Three races down, 33 left to go in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Obviously, it is very early in the going and someone could easily go on a long sustained run of dominance as we work our way through the opening portion of the year, but as it stands things are looking pretty damn equal in NASCAR’s premier series.
In three races, we have three different race winners, who all drive for three different manufacturers. Oh, and they have done it at three totally different race tracks.
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Alex Bowman have all etched their name in the book as a winner in 2020.
Will we see another new face this weekend at Phoenix Raceway? I’d almost be willing to bet on it.
Drivers such as Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott have all showed quite a bit of strength so far this season.
Hell, Blaney has had a car capable of winning all three races in 2020, just luck and circumstances have kept him out of victory lane to this point. Harvick is the only driver who has top-10 finishes in all three races, and Elliott has three Stage wins.
Additionally, Kyle Busch is coming off a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway. In the second-place effort, Busch called his Toyota slow. If slow equals a second place finish, imagine what Busch can do if his team unloads a competitive No. 18 car this weekend.
They would all be solid bets to get the job done in Phoenix, but it seems anyone can sneak up and have a shot at a winning performance this year.
Through three races, 15 different drivers have scored top-fives.
That’s right, if you do the math you will realize that means nobody has racked up multiple top-five finishes. According to TobyChristie.com’s Joseph Srigley, this is the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history (1949-present) that no driver has scored multiple top-five finishes in the first three races of a year.
This feat has only happened one other time in NASCAR National Series history, as it happened in 1982 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 1982 was the first season of the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Last year, 10 drivers had top-five finishes in the opening three races of the year. And as the season continued to roll on, four drivers asserted themselves as the undisputed championship favorites. Eventual champion Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin combined to win 22 of the 36 races last season (61.1%).
So, what can we attribute the new-found parity in the sport to?
Chevrolet designed a new body for their Chevrolet Camaro for 2020, which has helped them close the gap tremendously from a season ago. Meanwhile, it seems that Ford has really closed the gap on Toyota, as well.
Toyota, which has won three of the last four manufacturer titles in the Cup Series, sits last in the standings after three races in 2020. In fact, the highest finishing Camry in the second race of the year — Las Vegas — was Kyle Busch in 15th.
The world catching up to Toyota has greatly aided parity this season.
But that’s not all.
A softer Goodyear racing tire has also helped folks come and go throughout the field so far this season. And in the case of Blaney this past week, it stopped him from nabbing his second runner-up finish of the year. Blaney had a tire that corded late in the race and had to come to pit road.
Stronger competition between the three manufacturers, a tire that lends itself to better competition and just a weird bit of luck has contributed to the incredible parity so far in 2020.
Can it continue? We’ll find out this Sunday at Phoenix.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.