Dr. Diandra: 2022 by the numbers: Overview


The champion has been crowned and the desert wind has swept away the last bit of confetti from Victory Lane. That means it’s time for a numerical overview of the 2022 season.

I’ll start with a broad overview of who raced, when they raced and where they raced. In the coming weeks, I’ll delve deeper into topics like penalties, accidents and loop data stats. That analysis will focus on comparing drivers, but also comparing the Next Gen car’s performance against the previous car.


45: The number of Cup Series races NASCAR officiated in 2022. That total includes:

  • The 36-race season
  • The Busch Clash
  • Two Daytona Duels
  • Four heat races for the Bristol dirt race
  • The All-Star qualifying race.
  • The All-Star Race

38: The number of points-paying races run in 2022. This includes the Daytona Duels because they award stage points.

28: The number of tracks visited. The Bristol asphalt and dirt circuits each count one and this number includes the temporary track at the L.A. Coliseum.

20 different states hosted races in 2022.A pie chart showing the distribution of track types on the 2022 schedule

7: The number of intermediate track races. The proportion of visits to 1.5-mile tracks has decreased steadily since 2011, when the schedule featured 12 intermediate track races.

6: The most superspeedway races in the Cup Series schedule ever. With the transformation of Atlanta, two races shifted from the intermediate to the superspeedway category.

6: The number of road course races. That’s one fewer than the record, seven, which was set in 2021.

3: The number of “other” tracks on the schedule. This category comprises large ovals that aren’t superspeedways, like Michigan, Pocono and Fontana. The series made the smallest number of visits to “other” tracks this year, in part because Michigan and Pocono dropped to one race each this year.

4: The most races in any one state: Virginia. The series raced three times each in Florida and Tennessee. If the Busch Clash is included, California also hosted three races — at three different tracks.

The season of racing

The remainder of this numerical overview focuses on the 36 races that make up the NASCAR season per se.

9,446: The number of laps scheduled to be run in 2022.

9,483: The number of laps actually run in 2022.

  • That’s a bonus of 37 laps and 60 miles, all due to overtime.
  • Last year, the series ran 66 laps (186 miles) less than scheduled.
  • Michael McDowell completed the most laps of the season with 9,380, or 99.91% of all possible laps.

MORE: Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway moving closer to hosting NASCAR

13,011: The total number of miles of racing in the 36 season races.

  • The Earth’s circumference is 24,902 miles, which means that Michael McDowell drove the equivalent of a little more than halfway around the world during the 2022 season.
  • The number of miles of racing is up from 2021, which totaled 12,595.

437,267: The total number of miles Cup Series drivers logged in 2022’s 36 races.

  • That number is down from the 450,039 miles drivers collectively ran in 2021.
  • To put this number in perspective, the mean distance from the Moon to the Earth is 238,855 miles. The total distance run on track during the season is just about to the Moon and back.

Days Raced

0: The number of races that started on a Monday. That might not seem worth noting, but the last time a season had no races start on Monday was 2015. Dover started on a Sunday and, due to rain, finished on a Monday.

8.3%: The percentage of races run on Saturdays. This year represents the smallest fraction of Saturday races since 2002.

91.7%: The percentage of races run on Sundays.

  • That’s the highest percentage since 1990, when 93.1% of the year’s 29 races happened on Sundays.
  • The smallest percentage since 1990 was in 2020, when only 69.4% of races happened on Sunday because COVID rearranged the calendar. But the same percentage of Sunday races were run in 2011 and 2009.

8: The number of races that went into overtime. That’s one less overtime race than in 2021.

0: The number of races shortened by weather and/or darkness.

  • There were two rain-shortened races and one darkness-shortened race in 2021.
  • The last time no races in a season ended early was 2017.

That’s not to say that weather didn’t affect this season’s racing.

3.5: Number of weather-impacted qualifying sessions. Rain cancelled qualifying at both Atlanta races and the summer Daytona race. Drivers completed the first round of qualifying at Nashville before rain kept the top ten drivers from running their second round.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings

3:19:57: The longest red flag of the season for rain, at the Daytona summer race.

