How often does the Michigan sweep happen?

From the Marbles

When the green flag waves for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, it will have been an astonishing nine weeks since Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last Sprint Cup Series victory. Can you believe the length of that crazy streak?

So, naturally, as we return to the Irish Hills, the site of Junior's last win, the thoughts of sweeps are dancing like sugarplums in Junior fans' heads. Can he make it 2-for-2 at Michigan? (Junior fans planning to attend the race take note: you probably won't be allowed to bring your brooms in to the grandstand to wave around.)

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Michigan, which first hosted the Sprint Cup Series in 1969, has had two races each year as long as it's been on the schedule. Drivers have won back-to-back races 11 times, (most recently Greg Biffle in 2004 and 2005) and the season sweep has been completed by the same driver seven times. But it's only happened once in the last 20 years, and that was Bobby Labonte in 1995. In 1985 and 1986, Bill Elliott won four consecutive races.

Drivers with back-to-back wins:
1971: Bobby Allison
1972: David Pearson
1974-75: Pearson
1976: Pearson
1983: Cale Yarborough
1985: Bill Elliott
1986: Elliott
1995: Bobby Labonte
1997-1998: Mark Martin
2003-2004: Ryan Newman
2004-2005: Greg Biffle

Are the odds in Junior's favor? Certainly not, though it's hard to discount his chances given his season and his June performance. Just four drivers -- Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson -- have recorded season sweeps in the last five years. (Johnson swept Atlanta, Dover and Martinsville in 2007 alone.) But if you're looking for a driver who hopes history repeats itself, that's Edwards. He won the second Michigan race in 2008 after Junior won the first. If Edwards was to get to victory lane, think how crazy the Wild Card picture would really become?

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