Following a NASCAR Cup Series season that saw eight different winners in 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks, will there be a dominant driver on these types of tracks in 2020?
While there are still a few drivers favored to win on 1.5-mile ovals in the NASCAR Cup Series, it seems that the parity has increased in the past couple of years. Last season, there were eight different winners in 11 races, with no driver recording more than two victories on this type of track.
With the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway coming up this afternoon, now is a good time to ask the question: will we see a driver dominate on 1.5-mile ovals in 2020?
There will once again be 11 races across eight of these tracks (all are 1.5 miles in length except Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is 1.54).
Gone are the days when Jimmie Johnson dominated at these tracks.
From 2002 to 2016, Johnson led all drivers with 27 wins, 71 top five finishes, 5,679 laps led and a 10.07 average finish at these venues.
Tony Stewart had the next highest win total with 13 while Matt Kenseth had the next highest top five finish total with 57. With Johnson’s numbers quickly decreasing, the baton was handed to Martin Truex Jr.
Truex’s 2017 championship season was highlighted by a spectacular set of numbers on these tracks. He led all drivers with seven wins, nine top five finishes, 1,132 laps led and an average finish of 2.55 in 11 races.
While Truex continued to perform well on these tracks in 2018, he was joined by Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as a dominant “Big 3″ trio. Harvick won four, Busch won three and Truex won one of these 11 races. In top five finishes, Truex led the pack with nine, followed by Harvick with eight and Busch with seven.
Move forward another year, and it appears to be anyone’s game.
In 2019, Denny Hamlin, Truex and Brad Keselowski each won twice on these tracks, while Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Harvick each won once.
Kyle Busch, Logano, Harvick and Keselowski each recorded five top five finishes, while Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Truex each recorded four.
This long list of drivers screams anything but “dominance” when it comes to this type of track.
So what should we expect this season?
More of the same.
Johnson was a unique example during his prime. Seven championships, including five straight, 83 career wins and 227 top five finishes say it all.
Even Truex, who has posted great numbers overall the last few seasons, only had one year in which he dominated at the 1.5-mile ovals.
With veteran drivers continuing to retire and NASCAR’s youth movement in full swing, there is a crop of drivers trying to prove that they’re the next big thing. But until the sport finds that next standout star, multiple drivers should be expected to share the glory.
Sure, there will still be the cream of the crop.
Harvick has the most wins on these tracks since 2018 with five, and he, Kyle Busch, Truex and Keselowski combined for 15 of 22 wins over those two seasons. But there were still a few surprise winners such as Elliott, Bowman and Kurt Busch.
When you watch the 11 NASCAR Cup Series races at 1.5-mile ovals this season, don’t be surprised if there are at least a half-dozen different winners again. If one driver is able to win several races, that would be considered a surprise.