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Jimmie Johnson
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Statistically Speaking

Head-to-head: Jimmie Johnson vs. Kurt Busch

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 26, 2020, 6:02 pm ET

Long careers of NASCAR drivers can often seem like rollercoasters.

When he won five consecutive championships from 2006 through 2010, it appeared Johnson would never stumble. From his rookie season of 2002 through 2013, his worst position in the season-ending points’ standings was sixth. He scored his sixth championship in 2013.

Things were not as rosy for the next two seasons. He finished 11th in 2014 and 10th in 2015, but then (given the winner-take-all format of the current era), he earned a seventh championship in 2016, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the process.

Johnson has been chasing eight ever since; he hasn’t come close with a best of 10th in the last three seasons. Johnson will call it quits at the end of his 19th fulltime season, all of which have been with Hendrick Motorsports.


Kurt Busch’s 20-year career has been marked by controversy and stints with multiple teams.

When he was released from the No. 97 in 2005 after being arrested for reckless driving near Phoenix Raceway, Jack Roush famously said, “He’s Roger Penske’s problem now,” and replaced him for the last two races of that season. Six seasons with Penske were not much smoother and his split was rancorous.

At that point, he had a decision to make. Unable to find a marquee ride, his next couple years with James Finch and Barney Visser may have taught him a little humility, but his tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was also filled with ups and downs and accusations that he was not getting the same equipment as Kevin Harvick

Since joining Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), Busch’s attitude seems to have truly changed. He is not as fast to rush into controversial situations and is concentrating on the performance of the car. While that is probably good for his blood pressure, it hasn’t changed his performance much.

Busch earned six top-fives and 18 top-10s with CGR last year – both of which fit into the same range as his last two seasons with SHR.

 

Kurt Busch

Race

Finish

Start

Avg. Run

Phoenix

6

7

13.7

Auto Club

3

4

8.72

Las Vegas

25

13

16.9

Daytona

33

18

17.3

Average

16.75

10.50

14.15*

 

This year, Johnson and Busch started the season with similar records. Both were knocked out of the Daytona 500 in one of many accidents. Both have scored one top-five and two top-10s in the three unrestricted, intermediate speedway races.

Johnson has shown a little more strength overall, however. Johnson’s Average Running Position at the end of Week 4 is notably better than Busch with a 9.92 compared to a 14.15. Johnson has outperformed Busch in this statistic in every race so far. He also has a better season average finish of 14.75 to Busch’s 16.75.

The driver of the No. 48 is riding a three-race streak of top-12 finishes. But Busch is not far behind. If not for trouble on his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he might have an identical record.

 

Jimmie Johnson

Race

Finish

Start

Avg. Run

Phoenix

12

21

13.4

Auto Club

7

2

3.63

Las Vegas

5

18

9.68

Daytona

35

6

13.0

Average

14.75

11.75

9.92*

 

Even with only two top-15s, Busch has a little more momentum on his side than Johnson. Both drivers had nearly identical Average Running Positions in the FanShield 500k, but Busch was better able to capitalize on his. He finished sixth after running 13.7 on average; Johnson was 12th after running 13.4.

Busch also gained confidence in the most recent two races. He’s becoming accustomed to running up from after qualifying in the top 10 in both events and finishing there as well. Johnson struggled in qualification at Phoenix and spent the opening laps in the middle of the pack.

Johnson has the strength of his career to fall back on, however. He has 83 wins and 228 top-fives to his credit. Busch has 31 wins and 144 top-fives. But the difference in top-10s is much closer with 300 for Busch and 366 for Johnson.

At the end of 2020, both drivers will have remarkably similar records and fantasy players can expect to start them an equal number of times based on how they perform in practice and how much momentum each bring into a given week.

* NASCAR Statistical Services Average Running Position through Week 4.

Previous Head-to-head matchups:
Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch
Tyler Reddick vs. William Byron
Chris Buescher vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Erik Jones vs. Christopher Bell
Chase Elliott vs. Ryan Blaney

Dan Beaver
Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.