Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney Victory Droughts Loom Large

Did You Notice? … There’s a whole lot of really talented drivers who haven’t won a NASCAR Cup Series race lately?

Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have reminded us of how quickly the droughts can pile up these last two weeks. Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, ended his 54-race winless streak at Dover Motor Speedway while Hamlin, the three-time Daytona 500 winner, snapped his drought at 33 this past weekend at Kansas Speedway (May 7).

Hamlin’s victory leaves rookie Ty Gibbs as the lone current Toyota driver to go winless since Kansas last fall. But the sport’s other two manufacturers find themselves chock-full of top talent still fighting to earn another shot at victory lane.

Here’s some of the notable ongoing streaks among the sport’s full-time contingent.

Ryan Blaney (58 Races)

Blaney, of course, earned a $1 million bonus for winning the sport’s All-Star Race exhibition last May at Texas Motor Speedway. But that’s been it for a driver stuck on seven wins despite being consistently labeled one of NASCAR’s top young talents.

Let’s look at how that win total compares to other drivers who have entered the sport since Blaney’s first full-time year in 2016.

DriverFull-Time Cup SeasonWins
Chase Elliott8th18
Alex Bowman8th7
Ryan Blaney8th7
William Byron6th6
Christopher Bell4th5
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who puts Bowman, often labeled fourth on the totem pole at Hendrick Motorsports, on the same level as Blaney in terms of talent. But in some ways, Bowman’s track record is better than Blaney’s as he spent two of his full-time seasons in equipment incapable of winning, running underfunded programs struggling to simply finish inside the top 30.

Bowman has four wins in a season; Blaney’s never had more than three. Even his career-best points finish (sixth, 2020) edges out Blaney, who’s wound up seventh in the final standings three times.

There’s plenty of other promising talent ready to knock Blaney further back if he isn’t careful. Byron already has more poles (10) than Blaney’s nine and led more laps in a single season (746 in 2022) than anyone on this list besides Elliott.

Bell, meanwhile, has the Championship 4 appearance Blaney covets along with wins on three track types: dirt, road courses and short tracks. And let’s not forget Toyota teammate Tyler Reddick, who’s won four times within the last year and is well-positioned to lead the charge at 23XI Racing going forward.

It doesn’t help that Blaney has some of his roughest racetracks historically coming up: Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Don’t be surprised if this streak continues into at least July before a track like Atlanta Motor Speedway could offer some relief.

Ross Chastain (38 Races)

Chastain currently leads the Cup standings and will remain there after NASCAR Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer clarified Tuesday no fines or penalties will be assessed after his post-race confrontation with Noah Gragson.

See also
Tempers Flare Between Noah Gragson, Ross Chastain in One Hot Afternoon at Kansas

At first glance, it’s clear Chastain is building on his successful 2022 runner-up campaign with Trackhouse Racing. He’s got five top-five and six top-10 finishes through 12 starts, respectable numbers with an average finish (11.6) that’s 1.7 positions higher than last season. He’s also on pace to lead more laps (762) and post more lead-lap finishes and fewer DNFs.

Where Chastain is hurting right now is getting the benefit of the doubt from anyone inside the NASCAR garage area. In a cutthroat world where passing out front is difficult in the Next Gen car, even close friends are finding themselves making contact on the racetrack in order to win (See: Hamlin-Kyle Larson at Kansas, Blaney-Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway, each leaving both drivers coming up short).

The challenge for Chastain, especially if we approach another summer with the potential for 16+ winners, is to avoid the bump-and-run from half the field who wants to give it to him. It’s going to need to be a dominant performance, the type that has him well clear of the field, to ensure the No. 1 car reaches victory lane without, um, additional obstacles.

See also
Stat Sheet: How Many Times Has Someone Taken Issue with Ross Chastain?

Right now, you could also argue Trackhouse as a whole is a clear second-best in the Chevrolet camp behind a four-car HMS program on cruise control. You could even make a case for Richard Childress Racing, with Kyle Busch putting two wins on the board. Chastain has some great tracks like Charlotte up ahead that lean his way, but the competition from even within the Bowtie Brigade will be fierce.

Brad Keselowski (74 Races)

Keselowski is enduring the longest winless streak of his career, an assumed risk since moving over from Team Penske to become co-owner of RFK Racing with Jack Roush. Forget victory lane; his top-five finish total alone in 2022 declined to just one from 10 the year before.

The good news is, as I wrote about last week, things are looking up at RFK. Only Chastain and Ryan Preece have led more laps this year than Keselowski’s 115 without scoring a win. Sitting 10th in the standings, his No. 6 Ford has led nine of 12 events this season and was a serious contender for victory in all three pack races held thus far: the Daytona 500, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega.