  • Nashville comes in second for red flags with two delays for rain and lightning totaling 3:09:03.

Cars, Drivers and Owners

62: The number of drivers starting races in 2022. That’s down slightly from 2021, when 68 different drivers raced.

45 different car numbers were run this year.

6: The most different drivers in a single car number. J.J. Yeley drove 17 races in the No. 15 car. Garrett Smithley, Joey Hand, David Ragan, Ryan Preece and Parker Kligerman filled out the rest of the season.

27: The number of drivers who ran all 36 races. Last year, 31 drivers ran all the races.

5 full-time drivers missed one or more races due to injury or suspension.

36.7: The average number of drivers in each race

19: The number of drivers winning races this year, which ties the record for most different drivers in a single season.

  • Last year had 16 different winners.
  • 2019 and 2022 saw only 13 different winners each.

9: The number of different owners winning races in 2022. That number is up by one from 2021.

  • In 2001, the last year in which 19 different drivers won races, there were 13 different winning owners.
  • The last time nine different owners won races was in 2017.
  • Four organizations that were winless in 2021 won in 2022: Trackhouse, Petty GMS, Richard Childress and RFK. Together, those owners won nine of 36 races.

11: Most races won by a single owner in 2022. Hendrick Motorsports’ four drivers won 11 races total.

  • That’s well short of their total last year of 17.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing went from nine race wins last year to six this year.
  • Stewart-Haas Racing improved from one win last year to three this year.

The season may be over, but there’s still plenty of data to crunch. The results of these analyses tell us not only who had good (or bad) 2022 seasons, but also preview drivers’ likely strengths and weaknesses for 2023.

Hailie Deegan focused on goals in Xfinity debut


LAS VEGAS — Even with all her preparation, Hailie Deegan admitted to some nerves before she climbed into the No. 07 Ford on Friday for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt to mark her Xfinity Series debut. 

Deegan, who spent more than a dozen hours on a simulator as part of her preparation, qualified 20th for Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock)

MORE: Xfinity starting lineup – AJ Allmendinger wins pole

“I did everything I possibly could, but there was still a part of me that was nervous because things can always go wrong,” Deegan told NBC Sports. “You could run over a little debris and next thing you know you’ve got a flat and you’re in the fence and you have to go to a backup. 

“There’s a lot of things that still can wrong even though you’re fully prepared. I think just taking it as it goes. We made it through the first day. That’s all that matters.”

Deegan is in her second full season in the Camping World Truck Series, but is running this Xfinity race since the Trucks are off this weekend. 

“This whole year I’ve been working to try to do an Xfinity race, just to be able to see how it is, see that other level,” said Deegan, who also has former Cup driver David Ragan helping her this weekend. “When you’re in the level that you’re at, like Trucks, you get so wrapped up in it, it’s always nice to see what the next level could look like.

“Also when you do a race in the Xfinity when you’re moving up, almost like in any sport, you’re going to have certain strengths and certain weaknesses because things are changing, the car is changing. I think to be able to see the things like’ OK if I move up to Xfinity this is something that I’d have to work on. ‘

“I think just being able to experience the whole thing and see the competition level of the other drivers, there’s just a lot that goes into it.”

Deegan is the third female to compete in the Xfinity Series this season. Natalie Decker has run three races this season (Martinsville, Nashville and Atlanta), and Julia Landauer ran at New Hampshire in July.

As for her goals for Saturday’s race, Deegan has a couple.

“Our goal for the first stage is to stay on the lead lap, find what I like, what changes we need with the car because I’ve never done a long run to be able to know how they transition over a run,” Deegan said. “Just really go after it the second stage but also be there, avoid the carnage. Hopefully, there is none and we have a clean race.”

Nashville begins run of 20 consecutive weekends of racing for Cup


After a weekend off, it’s time to get back to racing for the Cup Series. This weekend at Nashville Superspeedway marks the first of 20 consecutive weekends the series races, going all the way to the season finale in November at Phoenix Raceway.

