NASCAR Lead Changes Historically Low in 2018

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier/OnPitRoad.com

The number of lead changes in NASCAR races is at a historic low through the first 10 races of the season. The 10 tracks used in this research are Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas, ISM (Phoenix), Auto Club (California), Martinsville, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, and Talladega. These same 10 tracks were used, dating back as far as possible, which was 1998, to compile these results. 1998 was the first year for Las Vegas on the circuit so data before then could not be used as a direct comparison.

Average number of lead changes per race, from 1998-2018 using these same 10 tracks:

1998 – 18.6
1999- 20.3
2000 – 20.4
2001 – 23.2
2002 – 21.1
2003 – 20.5
2004 – 21.9
2005 – 22.6
2006 – 24
2007 – 22
2008 – 23.9
2009 – 20.3
2010 – 32.9
2011 – 35.7
2012 – 19.1
2013 – 19.4
2014 – 27.2
2015 – 22
2016 – 20.5
2017 – 18.4
2018 – 17.6

When one looks at these numbers, they are pretty telling in regards to lack of passing throughout the season so far. We were just introduced to stage racing in 2017 with the thought it would create harder racing all throughout each race event. In this 1998-2018 period, the lowest number of average lead changes for these 10 events occurred in the years 2017 and 2018 respectively. With the introduction of stage racing, the average number of lead changes should be going up, not down. With all of the other added factors over these past 20 years such as double-file restarts, free passes, wave around’s, etc. one would think that the number of lead changes would be increasing as well.

There have been plenty of folks grumbling about the All-Star Race rules package with restrictor plates.  Point those people to these statistics. NASCAR has to try something to make the racing more competitive. If the All-Star rules package can produce more passing and closer racing, NASCAR may very well feel the need to pull the trigger on that kind of package in regular events during 2018. As I’ve said in the past, it’s a band-aid but that may be what is needed until NASCAR can roll out another new car. This Gen-6 car, sealed to the ground with too much speed and sideforce, just isn’t getting the job done in terms of on-track action.