Well, after seeing Tim Lincecum‘s no-hitter on Saturday evening, it came to my attention that NASCAR hasn’t seen its version of a no-hitter in quite some time. It’s been exactly 4,683 days, or 12 years, nine months and 27 days since the unthinkable has happened in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Most NASCAR fans know about Curtis Turner and his days of dominating full races back in the 1950s. He wasn’t the only driver back in the day to lead every lap in a race though. All of the greatest drivers in NASCAR’s history have led full races. The last one though, might surprise some new fans.
In 2000, NASCAR decided to put restrictor plates on the cars at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Now usually, the only tracks with restrictor plates are the super speedway tracks of Daytona and Talladega, just to prevent the cars from going speeds that are incredibly insecure. For some crazy reason, they put this device on the engines at the one mile oval. Back then, speeds at New Hampshire didn’t surpass 150 mph so there wasn’t really a reason for it.
Jeff Burton seemed to like it just a tad too much.
Burton, who drove for what was then Roush Racing, was in the midst of his most consistent season when NASCAR headed to New Hampshire in September of that year. He started second that day behind Bobby Labonte, but passed him on the first lap and never relinquished the lead after that. Burton was able to lead all 300 laps on the tricky track where rolling into the center of a corner is the key to winning. That was the last time someone has fully dominated a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It may seem like ages ago, but for Burton, it’s a moment that he will never forget.
However, Burton’s “no-hitter” that day wasn’t the only one in NASCAR since then. Kyle Busch became the first driver to lead every single lap in a NASCAR Nationwide Series event back in 2011. Now who would be surprised to learn that Busch broke that record too? He’s flat out dominated NASCAR’s second tier series and leads the most laps in nearly every race he’s entered in that series. Busch’s dominating effort came in the second race of the season that year at Phoenix where he led each of the 200 laps. Busch has come close in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series too, but he’s fallen just short due to green flag pit stops and other cars staying out to lead laps while he pits.
Completing NASCAR’s version of a no-hitter in the modern day era is simply an amazing accomplishment. Leading the most laps in a race and locking up the win is difficult as it is. For a driver to lead every single lap, it takes basically perfectly timed cautions, opponents pitting when the leader does and most importantly, a perfect car.
As NASCAR returns to New Hampshire nearly 13 years after Burton’s amazing performance, one must wonder if it will ever happen again. Think about it for a minute. Look at Jimmie Johnson. He dominated at Kentucky, but guess what? He messed up towards the end of the race and there went his day. It just shows, perfection in NASCAR’s top level just may never happen again.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.