Race Weekend Central

Stat Sheet: Brad Keselowski Becomes Next Gen’s 26th Winner. Who’s Next?

There are plenty of things to criticize about the Next Gen car, but the effect it’s had on organizational parity is not one of them.

By winning Sunday’s (May 12) Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, Brad Keselowski broke a 110-race winless drought to score his first win with RFK Racing and become the 26th unique winner in the Next Gen era.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After Brad Keselowski, Ford Return to Victory Lane

Twenty-six. Think about that for a moment. Two winners are retired, while another is racing part-time (Shane van Gisbergen), which means that 66% of full-time drivers (23/35) in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season have won a Cup race with the Next Gen car.

Keselowski’s win means that only one full-time driver who won in the Gen 6 era has yet to win in the Next Gen car. And of the 11 full-time drivers that have yet to win a Cup race, only two have made more than 100 starts. More on them later.

Twenty-six winners. Who will be the 27th?

To kick this off, there have been six first-time Cup winners since the start of the Next Gen era in 2022. All but van Gisbergen scored their first win in the 2022 season, and half of the names on this list have gone on to win Cup multiple races.

DriverFirst NG WinTotal NG WinsNG Chronology
Austin Cindric2022 Daytona 50011
Chase Briscoe2022 Phoenix 114
Ross Chastain2022 COTA46
Daniel Suarez2022 Sonoma212
Tyler Reddick2022 Road America613
Shane van Gisbergen2023 Chicago Street123
(For the following charts, “NG” is an abbreviation for Next Gen car. The “NG Chronology” shows the order that the drivers have won with the car. Austin Cindric won the 2022 Daytona 500, so he was the first winner. Kyle Larson won the following week at Auto Club Speedway, so he was the second winner and so on).

In addition to first-time winners, the Next Gen car has seen not one, not two, but six drivers snap a winless drought that spanned at least two seasons (72 races). Keselowski was the most recent addition to the list and he’s the only driver with more than three wins to have that long of a dry spell before winning with the new car.

DriverWins Before NGFirst NG WinWinless DroughtTotal NG WinsNG Chronology
Austin Dillon32022 Daytona 278 Races116
Erik Jones22022 Southern 500109 Races117
Chris Buescher12022 Bristol (Pavement)222 Races419
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.22023 Daytona 500199 Races120
Michael McDowell12023 Indianpolis RC94 Races124
Brad Keselowski352024 Darlington 1110 Races126
As previously mentioned, two winners in the Next Gen car have since retired: Kevin Harvick — who retired at the end of the 2023 season — and Kurt Busch, who suffered career-ending injuries in a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway in 2022.
DriverWins Before NGFirst NG WinTotal NG WinsNG Chronology
Kurt Busch332022 Kansas 1111
Kevin Harvick582022 Michigan215

The remaining 12 winners won relatively early in the Next Gen era and are among the biggest names in the sport. William Byron leads all drivers with 11 wins in the Next Gen era, followed by Larson with nine and Denny Hamlin with eight.

DriverWins Before NGFirst NG WinTotal NG WinsNG Chronology
Kyle Larson162022 Fontana92
Alex Bowman62022 Las Vegas 113
William Byron22022 Atlanta 1115
Denny Hamlin462022 Richmond 187
Kyle Busch592022 Bristol (Dirt)48
Chase Elliott132022 Dover69
Joey Logano272022 Darlington 1510
Christopher Bell12022 New Hampshire614
Bubba Wallace12022 Kansas 2118
Martin Truex Jr.312023 Dover321
Ryan Blaney72023 Charlotte (Oval)322
AJ Allmendinger22023 Charlotte (ROVAL)125

That’s all the winners. Who can join them?

The only Cup winner who has yet to score a win in the Next Gen car is Justin Haley, who won his third career Cup start in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He now has a 118-race winless drought, the longest active streak.

Haley almost returned to victory lane last year at the Chicago street course, but he settled for second after van Gisbergen prevailed with some late-race heroics in his Cup debut.

That leaves 11 full-time drivers who have yet to win. Two have more than 100 Cup starts, while four have more than two seasons of experience under their belts. Six of the 11 are under age 25, while four of the 11 are between 32 and 33 years old.

DriverAgeCup Starts w/o WinBest Cup FinishCareer Laps Led
Corey LaJoie322494th161
Ryan Preece331643rd174
Harrison Burton23863rd67
Todd Gilliland23854th106
Ty Gibbs21642nd349
Daniel Hemric33605th36
John Hunter Nemechek27546th21
Noah Gragson25523rd12
Josh Berry33252nd44
Carson Hocevar212210th3
Zane Smith242210th3

Of the drivers seeking their first Cup win, one name in particular stands out: Ty Gibbs.

He may be driving for one of the best teams in the garage, but Gibbs has made tremendous strides in his second full-time season. He’s seventh in points (the next-highest driver looking for their first win in Noah Gragson in 19th) and has earned four top fives and seven top 10s in 13 races to go along with 235 laps led and an average finish of 12.4. He scored a career-best finish of second this weekend at Darlington, and his first win is knocking on the door.

See also
The Underdog House: Justin Haley Takes RWR to New Heights at Darlington

Josh Berry has shown flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, as he was one of the fastest cars at the short tracks Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Like Gibbs, he too is coming off of a season-best finish of third at Darlington.

Gragson has impressed with five top-10 finishes in a SHR team that was expected to struggle at the start of the year, while Todd Gilliland and Corey LaJoie are frequent contenders in the superspeedway races at Daytona, Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

That 27th winner (and 205th overall in Cup) will be coming soon, and it’s great for NASCAR and its fans to see so many different faces at the front of the field and in victory lane.

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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