Facts from the first half of the 2018 Cup Series regular season

From The Marbles
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/947/" data-ylk="slk:Kyle Busch">Kyle Busch</a> (L) has led the most laps of anyone so far in 2018. (Getty)
Kyle Busch (L) has led the most laps of anyone so far in 2018. (Getty)

The regular season is half over. It’s flown by, hasn’t it? The conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 means that the playoff field will be set in just 13 races. With the regular season now half over, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve seen so far.

• Thanks to the dominance of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, just six drivers have won races so far. In addition to Harvick (5 wins) and Busch (4), Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon are locked into the playoffs.

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• The non-winning drivers who are tentatively in the playoffs are Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott.

Elliott is tied with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the final spot in the playoffs on points. Elliott wins that tiebreaker because he has a second-place finish. Stenhouse’s best finish is fourth.

• After Stenhouse and Elliott, Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez and Jamie McMurray lead the best of the rest. But Menard is 33 points behind Elliott and Stenhouse while Suarez is 51 back and McMurray is 64 back followed closely by Ryan Newman and William Byron. Anyone else not mentioned in the paragraphs above likely needs to find a surprise win to get into the playoffs.

• Menard has 263 points, less than half the points total of points leader Kyle Busch (573).

McMurray’s average finish of 20.4 is 5.6 spots worse than his average finish during the entire 2017 season. Conversely, Aric Almirola’s average finish is 6.3 spots better. Going from Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing is a clear upgrade.

• The Cup Series has completed 4,302 laps this season. Harvick and Busch have led 1,695 of them. Drivers Nos. 3-7 in the laps led column have led 1,599 laps combined.

• Joey Logano is second in the points standings thanks to his consistency so far this season. He’s completed 4,300 of those 4,302 laps. On the flip side, Michael McDowell has completed the fewest number of laps of any driver who has started all 13 races. McDowell has completed just 3,599 laps. Ryan Blaney — 11th in the points standings — has completed the second-fewest laps with 3,776.

• McDowell has finished on the lead lap just once this season. The only other driver with that distinction is Kasey Kahne. Unsurprisingly, both of their lead-lap finishes came at restrictor plate tracks.

• Gray Gaulding has the fewest points of anyone who has started every race in 2018 and hasn’t finished on the lead lap. But he drives for a bankrupt team that’s currently being led by a trustee. That’s to be expected.

• Trevor Bayne has missed the last two points races after Roush Fenway replaced him with Matt Kenseth. He still has more points than Gaulding and jut nine fewer points than Matt DiBenedetto.

• Busch, Harvick and Logano each have 10 top-10 finishes in the first 13 races. Alex Bowman is provisionally in the playoffs with just four top-10 finishes while Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola are in the tentative playoff field with just five top-10 finishes.

• Thanks to his last-place finish Sunday night, Harvick is not one of the three drivers averaging a top-10 finish. Those three are Busch, Logano and Denny Hamlin, whose average finish is 9.7.

• Austin Dillon has the lowest average finish of anyone qualified for the playoffs at 19.5. When you subtract Dillon’s Daytona 500 win from that total his average finish drops to 21st. Coincidentally, that’s the full-season average finish of his teammate Ryan Newman.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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