The No. 14 makes it 14 (years) in a row

March, 13, 2012

A week after Darian Grubb proved he could win without Tony Stewart, Tony Stewart proved he could win without Darian Grubb. Classic fairy-tale ending.

But let's get away from the romanticized tales of vindication and betrayal, and start talking some numbers. And today's number is 14.

No, that's not because it's Tony Stewart's car number, give me some credit now. This was the 14th season in a row in which Tony Stewart has won a Cup race, making him just the eighth driver to do so, joining Richard Petty, David Pearson, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon.

What else makes it impressive is that, other than this season, Stewart's only finished one year with just a single win during that streak. Among the other seven drivers, only Petty and Gordon had one or fewer single-win seasons during their streaks.

Trivia break: With his 45th career Cup win, Stewart moved into sole possession of 15th all-time. Who was he tied with?

None Shall Pass

Last year at Las Vegas, Stewart was dominant, leading 163 laps. But he came up short, finishing second to Carl Edwards.

This year, he didn't lead as many laps, but his average position on the track was two-and-a-half spots better. Plus, he was only passed nine times under green flag, compared to 71 last year.

That marks the fewest times a driver has been passed under green in a Cup win since Jimmie Johnson was only passed six times when he won at Phoenix in November 2009.

Trivia break: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made it three-for-three for non-Cup regulars in the Nationwide Series this weekend. When was the last time the first three Nationwide races were won by non-Cup drivers?

Third Time's The Charm

A little way behind Stewart, Greg Biffle was finishing third for the third time in three races this season. The rule of threes is in strong effect here.

The last time a driver started a season with three straight top-three finishes came in 2006, when Jimmie Johnson did it on his way to a title.

However, dating back to 1980, four other drivers besides Biffle and Johnson have done it, and none of them went on to win a title.

Trivia break: Who was the last driver to start a season with four straight top-three finishes?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Stewart broke a tie with Bill Elliott.
2. In 1995, Chad Little won the first two, and Kenny Wallace the third race.
3. Earnhardt had four straight top-threes to start the 1989 season.

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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