Ranking Every Sprint Cup Series-Winning Performance from 2013 Season so Far
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has just about reached its halfway point. Thus far, 17 of the 36 points-counting races have been run. In those 17 there has been 10 different winners.
Some winning performances saw a driver lead the majority of the laps and score the win with seemingly no competition. Others have seen the winning driver just have a solid run all throughout the race but never be a factor until the closing laps.
In the slides ahead, I will count the performance of the winning driver in each of the 17 events, based on how they performed through the entirety of the race that they ultimately won.
Keep in mind that this is not a ranking of the quality or excitement of the actual races, and that only points-counting races were included.
17. Kevin Harvick: Charlotte
Kevin Harvick won the 2013 Coca Cola 600, but he wasn’t even part of the storyline until the last 40 laps. This race is mostly remembered for the FOX camera cable falling onto the race surface and tearing up a handful of race cars, including then-leader Kyle Busch.
Three cars dominated the action. Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Busch were the class of the field. Between the three of them they led 338 of the race's 400 laps.
Busch lost an engine late in the race and Kenseth was involved in an accident with 65 laps to go. All of this opened the door for Harvick.
After the final caution of the night, all lead lap cars pitted, with the exception of race leader Kahne. On the restart Harvick, with fresher tires, was able to make quick work of Kahne and take the checkered flag after leading just 28 laps in total.
16. Tony Stewart: Dover
Tony Stewart snapped a 30-race winless streak and scored his first top-five finish of the season with his win in Dover. The race saw Kyle Busch dominate the first half of the race, and Jimmie Johnson was the man to beat over the final 200 laps, but in the end it was Stewart scoring the win.
The race's final caution came with 23 laps to go. The race off pit road saw Juan Pablo Montoya come out as the new leader. Johnson was second, followed by Stewart in third. Johnson quickly took the lead, but was shown the black flag for jumping the restart. This handed the lead back to Montoya.
As the laps wound down, Stewart reeled in Montoya, and with three laps remaining took the lead for the first time in the race. He held off Montoya and Jeff Gordon to score the win.
15. Kevin Harvick: Richmond
Kevin Harvick lived up to his nickname of “The Closer” when he scored his first win of the season at Richmond. Harvick led a total of three laps in the 400-lap event, but one of those three was the most important one.
After the race had been dominated by Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer in the early going, Juan Montoya took over as the race leader with 70 laps remaining. He had things well in hand until a Denny Hamlin accident with four laps to go brought out the race's final caution.
Most of the leaders pitted for fresh tires. Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger all elected to stay out. On the restart, the three leaders with worn tires stacked up the field. Harvick was able to get around all of the cars that had stayed out and outrun Bowyer and Montoya to the checkers.
14. Greg Biffle: Michigan
For much of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan, being at the front of the field was not the place you wanted to be. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson all had problems at some point in the race, and all while running inside the top five.
Everyone else’s struggles paved the way for Greg Biffle to score the win. After a caution on Lap 168, Biffle cycled around as the race leader. Johnson worked his way up to second and was closing quickly on Biffle in the final laps when he blew a front tire, ending his chances.
Biffle ended up winning by nearly three seconds over Kevin Harvick. He led a race-high 48 laps on the afternoon, but it never seemed like he was going to be the driver to beat, although he spent the entire second half of the race inside the top five.
13. Jimmie Johnson: Daytona
The big story coming out of this year’s Daytona 500 was Danica Patrick. She had earned the pole for the race and was strong all day long, ultimately finishing in eighth place. Almost an afterthought, Jimmie Johnson was the race winner.
Johnson was solid all day long, never dropping below 18th place in the running order, but at the same time, he was never the dominant car. Johnson led five early laps, but didn’t lead again until Lap 186, and then again for the final 10 laps.
Overall, Johnson led 17 laps on the day and was able to avoid the two big accidents that collected nine cars each. When the checkers flew, he was able to hold off the hard charge of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin to score his second Daytona 500 win.
