Joseph Srigley of TobyChristie.com was the first person to notice this stat. He correctly pointed out that every season from 1961 until 2021 featured at least one driver leading more than 1,000 laps. The first year of the Next Gen era ended this streak as only Elliott topped 800 laps led.
Back in 1960, White won the championship with six wins, but he only led 340 laps. Runner-up Richard Petty only led 447 laps. The driver that actually topped the list in terms of time spent at the front of the pack was Glen Wood. He led 776 laps in only nine starts while reaching Victory Lane three times.
2 Drivers Topped 1,000 Laps Led in 1961
While White only led 340 laps in 1960, he added even more to his total in 1961. He led 1,390 laps and won seven races before finishing second in the championship standings behind Ned Jarrett.
There was another driver that topped 1,000 laps led in 1961. Junior Johnson started 41 races and led 2,602 laps while winning seven races of his own. He became the first driver since Speedy Thompson in 1956 to top 2,000 laps led.
There have been numerous drivers that have topped 1,000 laps led from 1961 until the end of 2021. Many of them have led more than 2,000 laps in a single season while others have led at least 3,000 laps.
Some members of this list are Kyle Busch (2,023 laps in 2017), Dale Jarrett (2,083 laps in 1997), Jimmie Johnson (2,238 laps in 2009), Bobby Allison (4,343 in 1972), and Kyle Larson (2,581 laps in 2021).
The 2022 Season Featured Other Historic Marks
The lack of drivers topping 1,000 laps led was only one example of the Next Gen era making the field more competitive. There were multiple others that showcased the “parity” that NASCAR sought when introducing the car.
For example, there were five first-time winners, which was a Modern Era record. The list included Austin Cindric (Daytona), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix), Ross Chastain (COTA), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma), and Tyler Reddick (Road America).
Additionally, the 2022 season set an all-time record with green flag passes for the lead with 1,544. There were nine races with a record number of green flag passes for the lead.
Circuit of the Americas had 30 green flag passes for the lead while Atlanta Motor Speedway 1 had 141. Las Vegas Motor Speedway 1 had 57, Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt) had 20, Darlington Raceway 1 had 28, Kansas Speedway 1 had 41, the Coca-Cola 600 had 64, Nashville Superspeedway had 47, and Las Vegas 2 had 46.
The 2022 season came just shy of setting a new NASCAR Cup Series record. The season entered its finale with 19 different winners, which tied for the most all-time with 1956, 1958, 1961, and 2001. However, Joey Logano won at Phoenix Raceway and prevented teammate Ryan Blaney from becoming the 20th different winner.
Based on these factors, it’s unlikely that any of the drivers will fail to reach 1,000 laps led. Though the Next Gen era has continued to provide surprising moments, so anything is possible.