Over the decade, he won the most races of any NASCAR driver, 40 to 38 for Kevin Harvick. With his second title, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ranked second to Jimmie Johnson (three) in championships won during this time.
From an even larger historical perspective, his win in Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the 56th of his career, passing Rusty Wallace for sole possession of ninth place on NASCAR’s all-time list. He also became the 15th different NASCAR driver to win multiple championships and the first since Johnson won his second title in 2007.
There has never been doubt concerning Busch’s talent.
However, there were times in the past when he would implode once the playoff started. The knock on Busch was he’s great when things are going well, but he makes it worse when the team is struggling.
That couldn’t be said about the 34-year-old Las Vegas native during the 2019 season.
His win at Miami was the fifth of the season but his first since Pocono in June. While he ultimately had to win the race to win the championship, the biggest key to his season was the consistency. Busch had 27 top-10 finishes in 36 races. Not surprisingly, the next drivers on the list were Harvick with 26 top 10s followed by Hamlin and Truex, each with 24.
This was the fifth season in a row that Busch was competing for the championship in the final race and the third season in a row Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all were in contention heading into Homestead.
If you look at his season- long performance, Busch was a most deserving champion. He completed the most laps, led the most laps, had the most lead-lap finishes and had the best average finish of all drivers in 2019.
Now, Busch will turn his focus on winning the Daytona 500. He is 0-for-14 in NASCAR’s biggest race with a best finish of second to Hamlin in the 2019 race.
For all four title contenders, there was plenty to celebrate. They combined to win 22 of the season’s 36 races.
Truex led all drivers with seven wins. That brings his career total to 26, tying him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on NASCAR’s all-time win list. An tidbit is Truex, with all his race-day success, didn’t win a pole position in 2019. Still, the combination of Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn showed amazing chemistry.
Their move from Furniture Row Racing, which folded at the end of the 2018 season, to Joe Gibbs Racing went off without a hitch.
After a slow start by Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick came on strong late and ended the season with four wins. That tied him with team owner Tony Stewart with 49 career victories, which is 13th on the all-time win list.
As mentioned, Hamlin won the Daytona 500. He also won the NRA Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol and raced his way into the “Championship 4” in dramatic style by winning at Phoenix. He had six wins and three poles overall. With 37 career wins, he joins names like Junior Johnson and Mark Martin as best-ever NASCAR drivers without a series championship.
HEMRIC TAKES ROOKIE HONOR
Daniel Hemric didn’t let a little thing like knowing he would be losing his job affect his job performance.
The 28-year-old North Carolina driver found out in September that he wouldn’t be returning to the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet next season. Over the final seven races, he won the pole position for the Kansas race and finished 21st or better six times.
Henric ended the season with a solid 12th-place run at Homestead to hold off Ryan Preece for the rookie honors.
The news isn’t all bad for Hemric. It was recently announced that he will be driving a 21-race schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season for JR Motorsports, the team owned by Earnhardt.
The Schaeffer’s Oil Iron Man Late Model Series released its 2020 schedule that revealed a June 20 date at Volunteer Speedway.
In addition, races for the American Crate Late Model Series are scheduled for July 4 and Aug. 29. Another pair of big races are heading for the four-tenths-mile dirt track and should be announced over the next few weeks.
Email Jeff Birchfield at [email protected]