After record setting 2022 season, the Next Gen has produced numbers higher so far in 2023 than this point a year ago, details

The 2022 season was a record setting one in the NASCAR Cup Series. Last year tied the NASCAR Cup Series record of the most different winners in a single season (19) all-time; joining 1956, 1958, 1961 and 2001.

There were also 1,544 green flag passes for the lead (GFPL), the most ever. A green flag pass for the lead, by the way, is defined as a lead change all around the racetrack, and not just at the start/finish line.

Also, total of nine different NASCAR Cup Series races have set records in green flag passes for the lead this season, including Circuit of The Americas (30 green flag passes for the lead), Atlanta-1 (141), Las Vegas-1 (57), Bristol Dirt (20) Darlington-1 (28), Kansas-1 (41), Charlotte (64), Nashville (47) and Las Vegas-2 (46).

Overall Green Flag Passing Increased Year-Over-Year: In a year-over-year comparison (2021 to 2022), the 2022 season has seen an increase in total green flag passes throughout the field of +6.36%.

Second Closest Average Margin of Victory: The average MOV for this season was 1.011 seconds, which is the second closest since the advent of electronic timing and scoring in 1993 (.909 seconds in 2014).

Highest Percentage Of Lead Lap Finishers In Modern Era: The 36 races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced an average percentage of 59.46% of the competitors finishing on the lead lap per race – the highest percentage of lead lap finishers through 36 races in the Modern Era (1972-2022).

How could NASCAR back that up in Year 2?

Well, the second year with this car is on another record setting pace.

Through the first three races of the season, the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car has been showcasing its performance and the stats are backing up all the great action on the track.

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 261 Green Flag Passes for the Lead in the first three points-paying races of the year (Daytona 204 GFPL, Fontana 35 GFPL, Las Vegas 22 GFPL) – the series-most through the first three races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (last 17 seasons).

In a year-over-year comparison, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season with 261 Green Flag Passes for the Lead, has produced an increase of 34.5% over the 2022 season’s first three races with 194 Green Flag Passes for the Lead.

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 18,698 Total Green Flag Passes in the first three points-paying races of the year (Daytona 11,538 GFP, Fontana 3,512 GFP and Las Vegas 3,648 GFP) – the second-most through the first three races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (last 17 seasons); behind only the 2015 season with 19,240 Total Green Flag Passes.

Now, we head to the first short track of the season at the Phoenix Raceway. This is where the Next Gen will truly get put to the test.

That’s because there’s no doubt about it, the short track package last season was arguably the worst discipline for this new car.

Bristol’s spring race had the least amount of lead changes in well over a decade. Richmond has largely been a bust last year. They had 13 and 16 lead changes. That the worst since the 2019 package which was dubbed a mistake and changes were made. Same for Martinsville. It was terrible back in the spring of a year ago. The 5 lead changes that night were the same as we saw for 2019 too. The pair of 2019 races (3 lead changes each) and this past spring (5) were the worst there since 1997. There were 18 and 15 respectively just one year ago. Last week we saw 6 cautions and 8 lead changes.

What about Phoenix?

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Harrison Burton, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

There were 14 lead changes in the spring race and just 11 in the championship race. There were 22 and 18 respectively a year prior. The 14 lead changes in the spring were the least amount since….2019. The 11 was even lower.

“Had good track position from our qualifying effort but passing was just impossible,” Hamlin said at Bristol last year. “It was just a type of day where you needed to stay up front at all costs and we just couldn’t quite do it and ended up having a blown tire that set us back and we were trying to play catch up from that point. (The Next Gen car) was tough. I would like to see the racing improve overall. Some lap time variation a little bit. We’re just running around there and it’s like we’re running faster in the corners than we are on the straightaways. Just extremely hard to pass. Just seems like mechanical stuff with this Next Gen and wrecks are the X-factor in moving on so you just have to be really consistent and with five races to go, that’s when you have to start winning.”

So how will Sunday’s race look? Well, NASCAR made some adjustments.

The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:

  1. 2” Spoiler
  1. Remove Engine Panel Strakes
  1. Remove Center and Inner Diffuser Strakes. Only the Outer Diffuser Strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes. 
  1. Remove Diffuser Fences and Replace with Baseline Fences.
  1. Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.

The rules are in place at the following tracks: Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of The Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

So that teams and drivers can have additional track time to adjust to these new components, NASCAR has made Phoenix Raceway an ‘extended practice’ weekend. A 50-minute practice has been added, scheduled for Friday from 4:35 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. local time.

“We saw incredible racing throughout the 2022 season, especially at the intermediate racetracks. Our goal is to have the best racing possible everywhere we race, so during the offseason, we went to work on adjustments to strengthen the racing on short tracks and road courses. Adjustments will be made to the car that will create a significant reduction in downforce and based on driver feedback and what we saw from the January test in Phoenix, we’re excited to see the results of these efforts.

“That basically adds up to about a 30% downforce reduction,” Dr. Eric Jacuzzi told “We’re now in a downforce level we haven’t been at since pre-2000s for sure — like mid ’90s.”

With Martinsville and Phoenix being the final two races of the season once again, you can be sure that NASCAR doesn’t want those to flop. Phoenix was a difficult place to pass a year ago and you can’t afford to have it be that way again.

Phoenix would love to continue to host the Championship Weekend, but you can’t keep putting on shows with lack of passing either.

“Yeah, it’s just tough. It’s unbelievable how much your pace is better just getting — you take the same cars that are running 10th, 15th and put them in the front, and their pace is always going to be better,” Chase Elliott says.

Another way this package could be different is that there’s that 50-minute practice session on Friday. Instead of very limited on track time prior to qualifying, teams have 50 minutes of on track activity on Friday and can then make an adjustment overnight in preparation for qualifying as well as the race. How much of a change does this cause?

Does it give the bigger teams enough time to adjust and therefore make their cars better which as a result, could make them tougher to pass on Sunday? A good thing about limited practice is that in a sense, there’s no time to adjust and adapt. You essentially are racing what you brought. This way, there’s plenty of time for adjustments which in turn could cost the quality of the show. As a result of that, the parity isn’t as great as it could be.

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