Stats & Info: Sprint Cup

Johnson and Busch likely to lead at Dover

May, 31, 2014
May 31
6:04
PM ET
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Dover. 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-mile oval) and time of year.

No. 48 is a front-runner at Dover
Jimmie Johnson broke into the win column last week at Charlotte, and he could be primed for another win at Dover. He’s won a Cup Series-record eight times at Dover after winning last fall’s Chase race, breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. In the last 10 races at Dover, Johnson has led more than half of the laps run and more than 1,300 more than any other driver.

Busch seeks a Dover sweep
Kyle Busch has won the first two NASCAR events at Dover this weekend and will try to complete the sweep on Sunday. He is the only driver to win all three National Touring Series in the same weekend (Bristol in August 2010). Busch should have a very strong car, and had it not been for mediocre showings in the last two practices (22nd and 15th) he would have overtaken Johnson in the projections. It’s splitting hairs between these two cars, as both should be out front most of the day.

Gordon atop points leaderboard
Jeff Gordon continues to lead the traditional points after a seventh-place finish at Charlotte - the sixth straight race he’s led in points. Since winning his last championship in 2001, this is tied for the second-longest span he’s topped the points leaderboard, behind only a 21-race streak in 2007.

Variety of winners
For the first time in the Chase era we’ve had 10 different winners in the 12 races. After 26 races (Dover is the halfway point before the Chase), the top 16 drivers in wins will make up the Chase field. Among the drivers who have yet to win is Matt Kenseth, who led the series with seven wins last season and currently sits second in points.

Biffle streak alive
Although he’s sitting outside the top 10 in points, Greg Biffle could have a record-breaking weekend at Dover by just finishing the race. Biffle has been running at the finish of 84 consecutive races, tying the Cup Series record for most consecutive starts without a DNF, set by Herman Beam from 1961-63.

Harvick projected to win at Charlotte

May, 24, 2014
May 24
6:40
PM ET
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. 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 1.5-mile Quad-Oval) and time of year.

• Projected winner Kevin Harvick has won two of the last three Coca-Cola 600s. Harvick’s projection is influenced heavily by his past history in this race as his car appears to be top-five capable, but not quite elite - he qualified sixth and finished sixth in the final practice.

• Kurt Busch will attempt to become the fourth driver to start both the Indianapolis 500 and the 600-mile race at Charlotte in the same day. John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart have done it before, but only Tony Stewart in 2001 completed all 1,100 miles. It’s important for Busch to make it to Charlotte in time for the start of the race because only the driver who starts a Sprint Cup race receives points for the race.

• Jimmie Johnson is still looking for his first win of the season, and on the surface, Charlotte looks like a good site for that to happen. He’s tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for the most career wins there with six. However, Johnson has just one win in the last 16 Charlotte races, after winning five of the previous six.

• Jeff Gordon leads the points, but it was his win two weeks ago at Kansas that all but locked in his Chase berth. But don’t expect an encore this week, as drivers this season have a 21.6 average finish in the next race following a win, with more DNF’s (three) than top-10 finishes (two).

• In the last points race at Kansas, Danica Patrick finished a career-best seventh, the best Cup finish by a woman since Janet Guthrie finished sixth at Bristol in 1977. However, Patrick has averaged a 32nd-place finish in the races following her previous three best finishes. After her 8th-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500, her only other career top 10, she was 39th the following week at Phoenix after being in a wreck.

Kyle Busch projected to win at Darlington

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
6:27
PM ET
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.

Expect another different winner at Texas

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
7:18
PM ET
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Texas. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, prerace 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 1.5-mile quad-oval) and time of year.

Expect another different winner
There have been six different winners in each of the Sprint Cup Series races this season -- the first time that’s happened in the Chase era. Only four times in Cup Series history has a season started with seven different winners in a row, most recently in 2003 (nine straight). Our projections this week anticipate that trend continuing, with Greg Biffle picking up his first win of the year.

Expect No. 48 to finish well
Jimmie Johnson, the projected winner in each of the past two races, led more than half the laps in each race but came away winless both times. He had a flat tire while leading inside the final 10 laps at California and was passed for the lead with 11 laps to go at Martinsville but should be good again this week, as he’s won two of the past three races at Texas.

Busch eye smaller gap between wins
Last week at Martinsville, Kurt Busch passed Jimmie Johnson late to pick up his first win since October 2011, snapping an 83-race winless streak. Between his past two NSCS wins, Busch drove for four different teams, starting with Team Penske and finishing up at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Can Junior stay hot?
In six races this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has four top-3 finishes, including a third-place finish last week at Martinsville. In his first five years with Hendrick Motorsports (2008-12), he never had more than five top-3 finishes in a season. Last year he had seven but was held winless.

Make it a weekend
The spring Texas race has been held on Saturday nights in recent years, but instead of competing with the Final Four in Arlington, the track is offering fans a combination ticket package, including tickets to the race, along with Saturday and Monday’s NCAA men’s semifinal and championship games.

Keselowski cools off after hot start

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
11:52
AM ET
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesBrad Keselowski has struggled after winning the 2012 NSCS points title.
Maybe Brad Keselowski has a championship hangover. With six races to go before the Chase for the Cup, Keselowski is 13th in points and has only two top-five finishes in the past 16 races.

Hot Start

Keselowski finished fourth or better in his first four races, becoming the first Sprint Cup driver to do so since Dale Earnhardt in 1995.

The defending Sprint Cup Series champion was the first NSCS driver to start a season with four consecutive top-five finishes since Jimmie Johnson in 2005. That hot start might have been a harbinger of Keselowski’s later struggles as each of the previous five drivers to achieve that failed to win the Cup that season.

