3 Races From the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Season That Were a Total Train Wreck — And Why They Stunk So Badly

From rookie Austin Cindric’s underdog victory in the Daytona 500 to Ross Chastain’s video game-style move in the final corner of the fall Martinsville race to Joey Logano’s championship-winning drive at Phoenix, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was full of electrifying moments that made for some overall great races.

Then there were those races that were so hard on the eyes that you regret the price you paid for the ticket or the time you spent tuning in.

Like with any NASCAR season, the on-track product we witnessed in 2022 was a mixed bag — ranging from downright amazing to deplorably ugly. We’ll take a look at the season’s best races on another day, but for now, let’s reflect back on the three worst races of 2022 — ranked in order — and what made them so awful.

1. The spring race at Martinsville

An aerial shot of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.
The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 wasn’t exactly a barn burner. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Prior to the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 held under lights at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday night, April 9, NASCAR Cup Series drivers had contested just one points-paying event with the Next Generation Cup Series car that officially debuted in the season opener at Daytona.

Suffice it to say that 403 laps around the 0.526-mile Martinsville paperclip left little doubt in anyone’s mind about how much of a monster this car could be.

Not only did the race feature minimal passing and mostly single-file racing, with the lead changing hands only five times and only four drivers spending time out front, but the caution flag waved only twice outside of the two mandatory stage breaks — and in both cases, the yellow flew for an incident involving a single car. Gone was the familiar beating and banging and spinning and hard-nosed racing that has long made the Virginia short track a fan favorite.

Instead, one driver — Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron — led over half the laps as pit road proved to be the best place to make up any meaningful ground. If this race proved anything, it was that the Next Gen car was going to be a major work-in-progress at Martinsville and likely the other short tracks where the Cup Series competes.

2. The August race at Daytona

The regular season finale held at Daytona in late August was a train wreck, both literally and figuratively. As if it wasn’t bad enough that rain forced NASCAR to postpone the race from Saturday night to Sunday morning, the wet weather lingered even once the race finally began.

The result? A multi-car pileup that wiped out 13 cars when the track turned track slippery because NASCAR was slow to throw the caution flag as precipitation began pelting down on the 2.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway. A red flag period of more than three hours followed, and when the race finally resumed, only 10 cars remained on the lead lap. As if all that wasn’t terrible enough, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick — running in second place in the final laps — deliberately refrained from passing race-leading teammate Austin Dillon, choosing instead to keep the rest of the field at bay so Dillon could remain comfortably in front and earn a playoff-clinching win in a race that was his last opportunity to do so.

Oh, and even before Reddick’s late-race blocking antics and the rain-triggered melee, three major multi-car wrecks slowed the proceedings in classic superspeedway-style fashion, resulting in lots of torn-up race cars and testy drivers.

3. The fall race at Texas

NASCAR laid its last big egg of the season on September 25 at Texas Motor Speedway, which hosted a playoff race that will be remembered mostly for recurring tire failures involving numerous drivers, including several frontrunners and championship contenders.

Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Kevin Harvick all endured tire blowouts while leading, while others who ended up being snake-bitten by tire issues included Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, and Chris Buescher.

Bowman got the worst of the deal, sustaining a concussion in a wreck that ultimately forced him to miss five of the season’s final six races. While the Texas race itself proved to be on the entertaining side, it was entertaining for pretty much all the wrong reasons.

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