Crunching numbers after Chicagoland

July, 13, 2010

Everybody loves a good upset, me included. And while Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway wasn't David Reutimann's first career Cup series win, it was his most impressive moment in the series.

Reutimann's no young gun, having turned 40 earlier this season, and wasn't the next big thing coming into the Cup series. He failed to qualify for eight races his freshman season and has seen his career grow from the bottom up along with Michael Waltrip Racing.

The top five Saturday night was full of possible feel-good stories. Runner-up Carl Edwards has failed to win since his breakout 2008 season, when he won nine races. (Ford, too, has failed to win this year.) Jeff Gordon was third, still looking to finally turn one of his multitude of top-5s this year into a win. Clint Bowyer raced his way back into a Chase position with a fourth-place run. And Jamie McMurray, the odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing after last season, was fifth, his fifth top-five of the season, more than he had in any season with Roush.

One could also make the argument that NASCAR needed an upset win in prime time Saturday night. Chicago was the first race in the second half of the season. In the first half, five drivers accounted for 16 of the 18 wins. NASCAR is at its best when an "anyone can win" mentality rules.

If you ask this humble researcher, it was a great way to start the second half of the season. So now we'll take a deep breath, enjoy the off week, and get ready to head to Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400.

In the meantime, here are some research notes coming out of Chicago:

Deeply rooted

I've been on vacation, so I wasn't hanging around the research room Saturday night when the race ended. We usually like to sum up the race using a graphic containing some sort of stat on the winner, but I couldn't think of a great note coming off Reutimann's win.

He would've been the first driver to get his first career win at Chicago, had it not been for his rain-aided win at Charlotte last season. However, now he has a pair of Sprint Cup wins in his career, and it's important to note how few drivers have done just that.

Reutimann became the 118th driver in the history of the series with at least a pair of wins. He has both Cup wins for Michael Waltrip Racing, as well.

Let's take a look at some notable active teams that got both of their first two wins from a single driver. Hendrick Motorsports' first two wins came courtesy Geoff Bodine. Dale Jarrett won the first two for Joe Gibbs Racing. Ricky Rudd won for Richard Childress Racing, and Mark Martin won for Roush Fenway Racing.

Will David Reutimann one day be at the level as these other drivers? Although he's not a young gun, he's off to a good start.

Trivia break! Reutimann didn't quite get to 13th in points -- in fact, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fell to 13th. But over the last two seasons, the driver 13th in points at this point came back to make the Chase. Who were they?

Hitting the milestone

Jeff Gordon made his 600th career Cup start on Saturday. That's a mark that 20 other drivers have hit prior to Gordon, but only one driver performed better than Gordon's third-place run in his 600th start.

In 1973 at Richmond, Richard Petty got the win in his 600th career start. Only one other driver besides Gordon finished in the top five -- Darrell Waltrip, who was also third at Atlanta in 1994.

Although he didn't get that elusive win, it was Gordon's fifth straight top-5 finish.

Trivia break! Who was the only other driver with a top-10 finish in his 600th start?

600 and counting ...

Before I part, I have one more nugget on Gordon hitting 600. He's made all of those starts consecutively, just the sixth driver in series history with a consecutive-starts streak that long.

So, here's your list of NASCAR's iron men:

Most consecutive starts in Cup series history
• Ricky Rudd -- 788
• Rusty Wallace -- 697
• Terry Labonte -- 655
• Dale Earnhardt -- 648
• Mark Martin -- 621
• Jeff Gordon -- 600

Trivia break! After Gordon, who has the next-longest active streak of consecutive starts?

Trivia break answers

1. Clint Bowyer came back from 13th in 2008. Greg Biffle did it last year.

2. Rusty Wallace was sixth in 2003 at Rockingham in his 600th start.

3. Bobby Labonte has made 599 consecutive starts. He'll join Gordon in the 600 club at Indianapolis.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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