Maybe in the grand scheme of things, this is just a thought experiment. A fun way to pass the time as NASCAR’s regular season rapidly dwindles.
Or maybe, it’s more telling. Maybe this Brad Keselowski quote, which came from NASCAR Race Hub on Fox Sports 1 last week, will be something to remember as this season’s epic championship battles progresses and evolves:
“I think the 4 and 78 are the two fastest cars on the race track,” Keselowski said, “and the 18 is the best-executing team.”
To hear from a fellow driver that Kevin Harvick (No. 4 team) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 team) have the fastest cars this Cup Series season, even when Kyle Busch’s No. 18 is first in the points standings, is telling. It also prompts a fun question:
Which one of NASCAR’s Big 3 — Harvick, Truex, and Busch — will win the most races this season?
Harvick has six. Busch, thanks to his sweep at Pocono last week, does too. And Truex, with four, isn’t far behind.
The flat statistics seem to back up Keselowski’s claim. Harvick, for example, has more wins than he does finishes outside the Top 10 this season (and that includes his first-ever last-place finish in May). Even though he only has one win since early May, he’s also recorded two second-place finishes and a handful of other Top 5s. If anything, the wins become less impressive when you consider how consistently dominant he’s been.
Then there’s Truex, who won three of his four this year in the last two months. To hear Kez call him one of the fastest cars is interesting — after last year’s dominance en route to a first career Cup Series championship, shouldn’t that have been a given? Only it wasn’t, especially since Truex struggled so in the early parts of this season.
Rather, Truex’s hot streak really only picked up the last two months. He’s been in prime 2017 level form since then, but can it be maintained?
And then Kyle Busch, who … doesn’t have one of the fastest cars, even though he’s currently first on the leaderboard? It may be true. At multiple races this season, including ones he’s won, Busch has said as much himself. I thought we were the third-best car today …
Not that it much matters, especially if what Keselowski says is true. The No. 18 team just does not mess up. They don’t. There are no untimely mistakes, no slipping on pit road or choosing the wrong lane. It’s all calculated, all so precise. There’s a reason the man has 192 wins across all three of NASCAR’s series.
Heck, he could pass Richard Petty’s 200 this year if he keeps up his current pace.
So realistically, which of the three will end this season with the most wins? Let’s eliminate Truex first, even though he’s been hot the last two months. The simple fact of being two wins behind the others already puts him at a disadvantage, and with some of the new twists to these playoffs, it may be difficult for him to catch up. (Not that that means he can’t win the championship still.)
Which leaves Harvick and Busch. My pick for the most wins this season? Kyle Busch, who I predicted to make the Championship 4 back before the season began. While some of those other predictions may not have aged as gracefully, Busch was always going to be a safe bet. His ability to adapt to changing circumstances and make do with what each individual race offers him is unparalleled in the sport right now, and makes him a threat to win each and every weekend.
I believe Keselowski. I believe Harvick has the best car almost every single weekend. What that team has done this year is amazing.
But as the old adage goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Harvick is good. But Busch makes his own luck.
Good luck beating that.
This week’s NASCAR race: Watkins Glen: What you need to know.
Race: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling at The Glen.
Distance: 90 laps, or 220.86 miles.
Where: Watkins Glen International, a 2.454-mile asphalt road course in Watkins Glen, New York.
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Last year’s winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Also this week: Zippo 200, Xfinity Series, Watkins Glen International, 3 p.m., Saturday, NBC.
Worth mentioning: This will be the last road course the Cup Series drives until Charlotte’s Roval in late September.
Who’s Hot/Who’s Not
Kyle Busch: Not to be outdone by Kevin Harvick, Busch tied the No. 4 with his sixth win of the season at Pocono.
Erik Jones: Jones’ season has really taken off since his first career Cup win at Daytona, including another Top 5 last weekend.
Brad Keselowski: Back-to-back finishes outside the Top 30 have dropped Kez to seventh in the standings, which is … fine. Too bad fine doesn’t win championships.
Bubba Wallace: Another DNF isn’t what he or Richard Petty Motorsports want to see, but Wallace should be grateful he was able to walk away from Sunday’s intense, dangerous wreck.