2022-09-24 10:17:03 By : Ms. Linda liu

A look at the winners and losers following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…WINNERS

Alex Bowman: Bowman and his No. 48 team found a way to turn a top-10 car into the winning car Sunday, collecting his fifth victory in the past 31 races. The fifth-year Hendrick driver needed a good result after finishes of 24th (Daytona) and 25th (Auto Club) to start 2022. He launches himself into the playoffs — and won’t have to fear the wrath of Hendrick Motorsports boss Rick Hendrick since he raced teammate Kyle Larson cleanly for the win.

Ross Chastain: Chastain had an exceptional car through the middle of Sunday’s contest and used it to his advantage, wheeling it to the lead for a race-high 83 laps. At the site of his first Xfinity Series win, Chastain — at times — looked poised to score his first Cup victory in Las Vegas. That wasn’t meant to be, but fierce battles with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. en route to a third-place finish show encouraging signs that the No. 1 Chevrolet may contend again soon enough.

Kyle Busch: Busch is likely fuming he finished fourth rather than first, leading with two laps to go before Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace crashed on the front straightaway to bring out the 12th and final caution. However, a miserable weekend featuring a wrecked primary car, a bare-bones backup, early spin and shifter issues turned into Busch’s first top five of the season and third top 15. All things considered, this was a good race for Busch.

William Byron: The No. 24 Chevrolet was running when the checkered flag waved Sunday, and that alone was a win for Byron and his team. After two straight DNFs to start the year, Byron not only wasn’t wrecked; he was in contention for the win. He wasn’t able to capitalize on the two-tire pit call the same way teammates Bowman and Larson were, but a fifth-place finish is a great way to rebound after two miserable weeks.

Aric Almirola: Almirola might want to reconsider this whole retirement thing. He wheeled the No. 10 Ford to a sixth-place finish and remains the only driver to score top 10s in each of the year’s first three races. In fact, Almirola now has five straight top-10 finishes dating back to 2021. He remains sixth in points, the highest of all Stewart-Haas Racing cars.

Christopher Bell: Like Byron, Bell just wanted to finish a race for once. He did so with a 10th-place finish, rebounding from a spin at Lap 142 at the exit of Turn 2 that had him bouncing back to pit road on flat tires. Bell had the fastest car on Saturday, putting his No. 20 Toyota on the pole for the first time in his career. Leaving with 32 laps led and a top 10? All good things for Bell.

Corporate wants you to find the differences between these two .gifs.

Corey LaJoie: Someone else who flew under the radar Sunday was Corey LaJoie, who scored his second top-15 finish of the season with a 15th-place effort in Las Vegas. LaJoie was never a factor for the win, netting a 22nd-place average running position according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics. But he still maximized his efforts after an overtime restart and escaped seven places higher than that average. Solid day for the Spire Motorsports entry.

Daniel Suarez: What a difference a week makes. After coming oh-so-close last week at Auto Club, Suarez was running just outside the top 10 when Chase Briscoe got loose trying to avoid Michael McDowell. Briscoe couldn’t save it before clipping Suarez’s right-rear quarter panel, sending Suarez head-on into the outside wall. Suarez finished 37th — last — for his first finish outside the top 20 this year.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney didn’t fare much better than Suarez, finishing 36th after Brad Keselowski‘s spin landed the No. 6 Ford right into the nose of Blaney’s car. The No. 12 Ford was fast all day and was regularly fighting inside the top five. That was all for naught after heavy front-end damage ended his day early.

Denny Hamlin: A decent day went upside down in a hurry for Hamlin. While rejoining the racetrack after a green-flag pit stop at Lap 218, Hamlin spun at the exit of Turn 2. He destroyed his gears on pit road and eventually broke his transaxle and was forced to retire from the race. Hamlin was credited with a 32nd-place finish, his second finish outside the top 30 in three races.

