Going By the Numbers · Kevin Rutherford · Tuesday August 20, 2013
Here’s the stat of the week: 6
No, we’re not talking car numbers, the amount of wins Hendrick Motorsports has in 2013 or the number of years since Casey Mears’s last win.
This has everything to do with winning, and not just winning on Sunday.
A race win is, of course, the pinnacle of a NASCAR weekend, the point for which drivers strive, unless their eye is on a series championship. But to win a race, one often needs a prime starting position in the race, especially with so many tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule so hard to pass at these days.
Occasionally, the same driver who qualifies on the pole for a race, or happens on first position through other means such as points ranking, is the driver who eventually wins that very event as well.
This year, that’s happening in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series more than it has in 15 years.
Through 23 points-paying events in 2013, six races have been won by the driver who started in the pole position, most recently with Joey Logano’s commanding Michigan performance last weekend. With 13 races left, that number could climb higher.
That’s the quickest the series has reached that number of pole winners since the series schedule expanded to 36 races in 2001.
Before then, the last time six races had been won from the pole 23 races into the season was 1998. In that 33-race season, Bobby Hamilton started the spree at Martinsville, with Bobby Labonte picking up the distinction at Talladega and Jeff Gordon doing it four times — Charlotte, Sonoma, Watkins Glen and New Hampshire, the 23rd race of the year.
Compare that to 2013. Jimmie Johnson kicked off the party with a win at, again, Martinsville. Kyle Busch at Texas and Matt Kenseth at Kansas right after made it three straight races in which a driver won from the pole. Johnson’s Pocono victory, Ryan Newman’s Indianapolis win and Logano’s peak last weekend cap it all off — so far.
In 1998, one additional driver took his car to the winner’s circle from the pole, when Mark Martin accomplished the feat at Dover later in the season. That’s seven pole winners, a stat only bettered lately by the year 2008. At this point in the season five years ago, four drivers had won from the pole, but by season’s end, that number had climbed all the way to nine — a fourth of the season’s total races.
That’s the number 2013’s crop of talent is up against now. To tie, only three more drivers need to win a race after starting on the pole. Four are needed to break into double digits, a formidable amount and a step closer to a third of the season’s events, for which the magic number would be 12.
It’s easy to get caught up in the intrigue of the Chase and of new drivers going new places, but if you’re looking for another stat to follow as we head toward the final third of the season, definitely keep an eye on the driver who wins the pole for each race. We’re setting a fairly blistering pace thus far, which could only continue as we hit the Chase.
As final food for thought: at which track has this feat been accomplished more than anywhere else in the last 15 years? Pocono, nine times. Martinsville, a track that the series will visit later this year, sits second at eight. Of the drivers who have won from the pole in the last 15 years, two have done it 14 times total: Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Wins from Pole, 1998-2013
Jimmie Johnson – 14
Jeff Gordon – 14
Kyle Busch – 6
Tony Stewart – 5
Kasey Kahne – 5
Ryan Newman – 5
Kevin Harvick – 3
Denny Hamlin – 3
Joey Logano – 2
Matt Kenseth – 2
Carl Edwards – 2
Mark Martin – 2
Bobby Labonte – 2
Brian Vickers – 1
Clint Bowyer – 1
Joe Nemechek – 1
Bill Elliott – 1
Kurt Busch – 1
Ricky Rudd – 1
Dale Jarrett – 1
Rusty Wallace – 1
Bobby Hamilton -1
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