NBC and USA Network take over broadcasting of Cup and Xfinity races the rest of the season, beginning this coming weekend. NBC Sports will present a total of 39 races (20 Cup, 19 Xfinity) across NBC and USA Network in 2022. The Nashville Cup race airs at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

The first season with the Next Gen has seen 12 different winners in the first 16 Cup races. That leaves four spots open with 10 races left in the regular season. There has never been more than 16 different winners at the end of the regular season. Will this year change that?

That’s just among the storylines to watch as the season resumes.

Looking to return to Victory Lane

Eight drivers who won a Cup race last year have yet to win this season. They are:

Martin Truex Jr.

Ryan Blaney 

AJ Allmendinger

Aric Almirola

Brad Keselowski

Bubba Wallace

Christopher Bell

Michael McDowell

First career Cup wins

Four different drivers have won their first Cup race this season. They are:

Austin Cindric (Daytona 500)

Chase Briscoe (Phoenix)

Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas)

Daniel Suarez (Sonoma)

This is the most since the series had five first-time winners in 2011 (Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, David Ragan and Regan Smith).

Stay until the end …

Three races have been determined by a last-lap pass.

Six races have gone to overtime.

Eight races have seen the final lead change take place with five or fewer laps left.

Twelve of 16 races have had the final lead change take place with 10 or fewer laps left. 

Changing of the guard? Hold that thought …

After nine of the first 11 races were won by drivers age 29 and under, the older guard has taken control.

Each of the last five races has been won by a driver 30 and over, including two races in that stretch won by drivers more than 40 years old (Kurt Busch, 43, at Kansas and Denny Hamlin, 41, at the Coca-Cola 600).

Do it again

Kyle Larson won last year’s race at Nashville, leading 264 of the 300 laps. Can he repeat?

Ross Chastain finished second in last year’s race. William Byron placed third. Aric Almirola was fourth. Kevin Harvick completed the top five.

Penalties for wheels coming off a car

Ten times this season a wheel has come off a car on track during a race. That is a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. Here is a list of teams that have been penalized for the infraction:

Justin Haley (Daytona 500)

Kaz Grala (Daytona 500)

Todd Gilliland (Auto Club Speedway)

Corey LaJoie (Phoenix)

Bubba Wallace (Circuit of the Americas)

BJ McLeod (Talladega)

Denny Hamlin (Dover)

AJ Allmendinger (Dover)

Justin Haley (Kansas)

Kyle Larson (Sonoma)

Hot days ahead

With the early forecast for Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway calling for a high of 94 degrees, it would be the hottest race of this season.

Hottest races so far this year:

87 degrees — World Wide Technology Raceway (June 5)

87 degrees— Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 29)

85 degrees— Circuit of the Americas (March 27)

83 degrees— Talladega Superspeedway (April 24)

79 degrees— Phoenix Raceway (March 13)

Friday 5: Portland ‘will always be a special place’ to AJ Allmendinger


The memories remain fresh to AJ Allmendinger 16 years later. 

The last time he was at Portland International Raceway, Allmendinger won his first Champ Car race and shared the podium with one of his best friends and one of his toughest competitors. 

Allmendinger returns to the 1.97-mile road course for Saturday’s inaugural Xfinity Series race there. He arrives as the series points leader. 

Allmendinger says he remembers the events around that Portland Champ Car race in June 2006 “like yesterday.”

It started with fellow competitor Paul Tracy, who had supported a teen-aged Allmendinger in go-kart racing, telling Allmendinger he heard that his friend was about to lose his Champ Car ride. 

Allmendinger soon did. It wasn’t long before he was contacted by Forsythe Racing about a ride but was told that it might not happen for a week or so. The timetable accelerated. Forsythe Racing let go one of its drivers and hired Allmendinger the week of the Portland race.

