Did you see the finish at Pocono? Martin Truex, Jr. followed by Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. That folks, is your leaderboard for the rest for the year. Busch, Harvick and Truex have won 11 of the 14 races this year, so all the talk about the young guns taking the Cup series by storm are, well, just rumors to this point.
Let’s look at those young ‘uns:
Kyle Larson – we’ll give him special props at this point for finishing 2nd and coming out of the final restart like he was shot out of a canon. But he led no laps and won no stages.
Ryan Blaney won this race last year, started on the pole and led 11 laps. Then he finished 6th and wasn’t really a threat to win at the end.
Chase Elliott finished 10th and was fighting for all he could handle at the end. No laps led and no stage wins. The kid is close but not close enough. If Hendrick can figure out this new car, he has a real shot at a win.
Austin Dillon started and finished 12th and if he hadn’t won the Daytona 500, this would be another so-so year for him. He’s led only 5 laps all year.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished 14th after starting 23rd. Only 3 Top 10 finishes this season and has led 59 laps. A lot more was expected of this team, but in 15th right now, a win will cement his first round ouster in the playoffs.
Erik Jones has shown a lot of promise but is having issues closing races consistently. He finished 29th after getting tangled up at the end of the race. He has had 5 Top 10 finishes and led 75 laps. I expected better but in 14th place, he could make things interesting if he can get a few more top finishes even without a win.
Alex Bowman has had 5 Top 10 finishes and led 65 laps, none of them coming at Pocono this weekend. In 16th place, he needs to do a lot better to secure even a whiff of exiting the playoffs in round one.
Daniel Suarez feels a lot like Erik Jones to me with one less Top 10 and far fewer laps led. He needs to start running more consistently to be considered a threat week in and week out.
Bubba Wallace, Jr. is the guy everyone loves but he hasn’t been able to make that translate into good finishes. Aside from Daytona, his only other Top 10 was at Texas. Missing a shift can happen to the best of drivers at Pocono. Just can’t make a habit of that. Led 15 laps this season and really needs to start making the top 10 a reality to keep sponsors happy.
William Byron has the fortune of driving the iconic 24 and while he just escaped with a Top 20 at Pocono, he has had 3 DNFs that make his 31 laps led mean little. Hendrick Motorsports has really struggled this season and the 24 is just at the bottom of that totem pole.
Chris Buescher is the little engine that thinks it can. Driving for JTG Daugherty, he won his first race at Pocono in 2016. But two DNFs, one Daytona Top 10 and one lap led means they have a lot more work to do. But as a smaller team, they are doing as well as some of the larger teams in perspective.
Trevor Bayne is on the hot seat with only 3 laps led all season and sitting in 31st place. He is splitting seat time with Matt Kenseth to see if the veteran driver can help right the ship over on the 6 team. Kenseth finished a respectable 13th at Pocono and you wonder what Bayne could have done. Probably not a Top 15 run.
What do all these guys have in common? Zero wins in 2018. Nada. Zilch.
Oh sure, one of them will more than likely visit Victory Lane before it is all said and done, but how many will win ahead of race 26? That means besting Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch at the same time. That has only happened 2 other times this season by Logano and Bowyer. Not to mention having to beat Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch or Jimmie Johnson.
Given this list, I would be surprised if two of these guys win a race ahead of the Brickyard. But we’ll see. If I am proven wrong, that means a much more interesting playoff battle.