Following Michael McDowell’s first NASCAR Cup Series victory, here are five other drivers who could get their first win this season.
When Michael McDowell took the checkered flag under caution in this year’s Daytona 500, he became the first driver since 2011 to record his first career win in NASCAR’s marquee event. He also extended the streak of having a first-time winner in the Cup Series to the last six seasons.
There have been 12 new winners since the start of the 2016 season, perhaps not surprisingly as drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth among others have stepped away during that stretch.
However, there have been no more than three new winners in a single year since 2011, which saw five drivers record their maiden victory, starting with Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500.
Here’s a closer breakdown of new winners in the past decade:
2011: Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Regan Smith
2012: no new winners
2013: no new winners
2014: A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola
2015: no new winners
2016: Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson
2017: Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2018: Chase Elliott, Erik Jones
2019: Alex Bowman, Justin Haley
2020: William Byron, Cole Custer
With this recent trend and McDowell grabbing his first career Cup Series win in the season’s opening event, here’s a look at five other drivers who could make their first trip to victory lane this season.
Possible first-time NASCAR Cup Series winners: #1 – Christopher Bell
Christopher Bell made his Cup Series debut last season, recording two top five finishes, seven top 10 finishes and an average finish of 20.2 for the now-shuttered Leavine Family Racing. Leavine Family Racing served as a satellite team to Joe Gibbs Racing, where Bell replaced Erik Jones in the #20 Toyota for this year.
Bell has seven wins in 54 career Truck Series starts as well as the 2017 championship, and he has 16 wins in 74 career Xfinity Series starts, so he’s shown the ability to win races at various levels.
Two tracks where his first career Cup Series win could come are New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Bell has two wins in two Xfinity Series starts and a win and a runner-up finish in two Truck Series starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, although he finished in 28th place, two laps off the lead lap, in his first Cup Series race there last year.
Richmond Raceway is his winningest Xfinity Series track, as he has three wins, four top 10 finishes and an average finish of 5.0 in five starts. He finished in 15th place in his lone Cup Series race there last year. Joe Gibbs Racing have also run well there recently as a whole, winning four of the last five races between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.