At ease with the new team, Allmendinger was fast in practice and qualifying. He started the Portland race second, took the lead after the green flag and surrendered it only during green-flag pit cycles. 

His only concern came from close friend Justin Wilson.

“I had gotten out to a decent sized lead and then J Wil (Wilson) kind of ran me down through traffic,” Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “I remember thinking, ‘Of course, anybody but J Wil.’ It was good and bad. We had so much love and respect for each other, I knew he wasn’t going to come barreling down the inside and take me out. But I was like, ‘Man I’d rather take Sebastian (Bourdais, the two-time reigning series champion then) at this point.’

“It was surreal to be able to win the first race there. It was Father’s Day and my dad was there. It will always be a special place to me.”

Allmendinger won by 5.4 seconds over Wilson. Bourdais, who went on to win four consecutive series titles from 2004-07, placed third.

Sharing a podium with Wilson carries extra meaning for Allmendinger. Wilson died a day after he was struck in the head by debris during the August 2015 IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway. 

“I truly felt like — and this is the type of the person he always was — of course he wanted to win the race, but I almost felt like he was happier that I won than if he had won it,” Allmendinger said. “At least that’s the way he acted toward me. That was really special.”

Wilson’s excitement was evident as soon as the race ended.

“As I was getting out (of the car), he had parked and immediately come over,” Allmendinger said. “The guy that he was, he let, of course, my family and the team (get to Allmendinger first).

It also was meaningful for Allmendinger to be on the podium with Bourdais after beating him.

“He was the guy to always beat in Champ Car; Newman-Haas was the team to beat,” Allmendinger said. “It was one of those things, Sebastian, for sure, hated not winning because he won so much in Champ Car. Anytime he didn’t win, he was pissed off.

“But there’s pictures of us, him dumping champagne into my pocket. Stuff like that where I even felt like, ‘OK, he’s happy for me. As mad as he probably is about not winning.’ 

“Looking back on those photos and just sharing moments like that on the podium, that was really special. I couldn’t imagine two better guys (to share the podium) with at that point.”

Allmendinger seeks to make more memories this weekend. Should he win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, it would mark his third consecutive road course victory, tying Terry Labonte for the most Xfinity road course wins in a row. A victory also would give Allmendinger a win in six of the last 14 Xfinity road course events. 

COTA Xfinity race
AJ Allmendinger has one victory (shown here at Circuit of the Americas), six top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 Xfinity Series races this year. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The 40-year-old has seen his career revived since joining Kaulig Racing in 2019.

“NASCAR is unique,” said Allmendinger, who also will drive for Kaulig Racing in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“In my head it’s the only top-tiered sanctioning body that has different levels that you can drop down and still race. Like (two-time NTT IndyCar Series driver) Josef Newgarden is not going to drop back down to Indy Lights if Penske, all of a sudden, starts struggling. F1 guys are not going to drop down to F2 and F3, things like that. 

“I think sometimes in the outside world people don’t look at it and fully understand what the Trucks and the Xfinity Series is. For sure, they’re still a development series to get the young guys into Cup, but it’s also really competitive.”

And Allmendinger has held his own. Since 2020, Allmendinger has won eight of 57 Xfinity races (14%) and scored 30 top-five finishes (52.6% of his starts in that time).

“It’s not even always about winning, it’s trying to run up front,” he said. “When you have to do it 38 weeks of the year, it can become miserable, at least for me.”

“I used to always talk to David Ragan and I would always laugh. He either fakes it well or this is true. David used to always talk about, yea, at the racetrack he would be mad and all that, but when he walked into his house that week was over and he was OK, he was done. 

“I don’t know how to do that. Believe me, I’ve been talking to my wife Tara about it over the last couple of weeks because in the Xfinity Series we’ve been finishing decent and we’ve got the points lead, but we haven’t been as competitive as we want.”

That’s something Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice told NBC Sports last month at Darlington Raceway even after the team’s cars finished sixth (Landon Cassill), eighth (Allmendinger) and 10th (reigning series champion Daniel Hemric).

NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
AJ Allmendinger celebrates his Cup win last year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice (left) and team owner Matt Kaulig (right). (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I think some of the rule changes that were implemented in the offseason … we just haven’t caught back up,” Rice said then. 

“We’re not laying down. … We’re going to work hard to get it fixed before we go to the playoffs. It’s just bad because we only go to Texas (and Charlotte) and then we hit a stretch of road courses and different style of racetracks. 

“Hopefully, by the time we get back to the mile and a halves after Texas that you’ll see a difference in our cars, because we’re really going to put a big push on trying to get better on these style (of tracks).”

Although JR Motorsports placed three cars in the top four at Charlotte, including winner Josh Berry, Allmendinger saw positives after his 19th-place finish. Allmendinger’s finish was hurt by a tire going down and hitting the wall. He finished two laps down.

“Charlotte was finally the first kind of bad luck that caught us out,” Allmendinger said. “We had kind of been playing with fire for the last few weeks. The funny part of it is — this is the way auto racing is — it was actually, probably one of our better races in (terms) of speed on a mile-and-a-half racetrack. 

“We weren’t going to win. The JR (Motorsports) cars have, for sure, found something and they are succeeding. … We had tried some new stuff going into Charlotte, and I felt like we actually made gains.”

2. Work to do  

Although Alex Bowman has scored nine top-10 finishes, including a win, in the last 12 races, he’s looking for better results.

“I feel like the stat sheet probably looks pretty consistent, (but) we’ve definitely had a rough couple of weeks,” Bowman said. “Texas wasn’t great (sixth in the All-Star Race), Kansas wasn’t amazing (ninth) and Charlotte (10th) was pretty rough. Just got to keep working at it. 

“I think we’ve learned a lot. We were awful in Darlington (29th due to an accident). I feel like we learned a ton from that race. Just being able to go back to the simulator afterwards and identify things and kind of go there.

“It could always be worse. I feel like the summer has always been rough on us. We’re just doing our best to put together the best races that we can. Unfortunately, the ones lately haven’t been great, but we’ve had a lot of really fast race cars this year, too.”

Hendrick Motorsports will field a car for Bowman in one Xfinity race this season. He will compete in the Indy road course event, the day before the Cup race there in July. He said running in the Camping World Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas helped him in the Cup race. He finished second in the Cup race.

“I felt like I did a poor job at COTA last year and needed to be better,” he said. “We ran the Truck and had a really good day on Sunday. Hopefully, more of that same there.”

3. Can the streak continue?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell each have finished in the top 10 in the last four races, the best active streak in the series.

Stenhouse’s streak comes after he had finished 21st or worse in eight consecutive races.

“We were in a valley but we were kind of hanging our hats that we had good races and good speed,” he said. “We just didn’t have those finishes to go along with the effort that the team was putting in at the racetrack and the shop.”

All-Star Race
In his last four points races, Ricky Stenhouse finished second at Dover, eighth at Darlington, eighth at Kansas and seventh in last week’s Coca-Cola 600. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Stenhouse classifies World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway as a short track even though it is a 1.25-mile track. He classifies it that way because the braking drivers do in Turns 1 and 2 is similar to what they do at Phoenix, Martinsville and Richmond — all tracks 1 mile or less. 

Stenhouse notes that JTG Daugherty Racing’s short track program has struggled, so his goal is more modest this weekend.

“Going to Gateway this weekend, we’re not shooting for a top 10,” he said. “I feel like the way our short track program started this year, if we could make some improvements and have a top-15 car, I think that would be a win. 

“If something happens like at the end of the Coke 600, you never know what kind of finish you can get out of it. We’re just trying to make sure we stay consistent and keep executing like we have been.”

Stenhouse’s hot streak has helped him go from 31st to 24th in the points. Even with five top-10 finishes this season, he hasn’t scored as many points as he did last year when he had only one top-10 finish through the first 14 Cup races. Stenhouse had 281 points at this time last year. He has 267 points this year.

