Will we really reach 16, or date I say more, Cup winners in the 26 race regular season this year, why I think we do

Christopher Bell became the 14th different NASCAR Cup Series winner in 20 races run during the 2022 season by his victory on Sunday in Loudon. With 6 races left still in the regular season, there’s a very real chance that we can get to that 16 race winner limit which sparks 2 very important questions.

Will we really get to 16 different winners in the 1st 26 races run and do we dare I say, eclipse that mark by getting 17 or more drivers in victory lane by time the checkered flag drops at Daytona next month?

With 2 road courses left in the regular season at Indianapolis (July 31) and Watkins Glen (Aug. 21) as well as the finale at Daytona (Aug. 27) there’s real for optimism for this to occur.

Before we get there, lets take a look at who is winless in 2022.

Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, Justin Haley, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Todd Gilliland and Corey LaJoie.

Among them, 12 of the 16 have won a Cup race before including 6 of the 12 just last year. So, if history does repeat itself for them, where do they win?

Cup Playoff Outlook – Drivers Without Wins This Season At Upcoming Regular Season Tracks

Drive Without Wins This SeasonNumber of Wins by Track
Pts PosDriversPoconoIndy RCMichiganRichmondWatkins GlenDaytona
15Ryan Blaney1 1  1
16Martin Truex Jr.2  31 
17Kevin Harvick1 5312
18Aric Almirola     1
19Erik Jones     1
20Austin Dillon     1
21Michael McDowell     1
22Justin Haley     1
23Bubba Wallace      
24Chris Buescher1     
25Ricky Stenhouse Jr.     1
26Cole Custer      
27Harrison Burton      
28Ty Dillon      
29Brad Keselowski1  2 1
30Todd Gilliland  

Indy and Watkins Glen are intriguing in the sense that through the first 3 road course races run this season, each were won by a 1st time winner. Ross Chastain picked up his first career Cup win in COTA, while his teammate Daniel Suarez followed suit in Sonoma. On July 3, Tyler Reddick did the same in Road America.

Among the 2 races at Daytona and Talladega this season, Austin Cindric picked up his 1st career win at Daytona and Chastain his 2nd career win at Talladega. Bubba Wallace scored his 1st career win slat Fall in Talladega while Michael McDowell did the same in 2021 Daytona 500.

These tracks are why everyone thinks it could occur.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – AUGUST 15: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Hyperice Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 15, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

If that trend continues for Indy or Watkins Glen, then it just leaves Burton, Gilliland, Ty Dillon and LaJoie. Neither have fared well on road courses this season.

LaJoie was 36th in COTA, 36th in Sonoma and 34th in Road America. Gilliland was 16th in COTA, 24th in Sonoma and 25th in Road America. Burton was 17th, 28th and 22nd respectively himself while Dillon was 20th, 23rd and 20th.

I don’t necessarily think your winner comes from that grouping. Maybe they can at Daytona with Burton leading laps early this past February there, Gilliland being in the top 10 late before being caught up in a late race crash and Dillon being 11th. LaJoie has been stout at Daytona in the past and had a chance of winning Atlanta two weeks ago.

Still, I caution whether any of these 4 will win but if anyone of them does, it’s down to Daytona. I feel the same for Keselowski who’s won 7 points paying speedway races and not only won a Duel this February but also was 9th in the Daytona 500 too. I feel like it will be hard for the driver who’s had no top 5’s all season to win at Pocono, Michigan or Richmond. He’s riding a 46 race winless streak (Talladega April 2021) and RFK Racing hasn’t won since Daytona in 2017 (183 races ago).

Daytona may be the best shot for Wallace and Stenhouse Jr. too. Stenhouse gave RFK their last victory as that too is his last trip to victory lane. He and Wallace have struggled on road course races this season (5 of the 6 combined finishes being 25th or worse). Stenhouse also has finished 22nd or worse in 5 of the 6 short tracks run this season too. Intermediates are his best shot with 4 top 10’s in 5 tries which is why he has to have Michigan and Daytona circled.

Wallace has shown speed but his pit crew has taken him back more times than not so he’s a hard one to figure out. Superspeedway’s are his best but he did finish 3rd on Sunday in Loudon and heading to a Pocono track that favored Toyota power in the past.

Haley’s only win came at Daytona in July 2019 (53 starts ago) and he’s one of the top superspeedway drivers in the game today. He’ll be a threat next month there. He has no top 10’s in 3 road course races, no top 10’s in 6 short track starts and 1 top 10 in 5 intermediate races. Daytona may be his best shot too.

