Ryan Newman 13th different winner in '11

July, 19, 2011

One question I get asked more than others (besides that annoying "why do they always turn left?" question) is what driver do I root for?

Placing journalistic integrity (of which I have a little) aside, when I started watching NASCAR, I rooted for Bill Elliott, since he was who my friend who got me into the sport rooted for.

Now, I just root for tight finishes and a variety running up front. That's why this season has been such a treat for me.

In 19 races this season, we've already seen 13 different winners, ranging from the old guard of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to new blood of Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan. It's not just a variety of drivers, it's a variety of teams, which I think bodes well for NASCAR.

We've already had just as many different winners this season as we did last season, with 17 races left. Last year, we didn't have a 13th different winner until the next-to-last race. There were 14 winners in 2009 and 12 in 2008.

With drivers such as Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. yet to win, we could see this season challenge the Cup series record of 19 winners in a season.

And that's music to my ears. The more competitive and unpredictable these races are, the better it is.

Now on to that 13th different winner ...

Newman's own record

There's no doubting Ryan Newman's ability to win poles; his 47 are the 10th most in Cup series history.

However, he hadn't been able to seal the deal when starting up front for some time. He'd last won from the pole position in July 2003 at Pocono.

That's 34 straight winless races after winning the pole, a Cup record. Second is a tie between Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd, both of whom went 26 straight.

Trivia break! Who are the only two active, full-time drivers with more career poles than Newman?

A team sport

I'm a researcher, but I have my limits. So I like to pass along great info if I hear it and give proper credit. So, I've seen this note both on Jayski.com via Marty Smith, and also on TNT after the race.

Newman and Stewart started 1-2, and finished 1-2. They're the first set of teammates to start and finish 1-2 in a race since Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader did so for Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500.

Before 1989, the last time a driver started and won from the pole, with his teammate starting and finishing second, was April 1957 with Fireball Roberts and Paul Goldsmith for DePaolo Engineering. Great note.

Trivia Break!!! Who were the last pair of teammates to finish 1-2 this season?

Hitting the century mark

Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race at New Hampshire for his 100th career win across the three NASCAR National Touring Series, which includes the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. It's something I've written at length before in this blog.

Only 22 percent of Busch's wins have come in Cup, while all of Richard Petty's and all but one of David Pearson's came at the elite level. However, Petty often ran against far weaker fields and Pearson rarely ran a full schedule, so judge the wins as you will.

It also was Busch's 49th Nationwide Series win, tying Mark Martin's career record. Busch has won 22.6 percent of his starts in that series, Martin 20.9. Among the rest of the top five on the wins list, none has a win percentage over 15.

Trivia break! Who are the rest of the top five on the Nationwide Series career wins list?

Trivia break answers

1. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin have more poles than Newman.

2. Just two races ago, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth finished 1-2 at Daytona.

3. Kevin Harvick (37), Carl Edwards (33) and Jack Ingram (31) complete the top five.

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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