If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know there are some drivers who just can’t seem to keep their car in one piece.
You know what I’m talking about: Those drivers who seem to wreck every single race, and when the caution comes out you’re like “Oh, of course they wrecked again.”
I remember back when Juan Pablo Montoya made the jump from Formula One to NASCAR and it seemed like he was crashing out of every single race. Caution’s out? Oh, Juan Pablo wrecked yet again. (Hell, he even hit a freakin’ jet dryer during the Daytona 500).
But which drivers ACTUALLY wreck the most?
A new analysis from bookies.com attempted to answer that question by looking at a driver’s total career starts, and then looking at how many times they ended up with a DNF (did not finish).
Now obviously this doesn’t take into account times that a driver didn’t finish a race due to mechanical issues or for other reasons.
For instance, Michael McDowell DNFs in 23% of his starts – although for McDowell, that stat may be a little misleading. The 2021 Daytona 500 winner started his career driving for a number of “start and park” teams back when that was a big thing. Teams that were underfunded would make the race, get out and run a few laps, and then park the car so that they didn’t tear up their only car or risk a big repair bill that they couldn’t afford.
These teams were just collecting a paycheck for being in the race, and McDowell has a number of DNFs due to driving for these start and park teams. So out of the 404 races McDowell has run, he’s only finished 263 of those – though a large number of those DNFs weren’t due to crashes.
The analysis also doesn’t take into account drivers that crash but are able to continue in the race, so the number of crashes may actually be higher for some of the well-funded teams that have the resources and ability to get a car fixed quickly and back into a shape that NASCAR will allow to stay on the track.
But by far the best statistical indicator of crashes is whether a driver finished a race or not, so it still gives us a pretty good idea of who just can’t seem to keep their car pointed in the right direction.
So, who should other drivers try to stay away from on the track?
Cody Ware came in at the top of the list. The small Rick Ware Racing team was running at the end of only 44 of 66 races that Cody has started, meaning that he has a 33% DNF rate.
Right behind him were three drivers in their first season in the Cup Series: Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton and Austin Cindric. (McDowell was also in this group too, but we’ve already talked about why his stats are somewhat skewed).
William Byron, one of only two drivers with multiple wins this year, came in at 9th on the list with a 15% DNF rate, the only driver locked into this year’s playoffs in the top 10. And he’s one spot above Ricky Stenhouse, a driver who’s known for wrecking so much that his critics sometimes refer to him as “Wrecky Spinhouse.”
Last year’s champion Kyle Larson is at 11 on the list with a 14% crash rate, failing to finish 37 of the 270 races he’s started so far. And Bubba Wallace, a lightning rod for criticism from fans who question his driving abilities, is actually behind Larson with only a 13% DNF rate.
Among other fan favorites, Ryan Blaney is tied for 17th on the list with a 12% crash rate, while Martin Truex, Jr., Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch are all tied for 22nd on the list with 11%.
Hendrick teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman check in at a 10% DNF rate each, tied for 26th on the list.
Four drivers are tied for second-best on the list, only crashing out of a mere 8% of their total starts: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Ty Dillon. It’s no wonder that two of the four of those have won Cup Series championships – because they know how to take care of their equipment and stay out of trouble.
So who is the most likely to finish a race – and the least likely to crash out?
That would be none other than veteran driver Kevin Harvick, with an incredible 5% DNF rate over his 765 Cup Series starts. Which makes sense, considering Harvick is a championship-winning driver who’s driven for high quality teams his entire career, starting out with Richard Childress Racing before making the jump to Stewart Haas Racing.
So there you have it. Who surprised you on the list? Were the numbers what you expected them to be?
Check out the full analysis on bookie.com and let us hear about it.