This is something that I'd normally post in the comments section of the race, but it grew into such a behemoth that I felt like it'd be better off as a blog. It's a combination of stats regarding the drivers' seasons, by themselves and in regards to their career, and at Homestead, done in order of how they finished in the race. Since it started out as the usual but grew into something more.
Jeff Gordon picks up his 87th career Sprint Cup Series victory and 2nd of 2012. After winning just 1 race from 2008-10, Jeff now has 5 wins over the last two seasons. It's the first time Gordon's has back-to-back multi-win seasons since he had at least 2 in every season from 1995-2007.
Jeff matches his top 10's from 2011 (18), falls two short on top 5's (11 vs. 13), has his worst average finish in a season (14.1) since 2008 (14.5) and 10th in the standings is his worst since he was 11th in 2005. But it's the 18th time in the last 19 years that he's finished top 10 in points, and he led all Hendrick Motorsports drivers in laps completed with 10,006 (the only Hendrick to complete at least 10,000 laps in 2012).
Jeff picks up his 1st career win at Homestead, leaving Kentucky as the only track among the 25 that he's competed on that he hasn't won at. It's his 5th finish of 6th or better in the last 6 races there, and his 7th top 5 in 14 career starts (11 top 10's, 10.6 avg fin).
Hendrick Motorsports led all teams in wins in 2012 with 10 (Jimmie 5, Kahne 2, Gordon 2, Dale Jr. 1), and Hendrick cars won 14 of 36 races this season (Stewart 3, Newman 1 for Stewart-Haas Racing). It's Hendrick Motorsports' first win at Homestead as well, also leaving them with Kentucky as the only track that they haven't won at out of the 27 that they've competed at.
Clint Bowyer caps off what was by far his best season in Cup with his 10th top 5 of the year, the first time he's had 10 top 5's in a season; his previous best was 7 in 2008 and 2010. Bowyer put up career-high's in wins (3), top 10's (23, T-2nd in the series), avg start (12.8), avg fin (10.9) and finished a career-best 2nd in points. Bowyer had 14 top 10's over the last 18 races of the season (2 wins, 7 top 5's, 9.2 avg fin), and picked up his 8th career runner-up finish but his only one of 2012.
It's Bowyer's 2nd top 5, 4th top 10 and 6th finish of 12th or better in 7 career Homestead starts (12.1 avg fin).
Michael Waltrip Racing's best finish in the standings prior to 2012 was 16th with David Reutimann and the #00 in 2009. MWR cars went 2nd (#15), 11th (#56) and 15th (#55) in the standings this season.
Ryan Newman ends 2012 with just his 2nd top 3 finish of the season and his best finish in the 30 races since his Martinsville win. Newman was 8th in points after the 1st Martinsville race but fell as low as 17th in the standings before ending up 14th. Since joining SHR, Newman made the Chase in 2009 (9th in pts) and 2011 (10th) but missed it in 2010 (15th in pts) and 2012 (14th). But Newman did reach 14+ top 10's in a year for the 9th time in 11 seasons, and had back-to-back seasons with 6+ top 5's for the first time since 2004-05.
Newman gets his first top 5 in 11 career starts at Homestead (4 top 10's, 17.0 average finish).
Kyle Busch's 191 laps led are the 3rd most he's ever led in a 1.5 mile-track race (217 at Charlotte in 2010, 232 at Texas in 2009 in 500-mile races). Kyle led all drivers in laps led during the Chase with 864 (572 in the first 26 races of 2012) and was 2nd in points scored (7 top 5's, 9.0 avg fin), but after winning at least 18 total NASCAR races in each of the previous 4 seasons he had just 1 wins in 2012. Although he missed the Chase, Kyle reached 20 top 10's in a year for just the 3rd time in 8 seasons in Cup (6 with 18+) and his 13 top 5's are his 3rd-most in a season. He joins Carl Edwards (20 in 2006) and Jamie McMurray (23 in 2004) as the only drivers since 2004 to have 20+ top 10's despite missing the Chase.
