Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Our Storylines of 2018, Revisited

In November 2017, this space revisited its topics from the entirety of the NASCAR season up to that point, analyzing particularly some of the guesswork and predictions and seeing if any of them held true, if records were broken and so on.

Well, it’s November, and if it ain’t broke, don’t write the 100th story about Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.‘s Martinsville Speedway battle, I say.

Here are the columns from 2018, written by Frontstretch staffers Kevin Rutherford, Drew Mongiello, Johnny Thomas, Wesley Coburn and Zach Gillispie, that could do with some revisiting here at the end of the season.

3 for 3, 3 Races In (March 2): As of Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, the third overall in 2018, the No. 51 had fielded three different drivers: Justin Marks, Harrison Rhodes and Cole Custer. And the car, generally fielded by Rick Ware Racing, continued its rotating cast of competitors throughout the rest of the year; as of this writing, Joey Gase will become the 14th different driver to run the number this season, with two races left in the season after this to potentially add to that total. Naturally, there’s currently no word on RWR’s driver lineup for 2019.

The West Coast Swing, Can It Predict the Future? (March 9): This one posited the idea that those who perform well on the Cup Series’ early-season West Coast Swing are likely to be in contention by season’s end, too. Sure enough, each of the winners in those races — Kevin Harvick and Truex — remain possibilities for the championship come Homestead-Miami Speedway entering Texas Motor Speedway this weekend and will certainly finish no worse than eighth in points, thereby continuing the trend.

Can 2018 Beat 2004 (In Cup Debuts, That Is)? (March 22): Easy answer here: no. As of late March, Cup had seen four different drivers — William Byron, Rhodes, Custer and Daniel Hemric (announced a two-race deal at Richmond and the ROVAL)– make their series debuts. That number has more than doubled since to nine, but unless ISM Raceway and Homestead sees a glut of newcomers, it’s unlikely the number will jump to 2004’s mark of 16. It’s probably not even going to reach 2007’s number, 13. That’s kind of interesting considering that in 2017 the series had only two first-timers by the point this year had four, but it is what it is. It should be noted, however, that the XFINITY Series’ mark of debuts in 2017 (20) has already been equaled by the series in 2018; the largest recent count is 25 (2014 and 2015). The Camping World Truck Series has also exceeded its 2017 amount (currently 29 to last year’s 19) and could even top 2016’s amount of 30.

10 Longest Streaks Between Cup Wins (March 29): Changes slightly thanks to Aric Almirola‘s Talladega Superspeedway win that snapped a 149-race losing streak. That puts him eighth and knocks Dave Marcis out of the top 10.

Who Takes Advantage of the Easter Weekend Break? (April 5): Kyle Busch won three straight races out of the break, so, uh, him. Definitely him. Additional shoutouts to Harvick (4.5 average finish in the four post-break races, finished no worse than seventh) and Logano (fifth-place average, one win). Meanwhile, Reed Sorenson (34.5 average) and Michael McDowell (28.75) were just plain bad, and Truex (26.75) wasn’t much better.

Roush Fenway Racing’s 7-Race Struggle (April 12): LOL.

10 Numbers With the Longest Streaks Out of the Cup Series (April 19): No changes. Please, please, someone run one of these next year. Preferably the one at the bottom. Yeah, that’s it.

Kyle Busch & the 4-Race Cup Winning Streak (April 26): Winning four in a row was not meant to be for Busch, who ceded the win at Talladega to Logano. Still, a three-race streak is nothing to sneeze at, and unless Logano wins each of the final three races, it won’t be bested this year (though it was equaled by both Harvick and Brad Keselowski).

10 Winners, 10 Races (May 10): The XFINITY Series wasn’t able to keep up this trend past 10, as Keselowski scored his second win of the season in the 11th race. Still, it’s been a season of at least some variety in XFINITY this year; entering Texas, 15 different drivers have won at least one race. The number was 18 last year, though, so unless three different new winners take the checkered flag to close the season, it’s a slight step back despite the variety of the season’s first 10 races.

Kevin Harvick & the Quest for 10 (At Least!) Wins (May 14): Harvick has cooled off a bit since May; he has seven wins entering Texas, the same amount as Busch. We’re not getting a driver with 10 wins this season unless one of those two wins the final three races.

Drivers Who Have Won at the Most Tracks, 2018 Edition (June 7): Busch didn’t win the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, but he still leads the pack with 23 different configurations currently on the series schedule.

The Best at Each Cup Track (Without a Win) (June 14): A little statistical work would need to be done here to confirm driver averages and such, but Chase Elliott has officially won at Dover International Speedway, so that one’s out the window, as is Logano at Martinsville.

Who Has the Most Poles Among Active Drivers (July 5): Ryan Newman isn’t not going to have this distinction until he retires.

Erik Jones’ Path from Here (July 13): No additional wins for Erik Jones yet, but give it time.

One-Off Team Wins (July 19): None to speak of since ThorSport Racing’s No. 27 rolled into Victory Lane at Eldora Speedway.

Meet the Canadians on the NASCAR National Circuit (July 26): Two additions: Alex Tagliani and Jason White, who both competed in the Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, giving us seven Canadians on the national circuit thus far this year.

Most NASCAR Cup Series Starts, Active Drivers (Aug. 2): No changes here except for increases in start counts. Matt Kenseth is, however, now just four starts from Joe Nemechek‘s mark of 667.

All Right, Chase Elliott Won — Who’s Next? (Aug. 9): No one, barring any first-time winners in the final three races.

5 Drivers Who Could Take Over for Kasey Kahne at Leavine Family Racing (Aug. 16): None of those listed; Matt DiBenedetto got the job. Oops.

Who’s Most Likely to Progress Out of the Cup Playoffs’ First Round? (Sept. 13): Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Jones were unable to do so. Two (Dillon and Hamlin) were listed as “in trouble” in the column, while Jones was a “wild card” and Johnson was “probably moving on.” Two or three out of four, depending on your interpretation, ain’t bad, and at least none of them were in the “definitely moving on” category.

Other Drivers Who Have Come Out of Retirement to Race Again (Sept. 20): None since Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has already said that he’s eyeing a run next year during Darlington Raceway’s throwback weekend.

5 K&N or ARCA Drivers Who Could (Or Should!) Make Their National Series Debuts This Year (Oct. 18): Nothing from the listed drivers just yet, but ISM is definitely a possibility for a few; stay tuned.

About the author


Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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