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Talon64's Motorsports Corner writes:
"NASCAR Cup: The Better-Than-10th Average Finish Club"
Posted by Talon64 on December 21, 2010
Viewed 682 times

   

In 2010 Kevin Harvick was the first driver in the last 3 seasons to finish with an average finish better than 10th, an impressive 8.7. The next best was Carl Edwards at 11.8.

It's not something very many drivers have done in Cup Series history; only 25 drivers have finished a season with an average finish of 10th or better, with many of them either winning or contending for championships.

Here's the list of drivers who've accomplished the feat each season in the modern era, 1972-2010 (all drivers ran at least half of their respective seasons, top driver for each year won the championship whether they had a 10.0 avg. fin. or not):

Year Driver Avg Fin
1972 Richard Petty 4.7
Bobby Allison 5.3
James Hylton 9.5
David Pearson 7.9
1973 Cale Yarborough 10
David Pearson 7.8
1974 Richard Petty 6.8
Cale Yarborough 6.7
David Pearson 7.9
1975 Richard Petty 6.6
1976 Cale Yarborough 8.2
Richard Petty 9
Benny Parsons 9.6
David Pearson 6.9
1977 Cale Yarborough 4.5
Richard Petty 7.5
Benny Parsons 7.8
Darrell Waltrip 8.3
David Pearson 9.6
1978 Cale Yarborough 6
Bobby Allison 9.4
Benny Parsons 9.4
Dave Marcis 8.7
1979 Richard Petty 6.4
Darrell Waltrip 7
Bobby Allison 8.6
Cale Yarborough 8.6
1980 Dale Earnhardt 8.2
Cale Yarborough 9
1981 Darrell Waltrip 7.2
Bobby Allison 6.8
1982 Darrell Waltrip 9.1
Bobby Allison 9.3
1983 Bobby Allison 7
Darrell Waltrip 7.7
Bill Elliott 9.5
1984 Terry Labonte 8.3
Harry Gant 8.6
Bill Elliott 8.6
Dale Earnhardt 9.6
Cale Yarborough 7.4
1985 Darrell Waltrip 7.3
Bill Elliott 8.7
Harry Gant 10
1986 Dale Earnhardt 7.4
Darrell Waltrip 10
Tim Richmond 9.9
1987 Dale Earnhardt 5.9
Bill Elliott 9.9
1988 Bill Elliott 6.6
Rusty Wallace 7.1
Dale Earnhardt 8.8
1989 Rusty Wallace 10.3 N/A
1990 Dale Earnhardt 8
Mark Martin 6.6
1991 Dale Earnhardt 8.6
Ricky Rudd 9.5
1992 Alan Kulwicki 10.6 N/A
1993 Dale Earnhardt 8.2
Rusty Wallace 9.4
1994 Dale Earnhardt 8
1995 Jeff Gordon 9.5
Dale Earnhardt 9.2
Sterling Marlin 9.8
1996 Terry Labonte 8.2
Jeff Gordon 9.5
Dale Jarrett 8.8
1997 Jeff Gordon 9.6
Dale Jarrett 9.6
Mark Martin 9
1998 Jeff Gordon 5.7
Mark Martin 8.6
1999 Dale Jarrett 6.8
Bobby Labonte 9
Mark Martin 9.4
2000 Bobby Labonte 7.4
Dale Earnhardt 9.4
2001 Jeff Gordon 11 N/A
2002 Tony Stewart 12.6 N/A
2003 Matt Kenseth 10.2 N/A
2004 Kurt Busch 12.5 N/A
2005 Tony Stewart 9.9
2006 Jimmie Johnson 9.7
Matt Kenseth 9.8
2007 Jimmie Johnson 10.8 N/A
Jeff Gordon 7.3
2008 Jimmie Johnson 10.5 N/A
Carl Edwards 9.5
2009 Jimmie Johnson 11.1 N/A
2010 Jimmie Johnson 12.2 N/A
Kevin Harvick 8.7

From 1972 to 2000, there was an average of 2.52 drivers per season with a 10.0- average finish. But from 2001 to 2004 there were no drivers who did it, and only 6 in the last 6 seasons (2005-2010). It's a sign of how much more competitive NASCAR is today, but whether that's because all of today's drivers are that good or at they're just equally talented is always up to debate around here.

Doing the research for this rooted up some interesting tidbits. Cale Yarborough owns the modern era record for average finish in a season, 4.5 in 1977.

And the worst average finish by a champion in a season belongs to Tony Stewart, 12.6 in 2002.

But he made up for it with a 9.9 average finish in his 2005 championship, just the 2nd driver with a 10.0- average finish to win the championship in the last 10 seasons (Jimmie Johnson, 9.7 in 2006).

They're also the only two champions in the last 10 years to own the best average finish in their respective season; the Chase has contributed to the trend, but it also happened 5 times from 1972-2000.

Before 2001 only 2 drivers had won the championship with worse than a 10.0 average finish: Rusty Wallace in 1989 and Alan Kulwicki in 1992.

The most drivers to finish with a 10.0 avg. fin. or better in a season in the modern era is 5, 1977 and 1984.

Dale Earnhardt's had the most 10.0- avg. fin. seasons in the modern era, 11 times in 22 seasons. Here's the full list of drivers, how many times they've done it and their career/modern-era best:

Driver # Times Best
Dale Earnhardt 11 5.9 (1987)
Cale Yarborough 7 4.5 (1977)
Darrell Waltrip 7 7.0 (1979)
Richard Petty 6 4.7 (1972)
Bobby Allison 6 5.3 (1972)
David Pearson 5 6.9 (1976)
Bill Elliott 5 6.6 (1988)
Jeff Gordon 5 5.7 (1998)
Mark Martin 4 6.6 (1990)
Benny Parsons 3 7.8 (1977)
Dale Jarrett 3 6.8 (1999)
Terry Labonte 2 8.2 (1996)
Harry Gant 2 8.6 (1984)
Rusty Wallace 2 7.1 (1988)
Bobby Labonte 2 7.4 (2000)
James Hylton 1 9.5 (1972)
Dave Marcis 1 8.7 (1978)
Tim Richmond 1 9.9 (1986)
Ricky Rudd 1 9.5 (1991)
Sterling Marlin 1 9.8 (1995)
Tony Stewart 1 9.9 (2005)
Jimmie Johnson 1 9.7 (2006)
Matt Kenseth 1 9.8 (2006)
Carl Edwards 1 9.5 (2008)
Kevin Harvick 1 8.7 (2010)

For the record Richard Petty did it 16 times, David Pearson 10 times, Bobby Allison 8 and James Hylton 6 for their entire careers, including pre-modern-era.

The only 2 times Terry Labonte's had a 10.0- avg. fin. are the years he won the championship, 1984 and 1996.

Cale Yarborough hold the M-E record for most consecutive 10.0- avg. fin. seasons with 5 (1976-1980).


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