One of the most under-reported stories of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is the remarkable level of parity in the competition so far this season.
The last nine Cup races dating back to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend have produced nine different winners among eight different teams, with Hendrick Motorsports the only squad to win twice during that period — Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag at Dover in early June and Kasey Kahne won last weekend’s Brickyard 400.
During those last nine races, Toyota has won twice, Ford three times and Chevrolet four times. That’s about as even as you’re going to find.
All told, 13 different drivers have won in the first 20 races of the season, including Joey Logano’s encumbered win at Richmond, which doesn’t count towards playoff eligibility.
Do not be surprised if today’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway produces a 14th different winner of this crazy season.
In Saturday’s first practice at the 2.5-mile oval, five of the six fastest drivers clocking in were guys who haven’t won this year — Matt Kenseth (1st), Erik Jones (3rd), Kyle Busch (4th), Chris Buescher (5th) and Daniel Suarez (6th).
The second and final practice saw Busch time in at No. 1, with fellow non-winners Jamie McMurray (3rd), Chase Elliott (5th) and Clint Bowyer (8th) also in the top eight.
Any one of these non-winners could punch his ticket to NASCAR’s playoffs with a win this afternoon at the tricky triangle.
There’s also a new wrinkle to consider: For the first time in recent memory, qualifying is scheduled for race day, with time trials set for 11:30 a.m. this morning and the race slated for 3 p.m. How that affects the outcome remains to be seen, but it could factor in.
The weather today in Pocono is chamber-of-commerce perfect: Sunshine, blue skies, a zero percent chance of rain and highs in the mid-70s. You couldn’t ask for a better day.
Late this afternoon, we’ll find out whether there’s a 10th-consecutive different winner and a 14th different winner of 2017.
Don’t bet against it.