Who Would Have Won NASCAR's Cup - 2023 Edition

This was first written as an exercise in historical research. Since then, we’ve tried to keep it updated. In light of past seasons’ somewhat controversial endings, especially where the 2004 championship is concerned, here’s the version for the year just ended.)

Lunch one Thursday in 2004 was interesting. We met, as usual almost every week, at the local Lions' Club for their inexpensive and tasty hot dogs. This gathering has included at times, Chris Economaki, plus drivers, crew, retired drivers and owners, journalists, etc. The weather and home crises cut into attendance this week but it was still an interesting group.

Veteran writer Jack Flowers suggested a scheme to end all the controversy over points, drivers racing injured for points and the Playoffs, errr, Chase for the Championship. Flowers' idea is that we simply rate the year-end standings based on the number of wins. The driver with the most wins is the champion for that season. In case of a tie, then the number of second-place finishes breaks the tie.

This suggestion is, of course, far too simple to be accepted by the powers that be. One problem with it is that it eliminates the huge public relations (propaganda) blitz leading up to the final ten races of the season. If the leading driver going into the final ten races of the year has only five wins, then it's entirely possible (but very unlikely in the current drive for a level playing field) for someone else to overtake that number of wins.

Another advantage of this suggested method to name a champion is that under the system proposed, there's no need for an injured driver to race. For example, Dale Earnhardt Jr could have sat out a couple of weeks to allow his burns to heal and still have a shot at more wins than any other driver in the field. Under the current system, if he misses a race, for any reason at all, he loses so many points that he's likely out of the picture. The same thing happened to Ryan Newman in the 2003 season, due to poor finishes in a couple of races.

Named for the late Bob Latford, who designed the NASCAR points system that worked so well for so long, the Latford Cup system would allow someone to sit out a race, or two or three. If they still had a good enough season, it's possible that a driver could miss five, even ten races and still score more wins than anyone else. Would this detract from the Cup? Would the public (who are ultimately the buyers of the product) notice, or complain if someone cherry-picked races, only ran about half the season, and still wound up as champion? Would sponsors, whether series, team or individual, say anything negative if a driver did this?

Would NASCAR, or any other sanctioning body ever adopt "The Latford Cup" point scheme? Not very likely. It's too simple and according to some, wouldn't reward consistency. Well, it would still reward consistency. But it would eliminate the perceived problem from the 2003 season when the dominant driver, Ryan Newman, had eight wins but some poor finishes dropped him out of competition for the Cup while a supremely consistent Matt Kenseth sat at the head table and collected the big checks at season's end.

Which driver is a more deserving champion? According to some comments, Newman should have been champion on the strength of his win total. According to others, and the point system, Kenseth's season of good finishes but fewer wins rewarded him with a seat at the head table in New York.

Would anyone in power support such a simple, uncomplicated method of determining a champion? Nope. Not on your life! There's not enough "drama" in it for broadcasters and other media to feed on.

What would have happened in the past if the Latford Cup were the determining factor in NASCAR racing?

1949 and the 1950s:

In 1949, the first year for “Strictly Stock” (which evolved over the years into the formula car in a full body shell we have today,) Red Byron would still win over Lee Petty with only two victories in an eight-race season. The next year, Curtis Turner would have won with four victories over Dick Linder's three. Bill Rexford won the championship that year with only one victory out of 17 starts. In 1951, Fonty Flock would have beat out brother Tim Flock and Herb Thomas with eight race wins to Tim's seven. In that season, Thomas beat out Fonty by 146 points. The next year, Tim Flock turned the tables on Thomas and Lee Petty, winning on points but not on victories. Thomas had eight wins and seven runner-up finishes to Flock's five runner-up finishes and similar win total of eight.

No contest whatsoever in the '53 season, as Herb Thomas earned 12 checkers, over twice as many as next runners Dick Rathman and Lee Petty. Thomas beat out Petty by over 600 points in that season. He smoked Petty again in 1954 with another dozen wins to Petty's seven on his way to finishing second on points to Petty, some 283 points behind. The 1955 season was a runaway for Tim Flock with 18 wins, triple Lee Petty's six. Buck Baker was second in points to Flock, over 1500 markers back.

