Streaks are an important part of the formula when handicapping NASCAR races. After all, success predicts success and when a driver starts grouping either good or bad results, that momentum can be difficult to change.
The past couple of seasons have been marked by increased parity as the series endeavors to level the playing field between all manufacturers and top-ranked teams. Every driver has a phalanx of fans who want to believe their favorite has a chance to at least contend for a top 10. Last year, 30 drivers earned at least one such finish and all but eight of them also scored a top-five.
For all the success his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott had in 2021, William Byron is the driver with the longest streak of top-10s. He got off to a slow start with back-to-back results outside the top 25 on the two Daytona International Speedway races. He lost laps on both the oval and road course, which made him a bit of a longshot on Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Once Byron won at Homestead, it opened a firehose, and he went on to score 11 consecutive top-10s. His streak ended only barely in the rain-soaked race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) with an 11th-place finish. Byron rebounded to finish fourth the following week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but would have to wait until the end of the season to string more than two top-10s together.
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Byron had the longest streak of 2021, but Larson had one that was better. From Darlington Raceway, a race in which he finished second, through the Sunday portion of Pocono Raceway's double header, he amassed eight straight top-10s. All but one of these results were second or better and he was in sight of tying a modern record of four straight wins until a flat tire and last-lap crash in the first Pocono race concluded his bid. Even with that accident, he finished ninth.
Denny Hamlin earned six consecutive top-10s twice during the season. Better still, one of these streaks was made up entirely of top-five results. In fact, Hamlin finished in the top five in all but one of the first nine races and it seemed he had a lock on the regular season championship until Larson made his strong mid-season run.
Hamlin struggled to find consistency in the middle of the year, but once the playoffs began and he won the Southern 500 at Darlington, he collected six more top-10s in rapid succession.
Hamlin also holds the distinction of running at the end of all 36 races last year. He was the only driver to achieve that benchmark.
Chase Elliott also had a six-race streak of top-10s in 2021. From the May Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway through the Toyota / Save Mart 350k at Sonoma Raceway, he finished seventh or better. Included in this streak was the inaugural COTA win that locked him into the playoffs.
Kevin Harvick had a five-race, top-10 streak.
Like Hamlin, Harvick came on strong when it mattered most with that string of solid result kicking off the playoffs. He was unable to win during the season, but earned one of two runner-up finishes in that span. Harvick's second second-place effort would impact the playoffs. After dooring Elliott at Bristol Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 9 impeded his progress in retaliation.
The feud wasn't over as Harvick paid Elliott back by putting him in the wall on the Charlotte road course. In fact, to hear Harvick tell it, the feud isn't over yet.
In 2020, Kyle Busch waited until he was eliminated from the playoffs to score his only win of that season. He found Victory Lane a little earlier in 2021 with the Kansas 1 win, and in doing so extended his streak of winning at least one race per year to 17 years. That ties David Pearson (with a streak of 17 from 1964 - 1980) and is within one of Richard Petty (1960-1977) for the longest streaks in NASCAR history.
McDowell's streak came at the start of the season to prove his Daytona 500 win was not a fluke.
Reddick earned three straight top-10s twice: once in May and once and the end of June and start of July.
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