Hamlin Has Most Racing Lead Changes Through First Quarter

We are nine races into the 2024 Denny Hamlin finds himself atop of the Racing Lead Change Leaderboard with 12 Racing Lead Changes.  Racing Lead Changes are Green Flag Passes for the Lead registered at the Start/Finish Line and are done without benefit of bunching at Starts or Restarts or relinquished to them because the Leader pitted from the Lead. These are Lead Changes because one car raced past the Leader.

Hamlin has 12 of the 90 RLCs made this season.  21 drivers have one or more RLCs so far this season.

Below is the Racing Lead Changes Ranking for the first nine races of the 2024 Season:


Also notable, Kyle Larson has made Racing Lead Changes in five of the nine races this season.

Last season it was Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin who made the most Racing Lead Changes as they each had 21 RLCs for the season. We see the same two in the top 4, joined by Larson and Kyle Busch.  Going into this weekend’s Superspeedway race, Busch scored 9 of his RLCs at Daytona and Atlanta. Blaney picked up 7 RLCs at those same tracks, so Talladega could result in a major shakeup in these Standings. 

Racing Lead Changes… and those other types of Lead Changes

Through nine races there have been a total of 240 Lead Changes.  188 or 78% of those Lead Changes took place under Green.  90 of the 188 Green Flag Lead Changes (48%) were Racing Lead Changes.  Below is a breakdown of the Lead Changes by Type. 


As you can see from this breakdown, Lead Changes during Caution Flags make up 22% of the Lead Changes, and another 19% occur when the Leader Pits From the Lead. Both are usually passes due to Strategy differences and are rarely shown during the broadcasts. 28% of the Lead Changes occur on the first laps following Starts or Restarts, while the field is bunched and lined up double-file.

Chase Elliott, #9, and Denny Hamlin, #11, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 07, 2024 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

When Fans hear the number of Lead Changes, they often think that number represents Racing Lead Changes – I pass the leader to take the lead, which is a much lower number that makes up 38% of all Lead Changes and 48% of Green Flag Lead Changes.    

Racing Lead Changes by Track

Taking a deeper dive, there is a broad range of RLCs based on the track types. Superspeedways are at the upper end of the spectrum, with Short Tracks and Road Courses on the other end. Atlanta leads all tracks with 30 RLCs. Bristol, with its unprecedented tire situation jumped into the Superspeedway realm with its 26 RLCs, leaving Daytona in it’s dust (oh wait a minute… dirt was last year. You get the idea).  Here is the ranking of tracks by RLCs from Atlanta and it’s 30 down to Richmond with its single RLC. 


As expected, tracks like Atlanta and Daytona have an RLC on average every 5 to 8 laps. Bristol produced one on average every 14 laps with the number rising to 175 laps at Martinsville and 335 at Richmond. Why is Racing Lead Changes Important?  

Racing Lead Changes is another metric used to try to determine the level of competition for a race. The more passing, especially up front, usually indicates better racing up front and better competition. From the numbers so far, the pack racing tracks are producing the numbers expected, while the short tracks (with the exception of Bristol) and now intermediates are a bit anemic when it comes to the racing up front. Can NASCAR, with Goodyear’s help change that trend? Only time will tell.

And we’ve seen where drivers who can drive to the front and make passes for the lead are usually in the mix for the Cup Championship at Season’s end.  

It’s not full proof-just an indicator. In GEN 7 Racing we’re seeing how passing, especially at the front is a premium and that you get there is more important than how you get there, be it through passing, on restarts, by Pit Strategy or by Pit Work. But Kyle Larson is tied for 2nd in the RLC Standings and has RLCs in the most races and is sitting atop the Points Standings. Truex, Jr. and Hamlin and are 5th and 1st in the RLCs and are sitting 2nd and 3rd in Points respectively. Kyle Busch is tied for 2nd in the RLC Standings but is at the Cutoff in Points.  He racked up a bunch of RLCs at Daytona… can he repeat that here and improve his position in both?

Again, not full proof, but an indicator worth watching.

 Daniel Suarez, #99 drives as the sunsets during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

So here we are at the end of the first quarter. We have a tight race at the top and going into a wild card like Talladega it could be all flipped around next week, so hang on.
I’m going to watch and see how it shakes out.  Hope you will as well.

Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover): Sean Gardner/Getty Images

One comment

  1. Interesting stats on the RLC’s. The broadcast booth doesn’t always mention the changes so it is good to read and think back on them and whether I remember any specifics of the race. Sometimes it is much harder to remember changes if it is not a racer I like. But then, I can remember the big negative sigh when that happens. And I can still smile any time I see Ryan Blaney take the lead. I still think he is very calculating and drives each race differently depending on what he needs to do. Unfortunately, so does Hamlin…oh well…
    Thank you, David. A lot of us appreciate the hard work you do getting all this info and the stats together, thus, giving us a better view of what happened or could happen in any race at any track.

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