NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season Reaches Midpoint Harvick's Rebirth, Competitive Balance, New Rule Highlight First Half DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2010) -- Current points leader Kevin Harvick closed the 2009 season with these numbers: zero ...
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season Reaches Midpoint
Harvick's Rebirth, Competitive Balance, New Rule Highlight First Half
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2010) -- Current points leader Kevin Harvick closed the 2009 season with these numbers: zero wins, five top fives, nine top 10s.
Not awful, but also no reason to think he would experience the kind of turn-around he has during the first half of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Here are his numbers at the season's halfway point, through 18 races: two wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s.
But here's the most important number: 212. That's Harvick's points lead over four-time series champion Jeff Gordon. The unforeseen about face has been one of several highlights in a storyline-rich first half.
Here are some other statistics gleaned from the first 18 races:
* 7 different race winners
* 12 different Coors Light Pole winners
* 46 drivers led at least one lap
* 31 drivers have scored at least one top 10
* Average Margin of Victory of 1.294 seconds
* 11 races with an MOV under 1 second
* Average of 12 leaders per race
* Average of 28 lead changes per race
* Average of 43 green flag passes for the lead all along the track (highest through 18 races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005)
* Average of 3,613 green flag passes per race (highest through 18 races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005)
* 50% of the cars finished on the lead lap
* 78% of the cars were running at the finish
* All four manufacturers are in the top 12; three have won at least one race
The above statistics are a big reason for what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons ever. Some more notable happenings:
* The April race at Talladega Superspeedway set two major NASCAR records. There were 88 lead changes among 29 drivers, both of which were all-time highs in the 63-year history of the series.
* After much feedback from competitors and fans, NASCAR re-introduced the rear spoiler to the NASCAR Sprint Cup car this season. The return took place in March at Martinsville Speedway (race No. 6) and the results have fueled the competition even more.
* The implementation of the "multiple attempts at a green-white-checkered finish" rule. This season, NASCAR allowed for three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish (previously, there was only one attempt). Reason being: Fans want to see races end under green flag conditions. Thus far, the rule has proven successful. Seven races have ended with a green-white-checked finish; three of those with multiple attempts at a G-W-C (the Daytona 500 had two, Atlanta had two and Talladega had three). Only one race has finished under caution (Pocono).
* NASCAR loosened the reins on competitors at the start of this season. The "Have At It Boys" edict created fiercer competition, and upped emotion. Over the first half alone we've seen a number of heated feuds: Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski; Jeff Gordon vs. Jimmie Johnson; Joey Logano vs. Kevin Harvick; and Denny Hamlin vs. Kyle Busch, to name a few.
* Richard Childress Racing returns to prominence. After finishing 2009 with all four of its teams failing to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, RCR is back. Returning to a three-car operation, RCR has two drivers in the top 12 (points leader Harvick and eighth-place Jeff Burton), and a third hovering on the bubble (Clint Bowyer in 14th).
But 18 more races remain, including the all-important Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. A number of questions need answers:
* Will Jimmie Johnson win a fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship? The field seems more intent than ever at dethroning Johnson.
* There's no runaway favorite, so who will get the top seed? At the conclusion of the first 26 races, the top 12 drivers will have their points reset to 5,000, with an additional 10 bonus points added for each win during the "regular season." Currently, Johnson and Denny Hamlin would each have 50 bonus points, thanks to their series-leading five victories. Johnson holds the tiebreaker, as his "second-best" finish is a second-place at Texas. Hamlin's second-best finish was fourth, at Talladega and Dover.
* Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. stay in the top 12? Earnhardt has been in and out of the top 12 all season. With a fourth-place finish at Daytona, he vaulted back in, and currently sits 11th.
* Can Jeff Gordon end his winless drought? Though he leads the series in top-five finishes with nine, Gordon's winless string has reached 47 races, matching a career-long streak.
* Can Mark Martin rebound in the second half? Martin had been in the top 12 for 10-consecutive weeks, but was bounced last Saturday night after a 28th-place finish at Daytona. Last year at this time, Martin led the series wins with three wins. He's winless thus far in 2010. He is the defending race champion at Chicagoland Speedway.