Stats & Info: Mark Martin
November, 13, 2013
By Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix last Sunday to stay mathematically alive for a Sprint Cup title.
Harvick has the best career numbers at Homestead among the three drivers still in championship contention (Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth). His 7.9 average finish at the track is the second-best mark there all-time among drivers with multiple starts, trailing only Carl Edwards.
To compare, championship leader Jimmie Johnson has a 15.3 career average finish at the track, and Matt Kenseth has a 17.6.
A title seems out of reach for Harvick, as Johnson needs to finish 32nd or better to mathematically eliminate Harvick. But a top-five points finish seems like a safe bet, given that Harvick has a 46-point cushion over sixth place entering the weekend.
Sunday's race could very well be Mark Martin’s final Sprint Cup Series race. Martin, despite 40 Cup Series wins and five runner-up finishes in points, never won a Cup championship. Harvick is quickly joining him on the list of the most-accomplished drivers to never win a title.
If Harvick finishes in the top five in points, it would be the sixth time in his career that he has done so, including three times in the past four seasons after finishing third in both 2010 and 2011. He would become the fourth driver in Cup Series history, dating back to 1949, to finish in the top five in points at least six times without ever winning a title.
What the other three have done that Harvick has yet to do is finish runner-up in points. However, Harvick could change that by gaining at least seven points on Kenseth at Homestead.
Harvick has some big wins on his resume. Besides being a two-time Nationwide Series champion, he also won the 2003 Brickyard 400 and the 2007 Daytona 500 in a thrilling side-by-side finish with Mark Martin.
Overall, Harvick has 23 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, making him one of eight drivers to win that many Cup races without ever having won a championship. Among the other drivers on the list are Martin once again, and Kyle Busch, who is fourth in points this season but mathematically eliminated from title contention.
What makes Harvick’s performance noteworthy this season is he and his team have been doing it with the knowledge that this is Harvick’s final season with Richard Childress Racing, as he made the decision to move to Stewart-Haas Racing starting in 2014.
Harvick will then try to replicate Kenseth’s performance this season, his first with Joe Gibbs Racing. But history won’t be on his side, as only one driver in the modern era (since 1972) has won a championship in his first season with a team: Darrell Waltrip in 1981 driving for Junior Johnson.
April, 4, 2013
By Tom McKean & Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Jerry Markland/Getty ImagesDenny Hamlin will be sidelined at least 6 weeks because of a compression fracture in his lower back.Martinsville Speedway will be missing one of its most dominant drivers this weekend, as Denny Hamlin recovers from a compression fracture suffered in a wreck at California on the final lap.
Hamlin could miss five races with the injury, and Mark Martin will be in his No. 11 machine at Martinsville.
Hamlin has been one of the most successful drivers in Cup, especially over the past couple of seasons. Since the start of 2010, no driver has more than his 14 Cup wins.
He’s also been relatively consistent. Entering this season, Hamlin has a streak of seven straight years with a Cup win.
There haven't been many recent examples of Cup drivers missing time due to an injury suffered on the track, but two of the most notable include Dale Earnhardt Jr. last fall due to a concussion and Sterling Marlin in 2002 with neck injuries after a wreck at Kansas.
Marlin was in the midst of a strong season, and was in realistic contention for the championship at the time.
It’s early in the season, but potentially missing five Cup starts would make it very difficult to make the Chase. In that scenario, the most realistic route would be to remain in the top 20 in points and take one of the two Wild Card positions for the most wins by a driver 11-20th in points.
Why is a top-10 position in the standings unrealistic?
In the current points system (since 2011), it’s taken an average of 795.5 points to get 10th in points after 26 races.
Hamlin has already run five races and earned 145 points. If he misses the next five, he has 16 races left to pick up 650.5 points (40.7 per race, or between a 3rd- and 4th-place finish on average).
As for 20th, that is significantly more realistic. He needs to average about 32 points per start, or a 12th-place finish in those 16 races.
It’s an especially difficult stretch for Hamlin to miss, as three of the next five tracks on the schedule are among Hamlin’s most successful venues, as you can see in the table.
What’s more, his 4.2 average finish in spring races at Martinsville since 2007 is the best in Cup.
February, 26, 2012
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com
Jason Smith/Getty ImagesMark Martin hopes to take home his first win at the Daytona 500
Martin will be making his 28th Daytona 500 start on Sunday, rolling off from the 22nd starting spot. But for all Martin’s accomplished in his career, he’s never won a Daytona 500.
When you think Martin and the Daytona 500, you have to think of 2007, when he lost by the slimmest of margins to Kevin Harvick, as cars wildly spun behind him. But the heartbreak goes deeper than that.
Martin is tied for the fourth-most Daytona 500 starts without a win. Only Dave Marcis, Terry Labonte and Ricky Rudd have made more 500 starts without a victory.
The problems go deeper than just in the 500. Martin’s actually never won a Cup points race at Daytona, going 0-for-53.
However, he has seen Victory Lane at Daytona before, winning a Trucks race in 2006, the 1999 Budweiser Shootout and two IROC races.
It’s easier, and probably very apt, to compare Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona record.
Those two have the most wins at Daytona, Stewart’s Gatorade Duel win on Thursday gave him 17, and only Dale Earnhardt has more with 34.
Sunday will be Stewart’s 14th attempt at the Great American Race. Dale Earnhardt won in his 20th Daytona 500 start, the most 500 starts a driver has ever made before winning it for the first time.
Kurt Busch enters the season with a lot of questions, but while the main questions have been about the level of success he can have with Phoenix Racing and whether he can hook up with one of the power teams for next season, for this week at least, you can add in “Will he ever win a Daytona 500?”
Last year, Busch got his first wins at Daytona by taking the Shootout and his Duel, but he again came up just short in the 500, getting his fifth top-five finish in 11 career starts.
Three of those top fives have been runner up finishes, coming home second to Michael Waltrip in 2003, Jeff Gordon in 2005 and then-teammate Ryan Newman in 2008.
In Daytona 500 history, only two drivers have finished second in the Daytona 500 more than Busch, Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough. Although both of them also won the 500.
At least Busch has company in his misery, as he and Terry Labonte are the only drivers with three Daytona 500 runner-up finishes without a win.