Race Weekend Central

Stat Sheet: A History of Shortened Races in the Cup Series’ Modern Era

In Sunday’s (July 9) Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a caution came out for a spin between Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace on lap 177. The rain had been in the forecast for hours, and as the field paced around, a light drizzle turned into a heavy rain that halted the race after 185 of the 260 scheduled laps.

The race was called roughly 20 minutes later, and William Byron was in victory lane for his fourth win of the 2023 season and his second at Atlanta.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud at Atlanta: There's a Damn Good Reason Why NASCAR Waited for the Rain

Atlanta was the second NASCAR Cup Series race in a row that failed to reach the scheduled distance. As impending darkness approached the Windy City, the 100-lap Grant Park 220 at the Chicago street course ended after 78 laps (the race was first trimmed to 75 laps before an overtime restart tacked on the extra three).

The last time that the Cup Series saw back-to-back rain or darkness-shortened races? You’d have to go back to when Winston was the title sponsor.

The year was 2003, and a May 3 race at Richmond Raceway ran 393 of the 400 scheduled laps before the final seven were rained out. The next points race was the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, and the rain was called after 276 of the 400 laps were completed.

All in all, there have been 60 Cup races that failed to reach the scheduled distance since the start of NASCAR’s modern era.

Shortened Races by Decade

Thirty-three of the 60 races have come since the start of 2000, and 46 of the 60 have come since 1990. The following table has a breakdown of these races by decade.

DecadeShortened Races
1972-19797
1980-19897
1990-199913
2000-200918
2010-20199
2020-Present6

Just three and a half years into this decade, and it has produced six rain- or darkness-shortened races, only three behind the entirety of the 2010s. That total will likely be surpassed well before the end of 2029.

Three shortened races in 2021 marked the most in one season since 2009. The 2000 season currently leads the modern era with four. The following years had multiple races that were shortened:

YearShortened Races
19773
19822
19872
19922
19963
19982
19992
20004
20023
20033
20072
20093
20122
20152
20162
20213
20232

1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017, and 2022 saw every race reach the scheduled distance.

Shortened Races by Cause

While all 60 were stopped short of the scheduled distance, they weren’t all stopped for the same reason. Rain is the most common cause, but there are three other reasons for why a Cup race has been stopped short in the modern era: darkness, fog, and curfew.

Darkness only occurs at tracks without lights. The most common cause, as seen in Chicago this year, is that weather delays a race, and by the time the race is able to begin, there is not enough daylight left to complete all the laps.

Curfew is the equivalent of darkness for tracks with lights. The races were delayed well into the night, and a noise or activity ordinance forced the races to a halt.

Self-explanatory by the name, fog is when a thick blanket of fog covers a track and blocks the visibility for both drivers and spotters.

ReasonRaces
Rain45
Darkness11
Curfew2
Fog2

Since 2000, 28 of the 33 races have been cut short by rain. Only four races were truncated due to darkness, which reflects the trend of tracks adding lights in the late 1990s and 2000s. The other race, at Pocono Raceway in 2016, was ended by fog.

Shortened Races by Track

Dover Motor Speedway has been on the Cup schedule since 1969, and it has never had a race that failed to reach the scheduled distance.

Are there any tracks in particular that are magnets for shortened races? Indeed, there are:

TrackShortened Races
Darlington8
Pocono7
Michigan5
Daytona5
New Hampshire5
Atlanta5
Martinsville4
Talladega3
Charlotte3
Richmond3
Bristol2
Phoenix2

When looking at the list of tracks with multiple shortened races, there are two patterns that begin to emerge:

  • Length: Pocono, Michigan, and Daytona are two miles or longer in length and constitute three of the six tracks to have five shortened races.
  • Lack of lights: Pocono, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Talladega do not have lights. Daytona did not get lights until 1998, Darlington until 2004 and Martinsville until 2017.

How Dover – a track with no lights – has not had a shortened race, I will never know.

Shortened Races by Winner

After winning a rain-shortened race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (yes, you read that right) in 2000, Jeff Burton acquired the nickname ‘Rain Man’ because it marked his third straight win in a weather-shortened event after sweeping both Darlington races in 1999.

Burton isn’t the only one to have success in the rain, however, as 10 different drivers have scored multiple shortened wins in the Modern Era:

DriverWins
Jeff Gordon6
Darrell Waltrip4
Richard Petty3
Cale Yarborough3
Rusty Wallace3
Tony Stewart3
Kurt Busch3
Jeff Burton3
Sterling Marlin2
Aric Almirola2

As for drivers competing in the Cup Series this season, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Shane van Gisbergen, and William Byron have all scored one win in the rain.

Almirola, as surprising as it may sound, is the only active driver with two.

Also surprising is that despite a combined 123 wins between them, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have never won a rain-shortened race in the Cup Series. Likewise, Harvick, Busch, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt all combined for 282 Cup wins and just two rain-shortened wins.

See also
Entry List: 2023 Crayon 301

Next up on the Cup schedule is New Hampshire. Here’s to hoping that – knock on wood – the streak doesn’t extend to three in a row.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Charlie

I’d be interested in these stats including races that were delayed to Monday and then finished their distance.

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