Ryan Newman moved into the winner's column early in the 2012 season, taking the victory in a wild April 1 race at Martinsville Speedway.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers entered the 2012 season expecting a heightened level of competition for wins and the title. The opening stretch of races proved that would be just the case. So who was able to rise above the field and take a victory? Here's a look at 2012 race winners.
Jimmie Johnson, five wins
After challenging for much of the season, Jimmie Johnson picked a big race in which to make his presence known. The driver led the most laps en route to winning the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway - and giving team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory. Johnson won his second race of the season in June at Dover. He then followed with a victory in one of NASCAR's most prestigious races, taking the win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Next, he made his move in the Chase, winning at Martinsville Speedway. And then he struck again the following week, winning at Texas to tie Brad Keselowski in wins for the year.
Brad Keselowski, five wins
Brad Keselowski has started off the 2012 season on a high note. He first won at Bristol Motor Speedway, then he waited until the perfect moment to make his move to win in May at Talladega Superspeedway. He followed that up with a commanding performance at Kentucky Speedway to take his third victory of the season. Keselowski then made a statement as he opened the Chase with the win at Chicagoland Speedway. He took the points lead once more when he topped the field with a late rally at Dover in September.
Denny Hamlin, five wins
Hamlin and 2011 championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb struck quickly. The new pairing won the second Cup race of the season, overcoming the field for the victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Hamlin returned to victory again at Kansas Speedway, taking the lead lap and holding off the final charge of Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin then took the lead late and held on for the victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in August. He followed that up with another late surge to win at Atlanta the following week. Then, Hamlin rallied in the Chase by winning the second race in the critical segment of the season, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Clint Bowyer, three wins
Clint Bowyer takes the checkered flag to win for the first time in 2012 in this photo. Bowyer topped the field for his first win at Sonoma in June. He then rallied late, conserving fuel, to win at Richmond and gain ground once the Chase field was set. Bowyer then gambled on fuel strategy to take the win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.
Matt Kenseth, three wins
Roush Fenway Racing's Kenseth showed his potential once more, opening the season with a premier victory. Kenseth won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, a race delayed by rain, then fire, and finally run on Monday night. Kenseth's second win came in equally stunning fashion as, after leading off and on all day, he took the lead as many drivers in the field were crashing and flipping coming to the checkered flag. Kenseth overcame the field in another wild Chase race, too, taking the victory at the repaved Kansas Speedway as 14 cautions marred the race.
Tony Stewart, three wins
The 2011 series champion, Stewart erased another track from those on his Sprint Cup winless list with his win in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Stewart has won at all but two of NASCAR's current Cup tracks. He followed that up with a victory in the rain-shortened Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway to become the season's first repeat winner. Then, he survived a chaotic Daytona July race to storm into the lead late and take his third victory of the season.
Greg Biffle, two wins
Greg Biffle held the points lead early in the season - and added to his edge with his victory at Texas Motor Speedway in April. He then returned to Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway in August.
Jeff Gordon, two wins
Jeff Gordon suffered more than his share of setbacks before finally getting a break. Gordon slipped into the lead on a crash among the frontrunners at Pocono Raceway in August - and held the position as rain ended the race early for his first win of 2012. Gordon then returned to Victory Lane in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kasey Kahne, two wins
Kasey Kahne joined the list of Hendrick Motorsports winners when he took a commanding lead late at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He won the Coca-Cola 600 for his 13th career victory. He then followed that up in July with a stellar win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, holding off a late charge by Denny Hamlin to take his second victory of the year.
Marcos Ambrose, one win
Marcos Ambrose continued to showcase his talents on road courses with a fierce battle at Watkins Glen. He took his first win of the season in the August race at the track.
Kyle Busch, one win
Kyle Busch earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season when he took a late lead on pit road and stormed on for the win at Richmond International Raceway .
Dale Earnhardt Jr., one win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped a winless streak in stellar fashion in 2012 - taking his first win of the season in dominating fashion at Michigan International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick, one win
Harvick took control in the closing laps then survived a wild restart to take his first win of the year, at Phoenix International Raceway in November.
Joey Logano, one win
Add Joey Logano to the list of drivers making noise in NASCAR this season. After steadily increasing his performance in the season's early races, he won in June at Pocono Raceway - his first win with Jason Ratcliff as his Cup crew chief.