DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – 18 races down, 18 to go. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has officially hit the midway mark of the 2019 campaign. As we sit here today, I still feel like the championship is pretty wide open.
For a majority of the year, it looked like a Team Penske vs. Joe Gibbs Racing battle. Then, it shrunk among those teams. JGR had Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. then Penske had Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. But, even among those four, their stats have declined some.
Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports started surging forward.
So, who’s rising heading into the second half of the season and who is slipping?
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.
Martin Truex Jr.
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.
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.
Larson has done the exact opposite of his CGR teammate of Kurt Busch. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.