- Sports Staff
Sports Update: NASCAR Cup Series Driver Notables through the First 10 Races (6/10/20) By: Josh Scott
Ten races are now in the books as the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season goes full throttle into June. Since racing returned almost two months ago, the Cup Series has had a mix of front-runners making headlines and surprise names that are turning heads. Let's take a look at those drivers:
The "Top Dog": Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing)
Since NASCAR's return, Harvick is showing he is the guy to beat. The 44-year-old leads the point standings by a wide margin and is one of only four drivers to win multiple races so far this season. The Bakersfield, CA native is tied with Kyle Busch for most top 5 finishes (6) and leads the competition in top 10's (9), as well as laps lead (542). Harvick's average finish (5.6) also bests the field. It's still early in the season, but the driver known as "The Closer" certainly looks to be closing in on winning his second title.
The "Dark Horse": Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford Mustang for Penske Racing)
BK has been on a hot streak lately. The 2012 Cup champ has six straight top 10 finishes, two of which are wins...unexpected wins. Both wins resulted from Keselowski snatching the lead away from another driver with under three laps to go. The Michigan native is now fourth in points with five top 5's and eight top 10's. Although he may not have the best car on a week-to-week basis, Keselowski, like Harvick, could have a legitimate shot at winning HIS second title.
Making Noise: Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevy Camero for Hendrick Motorsports)
In his fourth year of driving in NASCAR's top level, Chase Elliott is finally coming into his own. The son of Hall-of-Fame driver Bill Elliott sits third in the point standings with one win, five top 5's and seven top 10's. Elliott leads the competition in stage wins (5) and is second only to Kevin Harvick in laps lead (394). It hasn't been a perfect season, but certainly a special one. If Elliott can be a bit more consistent, he should solidify himself as a legitimate championship threat at the end of the season.
Biggest Surprise: John-Hunter Nemechek (No. 38 Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports)
One of six rookie drivers in the Cup Series, John-Hunter Nemecheck has surprised many so far. The son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek is 21st in points with only one top 10 finish up to this point. He's finished 13th twice in the last three races and has an average finish of 19.4. Considering the 22-year-old is driving for one of the underdog Cup Series teams in Front Row Motorsports, this is quite impressive. This shows the former Truck Series standout has exceeded expectations and could finish in the top 20 in points before it's all said and done.
Biggest Disappointment: William Byron (No. 24 Chevy Camero for Hendrick Motorsports)
At only 22 years old, Byron enters his third year in the Cup Series. The current Liberty University student had a sneaky-good 2019 season finishing 11th in points. He posted career highs in top 5's (5), top 10's (13), and laps lead (233). Byron's average finish last year was also a career-best (14.8). So far, 2020 has yet to produce the same results. The Charlotte native is 17th in points with only three top ten's and an average finish of 20.7. Byron has fast, competitive cars this year, but has struggled to finish where he starts. However, at this point last year, Byron only had one top 10 finish. It will be interesting to see if 2019 ultimately repeats itself for the former Xfinity Series champion.
Don't Sleep On: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevy Camero for Hendrick Motorsports)
The last two seasons have not been kind to Jimmie Johnson. After missing the playoffs for the first time in his career (2019), many thought the seven-time champion had lost his touch. So far, 2020 has been a different story. With only two top 5's, six top 10's, and no wins so far, the 44-year-old's stats aren't stellar, but they show he can compete. If it weren't for a Stage 1 crash at Darlington and a post-race inspection failure after the Coca-Cola 600, Johnson might have won a race or two by now. However, things look to be heading in the right direction for the El Cajon, CA native as he continues his farewell season.
On a side note, this past week, NASCAR announced that some fans will be allowed to return to the racetrack. Homestead-Miami Speedway plans on inviting 1,000 military members, from the Homestead Air Reserve Base, to attend its June 14th event. The following weekend, the legendary Talladega Superspeedway will allow up to 5,000 race fans to watch its 500-miler on June 21st.