“I probably feel better about this year, just knowing that at tracks we were capable of winning, Daytona and Atlanta, we put ourselves in the position that we needed to be in when chaos broke loose,” he said, alluding to accidents in both events. “We got a top 10 at (Auto Club) and ran in the top five. 

“We were top 10 at Vegas and had that engine issue. I felt like COTA we were good on the long run and felt like we could have finished top 15 (before a drivetrain issue led to a 37th-place finish) … so I feel good about where our road course program is going into Sonoma in two weeks.”

4. Taking away the positives 

Cole Custer was in position to score his first top-10 finish of the season when last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 went to overtime. Custer restarted seventh. He was 10th when he was collected in a multi-car crash triggered after contact between Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson  at the front.

Custer’s car could not continue and he finished 21st. It marked his fifth consecutive result of 15th or worse.

“You just have to keep grinding,” said Custer, who is 27th in the points, of his predicament. “It’s a really long year and you just have to stay at it and keep working with your team and get your cars better and go week-by-week.  

“But I think the biggest thing from last week is that we can take a lot of positives and a lot of momentum from that. I mean, being able to run up there in the top five and have a shot to win the race at the end, that makes you pumped to go to the track the next week.

“I think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just a matter of cleaning some things up and having some good luck.”

That’s something he and his Stewart-Haas Racing team haven’t had.

He ran in the top 10 for much of the race at Circuit of the Americas and spun off course on a restart with less than 10 laps left. He finished 23rd.

Custer started third, ran in the top five for the first two stages at Martinsville before a penalty for an uncontrolled tire put him in the back of the field. He never recovered, finishing 21st.

And there was Coca-Cola 600 result.

“We’ve had tires roll away, we’ve had motors blow, and we’ve gotten wrecked I think six or seven times, so it seems like one thing after another,” Custer said. “But if you bring fast cars to the racetrack, it’ll eventually turn around,” he said.

5. Inaugural Cup race winners

With Cup heading to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for its inaugural race there, here is a look at drivers who have won inaugural Cup races since 2000:

2021 Indianapolis Road Course — AJ Allmendinger

2021 Road America — Chase Elliott

2021 Nashville — Kyle Larson

2021 Circuit of the Americas — Chase Elliott

2021 Bristol Dirt — Joey Logano

2020 Daytona Road Course — Chase Elliott

2018 Charlotte Roval — Ryan Blaney

2011 Kentucky — Kyle Busch

2001 Kansas — Jeff Gordon

2001 Chicagoland — Kevin Harvick

Dr. Diandra: Which drivers are superspeedway specialists?


We often view superspeedway races as events anyone can win, but that’s not the case. It’s just that we remember surprise winners much more vividly. We also tend to lump Daytona and Talladega together despite being very different tracks. Most of the true underdog winners — the Trevor Baynes and Michael McDowells — win at Daytona.

Eleven drivers earned their first win at Talladega. For six of those 11, that win is their only Cup win. Some drivers in Sunday’s field have only won at superspeedways: David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace and Justin Haley. Two out of three of Aric Almirola‘s wins are at superspeedways. Some drivers have developed unique skill set necessary to succeed Talladega, Daytona and the new Atlanta. This fast-paced form of racing requires drivers to rapidly process information, understand the draft, and avoid wrecks.

Who’s good at superspeedways?

I focused on the 2020-22 seasons to keep the results recent enough to be relevant to this weekend’s race. The trends observed, however, hold for other ranges of time as well.

I limited my analysis to Talladega and Daytona because we’ve had only one race at Atlanta in its superspeedway configuration.

I excluded drivers who ran fewer than three superspeedway races. That, unfortunately, eliminates rookie drivers. Don’t overlook Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

I also excluded drivers with an average finishing position higher than 25.

I plotted drivers’ average finishes below. We’ve had nine combined Cup Talladega and Daytona races between 2020-22. If a driver didn’t compete in all nine races, I noted the number of races run atop the bar. Drivers are ranked from left to right in order of best average finishing position.

