NASCAR: What only one winner has done so far in 2021

Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

William Byron stands alone through five races of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season in a category that had previously been somewhat taken for granted.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season has seen five winners through five races, including two new winners, an additional winner who didn’t win at all last season, and two drivers who won just one race last season, including one who had just one career win to his name entering the new year.

Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell are the two first-time winners while Kyle Larson won after missing most of last season after he was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing. William Byron and Martin Truex are the only drivers who have won in both 2020 and 2021 thus far, and they only combined to secure two wins last season.

The five drivers who combined for 28 of 36 wins last season, meanwhile, are 0 for 5, with those five being Kevin Harvick and last year’s Championship 4 quartet of Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.

Five winners in five races to start a season isn’t as rare as it may seem. It happened three times from 2013 to 2017.

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With that being said, this year’s group is unique in more ways than one. But there is one thing that has only happened one time this season, something which had previously been taken for granted and not really thought much about.

Since the introduction of stage points in the 2017 season, race winners aren’t guaranteed to score the most points. In fact, based on the points format, the driver who finishes in 16th place can technically score more points than the winner, and the winner could end up ranking as low as 11th in total points scored.

In 2017, four of the first five races were won by the driver who scored the most points. In 2018, that mark was five for five (excluding post-race points penalties). Then in 2019, it was four for five, although one was a tie, and in 2020, it was four for five again.

So it had never happened fewer than four times in the first five races.

But in 2021?

It’s been done just once so far this season.

The only driver who pulled it off was William Byron at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Take a look.

Track — RACE WINNERS (rank in points)

  1. Daytona International Speedway — Michael McDowell (T-5th)
  2. Daytona International Speedway road course — Christopher Bell (4th)
  3. Homestead-Miami Speedway — William Byron (1st)
  4. Las Vegas Motor Speedway — Kyle Larson (2nd)
  5. Phoenix Raceway — Martin Truex Jr. (T-2nd)

Track — TOP POINT SCORERS (race finish)

  1. Daytona International Speedway — Austin Dillon (3rd)
  2. Daytona International Speedway road course — Joey Logano/Denny Hamlin (2nd/3rd)
  3. Homestead-Miami Speedway — William Byron (1st)
  4. Las Vegas Motor Speedway — Brad Keselowski (2nd)
  5. Phoenix Raceway — Joey Logano (2nd)

And I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: when the whole “playoffs vs. points” argument makes its annual return to social media come this fall, the fact that only one winner has actually scored the most points in his race win through five events this season should be the focal point of those backing the current playoff system.

Because at this point, do points really matter?

It will, of course, still be interesting to see, by then, how many race winners have scored the most points.

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The sixth race on the 2021 schedule is the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, which is scheduled to take place this afternoon. This race is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. In last season’s race at the track, Kevin Harvick won but scored the third most points while third place finisher Martin Truex Jr. scored the most.