DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Now that a soggy Coke Zero Sugar 400 race weekend is behind us from the World Center of Racing, we’ve reached the midway mark of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
As we sit, only four organizations have won a race this season, led by Joe Gibbs Racing (10). Among those four though is Spire Motorsports who shockingly won the rain delayed 400 on Sunday in Daytona.
So, where do the rest of the teams rank?
Martin Truex Jr. leads his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Denny Hamlin in June at Sonoma
Joe Gibbs Racing (A)
The only reason they don’t receive an A+ is because as we sit here today, only three, not all four, of their cars are in the playoffs. Combined, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have won 10 of the 18 races run including a 1-2-3 finish in the Daytona 500. Throw in Martin Truex Jr’s win in the Coca-Cola 600, and you see JGR winning all the top races.
They finished 1-2 with Truex and Busch three races ago in Sonoma. Both have four wins a piece. But, where Busch looked like the clear cut favorite with six top three finishes and nine top 10’s in the first nine races of the year, he’s since opened the door with four top fives and six top 10’s in the last nine races.
Truex, has picked up the slack scoring three of his four wins over the last eight races to goa long with five top 10 finishes over the last nine. His last three finishes are third, first, ninth and 22nd respectively.
Hamlin, has also slowed down too. After five top five finishes and eight top 10’s in his first nine starts of the year, he’s faded to a pedestrian one top five and two top 10’s since.
Jones, had two top five finishes in the first nine as well as two in the second nine, but he does have five top 10’s over the last nine races compared to just three in the first nine starts of 2019. He also has five top eight finishes over his last eight starts to the season.
The only problem is, despite a strong showing lately, he’s still 13 points behind the cutoff line and riding a 36 race winless streak.
The Team Penske teammates along with their alliance car with Paul Menard practice at Daytona last weekend
Team Penske (A)
Like JGR, most of their fleet has won this season with the exception of one. Combined, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have won five times. Ryan Blaney unfortunately has been shutout and enters the second half of the season on a 25 race winless streak.
But, where they differ from JGR is, they all three appear to be getting stronger where JGR seems to have possibly plateaued.
Keselowski, has three top six finishes in his last five races on the year. He also has reached victory lane three times overall in 2019 to go along with four stage wins and has led the most laps among all drivers all season.
Logano, has the other two wins to go along with 12 top 10 finishes in 18 tries and nine top fives. He has seven stage wins as well. His first nine and second nine races this year have nearly mirrored each other in the stats category as the defending Cup Series champion has four top seven finishes in his last six starts on the year.
For Blaney, he has just one top five finish since Bristol (12 races) but does have three top 10 finishes in his last four starts overall. He’s starting to surge and is heating up at the right time.
Alex Bowman celebrates his Chicagoland Speedway win on June 30
Hendrick Motorsports (B)
They have won twice this year and look now like Team Penske did last year. See, through the first half of the season, the Penske drivers struggled in the speed department. Then, they turned it on. They just got better each week.
Hendrick, is in the same boat.
William Byron has four top 10 finishes in his last six starts on the year including five top 10’s over the last nine races. He was runner-up in Daytona. In the first nine starts to 2019, the second year driver had one top 10.
Alex Bowman is in the same boat. He won the race at Chicagoland two races ago. He has four top two finishes over the last nine races to go along with six top 10’s. Prior to that, Bowman had zero top 10 finishes on the season.
Even Jimmie Johnson is starting to look like the Johnson of old. The seven time series champion has two straight top fives on the season (4th, 3rd respectively) to go along with four top 10’s over the last seven races of 2019. His first 11 races saw one top five and two top 10’s.
That leaves Chase Elliott. HMS’ best option has fallen to their last. Elliott, has had a rollercoaster of a year. The Georgia native started 2019 off with one top 10 in the first nine races. He followed that up with a win in Talladega and five straight top five finishes overall. Since? 20th, 37th, 11th and 35th respectively.
Elliott, has had speed in those four races though and as of now, HMS could be the top threats to JGR and Penske for this year’s title.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Roush/Fenway Racing (C)
While Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is struggling still with one top five and two top 10 finishes in 2019, his teammate Ryan Newman isn’t. Newman, is +3 in the playoff standings while Stenhouse is -45.
Newman, enters the midway mark with three top eight finishes over his last four starts on the year including a fifth place finish in Daytona. His first seven races saw zero top 10’s. His last 11 have seen six.
This is an average group that’s rising.
Chip Ganassi Racing (C-)
The only reason they’re this low is because I thought they’d be better than this. They’re like RFR as they can’t get both drivers going at the same time.
Kurt Busch started 2019 off with six top 10 finishes in the first eight races of 2019. His last 10 races though have seen just four including two in the last six. He’s also only scored one top five finish over the last 10 races too.
Meanwhile, Larson has done the exact opposite. His first nine races saw just two top 10 results. His last nine have seen him double that total (4). He’s had two top 10 finishes over his last three starts to go along with three stage wins for the year.
Richard Childress Racing (D-)
Not what I expected out of this group so far. Both drivers are outside of the top 20 in the points. Austin Dillon has a 53 race winless streak to go along with three top 10 finishes in 2019. But, two of those have come in the last nine races where he had just one in the first nine. His last six finishes are 34th, 37th, 26th, 24th, 10th and 33rd respectively.
His rookie teammate of Daniel Hemric has one top 10 all year. That came via a fifth place finish in Talladega. But, the North Carolina native does have three top 15 finishes over his last five races on the season.
Early race action at the Daytona International Speedway for the rain delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400
Stewart-Haas Racing (D-)
This group can’t get out of their own way. Last season, they had led well over 1,000 laps at this point and nearly won half of the races. They put all four drivers in the Round of 8 too. This year, they haven’t won all season. Its been 20 races since they’ve last visited victory lane.
Kevin Harvick has one top five finish since May. In fact, his best finish all year is fourth. He does have 11 top 10 finishes, but only four in the last nine races overall.
Aric Almirola has one top five finish since Phoenix. He started off 2019 with six top 10 finishes in the first seven races. He’s only had four in the last 11.
Clint Bowyer saw +73 in the playoff standings in mid May. He’s now just +4. Bowyer’s last six finishes are 24th, 5th, 35th, 11th, 37th and now 34th respectively. He hasn’t won in 39 races himself.
That leaves the new comer Daniel Suarez who has never won and has six top 10’s all year but only two over the last 10 overall. His last three finishes are 17th, 24th and 40th respectively.
For an organization with two cars on the bubble and with a system that promotes winning, this group isn’t anywhere close.