1956 would see Buck Baker take the point championship and the Latford Cup with 13 wins. Speedy Thompson would place second under the Latford system with eight wins. Baker repeated in '57 and would easily win the Latford Cup at 11 wins over Fireball Roberts' eight wins. Lee Petty returned to the point lead in 1958 and would win the theoretical Latford Cup with seven wins over the six scored by both Fireball Roberts and Junior Johnson. The next year, 1959, would see Lee Petty with a big lead in points and wins. The Petty patriarch won 11 of his 42 starts that season while Rex White and Junior Johnson both scored five wins. For the 1960 season, Rex White closed out the decade by winning six races out of 40 starts with a cushion of nearly 4,000 points over Richard Petty but one win more than both Lee Petty and Ned Jarrett.

The 1960s:

The decade would start with a big change. Joe Weatherly would win the Latford Cup for 1961 with nine wins over the seven for Junior Johnson and Rex White. The points system of the time gave the championship to Ned Jarrett with only one race victory. Rex White was second in points and Weatherly only fourth. Weatherly would have won in '62 as well with nine wins over eight scored by Richard Petty and Rex White. Weatherly won on points that year as well, with nearly 2,400 points more than Richard Petty. Petty would have trounced the opposition in the Latford Cup for 1963 with 14 victories. Runner-up would have gone to Ned Jarrett and third to Junior Johnson, who finished only twelfth in points. Joe Weatherly easily won on points that year, at over 2200 points ahead of Petty. 1964, the first year of Richard Petty's point crowns, would have him second to Ned Jarrett in the Latford Cup with only nine wins to Jarrett's fifteen. But he scored over 5,000 points more than Jarrett under the system in use that year. David Pearson and Fred Lorenzen both won eight races that year. 1965 would be another close one in the Latford Cup. Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson both scored 13 wins but Jarrett wins on the tie-breaker. Jarrett won on points too, beating out Dick Hutcherson by over 3,000 markers. "Hutch" would have placed third in the Latford Cup. 1966 is no contest, no matter how scored: David Pearson took 15 checkers with just under 2,000 points over James Hylton. Richard Petty would run second in the Latford Cup with eight wins on his way to third in the point scheme of the day.

And then there’s 1967. Well, what can be said but “Richard Petty.” 27 wins, 6,000 points over Hylton. Second place in the Latford Cup would be Bobby Allison with only six wins out of the 49 races contested that season. Then in 1968, David Pearson turned the system to his advantage. Both Pearson and Petty had 16 wins but Pearson won the points crown that year and would win the Latford Cup with 13 runner-up finishes to Richard Petty's six as both had equal victory totals. Bobby Isaac took second in points over Petty but Cale Yarborough would have scored third in the Latford Cup with six wins. He placed only 17th in points. Bobby Isaac would leapfrog from sixth in the points for 1969 to the Latford Cup championship with 17 wins over David Pearson's 11 and Richard Petty's ten. Pearson won on points that season, over Petty and Hylton. Isaac only scored a sixth-place finish on points. The last year of the decade, 1970 Latford Cup belongs to Richard Petty with 18 wins, seven more than Bobby Isaac. In spite of this, Isaac won the point championship by 51 points over Bobby Allison, who had only three wins. Officially, James Hylton took third and Petty fourth.

The 1970s:

Richard Petty owned the 1971 Latford Cup as well: first under the checkered flag 21 times, a full ten ahead of Bobby Allison. Allison finished fourth in the official points that year, with Hylton taking second again and Cecil Gordon third. Bobby Allison would have won the Latford Cup in 1972, taking ten victories over Richard Petty's eight. The official points table shows Petty ahead of Allison by 127.9 points. (Don't ask, nobody understood the points in those days!) David Pearson, running only 17 of the season's 31 events, would have been third in the Latford Cup with six wins. 1973 was the season of one of the most dramatic point finishes ever, with Benny Parsons taking the championship at the last race as his team repaired a badly damaged car and sent him back on the track at Rockingham's season-closer. David Pearson would have won the Latford Cup in '73 with 11 races won over Richard Petty's six. Pearson contested only 18 of the races that year and wound up 13th in points. Petty was fifth in points at the end of the season. 1974 would almost be a dead-heat between Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough as both claimed 10 victories. Petty had eight runner-up finishes to Yarborough’s four, giving "The King" another crown.

