The NASCAR Cup Series season in 2022 is very much different from that of 2021. This season is one of great parity among the teams as 15 different drivers have won with those pilots representing seven different organizations. Chase Elliott’s four victories leads the series with no other driver achieving more than two wins after 24 of the 36 races have been contested.
In 2021, it was a very different story when Kyle Larson dominated the Cup Series by scoring ten victories on the way to his first career championship. There were fifteen different winners over the course of the entire 36-race schedule with the four trophies earned by Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman being the nearest challengers to Larson’s victory lane dominance.
Those numbers then raise a question. Which makes for the better storyline- Having a season in which one or two drivers dominate or a season in which there is greater parity and the wealth is more evenly spread out?
Racing tends to ebb and flow which will sometimes cause there to be years in which it seems as if a particular driver and team are unstoppable then there will be other campaigns in which no one is able to separate themselves from the pack. Both of those scenarios provide their share of storylines.
Dirt Late Model racing is currently going through as phase of dominance with only a select few drivers and teams collecting the most checkered flags. Of the 25 features contested so far in 2022 that have paid out $25,000 or more to the winner, a mere six drivers have won 19 of those big paychecks with Jonathan Davenport and Chris Madden combining for eleven lucrative victories. That form of motorsports has also seen instances in which the race wins were more widespread as is the case this year in NASCAR.
Last year in NASCAR, the storylines were abundant regarding Kyle Larson and his dominance of not only this form of racing but his prowess on dirt as well. It was his first year back after having been suspended for the majority of the 2020 season, it was his first year with Hendrick Motorsports, he won major races in both a Dirt Late Model and Sprint Cars, and there was an instance or two when the sport’s most dominant driver was on the brink of elimination from the NASCAR Playoffs. All of that combined to make for a newsworthy season.
At the same time, 2022 and its parity have also made for some interesting content. The clouded Playoff picture is one of the more intriguing stories not only of this season but for quite some time in NASCAR. The fact that drivers currently ranked inside the top-5 in the standings could miss the Playoffs in favor of others who have a win but are ranked much further back in points is certainly worthy of discussion.
The reality is that the seasons in which there is a dominant player are interesting because of the storyline of whether or not the primary winner can maintain his place or someone can rise up and knock him off resonates with many followers of the sport. Some will root on the dominator while others will support anyone who can pose a challenge. Domination, for a while, gets people’s attention and causes them to watch.
On the other hand, variety can be the spice life, even in racing. Seeing numerous drivers win with no one dominating has made for a great deal of uncertainty and drama this season.
Will there be 16 different winners before the Playoff cut occurs after the race in Daytona? Will a driver who finishes second in the regular season standings miss the Playoffs? Who will be the next first time winner? These are all questions that have been raised in 2022.
The reality is, both domination and parity are good for the sport. Having a few seasons in which one or a few drivers prove to be clear favorites makes for good headlines, even in reports posted by non NASCAR websites and publications. However, domination that carries on for too long can be a turnoff as people will grow tired of the same few winning week after week.
Variety can be a good thing as well. Many like to see the underdogs claim a win here and there so that the sport isn’t just completely controlled by a few. But just like domination, too much variety can become almost boring and a bit of a turnoff when it is considered that those who typically dominate have the most fans. And fans want to see their guy win as often as possible.
The answer to the question posed in the headline of this piece is that both have their place. Last year was interesting because many wanted to see if Larson could seal the deal by winning a championship after taking so many checkered flags but this season will be interesting to as it seems more wide open than in the previous season.
A little of both and not too much of either is the right formula.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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