Jimmie Johnson has two of the first six wins of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and that’s something to which he’s quite accustomed.
After all, in the last five seasons, he has the most wins of any driver during that time span.
Beginning in 2012, Johnson has accrued five wins during the first six races of those five seasons, starting with a pair of victories in 2013 at Daytona and Martinsville. He followed those up with an Atlanta win in 2015, and then his Atlanta and Auto Club wins this season.
At the very least, it highlights one thing: Jimmie Johnson is a force to be reckoned with during all parts of a Cup season, but his starts out of the gate tend to be especially strong.
He leads Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, both of whom are winners this season and have four wins during that timeframe since 2012. Harvick’s win count is buoyed by three straight wins at Phoenix, but there’s also his Las Vegas win last season. Meanwhile, Keselowski’s run began at Bristol in 2012, followed by Las Vegas in 2014, Auto Club in 2015 and Las Vegas again this season.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, also both winners this season so far, rank behind them with three wins apiece.
Other winners in the first six races the last five seasons include Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart (each with two), then Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.
That list certainly begs one question: who of NASCAR’s current former winners are missing?
Greg Biffle, certainly. The last time he actually did win during the season’s beginning was in 2005 in California. Then there’s Martin Truex, Jr., who’s never won early in the year (though to be fair, he has but three wins to his resume, period). None of Clint Bowyer’s eight victories have happened in the first six races, either.
Does it even matter, though? Well, not necessarily. In the last five seasons preceding 2016, the eventual champion was a winner in the first six races (at this point a sixth of the season as a whole) only three times: Keselowski in 2012, Johnson in 2013 and Harvick in 2014. Though to be fair, Kyle Busch, last year’s champ, didn’t run any of the first six races, else this stat might look quite different. Stewart, 2011’s prevailing championship winner, did not roll into victory lane that season during the first six races, though he did do so in two of the first six in 2012. Talk about saving up some of that momentum from year’s past.
Let’s dig in deeper, regardless. In the last 10 seasons, Johnson ends up the best in the first six races, with a whopping 12 wins. That’s four more than his closest competitor, Kyle Busch.
Since 2000, it’s Johnson again at 16, the first coming at Darlington in 2004. In this case, Kenseth is the runner-up at 10.
As for those since 1990, Johnson ties at 16 with his partial car owner. That’s Jeff Gordon, who won 16 in between 1995 and 2011. Gordon’s 12 wins in the 1990s alone also represent the most during that span, approached closest by Dale Earnhardt’s nine.
Going back through 1980, it’s all Dale Earnhardt and his 21 in between 1980 and 2000, 11 of which came in the ’80s. He’s matched by Darrell Waltrip, who won 11 in that decade as well.
As a whole, Earnhardt boasts the most in NASCAR’s modern era (beginning in 1972), also with 21. But Cale Yarborough was an early leader in the stat; he won 17 times in the first six races in the modern era, coming between 1973-1984.
The full list since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972:
Dale Earnhardt – 21
Cale Yarborough – 17
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon – 16
Richard Petty – 15
Darrell Waltrip – 13
Bobby Allison – 12
Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth – 10
Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick – 9
Dale Jarrett, Kyle Busch – 8
David Pearson, Kurt Busch – 7
Carl Edwards – 6
Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Sterling Marlin – 5
Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart – 4
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, Ernie Irvan, Davey Allison, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons – 3
Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Michael Waltrip, Ward Burton, Morgan Shepherd, Harry Gant, Dave Marcis, Buddy Baker, AJ Foyt – 2
Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Ricky Craven, Steve Park, Elliott Sadler, Alan Kulwicki, Ken Schrader, Derrike Cope, Lake Speed, Geoff Bodine, Tim Richmond, Mark Donohue, Bobby Isaac – 1