Jamie McMurray Kyle Busch William Byron StatWatch after Cup series race at Texas Motor Speedway


Sure the Masters was fun, but we got a masterful (see what I did there?) performance out of Kyle Busch on Sunday, who picked up his first win of the 2018 NASCAR Cup series season at Texas Motor Speedway.

Let’s put the series’ seventh race in perspective, via use of ESPN Stats & Information.

Time to shine?

With some attrition in this race, with several big names taking damage in wrecks and calling it a day, we had an opportunity to see some new faces racing in the front.

Jamie McMurray had his first top-three finish outside of a restrictor-plate track in more than two years, and Darrell Wallace Jr. had his second career top-10 finish. But I’m more interested in a couple efforts a little further down the running order.

William Byron (10th), Ross Chastain (18th), and Harrison Rhodes (22nd) all had the best finishes of their Cup series careers. Not to mention top-20 finishes for Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Whitt and Gray Gaulding.

It took Byron seven races to pick up his first top-10 finish, and that’s actually the same number it took for Chase Elliott to get his first top-10 finish for Hendrick Motorsports.

Of note, former Hendrick youngsters Jeff Gordon (second start) and Jimmie Johnson (sixth start) got there faster than Byron.

Busch keeps on rolling

This might’ve been Busch’s first win of the season, but it’s the fifth straight race in which he’s had a top-three finish. That ties the longest such streak of Busch’s career (he also did it in 2008), and it marks a heck of a start to the season.

Busch is the first driver to start the season with at least five top-three finishes in the first seven races since … last year. It was another Kyle, Kyle Larson, who actually had five top-two finishes.

Before that, Kevin Harvick started 2015 with six top-three finishes (actually, again all top-twos) in the first seven races.

But, don’t think this is a regular occurrence. Before Busch, Larson and Harvick, no driver had started a season with at least five top-three finishes in the first seven races in the playoff era (since 2004).

A tighter finish

Busch’s victory was just by three-tenths of a second. Not a photo finish, but far from a blow out. The previous five races were decided by an average of 3.8 seconds, with only one race with a margin of victory under 1 second.

Three-tenths marked the smallest margin of victory in a non-restrictor-plate race since last October at Martinsville, when Busch again won by .14 seconds.

All of last year, only two non-plate races were decided by three-tenths or less, the other was Ryan Blaney‘s Pocono win.

The last time a race at a 1.5-mile track was decided by three-tenths or less was in July 2016, when Brad Keselowski beat Carl Edwards at Kentucky.

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