Custer has 1 win at Kentucky in 2020 (75 races ago) and hasn’t had a top 10 at any of the short tracks or intermediates this season. In fact, he has 1 top 10 all year (9th in Atlanta). He needs some help to get to victory lane.

Still, the realistic thing is for Keselowski, Wallace, Gilliland, Burton, Dillon, Haley, Custer and LaJoie’s only shot of a win in the regular season being at Daytona.

McDowell’s only Cup win came at Daytona but he’s excelled on road courses this season with 2 straight top 8’s on them. He also was in the top 10 at both Daytona and Talladega this year which leads me to believe he can be in the hunt at any of those 3 wildcard races left. He has no top 15’s on any of the short tracks this year so Richmond is out and was 31st at Fontana earlier this season so Michigan may be too. His only shots are at Daytona and the pair of road courses.

Buescher hasn’t won in his last 214 starts (Pocono 2016). He like McDowell will be a factor at those same 3 tracks. He’s always good on superspeedway’s and even won a Duel this February too. He was runner-up in Sonoma and 6th in Road America. He has no top 15’s in any of the intermediate tracks and does have 2 top 10’s but no top 5’s on short tracks.

That means it’s likely down to Blaney, Truex Jr., Harvick, Almirola, Jones and Austin Dillon.

Jones hasn’t won in his last 103 races, Dillon is on a 73 race skid, Harvick’s drought is 63 races now, Almirola’s is 34 races, Truex’s is 28 and Blaney’s 30.

Harvick has led 13 laps all year but has been good on short tracks and intermediates. He’s been quietly solid on road courses too. Superspeedway’s is what’s hampered him so I don’t like his chances at Daytona. The road courses he’s finished 11th, 4th and 10th so never count him out at Indy or Watkins Glen. Richmond he was 2nd at earlier this spring, Michigan he has four wins in his last six Michigan tries including five top twos in his last seven in the Irish Hills overall and Pocono this weekend, he won the Saturday race of 2020 and was second in the Sunday one. He has nine top six finishes, eight of which being in the top four, his last 11 Pocono starts. 

I think Harvick finds a way to victory lane this season at some point even though his drought is nearly 2 years in lenght.

Same for Truex. It won’t come on a road course as Toyota has been the worst manufacturer on them. It won’t came at Daytona either. He’s 0-for-34 there. It’s down to Pocono, Michigan and Richmond for him and he’s stellar at all 3.

Truex has five top six finishes in his last 10 tries on the Tricky Triangle. For Michigan, he has four top five finishes in his last 5 tries and six top six finishes in his last 9 Michigan starts. At Richmond, that’s the site of his last win and he dominated this spring en route to a 4th place finish.

For Harvick and Truex, Pocono, Michigan and Richmond are their spots to win at.

Blaney would then be forced to win as he won this Michigan race last year even. He has 5 top 10 finishes in his last 7 Michigan tries. For Pocono, he won his 1st career race there. He’ll be in the mix at Daytona too as he also won this race a year ago as well. On top of that, Blaney has 3 top 11’s in 3 road course starts in 2022 meaning that outside of Richmond, I think he can win anywhere left.

2 of Almirola’s 3 Cup wins came at superspeedway’s. He’s not a very good road racer which means it’s down to Richmond or Michigan for him.

Jones should have a shot at Daytona as he was in the lead group in the final laps in February and was leading on the white flag lap at Talladega. He also finished 4th a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta. He has no top 5’s and 2 of his 3 road course starts have been 22nd or worse. On intermediates, 3 of his 5 races in 2022 were 25th or worse. On short tracks, he has 2 top 10’s in his last 3 but was 23rd at Richmond in the spring. Translation, his best shot is at Daytona a race he won his 1st career race in.

Same likely for Austin Dillon too who was 2nd in Talladega this past April. He has 2 top 11’s in 3 road course starts but none was better than 10th. He’s not known much as a road racer. At Richmond, he is quietly good there too. On intermediates, he has 3 top 11’s in 5 tries so I can see Michigan potentially being good for him too.

Still, with Chase Elliott rolling (4 straight top 2’s on the season) with road course finishes of 4th, 8th and 2nd and 4 top 10’s including a win in 4 superspeedway races, do you really see him getting shutout at Indy, Watkins Glen or Daytona?

Ross Chastain is rolling too and has 3 straight top 2’s on superspeedway’s and 3 straight top 7’s on road courses this season. He like Elliott will be a factor at all 3.

So, do we get to 16?

Pocono – Kyle Larson

Indy – Chase Elliott

Michigan – Kevin Harvick

Richmond – Martin Truex Jr.

Watkins Glen – Chase Elliott

Daytona – Ryan Blaney

That gives us 17 winners.

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