Coming off of a season that saw a pot hole mar the opening race and then rain and other issues combine to make for a less than stellar start, 2011 has been nothing short of a breath of fresh air in the Cup Series. And consider this, with Jimmie Johnson’s come from behind win Sunday in Talladega this season has produced seven different winners in eight different races – not a bad start to the season.
Add to that solid start four different championship points leaders and six different lead changes and you’ve got a season that hasn’t really had a stand out driver or team through the first portion.
Our current top-ten in points have had some good stats to back them up – all have at least four top-tens, and with the exception of Kurt Busch, all have at least two top-fives. Half of them have wins. All – with the exception of Kurt Busch – hold the distinction though of having at least one finish of 24th or worse. Some have finishes a lot worse.
The only guy to score repeat wins? Well so far, Kevin Harvick has a DNF at Daytona and two sub-17th place finishes on top of that. His season has so far been a bit of a roller coaster.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the only drivers to have any measure of consistency are the top-three. Carl Edwards is averaging a finish of 8.2 (with blemishes at Phoenix and Martinsville); Jimmie Johnson is averaging a finish of 8.9 with one bad run at Daytona; and Dale Earnhardt Jr., though he is winless, is channeling that classic Steve Letarte consistency, averaging a 10th place finish with just one DNF (a 24th place finish) at Daytona.
Even with the brighter spots in the top-ten, the points are still close enough for drivers to have big swings in and out. Both Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth jumped five spots (in opposite directions) this past weekend.
The fact is, and I think this speaks to the level of competition we have right now in the sport, there just isn’t a dominate team. Going into race nine, it gets harder to turn seven out of eight into eight out of nine, but with the way this season has gone, anything could happen.
So what do you think? Has anybody stood out to you? Who’s most likely to make an early run?