Kyle Busch picks up his first top 5 and just his 2nd top 10 in 8 career Homestead starts (23.1 avg fin).
Greg Biffle ties his career-high in a season with his 21st top 10 of 2012 (last did so in 2005), and his 12 top 5's are tied for his 2nd-most in a season (2008). His 721 laps led are his most since leading 993 in 2006, and his 9.9 avg start and 10.2 average finish are career-high's. Despite finishing 5th in points, the 3rd time he's been top 5 but his worst among them, this is easily his 2nd best season in Cup (nod goes to 2005). Biffle had 6 top 10's in the last 7 races of the season to climb from 11th to 5th in the standings, but had just 2 top 5's in the last 13 races.
Biffle picks up his first top 5 finish that isn't a win at Homestead, and just his 2nd top 10 in the 6 races since he won 3 races in a row there (14.4 avg fin in 11 starts).
Despite finishing 6th and ending up with 19 top 10's this season (previous career-high was 14), Martin Truex Jr. can only tie his best career points finish in 11th, the 2nd time that he's made the Chase but failed to crack the top 10 in points. But he did set new career high's in top 10's, avg start (12.1) and avg fin (12.1) as well as tie his career-high in top 5's (7, from 2007). Truex Jr. had 5 top 10's in the Chase but ended up 43rd at Phoenix, the 2nd time this season that an MWR car had an engine failure that resulted in a last-place finish.
Truex Jr. picked up his 4th top 6 finish and 6th top 10 in 8 career Homestead starts (9.9 avg fin).
Aric Almirola finishes 20th in points in his first full season in Cup, thanks to a solid end to 2012 with 2 top 10's and 5 finishes of 16th or better in the last 6 races (13.8 avg fin). Almirola had 4 top 10's this season, after having 2 in his first 35 career starts from 2007-10.
Almirola finishes in the top 7 at Homestead for a 2nd straight start (15.3 avg fin in 3 career starts there).
Kevin Harvick finishes in the top 10 in points for the 6th time in the last 7 seasons, but outside of the top 5 for the 2nd time in the last 5. His 5 top 5's this year tie 2008 as his fewest over the last 5 seasons, and 14 top 10's are his 2nd worst over the last 7. Harvick did pick up a win for a 3rd straight season, and has 3 streaks of 3 straight seasons with wins in his 12-year Cup career.
Homestead becomes the 10th different track that Kevin Harvick has 10+ top 10's at, picking up his 5th straight top 10 and 10th overall in 12 career Homestead starts (7.9 avg fin).
Kurt Busch suffers the worst season of his Cup career, finishing 25th in points and having career-lows in top 5's (1) and top 10's (5), leading only 19 laps and even being suspended for a race. But Kurt had a strong end to 2012 with Furniture Row Racing, giving them 3 consecutive top 10 finishes for the first time in their career and having a 14.3 avg fin over his first 6 races with them (25.0 avg fin in 29 races with Phoenix Racing).
Kurt picks up his 5th top 10 in 12 career Homestead starts (1 win, 4 top 5's, 4 finishes of 34th or worse, 19.8 avg fin).
Despite missing two races due to a concussion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. reaches 20 top 10's in a season for just the 3rd time in his 13-year career in Cup and first time since he had 21 in both 2003 and 2004. His 20 top 10's matches his total from his previous two seasons combined (8 in 2010, 12 in 2011), and his .998 lap completion % is a new career high. But even if Dale Jr. hadn't missed those 2 races, his Chase results (13.9 avg fin) would've only been good enough for him to finish 11th in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. picks up his first top 10 in 13 tries at Homestead (22.1 avg fin), leaving just Sonoma as the only track that he doesn't have a top 10 at in his Cup career.
Although Paul Menard only had 1 top 5 in 2012 compared to 1 win and 4 top 5's in 2011, he enjoyed a career-best season for a 3rd consecutive year thanks to career-highs in top 10's (9), average finish (15.5) and finished a career-best 16th in the standings (would've been 15th without the 25 point penalty).
