided the first accident but spun and hit a wall before being hit by the P22 car.
The upper right corner at the end of the video shows the P36 car spinning in an attempt to avoid an accident.
Starting 13th, the accident affected eight cars between 16th and 36th, but not in any logical or predictable order. A moment’s hesitation, or the choice to go higher rather than lower, could easily have turned the car damaged from one that wasn’t.
crash in front of the field
More blocks by the leader can lead to more accidents and more cars being damaged on the front line of the field.
Exhibit 2 is a 12-car accident at this spring’s Atlanta race. The accident happened just one lap after the restart, so he chose it over Talladega or Daytona. The car was well organized and it was easy to keep track of who was where when the accident started.
The still image below shows the order of the cars in the first few rows before the accident. Red indicates the car that initiated the incident. Orange circles indicate damaged cars, green circles avoid damage.
There is no rhyme or reason for which cars pass and which do not. Crash kinetics depend on how quickly the spotter and driver react.
Just because you’re near an accident doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be part of it.
The majority of Atlanta’s accidents occurred on the frontstretch, so cars running in the lower lane had a slight advantage. They had more space to move away from each other. A car running against a wall didn’t have that option. But as the video shows, the lower lane wasn’t completely unguarded.
Staying ahead of the agitator should, in principle, ensure that drivers avoid accidents. However, sometimes it still doesn’t work.
At the 2022 Daytona 500, the car that was driving the P39 lost a wheel. 20 positions first, P19 and P20 cars collided. Clearly one expected to be warned earlier than the other.
And when a leader causes an accident, he never stays in front of the accident. Expect a lot of blocking, especially at the end of the stage given the stakes for tonight’s race, with anyone competing for the rest of the playoff standings giving up his points at the stage to survive to the end of the race you might consider.
No place is safe on the superspeedway.