MONTE DUTTON – COMPETITION, OR LACK THEREOF
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is now 38.9 percent over. Every week the winner of the race professes great – and, quite often, fake – humility over how he managed to succeed against a level of competition perpetually identified as higher than it’s ever been.
It is harder than ever to those who aren’t winning or who haven’t yet won. There are teeming masses of them. Three drivers have combined to win 11 of the 14 sweepstakes completed thus far. Usually, when I hear of something that has been “pro-rated,” it costs money, but “pro-rating” how many races Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are on track to win is just a matter of operating a calculator located conveniently inside a mobile phone.
At the current rate of success – let’s call it “dominant velocity” – Harvick is going to win 12 races, Busch 10 and Truex five. Supposing the rest of the season is going to go the same as the first 14 is rather pessimistic and unlikely, but if the current Big and Damned Near Only Three keeps taking checkered flags at the current pace, it will leave only six more scraps for everyone else to pass around among themselves.
Furthermore, if you redraw the numbers and apply them to the regular season and eligibility for playoff relevance, it’s more than halfway over (53.8 percent) over, and the Big Three’s regular-season totals project to Harvick’s nine, Busch’s seven and Truex’s four. This leaves three other races to distribute among the masses.
As Jerry Reed once sang, not referring to NASCAR even though he could have, three drivers got the gold mine. The rest got the shaft.
The few, the proud, the drivers not named Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex, have “already” claimed three races. Austin Dillon, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer have beaten the odds.
As of now, Ford drivers have won seven races, Toyota drivers six and Chevrolet drivers one. That pro-rates to 18, 15 and three, respectively.
Thing is, bowties are getting more popular with the general public.
A year ago at this point, quite the reverse was in place. At this time a year ago, some were speculating that most of the playoff slots would be apportioned to race winners. Then Truex’s Camry became a mechanical scalded dog and took off. Truex also had two victories at this point in 2017. He ended up with eight and a championship.
The point, right now, is that only a few drivers seem capable of winning, and that is not the way intense competition works.