And that’s a wrap on the 2018 series season. But you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without a StatWatch year in review column?

From a pair of eight-race winners to an unexpected champion, this season really had a lot to pore over from a statistical basis. And that’s really my favorite kind of poring to do.

Usually, I give you my three favorite stats of the week. But this is no normal week. This column has to last you through the cold, dark winter. Or until I get back on my Twitter account (cough, @WillisOnNASCAR, cough) and tweet you fun morsels of stat delicious nougat. Mmm, nougat.

So kick back, grab a holiday meal and put your feet up. You deserve it. And let me do the heavy statistical lifting!

Was Logano really an unlikely champion?

This season really belonged to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Each won eight races, and they combined for more than 3,400 laps led. But you can’t overlook the consistency that led Joey Logano to a championship.

Logano had 26 top-10 finishes, three fewer than Harvick and two fewer than Busch. But it was the same number that dominant 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr. had, and 10 more than 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson had.

As a matter of fact, 26 top-10 finishes matches Truex for the most by any Cup champion dating back to 2000. To find the last time a driver had more than that in a championship season, you have to go to Dale Jarrett in 1999.

In that season, Jarrett had four wins (to Logano’s three) and zero poles (to Logano’s one).

Something to be Happy about

Let’s take a moment to fully appreciate the season that Kevin “Happy” Harvick had.

I’ve waxed poetic about Harvick’s eight-win campaign, setting a career high and tying Bobby Allison (1982) for the second-most wins in a season after turning 42, behind Lee Petty‘s 11 in 1959.

Now let’s examine his full stat line for the year. Eight wins, 23 top-5s and 29 top-10s. He’s the first driver to hit all of those marks in a season in the modern era, which dates back to 1972.

The last to do it in any era were Richard Petty and Bobby Allison in 1971. Petty ran 46 races that season and Allison 42, both much more than Harvick’s 36-race 2018 season.

At second glance

Kyle Larson had a winless 2018 season, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t make history.

Larson finished with six runner-up finishes, tied with Terry Labonte in 1982 for the second most in a winless season. The only driver who had more without a win was Harry Gant in 1981.

Gant bounced back with two wins and a fourth-place finish in 1982. Labonte won once and finished fifth in points in 1983.

Larson also won three poles this season, becoming the first driver to do that in a winless season since Mark Martin in 2012.

But the most select list comes with the fact that Larson led 782 laps. The only drivers with more recorded laps led (they weren’t always tracked in the earliest days of ) in a winless season were Gant in 1981 (1,078) and Jeff Gordon in 2010 (919).

Cause for concern

I’m fairly pro-NASCAR, but I’m also a realist. And I realize the sport has some issues that need to be addressed. But I’m not an engineer, and I don’t know how to fix these problems. But I am a numbers guys, and I can tell you these things:

OK, I’m also a solutions man, so let’s figure this out. Together. As a team. Will the meetings be catered?

Sadler’s swan song

This was Elliott Sadler‘s final season, and while he didn’t make the Championship Four in the Xfinity Series, he still finished 14th at Homestead- Speedway, just enough to hold on to fifth in points.

That was Sadler’s eighth top-5 finish in the Xfinity standings, two more than any driver who never won a title. He also had four runner-up finishes in points, the most of any driver to never win a title in series history.

There have been 1,173 races in Xfinity Series history (formally recognized as dating back to the 1982 season). By my count, Sadler has led the points after 83 of those races, seven more than any other driver in series history (Jack Ingram is second with 76).

And it’s easily the most by a driver to never win the series championship. Second in that category is Kenny Wallace with 33, then Regan Smith with 21.

But let’s not think Sadler’s legacy is solely a “so close but so far away” situation. Sadler also ranks third in series history with 226 top-10 finishes (behind Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch). He was also part of the inaugural Series Playoff field in 2004 and also the first Xfinity Series playoff field in 2016.

That’s all I have for you. Enjoy the offseason, and I’ll see you for the Daytona 500!


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