1975 belonged to Richard Petty, no matter how it's scored. He had 13 wins to Buddy Baker's four and scored 722 points more than Dave Marcis, second in points that year. America’s Bicentennial Year, 1976, had David Pearson score ten victories over Cale Yarborough's nine to win the Latford Cup. Pearson did this while running only 22 of the 30 races that year. Cale Yarborough took the points crown, followed by Richard Petty, 195 points back. Pearson finished ninth in points. Yarborough won his second NASCAR championship in 1977, taking nine race wins on his way to a 386-point margin over Richard Petty. Darrell Waltrip won six races that year to take second in the Latford Cup championship while finishing fourth in official points. The third of Yarborough's three-straight point crowns came in 1978. His eight wins would earn him the Latford Cup again, over Darrell Waltrip's six race victories while Bobby Allison would take second in official points or third in the Latford Cup. Darrell Waltrip broke Yarborough's grip on the both the official championship and the Latford Cup in 1979 with seven wins while both Richard Petty, the eventual points champion, and Bobby Allison had five race wins.  Allison's eight runner-up finishes gave him the bridesmaid position to Petty's seven second-place finishes. Cale Yarborough would have taken the 1980 Latford Cup over Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip with six race wins over the five wins they earned. Earnhardt won the points contest over Yarborough, with Waltrip finishing only fifth.

The 1980s:

Darrell Waltrip won the points crown in 1981 and would have easily taken the Latford Cup laurels that season as well. He claimed a dozen race wins, over the five scored by second in points Bobby Allison. 1982 saw Allison close the gap on Waltrip somewhat, earning eight race wins but still fell short in both wins and points to Waltrip who had 12 wins that season. 1983 would be another close season with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip both scoring a half dozen victories. Waltrip had eight second-place finishes, ] bumping him ahead of season points champion Allison who had five runner-up slots. In the race for the Latford Cup in 1984, Darrell Waltrip had over twice the wins of any other driver, with seven. Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Geoffrey Bodine and Cale Yarborough all had three each. Terry Labonte, that year's champion by 65 points, had only two race wins. Waltrip placed fifth in points. 1985 was Bill Elliott's year, at least in races won. The Georgia redhead scored 11 wins, well ahead of Dale Earnhardt's four. In spite of that, Darrell Waltrip, with only three wins, took the points crown by 101 points over Elliott's total. Tim Richmond, capable of better car control than an entire field of other drivers, (he was the one sent out by NASCAR to test a track after a rainstorm) earned the 1986 Latford Cup with seven wins over Dale Earnhardt's five. Earnhardt played the points game better than anyone else that year, earning his first points crown, beating out Waltrip by almost 300 points and another six ahead of Richmond. Earnhardt dominated the next year, 1987, with 11 wins over Bill Elliott's six. The point totals were similar, with Earnhardt 489 points ahead of Elliott and season's end. 1988 was another close year, with both Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott taking home six race trophies. Again, too close to call on the tie-breaker with the information readily at hand, but Wallace had 19 top fives to Elliott's 15. We'll have to keep checking. The same scene played out in 1989 with Wallace and Darrell Waltrip both scoring six wins again. Waltrip scored a pair of runner-up finishes to lose out to Wallace's four. 1990 was no contest. Dale Earnhardt scored triple the wins of anyone else that year with nine to the trio scored by both Geoffrey Bodine and Mark Martin. He also pipped Martin for the official points crown by only 26 points.

The 1990s:

1991 saw Dale Earnhardt take the points crown yet again but only four wins. Davey Allison and Harry Gant both had five wins each with Gant claiming three third place finishes to Allison's pair after both scored a pair of seconds. The next year was even closer, with the younger Allison also featuring in both the points and race totals. Allison and Bill Elliott both scored five wins while Allison had only one runner-up to Elliott's pair, giving Elliott the Latford Cup for the year. Alan Kulwicki took the championship officially that year, clinching at the last race of the year, beating Elliott by only ten points and Allison by 63. Latford Cup 1993 easily goes to Rusty Wallace with ten wins to official champion Dale Earnhardt's six. Earnhardt beat Wallace's point total by 80 markers.

