June 13-- The list of winning NASCAR drivers so far this 2018 season has been ... underwhelming, to say the least.
Really, you've got three tiers of winning drivers. Atop the pyramid are Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, whose five and four wins, respectively, pace the rest of the field. Then there's Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer, who each have a pair of victories (thanks to Bowyer's second last weekend at Michigan). And rounding out the field, you have Joey Logano and Austin Dillon, both of whom have a single win.
But that's it. Six drivers have won all 15 of the Cup Series races this year. That isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it does mean the season is starting to feel stale. The same Victory Lane photos, the same names to monitor every week.
The good news is, these six won't be the only drivers to win a race this season. The past three seasons there have been 12, 13 and 15 winners, so we're certainly overdue for a few more in the coming months. But which winless drivers are most deserving of one of those victories? A few names to watch below:
Kyle Larson: The up-and-coming 25-year old had already won two races by this time last season, so he certainly hasn't followed up on his breakout 2017 campaign. But that isn't to say Larson has had a poor 2018. Larson is currently 10th in the Cup Series points standings, the top Chevy of the year. He already has three second-place finishes, including Bristol (when he was bumped off the lead with five laps to go). Make no mistake: Larson will win at some point this season. He's too good and too consistent not to. Of all the drivers who deserve a win, Larson is tops on the list.
Kurt Busch: The elder Busch hasn't matched his younger brother on the track in some time, but he has recorded at least one win each of the last four seasons. Even without a victory yet in 2018, Busch sits at seventh on the points leaderboard and has three Top 5s. Busch has surprised as the third driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, providing the team with real depth and a chance for race wins alongside Harvick and Bowyer. The 2004 Cup Series champ isn't as consistent as Larson, but for every rough finish, there is seemingly another in the Top 10. Given the highs he has experienced this year, Busch should record at least one win before the season ends.
Ryan Blaney: It's been a tough season for Blaney so far, especially for all the offseason hype surrounding him. Moving to a new high-profile team at Penske, being marketed as one of NASCAR's future stars, the son of a former driver-it's a lot to bestow on a 24-year old. But give Blaney credit for how he has handled things, even without a second career victory to boast. He sits at ninth in the points standings and has positioned himself well for a playoff run. Blaney had a rough April and May, but was one of the sport's top drivers before then-look for him to continue recapturing his form, and if it's not too late, collect his second-ever Cup victory.
Chase Elliott: So no, Elliott isn't in the same category as Larson, Busch or Blaney. He's never won a Cup Series race (in 92 tries), and he started off the year so poorly he had to fight to get back into playoff contention. Now that he's in 13th overall in the points standings, it's time for him to work toward that first victory. He has a second-place this season at Richmond, plus thirds at Phoenix and Talladega, but there hasn't been any consistency from him (or the rest of Hendrick) this year. 2018 was supposed to be the year Elliott stepped up as a driver and as a NASCAR icon, but to date, only the latter has come to fruition. He might not be due a win yet, but when he does earn one, it'll be a boon for NASCAR overall.
Who's Hot/Who's Not
Clint Bowyer: A second win this season bumps Bowyer into the Top 5 in the points standings, and he's now officially in the running for a serious postseason run.
Kevin Harvick: Another Top 5 finish is about par for the course this season with Harvick, who almost won his sixth race of the season at Michigan.
Matt Kenseth: Some questionable officiating hurt Kenseth at Michigan, but he hasn't done much of anything so far in his short Cup Series return.
Jimmie Johnson: A 20th-place finish at Michigan saps some of the positive momentum Johnson was carrying, but he's still 12th in the points standings.
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