After taking a week off of my own (NASCAR’s schedule doesn’t allow for many, and I needed to do my bachelor party at some point), I was ready to come back strong for Kentucky.
Even though, deep down, it hurt to not unleash my notes about a first-time Daytona winner, who only led one lap. But you were in my thoughts, Erik Jones.
There’ll be more first-time Daytona winners and more Jones victories, but I’m (probably) only going to have one bachelor party. (Further details omitted.)
They couldn’t handle the Truex
Martin Truex Jr. picked up the win this past Saturday night, showing that he should be mentioned in the same breath as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch when we talk about championship favorites. Truex picked up some much-needed bonus points, and we could enter the playoffs looking like three members of the Championship Four are set, barring some sort of meltdown.
But what made Truex’s performance even more impressive was how thoroughly he was in control of this race. He led for 174 of 267 laps and had it not been for alternative pit strategies out there, Truex might’ve led an even higher percentage of the laps. Still, he won all three stages of the race.
It’s the fourth time he’s swept all the stages in the two seasons we’ve had under this format. To compare, all other drivers combined have done it three times — twice by Harvick and once by Busch. And Truex has done it twice at Kentucky.
All or nothing
I’m breaking all the rules this week and going with a second Truex note. You want a space in this column? You need to produce!
In 19 races this season, Truex had 13 top-5 finishes. He also has 13 top-10 finishes. That’s right, 13 finishes between first and fifth, and none between sixth and 10th (actually from sixth to 13th).
There’s still a lot of racing left to go this season, so it seems unlikely that Truex can continue this trend. But let’s imagine that he can.
The last driver to have at least 10 top-5 finishes in a season and have the same number of top-5s and 10s was David Pearson in 1978, who had 11. What’s amazing is that he had 16 such finishes the prior season.
The record is 17 such finishes in a single season, done by Bobby Allison in 1974 and Fonty Flock in 1953.
Consistency is king
At this point, anything less than a victory probably seems like an off week for Harvick and Busch. Both finished in the top-5 at Kentucky, but neither led a single lap.
Still, both improved their average finish on the season. Busch is at 8.1 and Harvick is at 8.9. Truex’s improved to 9.4. That’s the same number he had last year in winning the championship, so let’s focus on what it means to have an average finish of ninth or better.
Since 2010, there’s only been two seasons in which a driver had an average finish better than ninth. And they both belong to Harvick (8.7 in both 2010 and 2015).
If Busch keeps up the 8.1 mark, it would be the best since Jeff Gordon’s 7.3 mark in 2007. Before that, nobody had done it since Bobby Labonte’s 7.4 in 2000.
The last time multiple drivers had average finishes of ninth or better for a season came back in 1999, when Labonte and Dale Jarrett pulled it off.