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Sport 6 reasons 2018 is one of the weirdest NASCAR seasons

21:57  12 july  2018
21:57  12 july  2018 Source:   ftw.usatoday.com

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By: Michelle R. Martinelli | July 12, 2018 1:40 pm Follow @MMartinelli4. The NASCAR Cup Series is exactly halfway through its 36-race season , and while unexpected moments or winners are guaranteed, this year in particular has been decidedly strange. So before the 19th race of the season

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The NASCAR Cup Series is exactly halfway through its 36-race season, and while unexpected moments or winners are guaranteed, this year in particular has been decidedly strange.

So before the 19th race of the season - the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway - let's take a look at some of the biggest surprises and weirdest stats of the year so far.

1. Seven different winners

a man standing in front of a refrigerator: (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)© Provided by Getty (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

This one's the most obvious thing, but it's still super weird. Through 18 races, you'd expect to have 10 winners at a minimum, right? At the halfway point in the last four seasons, there have been 11 different winners, and had Erik Jones not passed Martin Truex Jr. on the last lap at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday to win his first Cup Series race, there would still only be six.

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The advantage to this is anyone hoping to contend for the championship once the 10-race, 16-driver playoffs start in the fall knows exactly which teams are the ones to beat. At the season's halfway point, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick each have five wins, while Truex has three. They're followed by Clint Bowyer with two, and Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and now Jones with one apiece.

2. Utter domination

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)© Provided by Getty (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Even within those seven winners, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are crushing it this season, and they're Nos. 1 and 2 in the driver standings, respectively.

So far, they combine for 10 wins and have accumulated about 48 percent of the playoff points up for grabs through stage and race wins. Helpful once the playoffs actually start, Busch has 30 playoff points, Harvick has 27 and Truex has 18. Harvick and Busch also each had stretches of three consecutive victories this season.

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But perhaps most shockingly, their laps led stats are out of control. They have led nearly 40 percent of this year's total laps, combined, despite Harvick not finishing three races and Busch not finishing two. Harvick has led 1,040 laps while Busch has led 948, and they're the only ones to break the 500 mark.

Ryan Blaney is next with 463 laps led, Truex has led 390 and Kyle Larson has 365. That's not even kind of close.

3. Both Daytona winners each led a single lap

a group of people wearing costumes: (Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)© Provided by Getty (Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

But at the end of the day, it's the only lap that counts. A little unusual but not unheard of at a track that guarantees chaos, Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon and Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner Erik Jones each stole the lead on the final lap around the 2.5-mile track.

To compare with the other restrictor plate track, Joey Logano won the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, and he led for 70 laps, including the final 42.

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The 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is the thirty-fourth season of the Whelen Modified Tour (WMT), a stock car racing tour sanctioned by NASCAR .

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4. Clint Bowyer's two checkered flags

When the No. 14 Ford driver won at Martinsville Speedway in March, he snapped a 190-race winless streak that dated back to the 2012 season. And then he won again at Michigan International Speedway in June, proving that it wasn't a fluke. He's a contender this season and is currently sixth in the driver standings.

5. Jimmie Johnson could not make the playoffs

Jimmie Johnson wearing a hat: (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)© Provided by Getty (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

The seven-time Cup Series champion and arguably the greatest NASCAR driver of all time has not yet won a race this season. It's the longest he's ever gone without a victory since the start of a season, and without one to lock him in, there's a chance he won't make the 16-driver playoffs.

Johnson is currently 12th in the driver standings, 288 points behind leader Kyle Busch. He - and everyone else, really - has eight more races to get to Victory Lane and guarantee his place in the playoffs. If he doesn't win, he'll have to hope for as few new winners as possible and strong outings from his No. 48 Chevrolet team to stay in the top 16.

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There have been 32 cautions through the first six races of the 2018 season . In 2017, the first year of the stage racing format in NASCAR , the first six races had 49 combined cautions. Martinsville is a big reason why the discrepancy is so large.

Cope will continue as team manager in 2018 and may drive in a few (1-30- 2018 )). StarCom Racing acquired a NASCAR Charter [leased #27 RCR Charter for 2018 ] for the upcoming 2018 MENCS season and will run a full 36-week schedule.

6. Hendrick playing catchup

Led by Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports is struggling this season and still winless.

With its youthful makeover replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne with Alex Bowman and rookie William Byron - who joined third-year driver Chase Elliott as team drivers in their 20s - the four-car team has seven top-5 finishes. Elliott has the group's best finish, coming in second at Richmond Raceway in April.

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Looking even bigger, Chevrolet as a manufacturer has been shut out from Victory Lane since Austin Dillon's Daytona 500 win. Elliott is on the verge of his first Cup Series win, Kyle Larson is bound to have his first 2018 victory, but Ford and Toyota have control of the series.

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