Carl Edwards has by far his worst ever season in Cup, with new career lows in top 5's (3), top 10's (13), laps completed (9,968), average finish (15.6) and points finish (15th). Carl had just 1 top 5 in the last 31 races and has now gone 69 straight races without a win; if he doesn't win the 2013 Daytona 500, he'll tie the worst win-less streak of his career and no win at Phoenix the next week would break it. With Chad Norris as his crew chief, Carl actually struggled even more with just 4 top 10's and a 16.9 average finish in 17 races (9 top 10's, 14.3 avg fin in 19 races with Bob Osbourne this year).
Marcos Ambrose ties his best career points finish in 18th (2009), despite having a worst season than 2011 with fewer top 5's (3 vs. 5) and top 10's (8 vs. 12) plus changing crew chiefs mid-season. But he had a better avg start (14.3 vs. 17.5) and avg fin (17.9 vs. 18.3), both career-highs.
Joey Logano tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing ends with 2 wins, 16 top 5's, 41 top 10's, 5 top 10's, 337 laps led and an 18.5 average finish in 145 career starts. His best finish in the standings was 16th in 2010, but along the way he became the youngest winner in Cup Series history with his 2009 win at Loudon. Logano had just 2 top 5's in 2012, but led a career-high 190 laps and led NASCAR in wins among the top 3 series with 10 (1 Cup, 9 Nationwide).
Brad Keselowski wins the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the strength of a 6.3 average finish in the Chase (2 wins, 3 top 5's, 8 top 10's, 326 laps led). His championship margin of 39 points is the biggest in Cup since Jimmie Johnson won by 141 points (the old system, but that's about a little bit bigger than 39 points today) back in 2009. It's the first time that there's been a tie for the series lead in wins since 1992 (Bill Elliott and Davey Allison with 5), and the first time ever that it's been between 3 drivers.
After finishing 5th in points in 2011 despite only 14 top 10's, Brad Keselowski tied Clint Bowyer for the 2nd-most top 10's in 2012 with 23. In his championship campaign, Keselowski ended up T-1st in wins, T-3rd in top 5's with 13, 5th in laps completed with 10,328, 4th in laps led with 735, 18th in average start at 16.2 and 1st in average finish at 10.1 with just 1 DNF. He's the first Penske driver to finish in at least a tie for the series lead in wins since Ryan Newman since 2003, first driver of the #2 Penske car to do it since Rusty Wallace's 10 wins in 1993, and first driver of the #2 to win a Cup championship since Dale Earnhardt in 1980.
Keselowski's 15th place finish at Homestead is just his 3rd finish outside of the top 10 in the last 20 races of 2012. Keselowski's still looking for his first top 10 finish at Homestead (best of 13th, 19.2 avg fin in 5 career starts there).
No driver finished with an average finish of 10th or better in a season for the first time since 2009 (Jeff Gordon led at 10.1) and 2nd time in the last 8 seasons.
Mark Martin ran a partial schedule for the 3rd time in the last 6 seasons in Cup (2007 with Ginn, 2008 with DEI, 2012 with MWR). Despite that, Mark Martin now has at least 10 top 10's in 25 consecutive seasons, and another 24-race schedule in 2013 gives him a chance at 26 consecutive. His 15.2 avg fin is his worst among his 3 partial seasons (14.5 in 2007, 13.3 in 2008) but his 93.2 driver rating was his best ( 83.1 in 2007, 89.99 in 2008); Mark only had a 75.9 driver rating running full time for Hendrick Motorsports in 2011.
Tony Stewart has now finished 7th (2003), 11th (2006) and 9th (2012) in points in the seasons following a Cup championship. Stewart finished 2012 with more top 5's (12) than in 2011 (9), but 16 top 10's tied a career-low, he had a career-low in lead lap finishes (21) and he went from a 6.3 average finish in the 2011 Chase (5 wins) to 14.1 in 2012 (best finish of 5th twice). However, Stewart-Haas Racing has now collected 17 wins in their first 4 seasons, 14 with Stewart and 3 with Ryan Newman, but Stewart's 2012 championship is the only time they've finished top 5 in points in 8 total seasons between the 2 teams.