Rusty Wallace takes another Latford Cup home for the 1994 season with twice as many wins as next place Dale Earnhardt. Wallace's eight wins came along with 17 top fives. Earnhardt took the point crown that year by 444 points over Mark Martin. The first of Jeff Gordon's point championships came in 1995, along with his first Latford Cup. Gordon had 7 victories over Dale Earnhardt's five and 34 points more than Earnhardt. Gordon "won" the Latford Cup again in 1996 with ten wins, twice as many as next placer Rusty Wallace. Terry Labonte won the points chase with only two wins while Wallace finished in seventh. Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett finish one-two in 1997 regardless of how the season is scored. Gordon had ten wins to Jarrett's seven that year. 1998 was all Jeff Gordon again, as he claimed 13 wins over Mark Martin's seven. They finished one-two in the points chase also. Jeff Gordon is the winner of the 1999 Latford Cup championship trophy with seven race trophies against Jeff Burton's six and Bobby Labonte's five. In spite of this, Dale Jarrett took the official crown over Bobby Labonte with Gordon finishing the season sixth and Burton fifth.  2000, the final year of the Millennium had Tony Stewart take six checkered flags over Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace who each scored four wins but Burton won the Latford Cup on five second-place finishes over Labonte's four and Wallace's one. According to the official points totals, Bobby Labonte won the championship over Dale Earnhardt. Stewart finished only sixth in points.

2001: The new Millennium dawned with Jeff Gordon taking six race wins over Dale Jarrett's four in 2001. Gordon earned the points championship as well, beating out Tony Stewart. Jarrett finished fifth in points. Current point champion Matt Kenseth eased ahead of the field in 2002 with five wins, one ahead of Kurt Busch's total. In spite of that, Tony Stewart, with only three wins, took the official championship. Everyone knows that Ryan Newman doubled Kurt Busch's win total in 2003, at eight to four but in spite of this, Matt Kenseth took the points crown with only a single win while Newman finished sixth in points.

The 2004 season saw another case of the dominant driver in wins losing out in points to a team with more consistent finishes. Jimmie Johnson repeated Ryan Newman’s total from 2003 of eight wins but Kurt Busch, playing a perfectly executed season with near perfect reliability, wound up with another Jack Roush driver at the head table in New York. Johnson ended the season in third place. In the 2005 season, Tony Stewart, newly refreshed after moving back to his hometown in Indiana, again played the point game to perfection as the season ended, grabbing his second big check at the Waldorf Astoria banquet. Stewart scored five popular wins in the year, punctuated by fence climbs that would make any Spiderman fan happy. Leading in wins and finishing behind Stewart with second place in points was Greg Biffle with one more victory than Stewart but slightly poorer luck over the entire season. The year 2006, saw Jimmie Johnson finally break his streak of bad luck in points, winning the official cup after the “Chase” with 6475 points over second place Kevin Harvick’s 6419. Interestingly, the driver with the greatest number of wins, Kasey Kahne, scored one more win than Johnson, Harvick and Tony Stewart, yet he placed only eighth in season-ending point standings, with 6183 points.

In 2007, Jimmie Johnson repeated as points winner, racking up an impressive ten race wins on his way to the theoretical “Latford Cup” as well. In the 2008 season, Johnson played his hand almost flawlessly, but the ill fortune of Carl Edwards at Charlotte, where two ignition boxes failed, possibly handed Johnson the head spot at the banquet table, with only seven wins to Edwards’ nine. Edwards actually led nearly every category save point total and poles, as he scored 19 top fives and 27 top tens to Johnson’s 15 and 22 on the way to a margin of 69 points. Fewer poor finishes made the difference for Johnson, as in previous years for other drivers.

History was made in the 2009 season as Jimmie Johnson, driving almost flawlessly with Chad Knaus calling the races from atop the pit box, overcame all impediments to his search for a fourth consecutive Cup win, capturing seven races on the way to a 141 point edge over fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin. Martin scored five wins for the season and was followed in point standings by Johnson’s teammate and car owner Jeff Gordon, another 38 points behind Johnson. Not only was this season record shattering by being Johnson’s fourth season win, but it made Rick Hendrick’s the first teams to fill the top three places in season standings. In another realm of racing, the Formula One ‘supremo’ Bernie Ecclestone suggested just this scheme for determining the World Championship in F1 races. This idea quickly died the death expected. While it may have been a serious proposal by Ecclestone, it certainly didn’t receive any support from the rest of the sporting world.

2010: In the season ending just this week in Homestead, Florida, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus pulled off what may be one of the greatest coups in motorsports by winning an unprecedented fifth consecutive championship. Going into the final race, Johnson lagged behind point leader Denny Hamlin by a small margin. Hamlin had problems early, as did third-place Kevin Harvick who also had a mathematical shot at the Sprint Cup. Johnson placed second to winner Carl Edwards. Johnson’s final win, at Dover in September, raised his victory total for the season just ended to six. Hardly a negligible score, one fewer than the previous year’s, but short of his 2007 score of ten checkered flags. Second place in points Denny Hamlin wound up the season 39 points short of Johnson but scored two more first place finishes with eight wins for the year. Only two more points back, Kevin Harvick grabbed the laurel wreath three times, matched by Kyle Busch in wins. Johnson’s championship vaulted him into third among Cup champions, behind Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr, both seven-time champions and ahead of his team co-owner Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip, at four championships each.

