Crunching numbers: Chasing Kevin Harvick

April, 5, 2011

An interesting and completely meaningless thought popped into my head the other day, as they're apt to do.

If I were to run around Martinsville Speedway, just over a half-mile in length and fairly flat, how long would it take me?

I can't remember the last time I ran a mile straight, but there was a point in my life when I could run a mile in seven minutes or a little less. I couldn't put up those numbers now, but I feel like with a little training, I'm in. So, I'm setting my over/under at four minutes. I feel like the fatigue wouldn't kick my butt to the maximum until after the half-mile mark.

That, of course, led me to think about what drivers would put up the best time taking a lap around Martinsville on foot. Obviously Carl Edwards would be right there, and what about fitness nut Mark Martin? So, weigh in on the conversation section on who wins a half-mile foot race among the Sprint Cup drivers.

Now, on to the actual postrace Martinsville discussion …

It only takes one …

Kevin Harvick now has won two straight Cup races for just the second time in his career. But he's done so in impressive and unusual fashion, leading only seven laps combined in those two races.

Since NASCAR began fully tracking laps led in the Cup series in 1963, no driver had ever won back-to-back races leading that few laps, according to our friends over at Racing Resources.

The previous record was 18 by Jimmie Johnson in 2007; before that, it was 45 by Jeff Gordon in 1999. Those are the only three drivers to lead fewer than 50 laps in winning back-to-back races.

Trivia break! Which two active drivers did Harvick tie on the all-time wins list with 16?

… But you need that one

On the flip side is Kyle Busch, who has now led the most laps in the last two races but has only two third-place finishes to show for it.

That's a pretty unusual occurrence. Those same friends at Racing Resources tell me that the last driver to lead the most laps in back-to-back races but not win either was Sterling Marlin in 2003. Marlin finished sixth in both of those races.

Trivia break! Who is the only other driver since 2000 to lead the most laps in back-to-back races but not win? Hint: He did it three times in 2001.

Streak busters

Martinsville was a bad track for all of us researchers who crave the sweet statistical note.

Denny Hamlin failed in his bid to be the second driver to win four in a row at Martinsville and join Fred Lorenzen in NASCAR's early days.

Meanwhile, Johnson finished 11th, just barely missing his 18th straight top-10 finish at Martinsville, which would've tied two other drivers for the Cup record for consecutive top-10s at a track.

Trivia break! Which two drivers are tied for the most consecutive top-10s at a track? Hint: They both had 18 in a row at North Wilkesboro.

Trivia break answers

1. Harvick tied Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle.

2. Jeff Gordon did it three times in 2001 and went on to win the title.

3. Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each had 18 straight top-10s at North Wilkesboro.

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.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?