Stewart is the 31st driver to reach 500 career Cup starts.
Matt Kenseth's tenure at Roush Fenway Racing ends with 24 wins, 126 top 5's, 227 top 10's, 7,143 laps led and a 14.3 average finish in 471 starts and 13 full seasons in the Sprint Cup Series. Kenseth got Roush their first Cup championship, and finished top 5 in points 5 times in those 13 seasons (8 times in the top 8). His 11.1 average finish in 2012 is his best since 2006 (9.8) and 3rd best of his career, his 13 top 5's are his most since he had 13 in 2007, and Kenseth has back-to-back seasons with 3+ wins for the first time in his career.
After finishing 6th-8th in the standings from 2006-08, Jeff Burton has now finished 12th or worse in each of the last 4 seasons, including 20th in 2011 and 19th this season. Burton had just 2 top 5's this year and 4 total over the last two, his fewest over that length of span since he had 3 top 5's in his first two seasons in Cup back in 1994-95. His 19.6 average finish equals his worst average finish over the last 17 seasons (2005).
Jamie McMurray suffered through his 2nd straight forgettable season in Cup. 21st in the standings and a 20.2 average finish are improvements over 2011 (27th and 22.2 respectively), but his 3 top 10's are a career-low for a full season (2 in 6 starts in 2002) and he's gone without a top 5 finish in a season for the first time in his career.
Kasey Kahne's first season in Hendrick Motorsports was arguably the best of his career. 19 top 10's tied a career-high, 12 top 10's tied his 2nd-best output and he finished top 5 in points for the first time in his career (4th, his previous best was 8th in 2006) thanks to career highs in average start (8.8, led the series) and 13.1 (previous best was 15.3 in 2009). Kahne had finished top 10 in points just twice in his first 8 seasons in Cup. Kahne managed all this despite a 28.5 avg fin over the first 6 races of the season that saw him sit 31st in the standings (10.0 avg fin over the last 30 races). DNF's still continue to be an issue for Kahne, as he's averaged 5.1 per season (4 in each of the last 3 seasons).
The #22 Penske car ended up finishing 21st in the owner standings, with AJ Allmendinger running the first 17 races of the season (2nd at Martinsville, 3 top 10's, 20.6 avg fin) before his failed drug test and then Sam Hornish Jr. running the last 19 (5th at Watkins Glen, 19.4 avg fin). Hornish set new career highs in avg fin and avg start (16.8) despite a sudden half-schedule in Cup, amassing 11 top 20 finishes which included 3 finishes of 11th in a row at one point.
Trevor Bayne completed his 2nd part time schedule in Cup in 2012, showing improvement from 2011 in avg fin (22.5 vs. 25.8) and avg start (17.7 vs. 18.8). But the Daytona 500 win skewed Bayne's 2011 numbers; without it his average finish was 27.35.
Denny Hamlin finished in a tie for the series lead in wins with 5, the 2nd time in the last 3 years that he's had the most wins in a season (8 in 2010). His 14 top 5's equaled his 2nd most in 7 seasons in Cup but consistency remains an issue for the #11 team as they could never string together more than 2 straight top 10's at any point in 2012, with 17 on the year being his 2nd fewest in a season (14 in 2011). Hamlin had 3 top 2 finishes in the Chase but only 4 top 10's to end up 6th in points, the 6th time in 7 years that he's finished top 10.
Bobby Labonte has now spent 6 straight seasons as an afterthought in the Sprint Cup Series, amassing just 2 top 5's (none in 2012) and 11 top 10's in 216 starts (3 in 2007 were his most in a single year). Labonte's 23rd place finish in points and 22.6 avg are his best since 2008 (21st and 22.6 respectively), but his 1 lap led this season is a career-low (3 in 1994).
