Crunching numbers after Atlanta

March, 9, 2009

I'll admit it, I miss the IROC Series.

Especially when watching the World Baseball Classic, I pine for the days where the finest of assorted series would get together and run identical cars for reasons of pride … and that prize money wasn't bad either. Would you root for your favorite driver? Or the driver in your favorite-colored car?

Those days are gone. Luckily, many of the top drivers in the world now drive in the Sprint Cup Series week after week. I bring this up not only for my reflection during the WBC, but because it leads me to our first trivia break, a little earlier than normal this week.

Trivia break! The last IROC race run was at Atlanta. Who came out on top?

O brother, where art thou?

Kyle Busch knew where his brother was on Sunday afternoon, celebrating in Victory Lane with the Blue Deuce. The week before, Kurt Busch could spot his brother with the showgirls in Victory Lane in Las Vegas.

It's the fourth time the Busch brothers have won back-to-back races, setting a Cup Series record previously held by Tim and Fonty Flock. I had to hop in the Way-Back Machine to figure that one out.

Some notable brother combinations never won back-to-back -- the Waltrips and Wallaces each had one brother who did more than his fair share of the family winning.

The Flocks, however, did set a record that might never be broken. In 1952, three different Flock brothers -- add in Bob to Tim and Fonty -- won three consecutive Cup Series races.

The most times that brothers have won back-to-back in Cup Series history:

Brothers -- Number of times won back-to-back -- Last done
Kurt and Kyle Busch -- 4 -- 2009
Tim and Fonty Flock -- 3 -- 1956
Terry and Bobby Labonte -- 2 -- 1995
Bobby and Donnie Allison -- 2 -- 1978
Tim and Bob Flock -- 2 -- 1952
Herb and Donald Thomas -- 2 -- 1952
Brett and Geoffrey Bodine -- 1 -- 1990
Bob and Fonty Flock -- 1 -- 1952

Trivia break! Among brothers who have each won Cup Series races, which brother combination has won the most?

Laying down a hot lap

There was no doubting that Kurt Busch's No. 2 was the fastest car on the track Sunday. Even though Jeff Gordon did pass him for the lead, Busch would take it right back and then drive away from the field.

Busch ran the fastest lap among the 43 competitors on more than 30 percent of the laps Sunday. That's the most often anybody's ever been the fastest on individual laps in a race this season.

He was also the first driver this season to be the fastest most often and go on to take the checkered. I also assume he was the first driver to take a victory lap in reverse this season. I just took a lap around the Research Room here going backward, and people seemed annoyed with me.

The highest percentage of fastest laps run this season:

Track -- Driver -- Percentage of laps -- Finish
Atlanta -- Kurt Busch -- 30.3 -- first
Las Vegas -- Greg Biffle -- 19.8 -- seventh
California -- Greg Biffle -- 22.8 -- fourth
Daytona -- Michael Waltrip -- 9.2 -- seventh

Trivia break! Kurt Busch ran the fastest lap most often on Sunday. But for the four races this season, who's run the most fastest laps?

It's a marathon … and a sprint

Mark Martin got trapped a lap down early on at Atlanta, but he raced his way back onto the lead lap, actually pulling away from the race leader.

However, the optimism was short-lived as a flat tire and crash ended any chance of Martin getting back to Victory Lane.

It was the third straight race in which misfortune smiled on Martin -- blown engines ended his past two races early. Martin now finds himself 34th in points and flirting with the top 35 rule, which will start reflecting this season's standings after the next race, at Bristol.

No driver has ever come from that far back in the points to make the Chase after four races, but Matt Kenseth wasn't much further back in 2005.

The drivers furthest back in points after four races to make the Chase:

Year -- Driver -- Points
2005 -- Matt Kenseth -- 31st
2006 -- Kevin Harvick -- 23rd
2007 -- Martin Truex Jr. -- 22nd
2005 -- Jeremy Mayfield -- 21st
2007 -- Kurt Busch -- 20th
2006 -- Denny Hamlin -- 20th

And you can't lock yourself into the Chase field this early on, but you might be able to pencil your name in after Bristol. Over the past three seasons, the drivers in the top five in points after the fifth race of the season all went on to make the Chase.

In fact, the top five did it last year, the top six did it in 2007, and the top seven made it in 2006. In 2004 and 2005, the top four all advanced to the Chase, so getting off to a good start is important.

Trivia break! Who is the only points leader after four (not five) races to not go on to make the Chase?

Trivia break results

1. The last IROC race, run at Atlanta in 2006, was won by Martin Truex Jr. Truex had a great top-10 run Sunday after spending Saturday night in the hospital with a kidney stone. Ouch.

2. Richard and Maurice Petty combined for 200 wins, but all of them came from Richard. Among brothers who both won races, the Allisons -- Bobby (84) and Donnie (10) -- take the cake. They have a six-win edge over Darrell (84) and Michael Waltrip (four).

3. Points leader Jeff Gordon has been the fastest on 100 of the 785 laps run this year, six more than Sunday's winner, Kurt Busch, and 10 more than Greg Biffle.

4. Two seasons ago, Mark Martin, now 34th in points, took Bristol off after leading after four races. Martin, not running full-time then, failed to make the Chase.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.



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