2011: The first year of the new decade became another year like 2003 with a Roush Ford driver heading points entering the final race, but with only one win for Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart was right behind, only three points back. Stewart could win the championship only by winning the race, something he’d been talking about almost from the start of the year’s Chase. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch both had four wins at season’s end. Going into the final ten race “Chase for the Cup,” Tony Stewart, champion in 2002 and 2005, had not won a single race, but was at least included in the Chase roster. “Smoke” went on to capture five checkered flags in the final races of the season, including the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading race and season runner-up Edwards across the finish line by about a second and a half. In doing this, Stewart became the first owner-driver champion.

2012 saw one of the more interesting late seasons with Jimmie Johnson trying for his sixth championship and lame duck manufacturer Dodge in the hunt with Brad Keselowski driving for racing legend Roger Penske. In 22 previous seasons as a full-time owner, Penske had never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup, in spite of his teams’ outstanding records in Indy Car and sports car racing. The ‘Chase’ for 2012 came down to the final 50 laps at the final race before Johnson’s crew very uncharacteristically dropped a lug nut on a late pit stop, sending the No. 48 Chevy back to the pits and a lap down. The problem made no difference just a few laps later, as the rear axle in Johnson’s racer failed, putting the car behind the wall for the duration and handing the points crown to Keselowski in Dodge’s swan song as a manufacturer with factory supported teams. Early, unofficial tallies show Keselowski ahead of Clint Bowyer by 39 points, with Jimmie Johnson one point behind Bowyer in the season-ending totals. If the Latford Cup were in effect, Keselowski, Johnson and Denny Hamlin would be tied with five wins each. This throws the decision to second place finishes, with both Hamlin and Johnson ending the season taking the runner-up spot five times to Keselowski’s three second-place finishes. Breaking the season down to third-place finishes, both Keselowski and Hamlin finished third once but Johnson took three bronze medals, earning him the legendary (and totally imaginary!) Latford Cup for the third time in his career.

2013 saw Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus repeat for a sixth points championship, beating out Matt Kenseth by 19 markers after the final race at Homestead. Kenseth had a mathematical shot at the Cup until Johnson finished ninth in the race, to Kenseth's runner-up position. Kenseth led the most laps of any driver, but his point tally going into the race was not enough to overcome the domination shown again by the Hendrick No. 48 team. In the Latford Cup standings, the results would have been reversed, with Kenseth's seven wins giving him his second virtual crown and dropping Johnson to the next step on the year-end podium.

2014 and a huge change in the system saw the final two races of the season determine the champion. Kevin Harvick drove to wins both at Phoenix and in the Homestead finale to clinch the championship over challengers Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. In spite of his domination in the final two races, Harvick would have tied for second under the "most wins = championship" system here. Keselowski would have captured the Latford Cup on the strength of his six wins, to Harvick's and Logano's totals of five wins each. If peaking at the right time wins championships, then Harvick's 2014 season exemplifies that – as the last few races of the season saw Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy dominant on track.

2015 was the year of what can be argued as the most impressive sports comeback ever: Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup after missing the first eleven races of the season due to fractures suffered in the season-opening XFINITY race. Busch sat out the races while working hard on rehabilitation then went on to win five out of his 25 starts, with 12 top five and 16 top ten finishes. Joey Logano would win the Latford Cup with six wins with Matt Kenseth tying Busch at five wins and twelve top fives but 20 top tens.

It's notable that under this system Dale Earnhardt Sr would have only two championships in spite of his popularly perceived domination of the sport. Cale Yarborough would have only one, Dale Jarrett none, Darrell Waltrip would have the same total (three) he does under the traditional system and Harry Gant would have won a championship. Jeff Gordon's total would be only half his current four Cups. NASCAR's first three-time champion, Lee Petty, would have scored no championships while his son Richard would have six instead of the seven he took. Rusty Wallace would have a pair of crowns, both coming well after his 1989 points win. Jimmie Johnson, winner of an unprecedented five Cups in a row, would have won three Cups, in 2004, 2009 and the most recent in 2012.

