Sprint Cup oddities plentiful in 2012
Just the facts. In this case, let's call them the Blount Facts.
In between Christmas shopping, eggnog drinking and my incredibly inept wrapping skills, I took the time to look up a few unusual facts from the 2012 Sprint Cup season that I found interesting.
Here are several that stood out:
• The Over-40 Club -- There are many reasons why Brad Keselowski winning the championship is a good thing, but a big one is he gives NASCAR some young blood at the top.
Cup had seven drivers over 40 who ranked in the top 26 in the 2012 standings: Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin. The first four on that list ranked in the top 10.
Joey Logano was the only driver in the top 30 who is under 25. The average age of the top 30 drivers in 2012 was 35.3. Only six top-30 drivers were under 30 -- Kyle Busch, Logano, David Ragan, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola and Keselowski.
Keselowski was the only one under 30 to make the Chase. But Clint Bowyer, the runner-up to the title, is 33. Having younger guys at the top helps bring new fans to a sport with an average fan age that skews over 40.
• Will the South rise again? -- NASCAR once was dominated by drivers from the Southeast, where the sport was born. But now? Not so much.
Consider this oddity:
Number of top 30 drivers in 2012 from North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky: 4 (Dale Earnhardt Jr., North Carolina; Ragan, Georgia; Denny Hamlin and Burton, Virginia). In case you didn't notice, it's zero on the last four states listed.
Only two drivers from traditional Southern states made the Chase: Earnhardt and Hamlin. Seven drivers in the top 30 hail from the South -- Martin (Arkansas), Almirola (Florida), Bobby Labonte (Texas) and the four listed above.
Three of the Southern drivers fall in the over-40 category. However, a young man from Dixie will add to the ranks in 2013 when Mississippi's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. takes over the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
• The more you know, the better you go: Except for Brad K. He bucked the trend.
Thirteen drivers in the top 30 have raced at least 10 full seasons in Cup. Seven of them made the Chase and nine ranked in the top 20. Martin probably would have made it 10, but he competed in only 24 of 36 events and still ranked 26th overall.
And guess how many guys in the top 30 had three or fewer full Cup seasons? Only two -- Almirola (20th) and Keselowski, who won the title in his third season.
In the previous 16 seasons, the champ averaged eight years' experience when he won the title. Johnson won his fourth championship in his eighth season, which for now, still is a possibility for Keselowski.
• A 24-year wait for a cold one: Keselowski's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge marked the first time since 1988 that the championship car had a beer company as the primary sponsor. Bill Elliott did it in the Coors Ford.
• Take the title and run: Dodge is out after winning the 2012 championship. You have to go way back to find the last time that happened. Buck Baker drove a Chrysler to the 1956 title, but an actual Chrysler model didn't compete in 1957. Chrysler products Plymouth and Dodge competed but did not win a race.
• No poles required: Keselowski did not win a pole en route to the title, a first since the Chase format was implemented in 2004. Matt Kenseth in 2003 was the last driver to win the crown without winning a pole.
Bowyer also didn't earn a pole position in 2012, which was the first time in history the top two finishers in the standings did not win a pole.
• Top-10s without a top showing: Kyle Busch had 20 top-10s in 2012 and finished 13th in the standings. The last time a driver finished that poorly in the standings with at least 20 top-10s was LeeRoy Yarbrough in 1969.
Yarbrough had 21 top-10s and finished 16th overall. Interesting side note: Yarbrough had four top-10s when he didn't finish the race, including a fourth-place finish at Michigan. This was a time when only a few cars finished on the lead lap, and sometimes only the winner. Yarbrough crashed on the last lap at Michigan when only four cars were on the lead lap.Cale Yarborough won the race.
LeeRoy Yarbrough also finished sixth on the Riverside, Calif., road course that season with a late-race engine failure when winner Richard Petty and second-place A.J. Foyt were the only drivers on the lead lap. Yarbrough finished 10th at Richmond with an engine failure when Bobby Allison won it by three laps on the field. And Yarbrough was 10th (also a blown engine) at College Station, Texas, where Bobby Isaac was the only car on the lead lap.
• Driver who made $1 million in only 10 Cup starts: Danica Patrick at $1,053,880.
• Drivers who made more than $500,000 in only four starts: Terry Labonte and Stenhouse.
• Numbers of drivers who started every Cup event: 26.
• Drivers who started all 36 races without posting a top-10 finish: Mears, Gilliland and Landon Cassill.
• Best-finishing driver who didn't win a race: Martin Truex Jr. in 11th.
• Worst-finishing driver who did win a race: Marcos Ambrose in 18th.
Nemechek made $2.5 million in earnings for 31 starts. He failed to finish 29 of those events, racing 16 percent of the laps with an average finish of 39.0.
Wise made $2.3 million in 30 starts with 29 DNFs, completing 18 percent of the laps with an average finish of 39.1.