The top NASCAR achievements of 2013
December 02, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
While the crowning achievement of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was Jimmie Johnson capturing his sixth Cup championship, that impressive accomplishment wasn't the only notable feat that took place on the track.
As NASCAR prepares to head to Las Vegas for this week's season-ending awards ceremonies, here's a look back at some of the more significant marks left by teams and competitors this past year.
Richard Petty's mark of 1,184 career starts wasn't threatened. However, two drivers inched closer to the all-time mark when they recorded career start No. 700 this past season.
Bobby Labonte rolled off the starting grid for the 700th time at Talladega Superspeedway, eventually finishing 20th in the track's spring race. Jeff Gordon made his 700th start a week later at Darlington Raceway, where he finished third in the Bojangles' Southern 500.
To reach the King's total, Labonte and Gordon would need to continue running the full 36-race schedule for approximately 13 more seasons. A 2026 Retirement Tour, perhaps?
"To have the seven wins here … I couldn't think of a better place to come to and get the 700th start," Gordon said after his top-five finish. "I wanted the 700th to be a memorable one, and I'm glad it wasn't like last year's memory where we blew two left rear tires back-to-back. This was much better than that. Top three, that's fantastic."
Other drivers who crested one hill or another in 2013:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (500 career starts); Greg Biffle, Johnson and Jamie McMurray (400 career starts); Kyle Busch (300 career starts); Paul Menard, David Reutimann and J.J. Yeley (200 career starts); Aric Almirola and Landon Cassill (100 career starts).
Of course, you can't get to 100, 200 or more without first getting No. 1 in the books. And there were several drivers that made their Cup debuts this past season: Justin Allgaier, Victor Gonzalez Jr., Paulie Harraka, Owen Kelly, Alex Kennedy, Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson, Justin Marks and Ryan Truex.
Overall, 17 drivers won at least one Cup points race this past year, an impressive feat when one considers that Johnson and Matt Kenseth combined to win a third of the races between themselves.
Except for 2011, when 18 different drivers visited Victory Lane, this year's total was the highest number of winners since 2003.
• On the individual front, Kenseth's victory at Loudon, N.H., came in his 500th start. Previously, Petty had been the only driver to register a victory in career start No. 500.
• Kenseth became just the 22nd driver to reach 30 career victories when he captured the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
• Johnson became the sixth competitor to win in career start No. 400 when the Hendrick Motorsports driver won the Daytona 500. Others who won in their 400th Cup start were Lee and Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dave Marcis and Dale Earnhardt.
• Kyle Busch celebrated his 300th career Cup start with a win at Texas Motor Speedway.
• David Ragan's victory in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway wasn't the first win for the Unadilla, Ga., native, but it was the first for the Front Row Motorsports organization.
"I can only imagine what it felt like back in 1988 when Mark Martin got that first win for Jack Roush, or when Geoff Bodine won that first race for Hendrick Motorsports," Ragan said afterward. "I'm sure it was just as special. A lot of these guys have been to Victory Lane … but to do it here at Talladega in 2013 … it's a true David vs. Goliath story. I couldn't be more proud to play my own role."
• Danica Patrick became the first female driver to start on the pole, the first to score a top-10 finish (placing eighth) and the first female driver to lead the Daytona 500, pacing the field for five laps.
• Kenseth's Las Vegas victory came on his 41st birthday. Only Cale Yarborough (twice) and Kyle Busch had previously won Cup races when celebrating birthdays.
• Gordon's third-place finish at Darlington was the 300th top-five finish of his career. Only three other drivers -- Pearson, Allison and Richard Petty -- have as many top-five finishes in the series.
There were at least two noteworthy Cup marks for automakers this past year. Kenseth's Kobalt Tools 400 win in Las Vegas was the 50th Sprint Cup victory for Toyota.
Greg Biffle's win in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway was the 1,000th NASCAR victory for Ford Motor Company across all three national series (Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series).
While track qualifying records fell often, race records proved to be a little more durable. In fact, only the Southern 500 mark was surpassed this year. Kenseth's 141.386 mph average is now the standard for the series' oldest superspeedway.
• The 25 lead changes among 16 different drivers were series records at Chicagoland Speedway.
• The 15 cautions and 71 caution laps in this year's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas were track records.
• And proving that no driver can dominate at New Hampshire for more than a single race, the last 12 races at the track have been won by 12 different drivers.
Sweeps, streaks and whatnot
• When Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing qualified for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, they became the first single-car team to make the 10-race Chase since the format debuted in 2004.
• Johnson became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to win the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in the same season.
• Edwards' Phoenix victory in March snapped a winless streak of 70 races for the Roush Fenway Racing driver.
"That's one of the longest years of my life, to work that hard and to not get the victories, so I'm very, very happy to be back in the mix," Edwards said of ending the drought. "A victory is huge for so many reasons. … It just feels good to win."
• Martin Truex Jr. ended a streak of 218 races without a win when he captured the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
• Brian Vickers' Camping World RV Sales 301 win was his first in 75 starts.
• Gordon kept his pole-winning streak alive, now having won at least one pole for 21 consecutive years.
• Tony Stewart has never gone winless for an entire season in Cup competition, now having won at least one points race for 15 consecutive years.
• Johnson has now won three or more races for the 11th time in 12 full-time seasons of competition. He has won at least one points race every year since 2002, his first full season.
• Kenseth's seven victories were a career-best for the Cambridge, Wis., native, eclipsing his five wins in 2002. Win No. 7 came in his 500th start, at New Hampshire.
"I don't really know what to say except praise the Lord, this is an incredible opportunity," said Kenseth. "For me to win at Loudon first of all is more than a stretch and more than a dream -- this is probably one of my worst places.
"I kind of didn't want this (special) paint job with the 500 starts because it makes me feel old, so I'm glad we did something with it and won. It's just awesome to be standing here."
• Kyle Busch has now won at least one race each season since 2005, his first year as a full-time Cup competitor.
• Denny Hamlin has won at least one race each season since 2006, his first as a full-time driver in the series. Hamlin cut it close, registering his lone victory in the season's final event.