12. David Ragan: Talladega
David Ragan pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory when he shocked the world at Talladega. Ragan earned Front Row Motorsports' first win in a first-and-second finish with teammate David Gilliland.
In a race not typical of Talladega races, Matt Kenseth dominated most of the day. He led 142 of the 192 laps but got shuffled out by the underdog teammates on the final green-white-checkered restart.
When the field took the green flag with two laps remaining, Ragan restarted in 10th place. By the time the white flag flew, he and Gilliland were battling Kenseth and Carl Edwards for the lead.
Ragan took the lead, and was able to hold off the charge of Edwards to score the unlikely victory, leading only four laps on the day.
11. Matt Kenseth: Kentucky
The most recent race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule saw Matt Kenseth score the win in Kentucky. While Kenseth was strong all race long, it was pit strategy that enabled him to pick up his fourth win of the year.
Jimmie Johnson was seemingly the car to beat all race long. At Lap 43 he took the lead for the first time. He proceeded to lead 181 of the next 200 laps.
When the caution came out on Lap 244, all lead lap cars hit pit road. Most cars took two tires only, while Kenseth came off pit road first, taking no tires at all. On the ensuing restart, Johnson, thinking Kenseth had led the field to the green too slowly, got loose and ended up spinning out.
The final restart saw Kenseth hold off Clint Bowyer and then a hard-charging Jamie McMurray to ultimately take the win. Kenseth led 38 laps on the day and spent all of the final 100 laps inside the top five.
10. Matt Kenseth: Las Vegas
Matt Kenseth’s first win driving for Joe Gibbs Racing came in just his third race with the team. It was a win that he certainly had to earn, as he had Kasey Kahne in his tire tracks for the final 25 laps.
Kahne had been strong all day, leading a race-high 114 laps, but in the closing segments of the race, Kenseth was able to use the clean air to his advantage. Lap after lap, Kahne hounded the back bumper of Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota, but could never quite get the run he needed to get underneath Kenseth.
In the end, Kenseth notched the win, edging Kahne by .594 seconds after leading 42 laps on the day, including the final 41.
9. Carl Edwards: Phoenix
After wrecking five race cars during speed weeks in Daytona, Carl Edwards rebounded in the grandest way. He snapped a 70-race winless streak when he crossed the start/finish line first in Phoenix.
Edwards started the race in 15th place, but by Lap 120 of the 316-lap race he had climbed inside the top five, where he would stay for the rest of the day.
Following a caution on Lap 238 Edwards inherited the lead after being the first car off of pit road. He had the win in his sights when a caution with two laps remaining set up a green-white-checkered finish.
He was able to break away once the green flag waved and ultimately took the checkered flag by just over one second. Edwards led a race-high 122 laps, including the final 78 circuits.
8. Kasey Kahne: Bristol
One week after coming up one spot short against Matt Kenseth in Las Vegas, Kasey Kahne found redemption by winning at Bristol. In a race that featured many strong cars, Kahne was able to lead 109 laps en route to his first, and to this point only, win of the 2013 season.
When Jeff Gordon blew a tire while leading on Lap 390, and second-place runner Matt Kenseth was caught up in the incident, the lead was handed to Kahne.
The final 110 laps saw Kahne and defending series champion Brad Keselowski exchange the lead four times between them. Ultimately it was Kahne who was able to make the final pass and lead the last 40 laps. He finished the day with a 1.7-second margin of victory over Kyle Busch.
7. Matt Kenseth: Darlington
Matt Kenseth’s win in Darlington was not a dominating performance, but in typical Matt Kenseth fashion, it was a methodical and consistent performance all throughout the 367-lap race.
While it was Kyle Busch who had the car to beat for most of the night, leading 265 laps, it was Kenseth who remained patient. Constantly running at the front of the field, his car seemed to be at its best in the closing laps, while Busch’s was at its worst.
With 13 laps remaining, Busch’s car had completely gone away from him and Kenseth made the most of it. He easily got by his teammate and drove off to a 3.155-second victory.
