Putting Kevin Harvick's 2018 Cup season into perspective thus far

Kevin Harvick, left, talks to his crew chief, Rodney Childers, during practice for the GECIO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

Sunday's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked the halfway point of the Cup series regular season, and in most every other season, Kyle Busch picking up a fourth win with a dominating performance in one of NASCAR's crown jewel races would be the talk of the circuit through 13 races.

However, Kevin Harvick has one-upped Busch's first-half performance, collecting five Cup victories and an impressive number of laps led. Despite a last-place finish at Charlotte, Harvick still leads the series in wins and top-5s (nine) and is tied for the most top-10s (10).

Let's put what Harvick has done in the first half into perspective:

Torrid pace

Five wins in the first 12 races of the season is an impressive feat. How impressive? It hasn't been done since Jeff Gordon accomplished it in 1997, and before that, you have to go back to Dale Earnhardt's legendary 1987 season, when he won six of the first 12 races.

In fact, going back to 1980, Harvick is just the fifth driver to pull off that feat. The other four each finished the season with double-digit victories, with three of them winning the Cup championship.

In Cup series history, there have been 10 seasons before Harvick's fast start in which a driver has won at least five times during the first 12 races, and those drivers averaged 12 wins over the complete season.

Let's get wild for a moment: Five wins in 12 races means Harvick is on pace for 15 wins this season. That's just crazy talk. But playing the what-if game, it means that if he wins 15, Harvick would set the modern-era record (since 1972) and would have the most wins since Richard Petty won 21 times in 46 starts in 1971.

Laps led

At the halfway point of the regular season, Harvick has led 820 total laps, or 19 percent of all the laps run to date. Harvick led 850 laps for the entire 2017 season.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is no stranger to leading a bunch of laps. In both 2014 and 2015, he was over the 2,000 laps mark. Last year, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch hit the 2,000 mark, but it's not exactly a common feat. When Harvick did it, he was the first to do so since Jimmie Johnson did it in 2009, and before that, it was Gordon in 2001.

Although we have a couple of races with fewer laps led remaining this year (notably the road courses), let's pretend Harvick keeps up this pace over a 36-race season, which would give him 2,270 laps led on the season.

If he's able to up that pace a little and get to 2,300, he would be the first to hit that mark since Gordon did it in 2001 (2,320). If he gets past that mark, he'll be shooting for Gordon's mark of 2,610 in 1995 for the most in the past 25 seasons.

It also would be Harvick's third season topping 2,000 laps led. He would be the seventh driver to have three such seasons since 1972, putting him in the company of Cale Yarborough (7), Darrell Waltrip (6), Earnhardt (4) and Petty, Rusty Wallace and Gordon (3 apiece).

Even if he didn't lead another lap this season, 820 laps led is still an impressive number. That would've ranked fifth overall in the series last season.

Career highs

Five wins not only leads the Cup series this season, it also matches a career high in single-season Cup victories for Harvick. He first hit five wins in 2006, and then again in his 2014 championship season.

He also is on pace to break his career high in top-5s with 25. If he collects the 16 additional top-5s to get there, he'll be up to 193 overall. That would move him from 20th to 16th on the all-time list, passing Matt Kenseth (assuming Kenseth doesn't stay ahead of him), Terry Labonte, Ned Jarrett and his boss, Tony Stewart.

It also would leave him one shy of Ricky Rudd for 15th all time.

His age

Let's not forget, Harvick is having his career year at 42 years old (he'll turn 43 on Dec. 8). The early 40s is historically where we see a drop-off in a Cup series driver's performance. Johnson, in the middle of his worst season thus far, is only 82 days older than Harvick.

If Harvick gets one more win, he would be the first driver with a six-win season after turning 42 since Waltrip in 1989. With seven victories, he would be the first since Bobby Allison won eight in 1982 (he was 45). The only driver with a season better than that is Lee Petty's 11 wins in 1959; Petty was also 45.

Harvick already is having a late-career surge that isn't exactly common. Eleven of his career wins have come after turning 40, already tied for the 12th most in series history for that age.

To put that further into perspective, 200-time race winner Richard Petty won 16 races after he turned 40. Gordon, with 93 career wins, had fewer than Harvick after age 40 at nine.