Marcos Ambrose Is NASCAR Crash King With 19 Incidents
Coming on strong during the final eight races with seven spins or crashes, including a final spin (at right) during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Ambrose easily outdistanced the competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series to post a season-leading 19 incidents and win the title by two.
Sadler, meanwhile, found uncommon consistency in the final stretch, chalking up only a single yellow flag in an incident at Martinsville Speedway during the last eight races. That brought his season total to 15, a number easily surpassed not only by Ambrose, but by hard-luck Sam Hornish Jr., who reached the second-highest total of 17 after the misfortune of four more incidents in the final eight races, including two in the Martinsville race.
Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were tied for fourth in our exclusive FanHouse crash and spin roundup, with 14 incidents apiece.
Drivers involved in 13 spins or crashes in the 36-race schedule, or one every three races, were Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Juan Pablo Montoya.
In our tally, we count an incident on a driver's tally if his car is listed as being involved in a spin or a crash that brings out a yellow flag. Caution periods caused by stalled cars, engine failures or debris do not count, unless a spin or crash was involved and a car number listed.
At the other end of the spectrum, tied for first with fewest incidents at four each, were Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth ran the final eight races without incident, while Earnhardt's crash at Talladega was the only mark on a season, that while unremarkable, was also relatively trouble-free in terms of crashes.
You might recall that when we last checked the crash and spin roundup, after the race at Dover in September, Jimmie Johnson was running up his score in a big way, adding seven incidents from Daytona in July to New Hampshire in September, where he was involved in a rare (for him) double. At that point, Johnson had broken into double digits with 10 incidents.
Well, guess what? On his way to his fifth straight championship, Johnson promptly shaped up his game. He was involved in only one incident in the final eight races -- a spin at Charlotte -- even though he finished the year with an uncommonly high season total of 11.
Kevin Harvick, who finished third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, was involved in only four incidents all year, third behind Kenseth and Earnhardt.
And runnerup Denny Hamlin had only six going into Homestead. But his seventh and last -- an early spin off the backstretch -- was his undoing in the battle for the title.
Remember Martin Truex Jr's chronic problems at Texas a few weeks ago?. Truex chalked up a rare hat trick in that race; he was involved in three yellow flags -- the only driver all season to pick up three in a single race. One of those, which included a drive through the infield grass, is shown at right. Truex only had six other incidents in the other 35 races, for a middle-of-the-road total of nine.
"After we spun and then lost a tire, we weren't all that bad considering how banged up we were," Truex said after falling out of the Texas race. "I thought we had a shot to rebound and rally back. Unfortunately, we lost another tire and the damage it caused was too much to continue on. It's really unfortunate."
Far more common were doubles -- involvement in two yellow flags in a single race for a spin or a crash -- with 41 of those being recorded in 2010. As you might expect, the leaders in chalking up doubles were Ambrose and Hornish, with five apiece.
Ambrose was involved in incidents in four consecutive races two separate times during the season. In the first half, he picked up doubles at Dover and Charlotte, and then added single incidents at Pocono and Michigan. Then, in the homestretch, he had a double at Fontana, an incident at Charlotte, another double at Martinsville and finally a crash at Talladega. Twelve of Ambrose's 19 yellows came in those two brutal stretches.
But it was not a driver, but a car, the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, that had the longest streak of futility in 2010, with incidents in five straight races -- involving three different drivers -- from Pocono in June through Daytona in July. Casey Mears picked up the first two, Mattias Ekstrom chalked up the third in a row at Sears Point, and then Reed Sorenson added the final two at New Hampshire and Daytona.
And how do these numbers compare to the days of old?
We've been keeping these figures for many years now, so we thought it would be interesting to peek back in the time capsule, 15 years ago, and see which drivers were the most likely and least likely to crash or spin during the 31-race season of 1995.
The leader, not surprisingly, was "Mr. Excitement," Jimmy Spencer, who chalked up 15 crashes or spins while competing in 29 of the 31 races. Next on the list were Lake Speed and Ward Burton, each with 12.
Among those who competed in all 31 races, the least likely to crash or spin were exactly who you'd expect. Tied for fewest, with four incidents each, were Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott.
The 2010 FanHouse Sprint Cup Crash and Spin Roundup (after 36 races)
3 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth
4 - Kevin Harvick
5 - Carl Edwards
6 - Clint Bowyer
7 - Denny Hamlin, Robby Gordon, Jeff Gordon, Scott Speed
8 - Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard
9 - Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., Regan Smith, Bobby Labonte
10 - David Reutimann
11 - Jimmie Johnson
13 - Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 83 Toyota (six drivers)
14 - Joey Logano, Kyle Busch
15 - Elliott Sadler
17 - Sam Hornish Jr.
19 - Marcos Ambrose