Four races into the 2021 season and none of the former active NASCAR Cup Series champions have celebrated in Victory Lane yet. It’s the first time since 2008, that a former series champion hasn’t won in the first four races of a season. Fortunately for these champs, Phoenix Raceway is up next, and most have run well in the desert.
The 2020 season champ, Chase Elliott, scored his first victory at Phoenix Raceway last November and with it the spoils of the championship. Now the 25-year-old is looking to become the seventh driver in series history to win consecutive races at Phoenix; joining Davey Allison (1991, 1992), Jeff Burton (2000, 2001), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004), Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep, 2013-2015), Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep) and Kyle Busch (2018, 2019). Elliott has made 10 series starts posting a win, three top fives and six top 10s.
The only active multiple Cup champion (2015, 2019) is Kyle Busch, and four races into the 2021 season he is 14th in points with two top 10s. A win this weekend would be the perfect jump-start to his 2021 campaign. Among active drivers Busch has the second-most wins at Phoenix with three victories. In 31 starts at the 1-mile track he has also put up 12 top fives and 22 top 10s.
The 2018 series champion, Joey Logano, is the defending winner of this race last season leading 60 laps en route to the victory. Phoenix has been good to Logano. In 24 series starts he has amassed two wins, six top fives and 13 top 10s. Expect Logano to challenge for the win this weekend, he won the spring race last season and finished third in the season finale.
The 2017 series champion, Martin Truex Jr. spun the tires in Daytona finishing 25th and ever since has been trying to rebound. Through four races this season, the former champion has one top five and two top 10s. A win is exactly what Truex needs, the New Jersey native is currently on a 29-race winless drought – the largest among the active former champions – dating back to Martinsville (6/10/2020) last season. Truex has made 30 series starts at Phoenix – most among active drivers without a win at the track – posting four top fives and 12 top 10s.
The 2014 series champion, Kevin Harvick, is and will continue to be the favorite whenever the series heads to Phoenix Raceway – a distinction he has earned. Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories. This weekend, Harvick has the opportunity to become just the sixth driver to win 10 or more races at a single track; joining Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Jimmie Johnson.
Drivers with 10 or More NASCAR Cup Series Wins at a Single Track
|Race Winners||No. of Tracks||Tracks With 10 or More Wins|
|Richard Petty||5||Martinsville (15), North Wilkesboro (15), Richmond (13), Rockingham (11) Daytona (10)|
|Darrell Waltrip||3||Bristol (12), Martinsville (11), North Wilkesboro (10)|
|Jimmie Johnson||1||Dover (11)|
|David Pearson||1||Darlington (10)|
|Dale Earnhardt||1||Talladega (10)|
In total, Harvick has made 36 series starts at Phoenix posting two poles, nine wins, 18 top fives and 25 top 10s. He leads the series in average finish with an 8.917. He also leads the series in several key NASCAR pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 8.310, series-best, Driver Rating of 110.6, series-best, 940 Fastest Laps Run, series-best and 8,408 Laps in the Top 15 (84.2%), series-most.
The 2012 series champion, Brad Keselowski, hasn’t won yet this season, but he has been close. To start the season, Keselowski was making a pass for the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500 before being caught in a multi-car incident that relegated him to a 13th-place finish. He then rallied back from a wild Daytona Road Course race to finish fifth, brought home a 16th from Homestead-Miami and then almost closed the deal last weekend at Las Vegas finishing runner-up to Kyle Larson. Keselowski now finds himself second in NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 38 points behind Denny Hamlin in the standings lead. Phoenix is one of the eight tracks on the schedule Keselowski has yet to win at, but he has run well. In 23 series starts he has posted seven top fives and 11 top 10s.
The 2004 series champion, Kurt Busch is currently riding a streak of seven consecutive seasons with a victory and he definitely wants to add 2021 to the list. Busch’s results so far this season have been a mixed bag posting one top five and two top 10s. At Phoenix the las Vegas native has made 36 starts posting a win (2005), seven top fives and 20 top 10s. He finished sixth in this race last season.
With four different winners to start the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season though, the question begs, ‘Will we see a fifth?’.
It has happened before. In the Modern Era (1972-2021) five different winners to start the season has happened 14 times (2017, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1993, 1991, 1986, 1984, 1979).
The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the streak winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).
|2000||1||Dale Jarrett||Daytona||Sunday, February 20, 2000|
|2000||2||Bobby Labonte||Rockingham||Sunday, February 27, 2000|
|2000||3||Jeff Burton||Las Vegas||Sunday, March 5, 2000|
|2000||4||Dale Earnhardt||Atlanta||Sunday, March 12, 2000|
|2000||5||Ward Burton||Darlington||Sunday, March 19, 2000|
|2000||6||Rusty Wallace||Bristol||Sunday, March 26, 2000|
|2000||7||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Texas||Sunday, April 2, 2000|
|2000||8||Mark Martin||Martinsville||Sunday, April 9, 2000|
|2000||9||Jeff Gordon||Talladega||Sunday, April 16, 2000|
|2000||10||Jeremy Mayfield||Auto Club||Sunday, April 30, 2000|
In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011.
There are seven former NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix winners entered this weekend looking for their first win of the 2021 season: Kevin Harvick (nine wins), Kyle Busch (three), Denny Hamlin (two), Joey Logano (two), Ryan Newman (two), Chase Elliott (one) and Kurt Busch (one).