After a multi-year hiatus, Stat Sheet is back as weekly column for NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season in 2023.
But before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and all attention turns toward the countdown to the Clash at the Coliseum and the Daytona 500 in February, it’s time to take a look at the most intriguing statistics of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
- The Next Gen car provided the Cup Series with 19 winners in 2022, which tied the all-time record for most winners in a season. Previously, 19 winners was most recently accomplished in 2001.
- No one led more than 1,000 laps all season, as Chase Elliott led the way with 857. That makes 2022 the first year since the beginning of the series’ modern era in 1972 when no one hit quadruple digits. The previous low came in the 2002 season, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the way with 1,068 circuits out front. The last time no one led more than 1,000 was 1960, a year when lap-leader breakdowns are not available for every race.
- Elliott led all full-time drivers with an average finish of 12.5, a new low in the modern era. Last season once again beat out 2002, when the best average finish was 12.2 by Mark Martin.
- 2022 produced five first-time winners (Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick), the first such season since 2011.
- By winning at Phoenix Raceway, Briscoe became the 200th driver to score a Cup win.
- With a win in the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, Kyle Busch tied Richard Petty’s record of 18 consecutive winning seasons. Busch will have a chance to stand alone with 19 straight in 2023.
- Busch and Kevin Harvick became the ninth and 10th drivers, respectively, to score 60 Cup wins. Of the 10 drivers to reach 60, four of them (Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Harvick) won 59 and 60 in back-to-back races.
- Kurt Busch and Harvick became the seventh and eighth drivers, respectively, to win a Cup race more than 20 years after their maiden triumph.
|Driver||First Win||Last/Most Recent Win||Timespan|
|Richard Petty||Feb. 28, 1960||July 4, 1984||24 years, 158 days|
|Terry Labonte||Sept. 1, 1980||Aug. 31, 2003||22 years, 364 days|
|Bobby Allison||July 12, 1966||Feb. 14, 1988||21 years, 217 days|
|Dale Earnhardt||April 1, 1979||Oct. 15, 2000||21 years, 197 days|
|Jeff Gordon||May 29, 1994||Nov. 1, 2015||21 years, 156 days|
|Kevin Harvick||March 11, 2001||Aug. 14, 2022||21 years, 156 days|
|Cale Yarborough||June 27, 1965||Oct. 6, 1985||20 years, 101 days|
|Kurt Busch||March 24, 2002||May 15, 2022||20 years, 52 days|
Familiar places, different faces
- Seventeen of the 36 races were won by drivers with less than five career wins, the largest such number in the 21st century.
- Chastain (two wins) and Christopher Bell (four) had the fewest career wins of any Championship 4 driver since Martin Truex Jr. in 2015 (three).
- Joey Logano in 2014 (eight) and Elliott in 2020 (10) are the only other drivers to enter the Championship 4 with 10 career wins or less.
- Chastain made the Championship 4 after finishing 20th in points in 2021. He joins Truex in 2015 (24th in 2014) as the only driver to go from 20th or worse in points to a Championship 4 appearance in the following year after competing in every race.
Close but no cigar
- Denny Hamlin at Pocono Raceway was the first driver to be disqualified from a Cup win in the modern era. In the same race, Elliott became the first driver in that era to win a Cup race while leading zero laps.
- Drivers who led the most laps only won 13 of the 36 Cup races in 2022.
- Despite a record-tying number of Cup winners, Ryan Blaney (636 laps led) and Truex (572) were not among them.
- Blaney and Truex led the ninth-most and 11th-most laps of winless seasons in the modern era.
- And in addition to going winless, Truex became the second driver one year removed from a Championship 4 appearance to miss the playoffs entirely, joining Logano in 2017.
- Gordon in 2015 and Carl Edwards in 2016 are both exceptions, as they both retired from full-time competition following the event.
|Driver/Winless Season||Laps Led|
|Harry Gant 1981||1,169|
|Jeff Gordon 2010||919|
|Kyle Larson 2018||782|
|Mark Martin 1996||702|
|Kasey Kahne 2004||692|
|Geoff Bodine 1985||692|
|Harry Gant 1986||646|
|Neil Bonnett 1984||641|
|Ryan Blaney 2022||636|
|Matt Kenseth 2008||604|
|Martin Truex Jr. 2022||572|
|Alan Kulwicki 1989||564|
|Chase Elliott 2017||560|
|Greg Biffle 2009||551|
|Jeff Burton 2010||539|
The drought is over
- With a win at Bristol Motor Speedway in September, Chris Buescher snapped a 222-race winless streak, the second-longest in Cup history.
- Erik Jones (109 races) and Austin Dillon (79) broke two-plus-season winless droughts along with Buescher.
- Suarez’s first win at Sonoma Raceway came in his 195th Cup start, the longest wait for a maiden victory since Michael McDowell‘s 2021 Daytona 500 triumph in his 358th start.
|Driver||Win That Began Drought||Win That Ended Drought||Races|
|Bill Elliott||Darlington, Sept. 4, 1994||Homestead, Nov. 11, 2001||226|
|Chris Buescher||Pocono, Aug. 1, 2016||Bristol, Sept. 17, 2022||222|
|Martin Truex Jr.||Dover, June 4, 2007||Sonoma, June 23, 2013||218|
|Clint Bowyer||Charlotte, Oct. 13, 2012||Martinsville, March 26, 2018||190|
|Jeff Burton||Phoenix, Oct. 28, 2001||Dover, Sept. 24, 2006||175|
- In Championship Weekend at Phoenix, all three polesitters (Zane Smith, Ty Gibbs and Logano) went on to lead the most laps, win the race and win the championship.
- The last time all three polesitters had won the race in the same weekend was Aug. 25-27, 2000, where Joe Ruttman at Chicago Motor Speedway (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), Harvick at Bristol (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and Rusty Wallace at Bristol (Cup) all won after starting first.
The 2023 season will kick off on Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The first points-paying race will be the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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