For most of 2018, the Cup title appeared to be Kevin Harvick’s championship to lose with Kyle Busch pursuing closely.
NASCAR Statistical Service’s year-end report bears that assumption out.
Harvick led nearly every statistical category with Busch a close second.
In the championship race at Miami, Harvick faded ever so slightly and was only second best in many of the following statistical categories while Joey Logano stepped up to fill the void.
Average Running Position
Harvick’s average position on track in 2018 was 8.09 with Busch following in second at 8.17. In the final race at Miami, Harvick had the second-best average running position (3.10) behind Logano’s 2.80.
The driver rating is NASCAR’s attempt to create an overview of each driver performs in a race. It takes into consideration the driver’s finish, average running position while on the lead lap in green flag conditions, average speed and fastest laps as well as a bevy of bonus points. Perfect is 150.
Harvick’s average driver rating for 2018 was 115.5; Busch was second with an average of 109.3. Logano was best at Miami with a 137.1.
Harvick had a perfect driver rating at Las Vegas in March.
Fastest Early in a Run
NASCAR tracks a driver’s speed during the first 25 percent of a run to determine who is fastest early.
At Miami, Harvick was ranked second in this category with an average of 161.799 mph. His average rank for the season was 3.97; Busch was second at 5.19. Logano had the fastest average at Miami with 162.088 mph.
Fastest Late in a Run
NASCAR tracks a driver’s speed during the last 25 percent of a run to determine who is fastest late.
When a driver is fastest early and late in a run, he is hard to beat. Harvick’s average ranking for this stat was 4.90; Busch was second at 5.59. Kyle Larson topped this category at Miami with a 153.843 mph average. Harvick (153.218 mph) was second.
Giving some credence to Martin Truex Jr.’s belief that he would have caught Logano on a long run is the fact that the No. 78 was third best (153.043) at Miami; Logano was sixth (152.437).
Harvick ran the fastest green flag lap 14.7 percent of the time during 2018; Busch was second at 11.3 percent. At Miami, Larson had the fastest lap 22.2 percent of the time. Harvick was second best at 15.7 percent.
Fastest on Restarts
Harvick tied Busch in this category with an average ranking of 6.81. Logano was best at Miami (165.199) with Harvick second (164.220)
Green Flag Speed
NASCAR tracks the average speed of each driver under green flag conditions. Harvick’s average rank for the season was 3.07; Busch was second at 4.44. In this category, Harvick led the field at Miami with an average of 157.484 mph. Truex (157.360) and Logano (157.183) were next on the chart.
Harvick led 1,990 laps during the season (19.6 percent), which was the most; Busch led the second most at 1,469 (14.5 percent). Logano led the most last at Miami (80) with Harvick second (58).
Laps in the Top 15
This is one of the few categories Harvick did not lead in 2018. He was second best with 8,665 laps in the top 15 (85.4 percent). Busch edged Harvick with 8,777 laps (86.5 percent). At Miami, five drivers spent all 267 laps in the top 15. They included the Championship 4 of Logano, Harvick, Busch and Truex plus Aric Almirola.
Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap
This statistic helps explain the one above. A big part of the reason Harvick did not have the most laps inside the top 15 was because he and the team had a propensity to make mistakes in the pits that cost them a lap in the middle portion of several races.
Harvick spent a sixth-best 87.7 percent of the time on the lead lap for the season. Logano led this category with 90.5 percent.