Dr. Diandra Diagnoses the NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Most Likely to Bump Into Each Other (2024)

If you’re a NASCAR Cup Series fan who isn’t following the work of NBC analyst Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, then you’re missing out on some fascinating insight. Contrary to what Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the other booth boys might think, there’s a lot more to assessing race action than screaming “slide job” or predicting who’ll take the outside lane coming out of a caution.

Leslie-Pelecky, who goes by Dr. Diandra on Twitter, tackles both the conventional and the quirky questions while satisfying curiosity about a sport that’s a scientist’s dream because of the combination of speed, danger, and unpredictable developments.

An off-hand inquiry got Leslie-Pelecky digging into the data ahead of the Bristol playoff race. It led to a timely, dead-on projection.

Do some NASCAR drivers tend to run into each other more often?

Hey @DGodfatherMoody !

I figured out an answer to that question you asked me last week about whether some drivers tend to run into each other more often.https://t.co/LZz1oD6m7K

— Diandra (@drdiandra) September 17, 2022

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky was speaking with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio host Dave Moody earlier this month when he threw out a question racing fans might never have wondered about. But as soon as they heard it, they would have wanted the answer:

Which drivers run into each other most often?

The answer admittedly has the potential to mislead when you’re depending on raw race data from NASCAR, which is the case here. In short, two drivers might not come within 50 feet of each other during a multi-car wreck but get “credit” for running into each other based on the listing of everyone who was involved.

In addition, Leslie-Pelecky had to compile road course data manually since not every incident triggered caution flags. That probably means missing an incident or two not apparent on TV.

The analyst started out by noting an obvious consideration. Namely, good cars run with good cars, and so-so cars run with so-so cars. It’s why you generally don’t see Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie exchanging insurance information following the same wreck.

The analysis predicted two NASCAR rookies would be in what Cody Ware started

By Diandra Leslie-Pelecky’s methodology, a two-car crash creates a single “pairwise interaction” for each driver. However, a five-car wreck creates 20 of them – four per driver. The 12-car “Big One” (admittedly a misnomer for a short track) on Lap 278 at Bristol on Saturday generated 132 pairwise interactions.

The night’s most notable wreck started with Cody Ware’s No. 51 Ford getting loose and destabilizing the No. 38 Ford of Todd Gilliland, who was able to save his car for a moment but sent Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spinning. By the time it was over, 12 cars made it onto the accident report, and the field ran under a caution for nine laps.

Leslie-Pelecky’s analysis done before the NASCAR race had some of the particulars nailed. At 75 and 70 interactions, respectively, rookies Gilliland and Harrison Burton topped the list of incident-prone drivers. Sure enough, they both made it into this one. Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain, tied for sixth in total interactions, figured in it, too.

In a minor upset, Chase Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford was also involved. According to Leslie-Pelecky’s research, Justin Haley is the only regular involved in fewer contacts than Briscoe this season.

Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton meet up once again

Dr. Diandra Diagnoses the NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Most Likely to Bump Into Each Other (1)

The answer to the question of which two drivers bump into each other most often is Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. They had six wrecks in common entering the NASCAR playoff race at Bristol.

The total now is seven. They were part of the 12-car Big One on Saturday before more than 100,000 spectators in Tennessee. Meanwhile, Burton can now count six incidents apiece with Todd Gilliland and Corey LaJoie. Somehow, Gilliland and LaJoie shared just one accident in common until Bristol.

Is the analysis perfect? No. For starters, two cars going onto the gravel off a road course on a 60-mph corner isn’t the same as five cars being towed to the garage after a 10-car wreck at Talladega. But Diandra Leslie-Pelecky’s research is a nice start to understanding which cars run together for multiple laps at a time (and wreck together) even when their average starts and finishes vary.

Her identifying many of the drivers in the one notable incident at Bristol over the weekend validates work done on short notice.

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RELATED: The Foe Chase Elliott Considers Too Tough to Beat Isn’t Another NASCAR Playoffs Competitor

Dr. Diandra Diagnoses the NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Most Likely to Bump Into Each Other (2024)


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Richard Petty

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Kyle Busch tops the list as the highest-paid NASCAR driver of 2024. Busch earns $16.9 million driving for Richard Childress Racing. For the 38-race season, that equates to $444,736 per race. On a track like the Daytona 500 which is 200 laps, Busch earns $2,223 per lap.

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Across the 68-year history of NASCAR's top series, no one else has come close to 10 straight. The next best number is five straight and, perhaps not surprisingly, Petty is one of the drivers who hit that figure. He won five in a row in 1971, as did Bobby Allison.

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Approximately, a NASCAR driver makes $112,038 per year. Development drivers earn approximately $50,000 per year.

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1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. With an approximate net worth of $300 million as of 2023, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is regarded as one of the wealthiest NASCAR drivers. His racing journey commenced in the late 1990s, propelling him to legendary status within the racing community.

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Richard Petty holds the record for most wins in NASCAR Cup Series history at 200, while Kyle Busch leads active drivers at 63. Every driver that currently competes full-time at the Cup level has been highlighted in bold, while part-time drivers have been italicized.

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Top-10 List: Car Owner Wins
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1. Richard Petty, 1967. The seasons may have been longer back then, but by winning 27 of 48 races that he entered, Petty had by far the most dominant full season at NASCAR's highest level.

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While a number of drivers have won multiple championships, three are in a league (or lane) of their own: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jimmie Johnson. Each has won seven times. In addition, Petty is considered the most successful driver in NASCAR history, having won 200 career Cup Series races.

Was Dale Earnhardt better than Richard Petty? ›

Though they raced against each other more than 400 times between 1975 and 1992, with Earnhardt scoring the better finish in 274 of 415 races. Earnhardt won 52 of those races, Petty just 15. It should be easy to claim Earnhardt as the better of the pair based on those numbers.

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