2016 saw a lot of changes, with three-time champion Tony Stewart retiring after the finale at Homestead-Miami, fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr sitting out half of the season due to concussion symptoms and some newcomers to the series making impressive debut and sophomore seasons. The big story of the season though, was Jimmie Johnson's quest for a seventh championship. Johnson achieved this, the third racer to do so, following the in the tire tracks of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr, by coming from behind in the last race, winning in overtime and earning his seventh seat at the head table at the banquet. His win total also gives him the Latford Cup for 2016, with five wins, one more than Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr and Brad Keselowski – all with a total of four victories for the season. Joey Logano finished second in the official points total, followed by Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.

2017 – the year that saw Dale Earnhardt Jr retire, Danica Patrick leave her full-time ride and the outstanding season record of Martin Truex Jr. Truex won eight races this year, including a thrilling victory in the final race to clinch his first championship. New driver Ryan Blaney took a win, joined by Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth with one win each. Second to Truex in the win column was perennial strong runner Kyle Busch, with five victories. Kyle Larson started the season off strong and scored four wins but had a string of bad luck late in the year. Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson both scored three wins while the trio of Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr all took the checkered flag twice. This year, the Latford Cup, unlike in some years past, goes to the season champion, Martin Truex Jr. Truex' win total was the highest in Cup racing since 2010, when Denny Hamlin won eight races but not the points championship. That went to Jimmie Johnson with six wins and a more consistent season record.

2018 had the points trophy awarded to Joey Logano after only three wins, compared to Martin Truex' four wins, while both Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick grabbed the checkered flag eight times each. The Latford Cup will go to Busch on the strength of one extra runner-up finish over Harvick, five to four.

2019 saw Kyle Busch repeat his 2015 championship, taking the crown from Latford Cup leader Martin Truex. Truex had seven wins over Busch's five, but Denny Hamlin's six wins would place him second in the Latford Cup that year.

2020 - the year of the virus, empty grandstands and the continuation of a family legacy of "Most Popular Driver" award wedded to the season championship. Chase Elliott, the 24-year-old second generation Cup driver from Dawsonville, GA, took both awards, racing into the crown by winning the final race of the season. Any of the top four in points would have won the year's championship by finishing ahead of the others, and they finished in the top four positions in the race at Phoenix. Kevin Harvick would have won the Latford Cup easily, with nine victories for the season, combined with 20 top five finishes and 27 top tens, well ahead of the other four drivers at the top of the year-end standings.

2021 was the year Kyle Larson returned to dominate the season after suspension for using a racial slur in an iRacing session with friends. Larson qualified on the pole at Phoenix for the season's final race after most 2021 events ran with no practice and no qualifying, then continued his dominating style by leading 107 laps in the final event and using a fast pit stop from his pit crew to get out of the pits first on a late race caution to head Martin Truex to the checkered flag by 0.398 second. On his way to winning the 2021 NASCAR Cup, Larson led 2575 laps and 28% of the laps in the entire season, setting a new record. Larson won 10 races in the season, plus the All Star non-points race in a season of redemption. Martin Truex grabbed four checkered flags for the season, next in the running for the Latford Cup this year.

2022 saw Joey Logano repeat his 2018 Cup championship, after winning four races, including two of the last four in the season, notably dominating the final race of the season and two positions ahead of Ross Chastain, the next-highest placing driver in the Playoffs, to beat him by six points. Christopher Bell finished tenth in the final race and 2020 champ Chase Elliott, fell to 28th place after contact with Chastain. Using the Latford Cup standard of most wins, Elliott’s five victories would have copped the seat at the head table for the second consecutive banquet appearance, with Logano next at four checkers. Bell, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick all scored three wins in 2022.

Pos Driver          Wins Top5  Top10  Poles Laps Run  Laps Led  Av St Av Fin 1  Joey Logano.      4   11    17      4    9293      784      10.4    13.5
  2  Ross Chastain.    2   15    21      0    9052      692      14.4    13.3
  3  Christopher Bell  3   12    20      4    8816      573      10.1    13.8
  4  Chase Elliott.    5   12    20      3    8824      857      10.7    12.5
  5  Denny Hamlin.     2   10    16      3    8978      624      13.1    15.5
  6  William Byron.    2    5    11      1    8878      746      12.5    15.6
  7  Kyle Larson.      3   13    19      4    8750      635       7.9    14.1
  8  Ryan Blaney.      0   12    17      3    8891      636      10.1    13.6
  9  Chase Briscoe.    1    6    10      1    9027      280      13.2    17.3
 10  Daniel Suarez.    1    6    13      0    9082      280      15.1    16.5

2023 had one repeat driver in the Championship Four with 2021 champion Kyle Larson returning for the Phoenix closing race of the season, joined by Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and William Byron. Byron headed the season with six wins in the season before the final pair of races. Ryan Blaney would go on to win the Cup by finishing second in the season finale at Phoenix behind race winner Ross Chastain. Kyle Larson and Byron followed Blaney, making the top three in points in consecutive order on the track.

