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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

10 Eye-Opening Stats From The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs

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While there weren’t many shocking outcomes in the just-completed first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the statistics from the last three races show some interesting trends.

Here are 10 eye-opening stats from Round 1 of the Cup playoffs, which featured races at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.

Worst average finish to advance

Talk about good fortune: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. never finished better than 15th in any playoff race but advanced to Round 2 because he got 7 stage points in the final race Sunday at Dover. Stenhouse got those critical points after a caution in Stage 1 fell his way, allowing him to finish fourth in the stage. It was only the fifth time in 29 races that Stenhouse got any stage points at all. He moves on to Round 2, despite an average finish of 19.67 in Round 1.

Best qualifying average

In the three playoff races, Kyle Busch won two poles at Chicagoland and New Hampshire and qualified second at Dover. That’s an average starting spot of 1.33 for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Manufacturers measure up

Toyota crushed it in Round 1, winning all three races and all three poles. The four Toyota drivers in the playoffs also combined to post seven top-five finishes. Chevrolet’s seven drivers had six top fives, while Ford drivers had just two top fives.

Best average finish

With one victory and three top-five finishes, Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. sailed through Round 1 with an average finish of 3.33 in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.

No top 10s as a team

Two long-running NASCAR teams made the playoffs but failed to get a single top-10 finish. Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s best was a 15th at Chicagoland, while Richard Childress Racing put Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman in the playoffs, neither of whom finished any race better than 13th.

Worst average finish

Sorry, Kasey Kahne fans. The lame-duck Hendrick Motorsports driver had finishes of 35th, 21st and 14th in Round 1, an average of 23.33. Little wonder that he was eliminated after Dover.

Most laps led

No real surprise here: Of 967 laps run in the first three races of the playoffs, Kyle Busch led 31.2 percent of them and Martin Truex Jr. led another 24.8 percent of them. That’s 56 percent of all laps led in the three races by just two drivers. No wonder they’re the championship favorites.

Most top fives

Just two drivers earned top-five finishes in all three playoff races: Martin Truex Jr. (1st, 5th and 4th) and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson (5th, 2nd, 5th).

Close but no cigar

Chevrolet drivers finished second in all three playoff races — Chase Elliott at Chicagoland and Dover, and Kyle Larson at New Hampshire. Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota each had a driver finish third in one race during the round.

Overachiever award

The most eye-opening stat of all? Kyle Busch won two of the first three playoff races. Prior to this year, the 2015 champion had only won two playoff races in his entire Cup career.

Images Courtesy of Nigel Kirade Photography

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.