The 2021 NASCAR season is over.
Champions in all three series were crowned over the first weekend of November at Phoenix Raceway. Kyle Larson won the Cup Series title, Daniel Hemric took the Xfinity Series title and Ben Rhodes won the Xfinity Series title.
NASCAR is already looking ahead to 2022 — Larson spent his Tuesday at the Los Angeles Coliseum promoting February’s exhibition race at the stadium. But we think it’s worth looking back at 2021 again as the season is fresh in our memories. Here are some stats from the most recent NASCAR season.
Kyle Larson’s 10 Cup Series wins are the most of any driver since Jimmie Johnson won 10 races and the championship in 2007.
Johnson led 1,290 laps that season. Larson led 2,581 laps in 2021.
Larson’s 2,581 laps led in 2021 are the most any driver has led in a single season since Jeff Gordon led 2,610 laps in 1995.
Larson was the only driver with 20 top-five finishes in 2021. He and Kevin Harvick in 2020 are the only drivers to get 20 top fives in a season since three drivers scored 20 or more top-five finishes in 2018.
Denny Hamlin (1,502) was the only other driver to lead more than 1,000 laps.
Hamlin posted the best average finish (8.4) of any driver in 2021 and was the only driver to not fail to finish a single race.
Hamlin finished on the lead lap in 34 of 36 races and completed all but four of 9,200 laps in 2021. He finished three laps down at Talladega after he was involved in a crash and was a lap down at Nashville.
Eight drivers completed 9,000 or more laps. Seven of them made the playoffs. The only driver to complete more than 9,000 laps and miss the playoffs was Austin Dillon.
With no qualifying for most races in 2021, there weren’t as many opportunities for drivers at the front of the field to gain spots during races. Hamlin’s average finish was two spots worse than his average starting position and Larson’s average finish (9.1) was three spots worse than his average start. Among drivers with an average start in the top 10, Kevin Harvick did the best at holding his track position. Harvick lost just 1.2 spots per race with an average finish of 10.9.
Erik Jones and Chase Briscoe were the biggest movers of the season. Jones’ average finish of 19.7 was three spots better than his average starting spot. Briscoe’s average finish of 19.6 was 2.6 spots better than his average starting spot.
Among drivers who started all 36 races, Quin Houff had the worst average finish and the fewest lead-lap finishes. Houff’s average finish was 32.4 and he finished on the lead lap in just five starts. He also completed the fewest laps of any full-time driver with 7,695.
Ryan Newman only finished ahead of three full-time drivers in the standings. Only Corey LaJoie, Anthony Alfredo and Houff scored fewer points than Newman.
Newman’s 28th-place finish in the points was three spots worse than his 2020 finish. He missed three races in 2020 after his terrifying crash at Daytona.
Thirty-two drivers started all 36 races in 2021 while two others — Cody Ware and Justin Haley — had over 30 starts.
The secret to making the playoffs is finishing in the top 10 frequently. Eight drivers had 20 or more top 10s and they all made the playoffs. Six other drivers had 14 or more top 10s. They all made the playoffs too. The only playoff drivers with fewer than 14 top 10s got in with wins. Aric Almirola (New Hampshire) and Michael McDowell (Daytona 500) each had just five top-10 finishes.
McDowell’s average finish of 20.5 is the worst average finish of any playoff driver since Chris Buescher had an average finish of 26.1 in 2016.
Daniel Hemric’s win in the final Xfinity Series race of the season not only got him the title but also was the first win of his career. He’s the first driver in any of NASCAR’s top three series to get his first win of the season to win the title in the winner-take-all finale era.
Six Xfinity Series drivers had more wins than Hemric did in 2021. Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger each had five wins. Part-time drivers Ty Gibbs (4) and Josh Berry (2) each had multiple wins too. Gibbs got his wins in just 18 starts.
Cindric was the only Xfinity Series driver to lead over 1,000 laps. He led 1,150 laps, nearly 500 more than Hemric in second at 663.
Hemric finished on the lead lap in all but two races. Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier were the only other drivers to have 30 lead-lap finishes.
Just 15 drivers competed in all 33 Xfinity Series races in 2021. Tommy Joe Martins was 20th in the points standings and scored the fewest points of any driver who competed in every race.
Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes (9.3) posted the best average finish of any driver in the series.
Twelve different drivers won Truck Series races. John Hunter Nemechek led the series with nine wins.
A whopping 117 different drivers made at least one Truck Series start over the season’s 22 races. Forty-eight of them had at least one top-10 finish.