Erik Jones: Like Suarez, Jones’ good day at Auto Club meant nothing at Las Vegas. With two laps to go and at the tail-end of the top 10, Jones snapped loose and overcorrected into the outside wall exiting Turn 4, destroying the right-front wheel and suspension before later spinning back in front of traffic. Bubba Wallace barely avoided him before spinning into a tire barrier, but Jones left Las Vegas 31st and out of luck.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse was the leader when Hamlin spun in the midst of green-flag stops, leaving the No. 47 Chevrolet as one of only eight cars on the lead lap. Multiple cars got their laps back but Stenhouse was in contention for a top-10 finish heading into the final round of stops in overtime. Instead, a speeding penalty sent him to the rear of the field, relegating Stenhouse to a 21st-place finish.

Chase Briscoe: Briscoe appeared to have one of the fastest Fords of the weekend. But two on-track incidents — first with Suarez and later spinning by himself at Lap 134, caused enough damage to force him out of the race. The sophomore SHR driver has shown speed in all three events this season. But aside from finishing third in the Daytona 500, Briscoe doesn’t have the results to show for it.

Brad Keselowski: Another race resulted in another on-track incident for Keselowski in his new venture as co-owner of RFK Racing. His Lap 102 spin collected former teammate Blaney and damaged the driver-side door of Keselowski. The 2012 Cup champion was able to continue but was mired in the back of the field for most of the day. He finished 24th, one lap down.

The Xfinity Series playoffs begin this weekend. Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs enter as the favorites. They’ve combined to win 11 of the 26 races this season.

Gragson, who has six wins this season, seeks to win his fourth consecutive victory.

Gibbs, who has five victories this year, is one of four drivers in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time. The other three are Josh Berry, Austin Hill and Sam Mayer.

Also in the playoffs are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

START: The command to start engines will be given by Andy’s Frozen Custard executives Andy Kuntz, Dana Kuntz and Carol Kuntz at 3:38 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 8:30 a.m. … Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. … Qualifying begins at 11:05 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … Janie Balderas will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 3 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick gave Big Machine Racing its first series win in May. William Byron was second and Sam Mayer was third.

Team Penske will appeal the penalty to Ryan Blaney‘s team from last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the organization confirmed Friday.

NASCAR suspended crew chief Jonathan Hassler, jackman Graham Stoddard and rear tire changer Zachary Price four races each after a wheel came off Blaney’s car during a pit stop. His left rear wheel rolled off when he exited his stall and the tire bounced down pit road through before it was captured.

The penalty would have caused Hassler and the pit crew members to miss all of the second round and the first race in the third round. With the appeal. Hassler, Stoddard and Price will be able to participate in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.).

Blaney enters the second round holding the final transfer spot. He, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell are tied with 3,013 points. He won the All-Star Race in May at Texas.

Chase Briscoe is the first driver below the cutline. He’s four points behind Blaney. Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez are each six points behind Blaney. Austin Cindric is seven points behind Blaney.

After the burnout and victory lane celebration last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the focus for Noah Gragson and his Xfinity Series team was which Waffle House they were going to on the way home. 

There was one about 5 miles from the track and another about 7 miles away. One person was tasked with choosing the location and making sure everyone knew.

Gragson, his team and the JR Motorsports hauler all made it, continuing what has become a part of Gragson’s victory celebration.

Most times, drivers who win a Cup or Xfinity Series race go from the track to a plane and fly home. For races closer to the sport’s Charlotte, North Carolina base, competitors will drive, allowing them the chance to stop at a restaurant on the way home.

Such experiences hark back to the early days of a driver’s career —when they raced at local short tracks, didn’t finish until late at night and sought a place to eat, relax and relive that evening’s event. Go to any short track, particularly in the Southeast, and it’s not uncommon to hear the winning team say that they’re taking the trophy to a Waffle House or any other restaurant that is open all hours.

Gragson’s first Waffle House celebration came in 2015, when he won the K&N Pro Series West race in Tucson, Arizona, leading his team to a 1-2-3 finish.