BK Racing (the remnants of Red Bull Racing) completed their first season in the Sprint Cup Series, with drivers Travis Kvapil and Landon Cassill finishing 27th and 31st in the standings respectively. Kvapil got the team their only top 10 finish, 8th at Talladega, and was responsible for 6 of the team's best finishes (8th, 15th, 16th twice and 17th twice) and had the edge over Cassill in average finish (25.7 vs. 27.5). But Cassill had a decided edge in qualifying with a 29.0 avg start (vs. 36.6 for Kvapil) and had the team's 17 best qualifying efforts.
2012 was arguably Juan Pablo Montoya's worst season in Cup, with a career-low 0 top 5's and 2 top 10's. His 23rd place finish in points and 21.7 average finish are his worst since 2008 (25th and 23.9 respectively).
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, as an organization, didn't have a single top 5 finish in 2012; they had 4 in 2011 and 15 in 2010.
Casey Mears drove the full 36 races in a season for the first time since 2009, helping the #13 Germain Racing team finish a career-best 30th in the owners points. Mears started from pole once this season, thanks to a rain out, but his best finish was 15th and he had just 5 top 20 finishes all year (27.2 avg fin). He's now gone 97 straight races without a top 10 finish, his last one being a 7th at Charlotte in 2009 while driving for RCR.
Despite bouncing between teams late in 2012, missing 2 race, having a worse average finish (22.1) than in 2011 (21.5) and having fewer top 5's (1 vs. 2), top 10's (4 vs. 5) and lead lap finishes (11 vs. 19), Regan Smith finished a career-best 24th in the standings. His 16.4 average start since 2011 ranks 19th in the series.
The #34 Front Row Motorsports car, driven by David Ragan in his 1st season with the team, gave FRM its highest ever finish in the owners standings in 29th. Ragan was responsible for giving FRM their 2nd ever top 5 finish and 3rd and 4th ever top 10 finish in Cup, all coming on the plate tracks (7th and 4th at Talladega). But they were Ragan's only top 20 finishes of the season.
Dave Blaney, and Tommy Baldwin Racing, regressed as a whole in 2012 compared to 2011. Blaney had no top 10 finishes (3rd at Talladega in 2011), and his average finish worsened (31.8 vs. 29.7). A lot of that was due to Blaney being forced to S&P for some races late in the race.
David Gilliland equaled his points finish from 2011 (30th), but improved his average finish this season (27.3 vs. 28.2) and had the most top 20 finishes of any of Front Row Motorsports' drivers in 2012 with 5.
David Reutimann had his worst season in Cup since his rookie year in 2007, which was the last time he went without a single top 10 finish. Reutimann's 29.1 avg fin is the 2nd worst of his career (30.4 in 2007) and he had just 3 lead lap finishes in 26 starts, mostly with Tommy Baldwin Racing, and his only top 20 finish was an 11th at Daytona in July.
JJ Yeley has run 72 Cup races since 2010, finishing just 19 of them (8 finishes in 24 starts in 2012, 11 DNQ's).
Jimmie Johnson led the series in wins (5, tied with Keselowski and Hamlin, the 4th time in his career he's led in wins), top 5's (18), top 10's (24, tying his career high), poles (4, won the season-long pole award), and laps led (1,744). He's the first driver to have a Quintuple Crown (leading in 5 of 8 categories: wins, poles, top 5's, top 10's, laps completed, laps led, avg start, avg fin) since Jeff Gordon in 2007 who led in top 5's, top 10's, poles, laps led and average finish. It's the first time in Jimmie's career that he's led the series in both top 5's and top 10's, with his 18 top 5's being his most since 2007 when he had 20. But his 6 DNF's this season are his most since he had 7 in 2004, and his 36th place finish at Homestead is his worst since he was 40th in 2005 (2nd straight year outside of the top 30; those 3 races are the only years in the last 8 that he hasn't won the championship).
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