Here’s a quick look at some of the statistical highlights of 2010.
CLOSEST FINISH — Aaron’s 499, Talladega Superspeedway Kevin Harvick's frontstretch pass of Jamie McMurray resulted in a margin of victory of just 0.011 seconds in a race that saw 88 lead changes among 29 drivers. Harvick’s winning pass came in the third and final attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
More importantly, Harvick broke a 115-race winless streak to capture his first Sprint Cup points race victory since the 2007 Daytona 500. Harvick pushed 2010 Daytona 500 winner McMurray for all but the final quarter-mile before ducking under him to win.
BIGGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY, Price Chopper 400 — Greg Biffle benefitted from a long green-flag run to triumph at Kansas Speedway by a whopping 7.638 seconds over Jimmie Johnson. The victory was Biffle’s second of the season and helped him to a sixth-place points finish.
LONGEST RACE: Daytona 500 — Officially, the Daytona 500 lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes and 16 seconds. But when you add in red flag periods of 1 hour, 40 minutes, 45 seconds; and 44 minutes, 35 seconds, the Great American Race times out at 6 hours, 12 minutes, 36 seconds, only slightly less than the Paris-Dakar Rally.
The thought of track workers using Bondo to patch a hole in the track created one of the most memorable moments of the year, for all the wrong reasons. Not surprisingly, track President Robin Braig was out of a job before the year was out.
SHORTEST RACE: Heluva! Good Sour Cream Dips at the Glen — It took Juan Pablo Montoya just 2 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds to win on the Watkins Glen International road course, where he claimed his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
FASTEST QUALIFYING LAP, AAA 500 — The financial problems of Richard Petty Motorsports were well documented in 2010, but the team had a few bright spots on the track, including Elliott Sadler's blistering qualifying lap of 195.397 miles per hour in the second Texas race.
SLOWEST QUALIFYING LAP, Toyota/Save Mart 350 — Richard Petty Motorsports drivers were responsible for both the fastest pole speed of 2010 (see above) and the slowest, with Kasey Kahne putting the No. 9 RPM Ford on the pole at Infineon Raceway with a lap of just 93.983 mph.
FASTEST AVERAGE RACE SPEED, Amp Energy Juice 500 — With just six caution periods, including one at the very end, it’s hardly surprising that the year’s fastest race came at Talladega Superspeedway. Clint Bowyer's average speed in victory was 163.618 mph. And this race was another nail-biter, with Bowyer’s last-lap pass of teammate Kevin Harvick being one of 87 lead changes among 26 drivers.
SLOWEST RACE, Tums Fast Relief 500 — Take NASCAR’s smallest oval track, the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway, and add in a season-high 15 caution-flag periods and you’re going to have a slow race. And that’s what happened, with race-winner Denny Hamlin's 71.169 mph average barely above the speed limit on I-85 back to Charlotte.
MOST LAPS LED, Irwin Tools Night Race — Given that Bristol Motor Speedway is one of only two race tracks that host 500-lap races, it’s hardly surprising that it’s also the track that had one driver lead the most laps in a race. Kyle Busch won the Irwin Tools Night Race leading 283 laps, while big brother Kurt Busch led 278 there in the spring, but finished third behind Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.
FEWEST LAPS LED IN VICTORY, Daytona 500, Aaron’s 499 — Nobody won a Cup race in 2010 by leading only the final lap, but two drivers did it by leading just two laps each: Jamie McMurray passed Kevin Harvick on the penultimate lap of the Daytona 500 and Harvick returned the favor with a last-lap pass at the end of the spring Talladega race.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.