Kenseth led three times on the night for just 17 laps, but not once did he ever fall outside of the top 10 in the running order.
6. Martin Truex Jr.: Sonoma
It took 218 races, but Martin Truex Jr. finally earned his second career Sprint Cup Series win when the series went to the road course in Sonoma. After starting 14th, Truex inherited the lead at Lap 41. Other than a cycle of pit stops, he was never running worse than fourth for the rest of the day.
When the race’s final caution came out on Lap 83 many of the lead lap cars headed down pit road. Truex stayed on track and reassumed the lead.
The gamble paid off. As the laps were winding down, he had opened up a lead of six seconds over Juan Pablo Montoya. When Montoya ran out of fuel on the final lap, Truex was officially credited with a margin of victory of 8.133 seconds.
On the day, Truex led 51 of the race's 110 laps. Prior to this win, he had led a total of 16 laps in 14 career road course starts.
5. Kyle Busch: Fort Worth
Kyle Busch scored his second win of the season in Fort Worth. It was a race that saw he and Martin Truex Jr. lead 313 of 334 laps combined. Busch led 171 of those, including the final 20. after his pit crew got him off of pit road with the lead following the race's final caution.
The final restart saw Busch restart on the inside of Truex. At the drop of the green flag, he was quickly able to pull away and spent the closing laps relatively unchallenged.
Busch was so dominant that throughout the course of the race he never dropped below ninth in the running order, and he was only that low on a round of green-flag pit stops. Other than that, he spent the entire night running inside the top three.
4. Matt Kenseth: Kansas
Matt Kenseth has never been a driver synonymous with great qualifying. So when he won the pole for the Sprint Cup race at Kansas, the rest of the field had to know that they were in trouble.
Kenseth dominated the early action. He led 110 of the first 112 laps. He spent the middle portion of the race lingering in before reclaiming the lead with 53 laps to go. The closing laps saw Kenseth’s car begin to fade a little bit as Kasey Kahne was once again fast approaching.
Much like earlier in the season, at Las Vegas, Kenseth was able to hold off the charges of Kahne. In similar fashion, Kahne was able to close on the bumper of Kenseth, but in the end, the No. 20 car had just enough speed to maintain his advantage.
In total, Kenseth led 163 laps, nearly four times more than any other driver.
3. Kyle Busch: Auto Club Speedway
If you only saw the closing laps of the Auto Club 400 at Fontana, you may have thought Kyle Busch won the race by being in the right place at the right time.The final lap saw Denny Hamlin get wrecked by Joey Logano while Busch slid by the mayhem to get the win.
The fact is Busch had the car to beat all race long. He started the race in fourth place, and by Lap 11 had taken the lead. He would go on to lead a race-best 125 laps.
Busch led 92 of the race's final 124 laps, and at no point under green-flag conditions on the track was Busch worse than third in the running order.
2. Jimmie Johnson: Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson’s second win of the season came on the series’ shortest track, Martinsville. Johnson won the pole for the race, and with the exception of a 100-lap stretch in the middle of the race, he led just about every step of the way.
Overall, Johnson led 346 of the race's 500 laps. That was a new career high in laps led, and the most by any driver at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton led 378 back in 1998.
Even when he wasn’t leading the field, Johnson was never far from it. He was never outside the top five at any point in the race. He spent the last 175 laps either first or second, including leading the race's final 138 laps.
1. Jimmie Johnson: Pocono
As good as Johnson was in Martinsville, he was even better at Pocono. Johnson won his third race of the season after starting on the pole and leading 128 of the 160 laps on the tricky triangle.
Ryan Newman got off of pit sequence with the rest of the lead lap cars on Lap 68. Because of this, he led 19 laps on the day, which otherwise would have been more laps that Johnson would have led.
The end result saw Johnson win the race by just 1.208 seconds, but it was only that close because of three cautions in the final 20 laps bunching the field back together. There were times in the race when Johnson had built a near double-digit lead on second place.
Johnson was so dominant that at no point while on the race track was he ever running worse than second.