NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Going By The Numbers: Turning Back Time To Find The Truth About Parity

Hold up. Is Brian France’s master plan for The Chase actually working? Five races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, five different winners have tasted victory — filling out, most likely, five of the 16 allotted spaces in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The motivation this year has been clear: win at least …

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Going By the Numbers: Will Consistency Still Matter In NASCAR?

The 2010s haven’t been a subject of derision for Jeff Gordon and his fans, but the decade hasn’t exactly been kind to the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, either. Look: 17, 18, 18, 17. Those are the amounts of top-10 finishes Jeff Gordon has accrued each of the past four seasons. While respectable, those aren’t the …

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Going By The Numbers: Will Daytona 500 Success Make Or Break A Season?

This week, in Going By The Numbers we thought a special win deserved a special column. After his first victory in 55 races, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finds himself virtually “locked in” to the Chase. But does a win in the sport’s biggest race, here in February ensure NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver will contend all the …

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Going By the Numbers: Judging The 2014 Sprint Cup Rookie Class

In 2006, eight different drivers declared for Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, providing the sport with an exceedingly deep field of new drivers that could conceivably create a sort-of new guard within the circuit — an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. In the eight years …

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One Chance At Success At Cup’s Once-Visited Tracks

Darlington Raceway is known for many things. It’s the supposed “Track Too Tough to Tame” and “The Lady in Black.” Its egg-shaped configuration is unique among Sprint Cup Series circuits, creating a driving experience tough to master for even the most talented competitors.

It’s also one of 10 racetracks on the Sprint Cup circuit that are visited just once during the season.

Going By the Numbers: Plate Racing’s Best At Finishing In One Piece

The last time NASCAR’s national series visited a restrictor plate superspeedway, this column focused on the kings of the restrictor plate in NASCAR, and the drivers who should be called the best versus those that are popularly considered to be such.

This time, with Talladega in our sights, we’ll focus again on drivers who tend to finish well while plate racing. While it may be about the wins in the long run, it’s also rewarding to simply make it to the end of a restrictor plate race these days. With the introduction of tandem racing, the subsequent return of the pack and the always looming “Big One,” each turn is treacherous, every closing lap more harrowing than the last. Once it’s crunch time, you tend to see racers really going for broke.

Going By The Numbers: New Driver, New Team, Better NASCAR Results?

Jumping from one successful team to another is always a major decision and rarely anything but a risk. While opportunity could certainly exist at the end of the rainbow, misfortune could also lurk around the corner, rearing its ugly head at all possible occasions and causing one to wish they had stayed put.<div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"> <img src=\"\" width=\"275\" height=\"184\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Matt Kenseth has been looking pretty racy in his new ride. Is that typical when a driver switches?</p></div> Three races into the 2013 season, I think Matt Kenseth is already fairly proud of his decision to shake things up. After a career spent at Roush Fenway Racing, ranging over a decade the 2003 NASCAR champion left the organization that gave him his first shot in favor of Joe Gibbs Racing and its No. 20 Toyota. The move wasn't exactly frowned upon, but it did cause discussion within the NASCAR ranks. After all, Kenseth wasn't struggling at Roush; in fact, his final season in the No. 17 Ford produced three wins and a seventh in the final point standings. Not a bad year. Turns out the 41-year-old is proving he has the foresight to make some fairly nice decisions. Along with last weekend's win at Las Vegas, Kenseth placed seventh at Phoenix and led 86 laps at Daytona before retiring with engine failure. It's as though a fire has been lit under this veteran, one that could threaten to smoke the rest of the competition in 2013. It's rare to see a competitor win another championship so many years after his last, but he's off to a good start. If Kenseth wants to score that title, though recent history actually isn't on his side. Since 2000, the highest points finish for a driver in a brand new ride is second, and that was literally only just accomplished – Clint Bowyer took the runner-up spot in 2012 after moving to Michael Waltrip Racing from Richard Childress Racing. In fact, the recent trend is much the opposite. Before Bowyer, ringing in one's new ride with some championship style results wasn't exactly too common. Kasey Kahne's debut season with Hendrick Motorsports saw him fourth last season, and Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman broke in the new organization with sixth- and ninth-place finishes in 2009, respectively while Mark Martin ran runner-up with Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle Busch scored 10th by 2008's end in his new Joe Gibbs Racing ride. But none of those drivers (even Martin, who ran light years behind Jimmie Johnson that year) were true contenders for the big title when it counted. The last person to finish with NASCAR's championship hardware, in their first season with a new team was Darrell Waltrip, driving for Junior Johnson in 1981. Actually, if there's anyone's season Kenseth wants his 2013 to follow, it might be Busch when he came over to Gibbs. Despite a modest showing in the points, he won eight races, finished in the top five 17 times and earned 21 top-10s. Let's go with the wins and accolades of Busch over the consistency and subsequent points finish of Bowyer. At the very least, chances are Kenseth – and Joey Logano, the other high profile defector in 2013 – will slightly improve on his 2012 season, which if you'll recall wasn't that bad to begin with. One of the only marked cases of a major step down in results after joining a new team is Kurt Busch, whose 2006 campaign with Penske Racing is one he'd probably soon forget – a win, seven top-fives and 12 top-10s after 3-9-18 in those stat categories the previous year while driving for Roush Fenway Racing. The same rings true for Jamie McMurray, who replaced Busch at Roush that year. He only managed three top-fives and seven top-10s, placing a lousy 25th in the overall standings. That's a major drop from his 12th the year before with Ganassi. A first year in the new digs is mostly thought of as a trial period, or an intro. You're not expected to go HAM on the season, but there's the expectation of major results in subsequent years. If anything, drivers want to see something better than what they had with the old organization, if they left on their own accord. Most guys haven't had a tough time besting prior results, and Matt Kenseth looks to be accomplishing more of the same, if the first three races are any indication. Heck, I'm more interested in seeing what Joey Logano can do in the No. 22 for Penske. While not a huge factor in 2012, he at least won a race. Now? No good results of which to speak of. Well, he _is_ with Penske, and if you'll recall Kurt Busch's \"meh\" results during his debut in the No. 2 a few paragraphs ago… maybe there's a trend? *Connect with Kevin!* <a href=\"\"><img src=\"\"></a><a href=\"\"><img src=\"\"></a><br> \"Contact Kevin Rutherford\":

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