Ford remains at a noted disadvantage on the sport’s intermediate tracks (only Joey Logano earned a top-10 finish among the Blue Ovals in Kansas). With that said, Keselowski’s RFK turnaround began with a seventh-place finish in September’s Southern 500 at Darlington. Don’t count him out there, at Charlotte or even World Wide Technology Raceway in the coming weeks.

Alex Bowman (38 Races)

Bowman won’t get a shot at fixing his streak anytime soon; the driver is sidelined for about a month after suffering a fractured vertebra during a sprint car crash.

Still, when he returns to the No. 48, Bowman will find himself a tier below his HMS counterparts as of late. Here’s the HMS win totals since Bowman’s last win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2022: Elliott 5, Larson 4, Byron 4, Bowman 0.

Clearly, there’s some catching up to do, although Bowman’s seat is plenty safe: he signed a contract extension earlier this year that puts him in the No. 48 Chevrolet through the end of 2026.

A.J. Allmendinger (31 Races)

Allmendinger is getting highlighted more because of the high expectations in his first full-time season running Cup with Kaulig Racing. After 11 wins in the last two-plus years running the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the ‘Dinger has struggled with the transition upward, failing to score a top-10 finish after a sixth in the season-opening Daytona 500.

What’s most surprising is he has more DNFs (three) than laps led (one), including a crash at the Circuit of the Americas track where he was in position to win on the final lap a year ago.

It leaves him in win-or-else mode already, sitting just four points ahead of younger teammate Justin Haley in the standings. That said, all it takes is one strong performance at Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International or even the Chicago Street Course to change the narrative of an otherwise disappointing season to date.

Other Notable Streaks: Austin Cindric (47 Races – Team Penske’s rookie Daytona 500 darling mired in a sophomore slump); Daniel Suarez (32 Races – Trackhouse sidekick fighting one-hit wonder vibes); Chase Briscoe (44 Races – Stewart-Haas Racing’s king of ‘should-haves, would-haves and could-haves’); Aric Almirola (62 Races – Could another winless year lead to the NASCAR retirement he put off?)

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …

  • As I wrote Monday at CBS Sports, will other drivers look at Sunday as a turning point in how they handled Chastain? The irony is Noah Gragson knows what it’s like to be the pariah, based on his time running NXS; if even he’s fed up, as Chastain’s training partner, you can guess where the majority of the NASCAR garage is at this point. The longer Chastain goes winless, the more vulnerable he becomes as, while I think he’s this generation’s Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt maintained his respect by using his aggression to reach victory lane. The No. 1 car needs to get back to No. 1 soon.
  • NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list only has a handful of new additions where the bulk of their careers were outside the 1998-2023 era. It’s made people raise their eyebrows a bit to see names like Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott on the list. Why? Both men are already in the top 50 for NASCAR All-Time Wins and have championships attached to their name. Only four drivers in the top 50 all-time in Cup victories failed to make the top 75 cut: Jim Paschal (25 wins), Jack Smith (21), Speedy Thompson (20) and Fonty Flock (19). None of them are currently NASCAR Hall of Famers and have a compelling argument to join the list. I think what NASCAR’s 75 Greatest does for us is recognize the longevity of some Cup careers; there are only so many seats on the grid and some names like Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton are/were full time for around 20 seasons. That limits the number of drivers you can even pick from to add 25 more names to the list.

Follow @NASCARBowles

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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I don’t really see the potential for a 16 race winner season. What with all the multiple winners so far. The only real outlier yet is the 47.

If that trend continues, then we could see at most 3 teams pointing their way in.

As things stand now, Chastain is in the best position to advance, if he were to have to get in on points. He has 4 playoff points, & the potential for more. Plus he could win the regular season IF, things break right for him. I’d guess that for anyone to advance very far they’d need at the very least, 10 PO points. Don’t forget that last year, Chastain W/2 wins needed a video game move to make the final 4. And that was a one off,

Elliott, had about the worst playoff performance imaginable, the only reason he advanced was because of the large PO point total he’d amassed in the regular season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see non winning teams staying out to get stage wins, rather than giving them up in hopes of a better final finish. The PO point is a bird in the hand, & Ross only needs one more to equal a race win.

Kurt Smith

Blaney right now has more points that Kyle Larson, William Byron, Joey Logano, and of course Alex Bowman. That was how we used to measure how good drivers are. He was also one of the most consistent last year, and he was way better over the course of the season than most of the drivers who backdoored into the playoffs with a plate race or road course win.

In other words, I do think Blaney is one of the more underrated drivers out there, but wins are all we care about these days, so that seems to be the only measure.

I know you’re only pointing out a winless streak, but I think it’s pretty comical when Kyle Petty of all people points out that Blaney hasn’t lived up to expectations. Of all the people to talk about that.

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