Stats & Info: Joey Logano

Kyle Busch projected to win at Darlington

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
Here are the projections for Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Darlington. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 1.366 -mile oval) and time of year.

Joey Logano heads to Darlington with momentum after earning his fourth career Cup win Monday. He’s the seventh consecutive different winner to start the year, the first season with seven different winners to start a season since 2003, which started with nine straight different winners.

Logano won in dramatic fashion, getting by Jeff Gordon on the final lap in Fort Worth, a move that’s becoming a trend this season. It was the third last-lap pass by a winner this year, joining Brad Keselowski at Las Vegas and Kyle Busch at California.

Darlington has been relatively unpredictable lately. The track has seen a run of eight consecutive different winners, with Matt Kenseth winning last season, but what’s truly been tough to predict is where the winner will come from. No driver has won from pole here since Dale Jarrett in 1997, while two drivers have won from the 37th starting position since then.

Denny Hamlin is among the drivers to beat at Darlington. His 5.4 career average finish here is the best all-time, as well as his best at any Cup track. He’s also finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight career starts. He’s finished second at Darlington in each of the past two seasons.

A pair of Hendrick drivers could also challenge for the victory. Jeff Gordon, who leads the standings for the 1st time since 2009, is one of those drivers, with seven career Cup wins at Darlington, the third-most all-time behind David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (9). A usual suspect, Jimmie Johnson, is the other, with 11 top-10 finishes in 15 Cup starts at Darlington.

Value of 1st race to Chase is significant

September, 16, 2013

John Harrelson/Getty ImagesMatt Kenseth won the Geico 400 at Chicago Sunday night, his sixth Sprint Cup win of the season.
How important was Sunday’s Chase opener in Chicago in previewing the whole Chase?

For Matt Kenseth – A Win at Chicago Bodes Well for a Title
This is the third time that there’s been a Chase race at Chicago.

All three times it’s been the Chase opener.

In each of the previous two years, the driver who won the Chicago race went on to win the title.

In the previous seven Chases, the opener was held at New Hampshire, and only one of the seven winners went on to win the title: Kurt Busch in 2004.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick
Should Feel Good Too

The top six finishers Sunday were all Chasers. In seven of the previous nine Chase openers, the eventual Chase champion finished in the top six.

The only driver to recover from a finish outside the top six in the opener to win a Chase championship was Johnson, who did so in 2006 and 2010.

It Doesn’t Look Good for Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Joey Logano
NASCAR’s most popular driver and the driver with the chance to become the youngest Cup Series champion both struggled, finishing 35th (Earnhardt Jr.) and 37th (Logano) after having engine issues.

Both are more than 50 points off the lead.

Since the Chase field expanded from 10 drivers for the 2007 season, the six Chase champions have a combined one finish outside the top 25 in 60 combined races.

That was a 38th-place finish by Jimmie Johnson at Texas in 2009, a race he entered with a lead bigger than the amount of points a driver could make up in a single race.

In fact, no Chase champion has had more than one finish outside the top 20 since the field expanded from 10.