When Gragson won the Xfinity race at Phoenix in March, he went to a Waffle House upon landing in North Carolina. After his Darlington victory earlier this month — the first of three in a row — the team’s hauler also stopped at the Waffle House, joining Gragson and the team.

“Got all the cooks and (everybody) out there taking pictures and just loving it,” Gragson said. “It’s a good time. We played music on the jukebox and told them to turn it all the way up.”

“He’ll look back on that when he’s 60 or 70 years old,” teammate Justin Allgaier said of Noah Gragson, “and those are going to be the moments he’ll remember forever.”

Gragson brought the sword and trophy he collected after his Bristol victory to the Waffle House last weekend. He used the sword to cut his waffle and placed half of the waffle on the sword’s tip before taking a bite. 

“That was really cool to be able to party with the fans and have some waffles,” Gragson said. 

The Waffle House was packed with several Gragson fans, including those wearing his T-shirt. 

“It’s funny that they go to Waffle House,’’ teammate Justin Allgaier said, “but he’ll look back on that when he’s 60 or 70 years old and those are going to be the moments he’ll remember forever.”

Winners get waffles @NoahGragson

Jeremy Clements, who is 37 and in the Xfinity playoffs for the third time, already looks back on such times fondly. His early days of racing were filled with Waffle House stops. 

“We were in the Waffle House all the time,” Clements said. “The races were always late. We had to eat. It didn’t matter if we won or not most times. We had enough in the budget to eat at Waffle House.”

Like many, Clements said that when he won, he brought the trophy into the Waffle House. 

“Why not show it off and have some fun?” he said.

To reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Hemric, Waffle House represents special memories. 

“I’d say 90% of my childhood weekends were spent in the Waffle House on Friday and Saturday nights,” Hemric said of the beginning of his racing career. “

Even now, he still goes to a Waffle House regularly. His daughter Rhen, born in May 2020, insists.

“She loves Waffle House,” Hemric said. “It’s kind of one of our little Sunday traditions every week or two weeks. We go as a family on Sunday, just me, (wife) Kenzie and Rhen.”

Waffle House isn’t the only special place for Hemric. After he won  $250,000 in a Legends car race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2010, he and about 20 family and friends went to a Steak ’n Shake about 4 miles from the track to celebrate. 

Hemric brought the trophy with him, but his celebration was muted. He had helped prepare about a dozen other cars for that event and was exhausted at that point of the night.

“Everybody was ordering food and I laid my head down and took a nap,” he said. 

Meal of champions! Congratulations, @AustinCindric! #DAYTONA500

— Steak 'n Shake (@SteaknShake) February 22, 2022

Steak ’n Shake is a popular destination, particularly for Daytona 500 winners. The restaurant is located 2 miles from Daytona International Speedway.

Car owner Joe Gibbs took his family and the trophy in after winning the 1993 Daytona 500. Gibbs revived the tradition in 2019 after the second of Denny Hamlin’s three wins in that event. The Wood Brothers went there after Trevor Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 victory.

Cup rookie Austin Cindric celebrated his Daytona 500 win this year with family and his team.

“Really special to have both my mom and my dad there with my whole team,” Cindric said. “We had pit crew guys. We had everybody, and it’s one of those moments in life that you kind of have to appreciate while it’s happening … because it doesn’t happen every day.”

Cindric also brought the trophy into the restaurant. 

“Definitely cool to shut the place down with the biggest trophy,” he said.

Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick has been critical of the Next Gen car in the playoffs, complaining about the vehicle’s “crappy-ass parts.”

Harvick was upset after a fire ended his race in the playoff opener at Darlington earlier this month. Two days after he was eliminated from title contention at Bristol, partially due to an issue with the left front wheel, Harvick posted a link to a T-shirt he was selling that played off his comment. 

John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of Racing Innovation, explained to NBC Sports the process that NASCAR went through — with the teams and manufacturers — in determining the vendors that would supply parts for the Next Gen car.

This marks the first time vendors supply the main parts instead of teams making their own. 

