By RICH FOLEY
Observer Motorsports Writer
If you’ve got a favorite NASCAR Cup driver, the odds are good that he’s already won a race in 2011. If he hasn’t, there are 14 chances left in what could be a record-breaking year.
This year has already seen 14 different winners and with drivers including Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano, among others, still looking for that first 2011 win, that total could easily hit 20 or more.
The current record for most winners in a season is 19, first set in 1956, then tied in 1958, 1961 and finally in 2001. In the old days, the schedule was quite a bit longer than now, with 56 races in 1956, 51 in 1958, and 52 in 1961. The mark was tied in 2001 in a 36-race season, the same number scheduled for 2011.
The other side of this year’s diversity in winners was the 1974 season, when only five drivers combined to win all 30 races, a record for fewest winners that will probably stand for all time. In fact, NASCAR’s first season, 1949, which consisted of only eight races, still had six different winners.
Amazingly in 1974, three drivers combined for 27 of the 30 victories, with Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough winning 10 times each and David Pearson taking the checkers seven times. Bobby Allison won twice, while Canadian rookie Earl Ross won one time. Ross was running a part-time schedule as Yarborough’s teammate, giving car owner Junior Johnson a 11-10 lead in team victories over Petty Enterprises.
Although eight of the 2001 winners are still running full time in 2011, only two (Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick) have won so far this year.