There’s not a lot of off weekends in the Cup Series schedule, so there’s not a lot of chance to sit back and reflect on the season. But after Monday’s race at Michigan, we get an off weekend to step back and relax.
Or you could be locked into the Xfinity and Truck series races at Iowa. Or you could do what I’m doing and drive back to your hometown to cook a few hundred hot dogs.
Either way, even with a weekend to not be locked into a Cup race, you’re still probably going to want to have some NASCAR statistics in your life. So I recommend reading this article slowly to spread it out over two weeks. Or if you’d rather, read it several times in that span.
And since it’s an extra-long time to be without some fresh material, here’s four notes from the weekend (well, through Monday) that caught my eye this week.
At Michigan, Joey Logano gave Team Penske another win, its fifth of the season. Not bad when you consider Penske won seven times in 36 races last year, and just four times in the entire 2017 season.
When you add on Joe Gibbs Racing’s nine wins this season (as many as they had in 2018 and one more than in 2017), that means two organizations have combined for 14 of the 15 wins this season, with only Chase Elliott’s win for Hendrick Motorsports at Talladega crashing the party.
The Cup Series dates back to 1949, and this is the first time that just three different organizations have won races 15 races into a season. The previous record was four, last done in 2007, when Gibbs and Penske were winless this far into the season, and Hendrick, Roush Fenway, Childress and Dale Earnhardt Inc. were responsible for the first 15 wins.
There were also just four winning teams in 2005, 1974 and 1968.
The record, because I knew you were curious, for fewest victorious teams over an entire season is five. That was first pulled off in 1974 (Junior Johnson & Associates, Petty Enterprises, Wood Brothers Racing, Bobby Allison Motorsports and Team Penske won that year) and equaled again in 2015 (Gibbs, Hendrick, Penske, Stewart-Haas and Furniture Row).
Logano racking up wins before 30
Logano has been a staple in the Cup Series for so long that it’s easy to forget he has yet to turn 30. Monday’s win was the 23rd of his career, so there’s a lot of time for him to add to that victory total.
Not many drivers in series history were able to get to the Cup Series at such a young age and be able to have this level of success. In fact, the 23rd win broke a tie with Junior Johnson for the fourth-most before a driver’s 30th birthday.
The three drivers ahead of him are three of the greatest this sport’s had to offer: Richard Petty (60), Jeff Gordon (55) and Kyle Busch (29).
A rare win from the pole?
Joey Logano won from the pole at Michigan. In NASCAR history, a win from the pole isn’t an unusual feat at all. In fact, it makes a lot of sense, that the fastest driver in qualifying is often the fastest in the race as well.
Except lately, that hasn’t been the case. Logano’s win actually snapped a 31-race winless streak for pole-sitters in the Cup Series, the first such win since Martin Truex Jr. won at Kentucky last July.
It just broke the record of 30 consecutive races without a win from the pole that was set over the 2011-12 seasons. That streak was broken at Pocono, which, strangely, is where the recently ended streak was stretched to a record-breaking 31.
And even more strangely, the win from the pole came from, who else, Joey Logano.
However, it was a streak that was snapped in the next race that garnered more attention. Following Logano’s Pocono win from the pole, the next race was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., snapping a 143-race winless drought.
So let’s see what awaits us in two weeks at Sonoma!
Burying the lead
Although there was a lot of passing at Michigan, it was exceedingly difficult to pass for the lead under green flag conditions. However, since the field kept packed closely together behind the leader, pit stops and other race happenings meant there were 11 leaders in the race, the sixth time in the past nine races that there have been more than 10 leaders in a race.
In the quest to make racing more competitive, usually measured by more lead changes, more variety of drivers leading, close finishes and lots of lead-lap finishers, this season has been a step in the right direction. This week, we’ll focus on the lot of drivers leading.
Six races with more than 10 drivers leading laps, just through 15 races, is an accomplishment. Last year, there were only four such races, and there were only five in 2017.
On this race, we’re due to have 14 races this season with more than 10 different leaders. That’s a number the series hasn’t hit since 2013 (16). But the majority of these races have come with the new downforce and horsepower package. Let’s say that we continue the pace of this happening six times in every nine races for the remaining 21 races of the season, opposed to the pace when it didn’t happen in the first six races this season.
That would put us on a record pace of it happening 20 times, which would tie the modern era record, set in 2011.