As NASCAR developed the car, Probst said the sanctioning body, teams and manufacturers set the specifications for parts before sending a Request for Proposal to vendors. This took place in 2019.

NASCAR sent RFPs to as few as five vendors and as many as 30 vendors for some parts. For those companies interested, NASCAR held a call to answer questions not covered in the 30-50 pages of documents the sanctioning body sent. 

Vendors had two weeks to prepare for in-person meetings that included representatives from NASCAR, teams and manufacturers, Probst said. 

About five days after the meetings finished, team and manufacturer representatives gave NASCAR their ranking of the top three candidates to supply a particular part. Probst said the teams and manufacturers often provided feedback on all those who presented. 

“We would have people sitting (in the meetings) that pretty much spanned the gamut from large to small teams,” Probst said, “because we wanted to get a pretty good cross-section of feedback from our industry from the team side.”

The team representatives typically were senior engineers or technical directors, Probst said. In cases where a team was bidding to supply any particular parts, their representative was not a part of the meetings with other vendors to avoid any conflict. 

After the feedback, NASCAR, teams and manufacturers made their selections.

“More than not, we had pretty good alignment with us in the industry,” Probst said. “On parts selections, I wouldn’t say every part selection was unanimous. I can also say that we did not select, as a matter of any rule, the cheapest part. 

“We chose the part that we felt served the function that we needed to have done. It wasn’t a case of just going with the low-cost supplier. It was going with the supplier, with the right cost with the right product that met our needs at the time.”

Probst said he’s proud of how the car has been a factor in the series seeing 19 different winners this year, tying for the most all-time in a season. With perennial winners Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski still seeking their first points victory of the season, that number could go beyond 20 before the season ends Nov. 6 at Phoenix.

Probst said he feels one misunderstanding with the car is the collaboration between NASCAR, teams and manufacturers.

“I think that sometimes when you read the driver quotes and the team feedback, crew chiefs are posting things on Twitter, it creates the sense of NASCAR vs. them vs. the world,” Probst told NBC Sports. 

“Really, it isn’t like that. I wish people could see how well we actually do work with the engineers on these teams, sorting through the problems. 

“I feel like we work hand-in-hand with them, but a lot of times when it gets to the public eye, for whatever reason, or if it’s in the heat of the moment, it comes across as though ‘NASCAR is making us do this,’ or ‘This is the dumbest thing ever,’ but I think, in reality, that is so far from the truth. We have a really good working relationship with all of the teams, and I just think that gets lost.”

The Next Gen car has provided better racing at intermediate tracks, while the racing at short tracks has been disappointing. The spring race at Martinsville faced criticism from drivers. With next month’s Martinsville race the final chance for drivers to make the championship event, what happens there will be critical. 

Probst said there will be a gear change for Martinsville, “but as far as big changes, there are no large changes that we’re making going back there. We’ve had one data point at Martinsville so far this year, the coldest race of the year. We put down no rubber. It’s really hard to make wholesale changes to the car based on that.”

Probst later said of making changes: “We’ll continue to make changes as we need to, but … I feel like we need to make these changes based on data and what we’re seeing from our metrics and just make the best decisions we can.”

Another key topic this year has been shifting, which has been blamed by some for making it hard to pass, but also been used at the intermediate tracks, which has seen a renaissance in the racing compared to recent years. 

“I would say the debate continues,” Probst told NBC Sports on whether to allow shifting or reduce the dependency of it. “I would say that we certainly have some of our drivers who are very insistent that shifting is bad, the race would be better if we didn’t have shifting.

“We also have other drivers, who haven’t been as vocal publicly (for it), but by no means is there any mass agreement across the drivers that shifting is good or bad.”

Probst raised questions about one suggestion of giving drivers 1,000 horsepower for short tracks.

“The 1,000 horsepower would imply that I’ve got torque on demand, and I can get back to the gas and ‘Man, that’s going to make really good racing,’” Probst said. “In my mind, shifting is almost the same thing. 

