Six winners in 16 races and the guess here is that the topic of the week between Sonoma and Chicago will be why have there not been more folks in the winner’s circle this year in NASCAR’s top series.
Chances are, those fortunate few who may sneak into the Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs later this fall aren’t up in arms about the lack of diversity in victory lane. Quite the opposite. They likely breathed a sigh of relief as they began the long trip back home Sunday evening.
Each different winner bumps out a potential points player and if you’re riding the fence from a points standpoint, 10 available spots looks a lot better than say six or eight.
Sixteen drivers and teams will qualify, either by winning one or more of the first 26 points races or by virtue of points should there be fewer than 16 different winners.
At this rate, the chance of there being 16 different winners ranks up there with the Archies making a comeback.
The series has now hit all the different layouts, from superspeedways to a road course and everything in between. From hairpins to clothespins, restrictor plates to dinner plates. There’s a roval later in the year and it’s part road course, part oval and entirely suspicious.
No surprises remain for the regular season, though.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and Sunday’s winner Martin Truex Jr. have combined to win 12 of this year’s first 16 races and the three are making a good case for reservations in the championship round in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway later this year.
The thing is, it’s a table for four and nobody’s really stepped up and said that fourth chair belongs to them.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves …
By this point a year ago we had a dozen different winners, the year before that there were 11 and 11 the year before that one, too. You’d have to go back a ways, the ‘70s or so, to find a year with as few or fewer winners during the season’s first half.
Fords and Toyotas have dominated in ’18 and there’s little reason to believe that will change to any great degree as the season begins the slow roll into its annual summer stretch.
Chevrolet teams are still trying to sort through the Camaro ZL-1 and aside from a last-lap pass that put Austin Dillon’s name on the Harley J. Earl trophy for winning the Daytona 500 back in February, the automaker hasn’t had anything else to crow about this year. “We’re No. 3” has a hollow ring to it.
Rather than be disturbed by the lack of variety in victory lane, I think it’s been impressive that three different organizations – Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing – have continued to slug it out week after week.
Their three drivers will be favored, as they should be, when the series arrives in Chicago later this week, but maybe somebody else will finally step out of the clutter and grab the spotlight.
Clint Bowyer’s a likely candidate, a two-race winner that any other season would be considered practically a shoo-in for title contention.
And that may be the case yet. Bowyer, 39, is enjoying another breakout season 11 years after his first.
It should come as no surprise that Harvick and Busch and Truex have been those who have nearly won when they failed to win – they’ve finished second eight times combined to lead that category, too.
So not only are they dominating the top spot, but they’re also dominating the next one.
Another possible contender, Kyle Larson, has been runner-up three times and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver has won more races since the start of ’17 than anyone else driving for Chevrolet, including seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
Among this year’s winless, Larson is considered by many as the best bet to wind up in the winner’s circle.
Unless the likes of Harvick and Busch and Truex cool off, however, it seems everyone else is racing for second. Well, third actually.