The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (first 26 races) has been deemed one of the best and the numbers certainly match the eye test. The first 26 races were phenomenal from a statistical standpoint – record-breaking, even.
Series-Most Race Winners (16) Through 26 Races:The 2022 season is tied with the 2003 season for the series-most NASCAR Cup Series winners through 26 races (1949-2022) with 16 different winners each.
Most Average Leaders Since 2011; Up 9.7% Year-Over-Year: A total of 38 different drivers have led laps in the NASCAR Cup Series through the first 26 races of the season with an average of 10.04 leaders per race; up from last season’s 9.2 (+9.7%) – The 2022 season has produced the most average leaders per race since 2011 (12.77) over a decade ago.
Most Green Flag Passes For The Lead Through A Regular Season (26 Races): The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced the series-most (1,162) green flag passes for the lead (GFPL) through the first 26 races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (the last 16 seasons).
Six different organizations are represented in this season’s NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoffs – Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.
All three NASCAR Cup Series official engine manufacturers have qualified for the Playoffs as well, led by Chevrolet with eight entries into the postseason, followed by Ford with five and Toyota with three.
Darlington Raceway is the fourth different track to host the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the Playoffs from 2004–2010, then Chicagoland Speedway held the first race of the Playoffs from 2011–2017 and Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the first event of the Playoffs from 2018-2019.
Prior to the 2020 season, Darlington Raceway had hosted just one other Playoff race, the penultimate event in the inaugural Playoffs in 2004. The race was won by seven-time series champion and former Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson.
The winner of the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title that same season four times. In 2004 (inaugural Cup Playoffs), Kurt Busch won the opening race of the Playoffs at New Hampshire and went on to win the title. In 2011 (race was delayed until Mondaydue to rain), NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart won his first race of the season at Chicago to open the Playoffs. Stewart went on to set the record for the most wins in a Playoff run with five victories and the title – a feat Kyle Larson matched last season. In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the Playoff race at Chicagoland Speedway and went on to win the title. And in 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won the Playoff race at Chicago to open the Playoffs and went on to win the championship that same season.
The worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs by a driver that went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series title was Jimmie Johnson’s 39th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to open the 2006 postseason. The worst finish in the opening Playoff race at Chicago for a driver that went on to win the title was Jimmie Johnson’s 12th-place finish in 2016. The worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs at Las Vegas by a driver that went on to win the title was Kyle Busch’s 19th-place finish in 2019. And the worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs at Darlington Raceway by a driver that went on to win the championship was Chase Elliott’s 20th-place finish in 2020. Last season, Kyle Larson finished second at Darlington Raceway to open the Playoffs and went on to win the title.
No non-Playoff driver has ever won the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Since the inception of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs in 2014 (last eight seasons), entering the Playoffs as the No. 1 seed has been the most successful seeding, producing four championships among three drivers – Kyle Busch (2015, 2019), Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Kyle Larson (2021). Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott enters this season’s Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 40 Playoff points at his side.
The deepest seed that an eventual champion has started the Playoffs was seventh, by Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano in 2018.