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NASCAR: Midseason Analysis

Posted By Joseph Hopkins On Jul 6 2011 @ 3:11 pm In NASCAR | No Comments

We’re sitting sixteen races in, nineteen to go in the 2011 season.

Before the season, I wrote a preview article on the best drivers of 2011:

http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/02/03/top-20-nascar-drivers-of-2011/ [1]

It was pretty popular. I got more hits on that article than any other. It was also fun to write. So here’s a sequal.

You’re going to find fast that my preseason picks had some big misses. But what can you do? The Logano pick was a nightmare. As was Burton and Reutimann. At least I accurately predicted that McMurray would be a waste this year.

The following 12 cars are in my eyes the top cars this year. Some have had bad luck, and their standings don’t show their rankings. I also see many of these cars moving up the next few weeks.


1.) Kyle Busch #18

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 2nd/5

Current # of Wins: 2


(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Just looking at the standings, you wouldn’t know it; but Kyle Busch is easily having the best season so far. He is far and away the driver with the most laps lead with 935 (Johnson is second with 473). He also has the best average position of all the drivers (9.240, by three track spots). This might not sound that special, but Jimmie Johnson was also the run-away winner in both these stats last year. A very good indicator for a team’s actual strength.

Biggest concern is if he can have a strong Chase. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t, but it’s been a struggle for him.

2.) Carl Edwards #99

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 6th/3

Current # of Wins: 1

The points leader for much of the season. Is a strong contender to take the title. Tied with Busch with nine top-5 finishes. Has missed some good opportunities at tracks like Pocono and Phoenix where he’s had very strong cars but bad luck. Great average position.

3.) Jimmie Johnson #48

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 1st/7

Current # of Wins: 1


(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It’s been an insignificant start to the season so far for Jimmie. His one win was at Talladega, which is no indicator toward how a season is going. He was the dominant car at Dover, which he deserved a win at. He also missed out on a win in Fontana late in the race. He’s second in laps lead with 473; 207 of which came at Dover, which is a great track to be good at, being that it’s an oval and a Chase track.

They’re still lagging more than last year. His average position is only seventh among drivers. Only Jeff Gordon had anywhere near as good of an average as he did last year. Last year: 9.500 This year: 13.552

There should be some worry in the #48 camp. There not the best team right now. A lot of belief that they’re vulnerable this year. A lot more so than last year actually. With that said, he’s still Jimmie Johnson.

4.) Kevin Harvick #29

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 8th/2

Current # of Wins: 3

He’s running very similar to last year. Has closed very well. Among his three wins, he only lead 9 laps in them. Take that as you want. He’s only lead 130 laps this year, 13th of all drivers. That’s not very good, but it was like that last year and it didn’t stop him from finishing a very strong third. He’s run well in the races. He’s also the points leader, so they must be doing something right.

He can win the title, but they could use a little more speed. Could use better qualifies. Only started in the top-10 three times, the best at 7th.

5.) Kurt Busch #22

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 11th/1

Current # of Wins: 1

Kurt Busch??? I thought they stunk all year? Actually, no. He’s lead over 400 laps, and consistently running well on the track (second in AP). Had a dominating win at Sonoma. Three consecutive poles in June. The team has missed big at times as well though; Richmond and Darlington especially. When they’re on, they’re on. Only four top-5’s worries me though. I don’t know if it’s Penske, Kurt, or his specific team; but they need to be more consistent.

6.) Matt Kenseth #17

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 13th/0

Current # of Wins: 2


(Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Has picked it up this year after missing the Chase for the first time last year. A dominant win at Texas got him his first checkers since the February race at Fontana in 2009. Also stole a win in Dover. Solid stats all around. Could be stronger. I don’t see them as a championship threat, but they’ve finally found a groove after all of the crew chief swaps.

7.) Clint Bowyer # 33

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 9th/1

Current # of Wins: 0

Fourth in average position, which is very good. Had a great Chase last year. Could again this year. Similar to his RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, he could use a little more speed. Has lead 257 laps this year.

8.) Jeff Gordon #24

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 4th/2

Current # of Wins: 2

Good news is that he has two wins so far this year. Feels soooo good to say that. Both strong wins. The 24’s strength has been flat track courses. Crew chief Alan Gustafson was strong at them in 2009 while with Mark Martin. The unfortunate part being that they’ve been very poor at short and oval tracks. Sometimes downright awful. They need serious improvement at tracks such as Texas and Dover.

I like them a lot at New Hampshire and Indianapolis coming up.

9.) Denny Hamlin #11

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 3rd/4

Current # of Wins: 1

Statistically, they’re doing fine. They’re average position is stronger than last year. They’re not winning as much, but that was expected. Joe Gibbs cars have had some mechanical issues, which has contributed to him being back in 11th. He’ll make the Chase though. I don’t think they’ll split Denny and Mike Ford either. That would be a huge mistake.

10.) Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 18th/0

Current # of Wins: 0

He’s back. He’s had much more success in Letarte’s cars. Statistically they’re not that good though. Only 43 laps lead (18th in NASCAR), and only 13th in AP. Still need more speed. They’ve benefitted from fuel-mileage races. He’s still greatly improved from the last two years. Not a lock to make the Chase. He’s 39 points ahead of the current 11th place car, so he’s in good shape. But I am concerned if they’ll hang on and not fade.

11.) Tony Stewart #14

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 12th/4

Current # of Wins: 0


(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Not the same Stewart that we’ve seen in his career. They’re not awful though. Chase-worthy stats. They’ve been unimpressive nonetheless. It’ll be interesting if he’ll still be with crew chief Darian Grubb next year. My guess is no. He might even be able to get Greg Zipadelli back in his team.

12.) Kasey Kahne #4

Preseason projected season finish/wins: 10th/2

Current # of Wins: 0

Should be much higher in the standings. Has similar stats to Gordon and Stewart. Has had some bad luck though. I still think he can get a win. Once he does that, he’ll likely have to pass Ragan, which I definetly think he will. He’ll need a win at this point. Only nine races left of the regular season. He’ll be in greener pastures next year on 4400 Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd.



Juan Montoya-Good tracks at Watkins and Indy coming up soon

Greg Biffle-Sitting solid in the third

David Ragan-Have that precious that might pay dividends. Other than that, they’re okay

Paul Menard-Doing solid

Long shots to pay make the Chase, but are much better than their standings: Truex and Keselowski

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