Fluke winner? More likely at Daytona than Talladega

It seems like every time we go to a superspeedway that we have to talk about the potential for fluke winners. In reality though, the wiser bets for Talladega are on the usual suspects that normally run up front instead of a hot longshot.

Since 1995, we’ve really only seen what you could consider six “fluke” winners at the Talladega Superspeedway. That’s six in the last 51 races on the 2.66-mile high banked oval. Even out of those six, a few aren’t all that flukish after all.Chase Elliott leads Alex Bowman during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 28, 2019 in Talladega, Alabama.

Bobby Hamilton’s win was. Brian Vickers’ win in 2006 would fall under that category as well. Brad Keselowski’s win in 2009 would too but he’d later become one of the greats on superspeedway’s, so looking back on it, it’s not as much as a fluke now as it was then. David Ragan’s win in 2013 would be one, but that’s about it. You could throw Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s win in 2017 as one but he’d win later in Daytona that season too. Same for Aric Almirola’s in 2018 as both of his wins have come on superspeedway’s.

That’s it.

Just six times since 1995 has a driver earned their first or second career wins at Talladega.

What about Daytona? It’s the opposite actually.

They’ve had more fluke winners than Talladega in recent years. Just look at their recent winners in fact.

For the Coke Zero Sugar 400, three of the last four winners have earned their first career Cup victories. The other was just his second.

2020 – William Byron (1st career win in August’s Coke Zero Sugar 400)

2019 -Justin Haley (1st career win)

2018 – Erik Jones (1st career win)

2017 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2nd career win)

2014 – Aric Almirola (1st career win)

2011 – David Ragan (1st career win)

For the Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin has won three of the last five years but the other two winners were Austin Dillon (2nd career win) and Kurt Busch (1st career restrictor plate win).

The fluke winners come at Daytona for whatever reason, but that hasn’t been the case for Talladega.

I mean under this win and advance playoff format that first debuted in 2014, all six playoff winners at Talladega were playoff drivers.

So, if you’re looking for a wise wager on Sunday’s race, I’d throw money the way of the favorites.

The problem is, the top drivers haven’t fared real well at Talladega or superspeedway’s in general recently either.

Martin Truex hasn’t had a top 10 finish at Talladega since 2015. He was fifth in the spring race that year and seventh in the playoff race. That fifth place run is his only top five at Dega since 2007.His last seven Talladega finishes have all been 20th or worse.

Kyle Busch is a past Talladega winner. But, that victory was way back in 2008. He does have two top three finishes in his last five Spring race starts and three top 10’s in the same time frame, but if you throw in the Fall race, Busch has three top 10 finishes in his last 13 overall Talladega starts as well. Busch, finished 10th at Talladega back last April of 2019 but that and two top five finishes in the 2016 and 2017 spring races are the only top 10 finishes he’s had on the 2.66-mile oval since 2014.

Toyota had just one car in the top 18 of the Spring race at Talladega back in April of last year and three in the top 10 last Fall. They had just two cars (8th, 14th) in the top 21 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona back in July of 2019 and one in the top 17 this past February.

Toyota also has just one Dega victory since 2009 and only three overall.

Then there’s Kevin Harvick. He’s finished 17th or worse in four of his last six Talladega starts. Also, he has one top five finish on the track since the playoff race at Talladega in 2011 (18 starts).

Almost half of his last 25 Talladega starts have seen him finish 20th or worse.

His teammate Clint Bowyer has just one top five finish since 2014 there. Jimmie Johnson has seven finishes of 12th or worse in his last 10 Talladega starts and one top five in his last 14 Talladega starts overall.

Brad Keselowski should be a favorite but he’s been involved in a lot of incidents on superspeedway’s lately.

7 of the last 12 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition have earned either their first or second career victories in them. But, 4 of the last 7 at Talladega and 6 of the last 8 at Daytona, saw drivers won their first or second superspeedway race on them too.

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