A vertical bar graph showing the average finishing positions of drivers at superspeedways from 2020-2022

No one will be surprised by the first three names on the left side of the graph. A lot of pundits recommend Ryan Blaney and Wallace this weekend as winning picks. Despite a disappointing 2021, Kevin Harvick finished fourth, fourth, 15th and eighth at superspeedways last year.

You might not expect to find Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on the right side of the graph. His two superspeedway wins both occurred back in 2017. In the last two years, he finished second at Talladega in 2020, but every other finish was out of the top 15.

What’s more surprising are the last two names on the far right: Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, two recent champions. We know they’re good drivers, but superspeedways seem to have been their Achilles heels recently.

Sussing out superspeedway skills

To separate out good drivers who aren’t so good at superspeedways from drivers who are mid-pack everywhere, I compared each driver’s average finishing position at superspeedways to their averages at all other types of tracks. I kept superspeedway data in green and added the non-superspeedway data in yellow. I again ordered the drivers with the best finishing average at superspeedways to the left.

A vertical column chart that compares average finishes on superspeedways to average finishes on all other types of tracks.

The graph shows that some drivers, like Hamlin and Chris Buescher, have relatively similar average finishes at superspeedways as they do at other tracks. But many drivers have big differences in their finishes at the two types of tracks.

I’ve dotted in the green bars for the seven drivers with the largest ratio of average superspeedway finish vs. other-track finish. Wallace’s superspeedway results are almost twice as good as at other types of tracks. The other six drivers are: Justin Haley, Corey LaJoie, Chase Briscoe, Ty Dillon, McDowell and Blaney. These drivers clearly have an edge at superspeedways that makes them better bests there than at other tracks.

On the other side, we have drivers who finish worse at superspeedways than at other types of tracks.

Kyle Larson’s average finish at superspeedways is about three times worse than elsewhere. His weakness seems to be not finishing races. Larson has 12 DNFs at the 30 Daytona and Talladega races he’s run. That’s a 40% DNF rate.

Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr. also do much better at non-superspeedways. Logano and Truex finish about twice as far back at superspeedways compared to other tracks. Each of these drivers has a teammate at the other end of the graph. This looks like a driver issue and not an equipment/team issue.

Don’t base Talladega picks on Daytona results

Some drivers perform very differently at different short tracks. The same is true for superspeedways.

The graph below shows average finishing position for Talladega in red and Daytona in blue. Drivers with the best Talladega average finishes are to the left. I again shaded the red bars for drivers who perform much better at Talladega than Daytona.

A vertical bar chart that compares average finishing position for Talladega to average finishing position for Daytona


Wallace won the last fall’s Talladega race, but he didn’t finish within the top 10 at any other Talladega race from 2020-22. All but one of those finishes were out of the top 15. At Daytona, Wallace only has one finish out of the top 15 and two second-place finishes. He’s on many ‘recommend’ lists for Talladega. The numbers don’t seem to support that degree of enthusiasm.

Ty Dillon finishes three times better at Talladega than Daytona. This stat is based on only three Daytona and two Talladega races. I left him in because I think he’s a good underdog pick.

Brad Keselowski was undeniably good at Talladega with Penske. He won his Daytona Duel this year. But his new team is still struggling to get good finishes.

Erik Jones is about 2.5 times better at Talladega than Daytona. His stats are skewed by fifth- and second-place finishes in 2020 running for JGR. He did finish ninth in the last Talladega race, though.

Although Byron ranks low on the superspeedway finish graph, he’s eighth in Talladega ranking and the highest Hendrick car.

The news from this chart isn’t good for Kyle Larson fans. His average finish at Talladega is worse than at Daytona by a factor of two.

Chase Elliott has an even larger differential on the Daytona-favoring side. His average finish at Daytona is three times better than at Talladega.

Luck is necessary at Talladega. But drivers with better-developed superspeedway skills have a distinct edge on their competition. This isn’t a race just anyone can win.