“So like, if I need torque in the middle of the corner, I can downshift and boom, I got the torque to drive up off like I got a monster engine and all gears. So, I personally do not feel like we have the data that says shifting is good or bad.”

As Ross Chastain spoke about the Oct. 2 playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway, he noted: “What’s so great about this sport and this series at this level is we’re allowed to just go and crash. 

“That’s on restarts, on a mile-and-a-half, or a short track, or racing all day at a superspeedway. I feel like it’s acceptable to just crash these expensive race cars. It’s a wild spot for me to be in, just mentally making that decision that I’m going to go put myself in that spot that I could be crashed or I could cause a crash.”

Chastain, who enters Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway third in the points, spent a few years in the Xfinity Series in underfunded equipment with JD Motorsports that he couldn’t afford to wreck. Asked how he learned to make the adjustment from overly protecting the car to racing more freely, Chastain noted a situation in last weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol that hit home for him.

“I just watched Bayley Currey go and take the No. 4 car (for JD Motorsports) and run top three with it at Bristol and was fine,” he said. “Then it came down to the end and some late restarts and I could tell he was protecting his car and he finished 11th. I know he wanted a 10th. Not that I ever ran top three in Johnny’s car, but there was times where you go and you’re fast enough and then it comes down to the end and it’s like ‘Man, weighing out that risk versus reward.’

“I think Bayley did a lot better job than I ever did in that scenario. I still tend to tear them up. Now, just aside from not crashing and being out of the race for points, just the thought of these cars coming back torn up is just more accepted.”

Chastain recalls that his mindset changed after his first Xfinity practice session in the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing at Darlington.

“I just was complaining about how loose the car was and was going to crash. So, I was pretty slow. Mike Shiplett, my crew chief, walks over and opens the top door to crawl up into the upstairs of the hauler and the backup car is sitting there.

He says, ‘You see this?’

‘It’s built exactly the same as the car out there, the primary, so go drive the car. If you crash it, we will unload this one and you will feel it drives exactly the same. So, I don’t want to hear about it being loose anymore. I want you to go drive it.’”

Chastain won the pole in qualifying. 

“High risk, yes, but that was the first time that was ever said to me. I just never looked at a backup that way.”

The second round of the Cup playoffs could be the most treacherous for teams. 

After Sunday’s race at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network), the series races at Talladega and then ends the round with the Charlotte Roval.

Anything can happen at Talladega, and the Charlotte Roval could create some issues. Add rain there and it could be wilder. 

That’s why some drivers view the Texas race as pivotal. Win Sunday to advance to the third round and it doesn’t matter what happens the next two weeks.

While it might be easy for some to look ahead at the potential pitfalls, Chase Elliott, who  enters this round atop the playoff standings, doesn’t do that.

“I take it a week at a time in general,” he said. “Half the time I don’t know where we’re going the next week. 

“The object is to win every single weekend. I don’t show up to a racetrack with the mindset of ‘Yeah, let’s go out here and make stupid decisions and finish last. That’s just not ever the mindset. I don’t see where it changes a whole lot. 

“You always want to have a good run. It just so happens a fresh round is starting this weekend and fortunately we’re still a part of the deal. We’ll go out there and try to have a good run at Texas.

“Try to have a good Saturday, try to have a good practice, try to qualify well, hopefully get you a good pit pick and some nice track position to start Sunday. … Wherever we come out of that, we’ll reevaluate what the situation is and where we need to go from there. You’re always trying to have good weekends, and I think taking it a week at a time, a day at a time is is pretty important.”

Two of the Xfinity Series title contenders will continue to do double duty even with the playoffs beginning for that series this weekend.

Both Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs are also entered in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas. 

Gragson has noted that he is a bit more cautious in the Cup car because of the impacts drivers are feeling with the Next Gen car. He doesn’t want an injury in a Cup car to hurt his championship chances.

Gibbs has been driving in place of Kurt Busch, who has been out since late July because of a head injury.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports this week that the plan is for Gibbs to continue to drive the Cup car throughout the playoffs unless Busch is ready to return.