Results of the Latford Cup compared to official championship results:
1949 Point Winner Red Byron........Wins:  2  

1950 Point Winner Bill Rexford.....Wins:  1      Latford Winner Curtis Turner.... Wins:  4 

1951 Point Winner Herb Thomas......Wins:  7      Latford Winner Fonty Flock...... Wins:  8

1952 Point Winner Tim Flock........Wins:  8      Latford Winner Herb Thomas...... Wins:  8

1953 Point Winner Herb Thomas......Wins: 12

1954 Point Winner Lee Petty........Wins:  7      Latford Winner Herb Thomas...... Wins: 12

1955 Point Winner Tim Flock........Wins: 18

1956 Point Winner Buck Baker.......Wins: 13

1957 Point Winner Buck Baker.......Wins: 11

1958 Point Winner Lee Petty........Wins:  7

1959 Point Winner Lee Petty........Wins: 11

1960 Point Winner Rex White........Wins:  6

1961 Point Winner Ned Jarrett......Wins:  1     Latford Winner Joe Weatherly..... Wins:  9

1962 Point Winner Joe Weatherly....Wins:  9

1963 Point Winner Joe Weatherly....Wins:  3     Latford Winner Richard Petty..... Wins:  1

1964 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins:  9     Latford Winner Ned Jarrett....... Wins: 15

1965 Point Winner Ned Jarrett......Wins: 13

1966 Point Winner David Pearson....Wins: 15

1967 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins: 27

1968 Point Winner David Pearson....Wins: 16

1969 Point Winner David Pearson....Wins: 11      Latford Winner Bobby Isaac...... Wins: 17

1970 Point Winner Bobby Isaac......Wins: 11      Latford Winner Richard Petty.... Wins: 18
1971 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins: 21

1972 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins:  8      Latford Winner Bobby Allison.... Wins: 10

1973 Point Winner Benny Parsons....Wins:  1      Latford Winner David Pearson.... Wins: 11
1974 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins: 10

1975 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins: 13

1976 Point Winner Cale Yarborough..Wins:  9      Latford Winner David Pearson.... Wins: 10

1977 Point Winner Cale Yarborough..Wins:  9

1978 Point Winner Cale Yarborough..Wins: 10

1979 Point Winner Richard Petty....Wins:  5      Latford Winner Darrell Waltrip... Wins: 7

1980 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  5      Latford Winner Cale Yarborough... Wins: 6

1981 Point Winner Darrell Waltrip..Wins: 12

1982 Point Winner Darrell Waltrip..Wins: 12

1983 Point Winner Bobby Allison....Wins:  6      Latford Winner Darrell Waltrip... Wins: 6

1984 Point Winner Terry Labonte....Wins:  2      Latford Winner Darrell Waltrip... Wins: 7

1985 Point Winner Darrell Waltrip..Wins:  3      Latford Winner Bill Elliott...... Wins: 11

1986 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  5      Latford Winner Tim Richmond..... Wins:  7

1987 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins: 11

1988 Point Winner Bill Elliott.....Wins:  6

1989 Point Winner Rusty Wallace....Wins:  6

1990 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  9

1991 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  4     Latford Winner Harry Gant........ Wins:  5

1992 Point Winner Alan Kulwicki....Wins:  2     Latford Winner Bill Elliott.......Wins:  5

1993 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  6     Latford Winner Rusty Wallace..... Wins: 10

