NASCAR superlatives: Chastain, Suarez, Cindric win first-half prizes


By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Eighteen points races completed. And 18 to go.

It’s time for some mid-season awards for the NASCAR Cup Series. These are not predictions for the end of the year. These awards are about the here and now and what has happened during the first half of the season.


I picked 18 categories to go with this time 18 races into the season.

let’s do it

driver of the year

None. Sorry I can’t choose one. No one has dominated. There have been great performances, but no driver has been dominant enough to earn my choice. Just 35 points separate the top three drivers in the standings and 80 points separate the top seven.

Surprise Driver of the Year

Ross Chastain. No one saw Chastain winning two races and contending for the regular season title.

Is Ross Chastain a legitimate championship contender?

Is Ross Chastain a legitimate championship contender?

Bob Pockrass says Ross Chastain’s second Cup win is a sign of growth for Trackhouse, but it’s still too early to talk about a championship.

Return to Driver of the Year

Daniel Suarez. A driver who two years ago looked like he would never come close to winning now has a Cup win.

Disappointing driver of the year.

Brad Keselowski. There weren’t high expectations for Keselowski this year, as he joined Roush Fenway Racing as driver and co-owner. But even with the changes at RFK Racing, you’d think he’d have more than two top-10 finishes.

Unlucky Driver of the Year

Denny Hamlin. The guy has led laps in 10 events and threatened in more, but has only taken two wins.

Denny Hamlin wins the 2022 Coca-Cola 600

Denny Hamlin wins the 2022 Coca-Cola 600

Denny Hamlin wins the longest race in NASCAR history with a wild overtime finish at Charlotte.

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Frustrated Driver of the Year

Bubba Wallace. Whether it’s a pit crew issue, mechanical failure or driver error, he’s had a season where he’s shown more speed but has nothing to show for it.

happy driver of the year

William Byron. Except for one post-race comment (more on that later), he always seems to be a driver with a positive attitude.

Enigmatic driver of the year

Kyle Bush. He’s solid in qualifying and has one win, but it looks like he could have four or five wins this year, but he’s just not having a great season.

movement of the year

Austin Cindric to win the Daytona 500. Ryan Blaney would disagree, but you do what you have to do to win the Daytona 500. And what a way to open a rookie season.

Rookie Austin Cindric elated after winning the Daytona 500

Rookie Austin Cindric elated after winning the Daytona 500

Rookie Austin Cindric spoke with Jamie Little after winning the Daytona 500, thanking his team and fans for cheering him on all the way.

Not so much movement of the year

Chase Briscoe. Sorry, Chase, but that move at the end of the Bristol land wasn’t a good one.

The best time of year

Kurt Busch winning with the Jordan Brand logo on his car and uniform at Kansas. If he’s going to win a race, that would be it.

Stage Winner of the Year

This is a tie between Blaney and Martin Truex Jr., who have five stage wins this year but have yet to win (Blaney won the feature race).

The best race of the year.

Coca-Cola 600. Who knew such a long run could be so good?

Best non-racing related move of the year

Crash at the Colosseum. Building a track at the LA Coliseum was not an easy thing to do. And it was even harder to get it right. NASCAR did both.

Bob Pockrass on The Clash at the Colosseum

Bob Pockrass on The Clash at the Colosseum

Bob Pockrass shares some quick thoughts on why the Coliseum Crash exceeded expectations, bringing smiles to both NASCAR executives and the person who unexpectedly joined this video.

quote of the year

“He’s just a jerk” — Byron on Joey Logano. I’m not passing judgment on the fly, but it’s rare to see so much emotion in Byron.

Paint scheme of the year.

Chastain’s throwback to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Coca-Cola car (Japan exhibition race) during Darlington weekend.

organization of the year

Trackhouse team. There is no doubt in this one. Hendrick Motorsports has more wins, but for both Trackhouse drivers to have already won in a year when they weren’t expected to race weekly is a big story.

mystery of the year

Wheel. When you need two hands to count the number of wheels that fall off during a season, let alone the first half of a season, that’s a problem. And it is a problem that does not have a simple solution, but something must be done.

Thinking out loud

Well, I’d say this entire column has been thinking out loud. Everyone have a great Fourth of July!

community focus

Statistics of the day

The last five truck races have been won by drivers who are not in the series full-time: Ryan Preece, Todd Gilliland, Kyle Busch, Corey Heim and Ross Chastain.

they said it

“Our cars are much better in traffic and you can run much harder than last year. The difference is that Kyle Busch is not a second [per] faster lap. It’s only a tenth quicker, and when you’re only a tenth quicker, it’s very difficult to pass somebody.” Michael McDowell

Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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