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NASCAR StatWatch: Kyle Busch's win, championship caps tremendous season for Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch's only win of the NASCAR season, in the final race at Homestead-Miami, secured his second series championship. Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

So we've reached the end of the line, that is for the three months or so before they go racing at Daytona. But it's still a cold, dark winter with less NASCAR than we've become used to.

You could make a good argument that the four strongest drivers this season were the four who were racing for a championship at Homestead, and for much of the day, they backed it up by running at the front.

The race for the championship proved that NASCAR is more than just driving fast. Pit crew mishaps and successes, along with adapting to changing track conditions, made it seem like there were four teams competing for the championship, instead of four drivers on their own.

In the end, the odds that a Joe Gibbs Racing driver (75 percent, all things being equal) paid off, and Kyle Busch, who worked the playoff points system perfectly to get to the Championship Four, snapped a 21-race winless streak at the perfect time.

In a way, it was much like his 2015 championship, when he snapped a 15-race winless streak with a Homestead victory. Of course, that year, he missed a big chunk of the early season with a leg injury sustained in a Daytona crash.

With that, Busch joins the list of drivers with a Cup Series championship, to the shorter list of drivers with multiple championships. That list among active drivers is just Busch and Jimmie Johnson. Not to get lost in the fray is that Busch is now solo ninth on the all-time wins list (breaking a tie with Rusty Wallace), and becomes the 15th driver in series history with 200 top-five finishes.

But let's dig into what happened at Homestead with some of my favorite stats of the weekend.

Busch gets there with consistency

The playoff system is supposed to reward victory more than consistency, as the previous points system did. But in Kyle Busch's case this year, he hit both objectives.

Busch started the season with unprecedented consistency, becoming the second driver in series history to start a Cup season with a top-10 finish in each of the first 11 races, joining Morgan Shepherd in 1990.

The final count for Busch was 27 top-10 finishes in 36 races, the most for a driver in a championship season since Dale Jarrett had 29 in 1999.

In total, this is just the sixth season in the Modern Era (starting in 1972, when the series cut back from running 40 to 50 races a season to a more regulated schedule in which more drivers ran the full slate of races), in which the champion driver had 27-plus top-10 finishes.

  • 2019: Kyle Busch (27)

  • 1999: Dale Jarrett (29)

  • 1998: Jeff Gordon (28)

  • 1979: Richard Petty (27)

  • 1977: Cale Yarborough (27)

  • 1972: Richard Petty (28)

Busch also finished this season with an 8.9 average finish, the best in the series, but not as good as his 8.3 average finish last season.

Busch thus becomes the first driver since Mark Martin in 1997 and 1998 to have back-to-back seasons with an average finish better than ninth (Martin's was 8.97 in 1997. Before that, you have to go back to Dale Earnhardt, who did it multiple times, most recently in 1993-94.

A team effort

A shoutout has to go to Martin Truex Jr., who finished second in the race, and thus, the championship, for his third straight top-two finish in points.

He's the first driver to pull off that feat since Jimmie Johnson had his run of five straight championships from 2006-10. Before that, you have to go back to Jeff Gordon's reign of dominance, he did it four straight seasons from 1995-98, with three titles in that span.

Last week, I broke down the season that Joe Gibbs Racing has had. Now they've tacked on a 19th win, tying them for the fifth-most ever in a single season and the most in the Modern Era. To put that in perspective, the team they're tied for fifth with is Petty Enterprises in 1970 and 1963 -- in 1970 there were 48 races and in 1963 there were 55.

Gibbs became just the second team in Cup Series history with more than 12 wins, a Daytona 500 victory and a driver championship in the same season (keeping in mind that the Daytona 500 only dates back to 1959). The other was Petty Enterprises in 1971. Petty got 21 wins from Richard Petty that season and one from Buddy Baker.

In a strange twist, Baker's lone win that season came at Darlington. Which is where JGR's Erik Jones also picked up his lone win this season.

Love to the other series

Let's not forget about the Xfinity or Truck series, both of which crowned champions at Homestead as well. If you watched the Xfinity race broadcast, they made a point to break down how Tyler Reddick became the ninth driver in series history with multiple championships, but the first to do it with multiple teams.

Reddick also became the youngest driver at the time of his second Xfinity Championship at just 23. This is the ninth straight season the series champion has been 25 or younger, the last "graybeard" to win it was 26-year-old Brad Keselowski in 2010.

Cole Custer finished second in points for a second straight year. In 2016-17, Elliott Sadler also had back-to-back runner-up finishes in points (he was also second in 2011 and 2012).

Meanwhile, in the Truck Series, veteran Matt Crafton won his third championship, joining Ron Hornaday (four) and Jack Sprague (three) as drivers with at least three titles.

Crafton won his title in non-traditional fashion. He was second at Homestead, matching his best finish of the season. That makes him the first driver in series history to win a championship without winning a race that season. In fact, in the three NASCAR National Series, only he and Austin Dillon (2013 Xfinity Series) have won championships without a win that season.

Enjoy the offseason everybody!