13 April 2015

Inside Line: Three drivers have had top tens in every race

(AP)
Inside Line is a blogging project for my COMM-326 Sports Journalism course

For the first time in many years, a driver has finished in the top ten for the first seven races of the Sprint Cup season. In fact, three drivers have done it this year in Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. and unsurprisingly, those three are the top three drivers in points. Which of these drivers have the best chance to get to the all-time record of 11 top tens to start the season (Morgan Shepherd in 1990)?

The next four races are are the Food City 500 In Support Steve Byrnes And Stand Up To Cancer at Bristol on Sunday, the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond on Saturday, April 25th, the Geico 500 at Talladega on Sunday, May 3rd and the SpongeBob SquarePants 500 at Kansas on Saturday, May 9th, the last race before the break for the All-Star race.

Of the three drivers, I think that Truex is the most likely to have his top ten streak broken next weekend at Bristol. He has a pair of top fives in his career at the track but those are his only top tens at the track and they were in 2011-12. Since then, he had finished 11th, 12th, 35th and 36th and 20th. While his past results are by no means a guarantee that he will finish outside of the top ten on Sunday afternoon, his past history does not appear to bode well for him.

Over the course of the season thus far, nobody has been driving better than Harvick as I noted before Saturday's race at TMS as he still has only one non-top two finish for the year. He also has the best average finish of the three at Bristol in his career in 14th. However, he has not finish in the top ten since 2011 at Bristol and he has not finished in the top five since 2008. You can't rule him out of a good run at all this weekend considering how he and his team are on an absolute roll this season but Bristol, once one of his better tracks, has not been that kind to him over the past few years.

That brings us to Logano, who happens to be the last driver to win at Bristol after he won the night race in August. He has steadily gotten better over his career at Bristol since a poor start there when he was with Joe Gibbs Racing.

So in the end, I think Logano (thanks to his recent success at Bristol) and Harvick (thanks to his sensational start) are the drivers best poised to have their top ten streak intact going into Richmond. As for going forward, I would lean towards Harvick being the last driver to have the top ten streak going at least into Talladega (always a wild card) since he is tremendous at Richmond.

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