“We’re comfortable with Ty running both for the foreseeable future,” Wilson said. “We still don’t know what Kurt is going to do. To be fair, he left the door open to potentially get back into the car before the end of the season. (Ty) is learning a lot.

“I don’t think any of us have the mentality that we’re putting him in harm’s way wheeling a Cup car. … We know, obviously that hits can be harder with this car, and we know that the teams and NASCAR are working on that. We’re not going to put any of our drivers in a car that we believe is inherently unsafe. 

“On the whole, we think Ty running on Saturday and Sunday for the next handful of races is going to benefit Ty and is not going to compromise his ability to compete for an Xfinity championship.”

Drivers expressed some strong opinions about the Next Gen car’s passing ability after Bristol. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, among others, felt the car made it too hard to pass.

Brad Keselowski agreed that it was hard to pass, but opined that it’s supposed to be hard.

The passing complaints surprised me. NASCAR’s loop data reported 2,690 green-flag passes for the 2022 fall Bristol race. That’s 980 passes more than the 1,710 green-flag passes recorded for last year’s fall Bristol race.

So are the drivers wrong? Perhaps their comments reflect the accumulated frustration of a long night plagued by so many equipment problems?

Numbers don’t lie. But they also don’t give up their truths easily.

Each car carries a transponder that emits a signal unique to that car. Wire loops embedded in the track (and on pit road) record each of these signals. The loops capture a car’s precise position on track — and its position relative to other cars.

The graph below shows green-flag passes by race for the 2022 season. Because races are different lengths (and tracks different sizes), it’s hard to compare data.

But superspeedway races stand out for having thousands more green-flag passes than other types of races.

I’ve always been skeptical of passing metrics at superspeedways. Those extraordinarily large numbers just tell us that two or three lanes of cars traded positions a lot. That doesn’t measure passing in a way that illuminates the racing.

What I hadn’t appreciated until I dove into these numbers is that they’re not exactly what you think they are at other types of tracks, either.

According to loop data, Chase Elliott made more green-flag passes than any other driver at Bristol. But did it really take him 154 passes to go from 23rd to second?

Although Elliott’s transponder switched positions with other cars’ transponders 154 times, not all of those events are what I think of as “passing.”

I view passing as capturing a position and holding it for more than a straightaway. But that’s not what loop data is designed to measure.

NASCAR doesn’t make detailed loop data publicly available. What I can access is each driver’s running position each lap. Using that data, I developed a different kind of passing metric.

I’ll use Kyle Larson as an example. Bristol is a good race for this type of analysis because there were no green-flag pit cycles. Counting accurately is confusing enough as it is.

The next graph shows Larson’s running position as a function of lap number. Caution laps are shaded yellow, although you can probably infer cautions from the position changes.

I examined each green-flag segment, noting Larson’s positions at the start and end of each segment, and how many times he changed position in-between. The table below shows the results.

Larson started fifth at Bristol and finished fifth. Over the course of 420 green-flag laps, he made 31 passes and was passed 15 times. That produces a pass differential of +16, meaning that he gained 16 more positions than he lost.

If he gained so many positions, how did he end up fifth? He lost 16 positions during pit-stop cycles. That’s not the number of positions he lost on pit road. That’s positions lost including factors like other drivers staying out.

Loop data attributes 109 green-flag passes to Larson. It’s not that one number is wrong and one is right: They’re measuring different things.

At this stage of the metric, I only feel confident in my results for drivers who finished on the lead lap. Five drivers accomplished that feat at both the 2021 and 2022 fall Bristol races. I compare their passing data in the table below.

My metric shows passing up by 11.9%, while passing loop data on the same set of drivers shows it up by 55%. If you think of my metric as defining successful passes and loop data as measuring attempts, it shows that drivers had to make more attempts to pass for each successful pass this year than they did last year.

By that measure, the drivers are right that it is harder to pass.

At this point, it’s impossible to tell whether the limitation is the Next Gen car itself or a level of competition that’s produced 19 different winners this season already.