RICHMOND, VA — Denny Hamlin became the 7th different winner in as many races from the 5th different organization to start the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season off with. The question now is, how many more weeks do we keep this up?
We have Martinsville (VA) Speedway up next. Then Bristol Dirt. Then Talladega to close out the month. Will we see three more first time winners on the season by the end of this month?
It’s shaping up that way.
Joe Gibbs Racing has to be the favorites entering the next race at Martinsville. They finally ended their slump and has some much needed momentum now.
Martin Truex Jr. has won three of the last five Martinsville races. The only ones he didn’t win was the last two Fall races to where he led 129 laps in the Fall of 2020 and was fourth this past year. Truex, has seven top fives in his last nine tries on the Virginia paperclip as well a 4 top 8 finishes in the last 5 weeks on the season.
Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell each have 3 top 10 finishes in the last 5 weeks. Bell, has three top eight’s, two of which are top fives, in four Truck Series starts at Martinsville and was seventh last April in the Cup Series. Busch, has 12 top 10 finishes in his last 13 at Martinsville including a runner-up last Halloween. Hamlin, was third in this race last year but has been 11th or worse in 3 of his last 4 too so maybe this is your team to win and produce an 8th different winner.
Hendrick Motorsports could be a team too but only 1 of their drivers hasn’t won this season in Chase Elliott. He won the 2020 Fall race en route to a Championship 4 appearance. He was also fifth in the spring race prior while also being runner-up last spring to score four top fives in his last six Martinsville starts, three of them being in the top two.
Team Penske has 1 of their 3 drivers reaching victory lane at this point of the season but he’s also a rookie and I don’t see Austin Cindric winning on Sunday. Joey Logano, won the Clash a non points paying race as well as has a pair of top five finishes came at Martinsville in 2020 to go along with seven top 10’s in his last eight tries. Blaney, came home runner-up in both races in 2020 and was fourth and fifth respectively in 2019. Blaney, has five top fives in his last eight tries on the Virginia paperclip overall. While he was 11th in both races last year, he did sweep both stages in the spring race.
I think your winner is among this grouping.
Then it’s to Bristol Dirt where Logano won as a 33-1 longshot last year. Then it’s to Talladega to where Ford’s showed back in Daytona that they have the best speedway package.
I didn’t even mention 58 race winner Kevin Harvick. He should find victory lane at some point soon. What about Kurt Busch who’s won 33 times in his career and was inching closer? Daniel Suarez? Tyler Reddick? Austin Dillon? Bubba Wallace? Brad Keselowski or Chris Buescher?
That’s 14 more drivers which pushes us to 21. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to get that many different winners but we will certainly reach double digits. Just how many….
The other aspect to this is, some drivers are really starting to heat up and show us that they’re adapting.
Truex Jr. has 4 top 8 finishes in his last 5 starts on the season. Bell and Busch each have 3 top 10’s over the last 5. William Byron has 3 top 5’s in his last 5 races to go along with leading 111 laps in his Atlanta win a few weeks ago and 122 more in his third place run on Sunday in Richmond. Alex Bowman has 4 top 10’s the last 5 weeks including a win and a runner-up in that span. Ross Chastain has 4 top 3 results in the last 5 weeks himself. Tyler Reddick has 3 top 7’s in the last 5 weeks too.
Logano, Chase Elliott, Harvick and Hamlin each have 1 top five all season. Larson now has 3 but he’s been off. They can get hot at any given time.
What about Ryan Blaney? He’s had 4 straight front row starting spots including 3 poles. His pit crew kept him out of victories in Phoenix and potentially COTA while lapped cars/strategy did so in Richmond. If they can put together a clean race….
Can those 5 steal the glory of the other 7?
Drivers are starting to separate themselves.