Here are four things we’ve learned after the first eight NASCAR races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is eight races into their season and almost a third of the way through the regular season.
With a good mix of tracks already run this season, now is a good time to take a quick look at some of the things we’ve learned in eight NASCAR races.
Kyle Busch is really good
After his third win of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch has now accumulated 19 playoff points through eight races. That’s the most during that span of racing. The previous best was 12.
Busch has finished inside the top-10 in all eight races with his worst finish all season being tenth at Texas Motor Speedway.
He’s led 498 laps and has an average finish of 3.4, which is more than two finishing positions of the next closest driver.
What’s maybe even more impressive is that Busch has the seventh best average starting position, 11.8. Busch has navigated his way through the top-part of the field with the new aero package for the first right races of the season.
Kevin Harvick has no wins
Seven races in and Harvick has no wins. For most drivers, that wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. But Harvick had three wins through the first eight races a year ago.
Harvick has also led 133 laps through the eight seven races. That’s the fewest total number of laps led since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Our day was a disaster,” Harvick said after the race at Texas Motor Speedway. “Our car drove terrible and that pretty much sums it up.”
So what do we make of this start for Harvick? Well, we probably can’t read into too much and here’s why.
Harvick is still third in points, has six top-10 finishes (tied for second best) and has the third best average finish of all drivers, 8.7.
Is the start to the season what many folks are accustomed to out of Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers? No. Is it time to panic? Definitely not.
Harvick has plenty of time to get back in victory lane before the playoffs start.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez in the playoffs
Last season Stenhouse Jr., Newman and Suarez missed the NASCAR playoffs. If those playoffs were to start today, they would all be in.
Stenhouse Jr. picked up two wins in 2017 to lock his playoff position in place. However, in 2018 Roush Fenway Racing struggled mightily and both teams missed the playoffs.
Newman missed the playoffs last year in his final season with Richard Childress Racing. Newman took over the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing after the car driving duties were split between Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth in 2018.
This season, Stenhouse Jr. and teammate Ryan Newman are both in the playoffs. Heading into the race at Richmond Raceway, Newman sits 15th Stenhouse Jr. sits 16th in the point standings.
Suarez on the the other hand has never made the NASCAR playoffs and in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing is off to a great start.
He currently sits 14th in the standings and has three top-10 finishes. After the race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Suarez acknowledged the team struggled but was pleased they still came away with a good finish.
“Today was difficult. We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top-10. I’m proud of that,” said Suarez in his post-race report.
“We have to keep getting better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team and great racecars, and it’s always good to perform well.
Rookies are off to a slow start
The expectations for Daniel Hemric in his rookie season with Richard Childress Racing were average, maybe slightly above, given the new aero package. However, after eight races to think Hemric would have yet to finish a race on the lead lap seems out of the ordinary.
Heading into the race at Richmond Raceway, Hemric sits 29th in points, seven points ahead of fellow rookie Matt Tifft of Front Row Motorsports. He sits 11 positions in the standings behind RCR teammate Austin Dillon.
As for Matt Tifft, the expectations for his rookie season were realistic given his team doesn’t have as many resources as the larger teams in the series.
Tifft’s best finish was also at ISM Raceway in Phoenix were he finished 20th and he’s been running at the finish of every race since the Daytona 500.
It’s still early in the season for both of these rookies and improvements will be made as the year progresses.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.