1994 Point Winner Dale Earnhardt...Wins:  4     Latford Winner Rusty Wallace..... Wins:  8

1995 Point Winner Jeff Gordon......Wins:  7

1996 Point Winner Terry Labonte....Wins:  2     Latford Winner Jeff Gordon....... Wins: 10

1997 Point Winner Jeff Gordon......Wins: 10

1998 Point Winner Jeff Gordon......Wins: 13

1999 Point Winner Dale Jarrett.....Wins:  4     Latford Winner Jeff Gordon....... Wins: 7

2000 Point Winner Bobby Labonte...Wins:  4      Latford Winner Tony Stewart...... Wins: 6

2001 Point Winner Jeff Gordon..... Wins:  6

2002 Point Winner Tony Stewart.....Wins:  3     Latford Winner Matt Kenseth....   Wins: 5

2003 Point Winner Matt Kenseth....Wins:  1      Latford Winner Ryan Newman...     Wins: 8

2004 Point Winner Kurt Busch..... Wins:  3      Latford Winner Jimmie Johnson...  Wins: 8

2005 Point Winner Tony Stewart....Wins:  5      Latford Winner Greg Biffle....... Wins: 6

2006 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins:  5     Latford Winner Kasey Kahne.... . Wins: 6

2007 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins: 10

2008 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins:  7     Latford Winner Carl Edwards..... Wins: 9

2009 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins:  7

2010 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson.. Wins:  6     Latford Winner Denny Hamlin..    Wins: 8

2011 Point Winner Tony Stewart.... Wins:  5
(Tie with Carl Edwards: championship decided on number of wins)
2012 Point Winner Brad Keselowski..Wins:  5     Latford Winner Jimmie Johnson     Wins: 5
                                          (determined by third-place finishes)

2013 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins:  6     Latford Winner Matt Kenseth....  Wins: 7

2014 Point Winner Matt Kenseth.... Wins:  5     Latford Winner Brad Keselowski   Wins: 6

2015 Point Winner Kyle Busch.......Wins:  5     Latford Winner Joey Logano       Wins: 6

2016 Point Winner Jimmie Johnson...Wins:  5

2017 Point Winner Martin Truex Jr..Wins:  8

2018 Point Winner Joey Logano.     Wins:  3     Latford Winner Kyle Busch        Wins: 8
                                          (Harvick had the same number of wins, but Busch scored five second place finishes to Harvick's four runner-up spots.)
2019 Point Winner Kyle Busch.      Wins:  5     Latford Winner Martin Truex Jr   Wins: 7

2020 Point Winner Chase Elliott    Wins:  5     Latford Winner Kevin Harvick     Wins: 9

2021 Point Winner Kyle Larson.     Wins: 10
2022 Point Winner Joey Logano.     Wins:  4.    Latford Winner Chase Elliott     Wins:  5
2023 Point Winner Ryan Blaney.     Wins:  3.    Latford Winner William Byron     Wins: 6

Win Totals
Point Winners      Wins      Latford Winner     Wins

Dale Earnhardt Sr:  7        Jeff Gordon:        6
Richard Petty:      7        Richard Petty:      6
Jimmie Johnson:     7        Darrell Waltrip:    5
Jeff Gordon:        4        David Pearson:      4
Darrell Waltrip:    4        Bill Elliott:       3
Cale Yarborough:    3        Cale Yarborough:    3
David Pearson:      3        Herb Thomas:        3
Lee Petty:          3        Rusty Wallace:      3
Tony Stewart:       3        Buck Baker:         2
Buck Baker:         2        Dale Earnhardt Sr:  2
Herb Thomas:        2        Joe Weatherly:      2
Joe Weatherly:      2        Lee Petty:          2
Ned Jarrett:        2        Ned Jarrett:        2
Terry Labonte:      2        Jimmie Johnson:     4
Tim Flock:          2        Tony Stewart:       2
Joey Logano:        2        Kyle Busch:         2
Kyle Busch:         2        Chase Elliott.      1
Alan Kulwicki:      1        Bobby Allison:      1
Benny Parsons:      1        Bobby Isaac:        1
Bill Elliott:       1        Curtis Turner:      1
Bill Rexford:       1        Fonty Flock:        1
Bobby Isaac:        1        Harry Gant:         1
Bobby Labonte:      1        Matt Kenseth:       1
Dale Jarrett:       1        Red Byron:          1
Matt Kenseth:       1        Rex White:          1
Red Byron:          1        Ryan Newman:        1
Rex White:          1        Tim Flock:          1
Rusty Wallace:      1        Tim Richmond:       1
Brad Keselowski:    1        Kasey Kahne:        1
Kevin Harvick:      1        Denny Hamlin:       1
Brad Keselowski:    1        Martin Truex Jr     1
Martin Truex Jr     1        Kevin Harvick:      1
Kyle Larson.        1        Kyle Larson:        1
Ryan Blaney.           1.        William Byron.         1

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2023, Issue 11, Posted 8:57 AM, 11.08.2023