In early March, Keselowski looked in line to duplicate the success of Jimmie Johnson in 2007, when he repeated as champion after winning his first NSCS title in 2006. Before Johnson, no driver had finished higher than sixth in the season after winning his first championship since 2000. Now, Keselowski would be happy to be in the top 10 in points.

Cooling off

Among drivers to run a full season the year after winning a championship, no driver has finished worse than 12th in points the year after winning a title. A full season is classified as one in which the defending champion ran in at least 75 percent of the races. Keselowski is currently in 13th.

Keselowski has failed to win any of his 20 races this season. No defending series champion has gone this far into a season without a win since Jeff Gordon got his first win in the 24th race in 2002.

In the last 20 seasons, the most races a defending champion went into a season before recording a win was Terry Labonte in 1997 (29 races).

Despite not winning any races this season, only Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart have more wins since the start of 2011 than Keselowski.

For this season, he just hopes to avoid being the second driver since the Chase for the Cup began in 2004 to miss the Chase the following season (Tony Stewart, 2006).

Four storylines as Sprint Cup season begins

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
1:30
PM ET

AP Photo/Terry RennaDanica Patrick became the first woman to win the pole in a Cup Series race.
The Daytona 500 will usher in the start of the Sprint Cup season Sunday, with several storylines taking center stage. Here's a look at a few notable drivers and key stats for them heading into the Cup season:

BRAD KESELOWSKI
Miguel Cabrera
Keselowski
Brad Keselowski looks to defend his Cup championship, but it will not be an easy road. Since 2000, only one first-time Cup champion has gone on to win the Cup the very next season (Jimmie Johnson). Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte all attempted it in that span, but none finished in the top five of the standings the following season.

Keselowski performed at his best last season at just the right time, posting an average finish of 6.1 in his final 12 starts. That was three positions better than any other driver in that span.

DANICA PATRICK
Danica Patrick
Patrick
Danica Patrick will be competing in her first full season in the Cup series, and although there will likely be a learning curve, she's gotten off to a nice start by claiming the Daytona 500 pole. She’s the first woman to win a Cup pole and she'll seek to become the first Daytona 500 pole winner to win the event since 2000 (Dale Jarrett).

Patrick had a trying 2012 season but did show improvement down the stretch. In her final two starts, she completed 99.8 percent of laps run, compared to just 90.2 percent in her first eight starts. Patrick (10) will likely break the record for the most Cup starts by a woman this season, a mark currently held by Janet Guthrie. Guthrie had 33 starts between 1976 and 1980.

JIMMIE JOHNSON
Jimmie Johnson
Johnson
Jimmie Johnson will be making his 400th Cup start at Daytona, and could certainly be considered the favorite to win the championship this season. Although he came up just short last year, he was a factor until the very end and it is easy to see why.

His five wins were tied for the most in the Cup series, and he also led all drivers in top fives, top tens and laps led last season. If he were to win his sixth Cup championship in 2013, he would be just one shy of the record held by both Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Miguel Cabrera
Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a resurgent 2012, even leading the Cup standings during the summer for the first time since 2004. He was sidelined during part of the Chase while recovering from a concussion, but his overall season was stronger than both his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. The key? Earnhardt Jr. put himself in better contention for wins.

In 2012, he had an average running position of 11.6 (an average of a driver’s position on every lap), compared to 16.1 in 2011 and 18.9 in 2010.

Wrecks may keep Patrick out of victory lane

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
3:34
PM ET

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images/NASCARDanica Patrick looks to become the first pole-sitter to win the Daytona 500 since 2000.
The green flag drops on the 55th-annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, officially kicking off the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Last year, Matt Kenseth waited out multiple delays to win his second-career Daytona 500. He’ll start this season with a new team, Joe Gibbs Racing, and will try to become just the fourth driver to ever win back-to-back Daytona 500s and the first since Sterling Marlin in 1994 and 1995.

Jimmie Johnson
Kenseth
Despite Kenseth’s bid to repeat, much of the talk about this season’s “Great American Race” has revolved around pole-sitter Danica Patrick. Patrick is looking to become the first woman to finish in the top 10 at the Daytona 500 and she’s off to a good start. Earlier this week, she became the first woman to ever win an NSCS pole and did so with an average speed of 196.434 mph.

Her qualifying lap was the third-fastest at the Daytona 500 since NASCAR instituted restrictor plates in 1998--only Darrell Waltrip in 1989 (196.996) and Derrike Cope in 1990 (196.515) were faster--and that may be partly due to the new car being used in NASCAR this season. The streamlined "Gen-6" model is 160 pounds lighter than its predecessor with identical horsepower (850 hp at 9,000 rpm).

POLE PROBLEMS
Unfortunately for Patrick, however, earning the pole at Daytona has not led to success in the ensuing race recently. No pole-sitter has won a Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway since 2010 and no pole-sitter has won the Daytona 500 since Dale Jarrett in 2000. One reason for the trouble? Pole-sitters haven’t been able to avoid wrecking.

The pole-sitter has been part of a wreck in each of the last four races held at Daytona, the longest active Cup streak at any track. At the Daytona 500 specifically, wrecks have been most prevalent towards the end of the race.

There have been 48 wrecks in the final quarter of Daytona 500s since 1990, nearly as many as the first three quarters combined (55). There were three wrecks involving 19 cars in the final 25 laps of last season’s race.

DODGE FAREWELL
Dodge will not have a car in the Daytona 500 despite winning a championship last season with Brad Keselowski. Since 2007, Dodge engines reported failures just once every 101.8 Sprint Cup entries, the highest rate among all manufacturers. It's been a while since NASCAR has been without a Dodge presence as Sunday’s Daytona 500 will mark the first Cup season to begin without a Dodge entry since 2000.

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