NASCAR sees trend that hadn’t occurred since 1950

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season opened up with two first-time winners, something that hadn’t happened in more than seven decades.

In his 358th career NASCAR Cup Series start, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell secured his first career victory in the 2021 season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway last Sunday night/Monday morning.

Just one week later at the venue’s road course, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell secured his first career victory in his 38th career start.

As a result, for the first time since 1950, which was just the second season of Cup Series competition, the series has seen back-to-back first-time winners to open up a season.

Harold Kite and Tim Flock were the two drivers who pulled off that feat more than seven decades ago.

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Kite won the season opener at the Beach & Road Course in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Flock won the season’s second race at the Charlotte Speedway dirt track in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Kite’s win would be his one and only Cup Series win in just nine career starts. He was killed in a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1965. Flock, meanwhile, became a two-time Cup Series champion who won 39 races in just 187, giving him a win percentage of 20.86%. That ranks second among qualified drivers and just one-tenth of a percentage behind the all-time record (20.96%, Herb Thomas — 48 for 229).

The Cup Series hasn’t seen three straight first-time winners to open up a season since the 1949 season, which was the first season of competition. It took until the sixth race to see a repeat winner, when Red Byron, who had won the season’s second race at the Beach & Road Course, won at Martinsville Speedway.

It did, however, recently see back-to-back first-time winners in the 2019 season, when Alex Bowman won at Chicagoland Speedway and then Justin Haley won in upset fashion at Daytona International Speedway the following week.

The third race on the 2021 schedule is scheduled to take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, February 28. Tyler Reddick, who does not have any Cup Series wins, won two Xfinity Series season finales and championships there and finished in fourth place in his first Cup Series start there last year.

The Richard Childress Racing driver will certainly be a driver to keep an eye on, as will several other winless drivers, including but not limited to Bubba Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Briscoe and Ross Chastain.

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Fox is set to broadcast this race, the Dixie Vodka 400, live beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.