Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain became the third first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner of the 2022 season (Austin Cindric, Daytona; Chase Briscoe, Phoenix) last weekend with his big victory at the Circuit of The Americas. The win makes 2022 the first time since 2001 the series has seen three first-time winners in the first six races of a season. Now with the series heading to Richmond Raceway this weekend for the Toyota Owners 400, what are the chances a fourth new winner is sitting in Victory Lane on Sunday? If a first-time winner takes the checkered flag this weekend at Richmond, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season would become the first season in the Modern Era (1972-Present) with four or more first time winners in the first seven races of a season and just the third all-time; behind the series inaugural season in 1949 (six first-time winners) and its sophomore season in 1950 (five first-time winners).
The 1950 season holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most first-time winners in a single season with 12 different drivers getting their first win that year. The 2001, 2002 and 2011 seasons are tied for the series-most first-time winners in a single season in the Modern Era with five first-time winners each.
Richmond Raceway has been the home to five first-time winners in the NASCAR Cup Series with Kasey Kahne being the most recent to accomplish the feat in 2005.
|Track||First-Time Cup Winners||Date|
|Richmond||Kasey Kahne||Saturday, May 14, 2005|
|Richmond||Tony Stewart||Saturday, September 11, 1999|
|Richmond||Kyle Petty||Sunday, February 23, 1986|
|Richmond||Neil Bonnett||Sunday, September 11, 1977|
|Richmond||James Hylton||Sunday, March 1, 1970|
Looking at the field entered this weekend, there are 11 drivers looking for their first career Cup Series win – (alphabetical order by last name) Harrison Burton, Landon Cassill, Ty Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Corey Lajoie, Andy Lally, BJ McLeod, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley, Daniel Suárez and Cody Ware.
I honestly don’t see Cassill, Lally, McLeod, Smithley or Ware getting it done. Nothing against them, but I haven’t seen anything resembling a victory out of them or their respectively teams.
For Burton and Gilliland, they’re each rookies and would be difficult for either to do too, especially without a top 10 all year.
Dillon, is 0-for-172 and also has no top 10’s all season too.
So, that leaves us with Corey LaJoie (0-for-170), Suarez (0-for-185) and Reddick (0-for-80). LaJoie has 1 top five this season which is the only one of his career. I don’t think Spire is going to produce a race winning car all the sudden on Sunday either.
Basically, it’s up to Suarez and Reddick.
Suarez, was 16th and 17th respectively last year, 29th for the Gaunt Brothers in 2020, 18th and 9th in 2019 for SHR and 12th, 7th (2017) and 10th, 17th (2018) for JGR. He did have 3 top 10’s in 5 starts here in Xfinity Series competition though and entering this weekend with 3 top 10’s, 2 of which being 4th place finishes in the last 5 weeks. He practice in 2nd and qualified there too last Sunday in COTA and even after leading every lap in the first stage, was spun to start the second stage off with. He has a car capable of winning I feel.
Same for Reddick. He finished 11th, 4th (Spring), 7th, 10th (Fall) in the Xfinity Series and while he hasn’t had a Cup top 10 at Richmond, he enters having 3 top 7 finishes in the last 4 weeks on the season.
Really, think of it as he led 90 laps and swept both stages in Fontana before suffering a cut tire while leading in the end. He spun early in Las Vegas but rebounded to finish 7th. He finished 3rd in Phoenix, blew another tire while leading in Atlanta and finished 28th and held the lead on the final restart last week in COTA but fell to 5th.
He’s the most likely candidate.
The average age of the six NASCAR Cup Series winners this season is 26.7 years old – with none of the six older than the age of 30 – Austin Cindric (23-year-old), Kyle Larson (29), Alex Bowman (28), Chase Briscoe (27), William Byron (24) and Ross Chastain (29).
Reddick, is 26. Suarez and LaJoie are 30.
The youthful winners are not only encapsulated in the Cup Series, the average age of winners in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is a sprightly 25.7 and the average age of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is 20.5.