That’s Matt Kenseth’s driver rating at Bristol, best among all active Cup Series drivers. This number is significant in that Kenseth does not have a win in 2017, and this weekend’s race might be his best shot. He’s currently got a playoff spot on points, but a win would add some needed insurance.
What, exactly, does driver rating mean? It’s derived from a combination of wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed while under the green flag, fastest lap, laps led and lead-lap finish. A driver can have a maximum driver rating for any race, but in general, any time a driver has a driver rating over 100 at a track, he’s consistently displayed excellence on that circuit. So, while Kenseth might not have as many wins at Bristol as Kurt and Kyle Busch do, he’s overall the most likely to have a great run based on his history.
Speaking of the Busch brothers’ Bristol win totals, at five apiece they lead current drivers. However, put together they don’t match Darrell Waltrip’s Bristol total of an even dozen, best of any driver to race in Thunder Valley. At one point, he won more races at the half-mile in a row than any active diver has won there in an entire career when he reeled off a string of seven straight in 1981 – 1984.
Most fans know Waltrip as the voice in the booth during FOX race broadcasts, but he’s also one of the finest drivers ever to climb into a stock car and Bristol was his personal playground. Never mind that he failed to finish both his first and final races at Bristol; in between he was formidable. His average finish of 11.3 is tainted by the poor equipment he had late in his career, but despite those races, he won nearly a quarter of his starts at the track.
If Waltrip was the king of wins at BMS, Cale Yarborough ruled the roost when it came to leading laps. The active laps-led leader, Kyle Busch is over circuits laps behind Yarborough’s number, making the deficit more laps than Busch has actually led. Yarborough also won at Bristol nine times in his Hall of Fame career, more than any active driver.
Between them, Yarborough and Waltrip brought car owner Junior Johnson 15 of the owner’s 16 wins at the Bristol bullring (Johnson won the other himself). Yarborough’s final two wins for Johnson came just before Waltrip’s seven in a row, making the car owner’s win streak an almost unbelievable nine in a row.
Have you counted Joey Logano out of the playoff picture this year? Not so fast. With 123 points earned on short tracks in 2017, Logano leads the Cup Series in points earned on the series’ three short tracks. Overall point leader Martin Truex Jr. is next with 114 and Jimmie Johnson has 112, good for third. Logano’s nine-point gap is a fairly significant one for just four races so far. His two wins in the last three fall races at Bristol is also a good reason to keep Logano on the radar this weekend.
This one comes with an “ouch,” because it represents the number of Cup Series races since Derrike Cope’s last win at Dover in June, 1990. Cope has attempted 417 races since that day and fallen short in all of them. It’s also been 470 total races since Cope last led a lap, at Indianapolis in 2004. There was a time that a win in one of the sport’s biggest races did guarantee a driver a ride for life. Cope has certainly capitalized on his 1990 Daytona 500 victory, still hanging round the series in a part-time ride with Premium Motorsports.
About the author
Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
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