Superspeedway racing is an art form in NASCAR. It’s unlike anything else that these drivers do all year. The four annual points paying races on them take a different skill set. You either have it, or you don’t.
It’s danger and thrill. It’s the closest racing all year. You’re door-to-door, inches from one another. The entire field is typically separated within a second and going at speeds near 200 mph. One slight mistake can wipe out the dozens of cars.
It’s also the great equalizer. Any one can win on any given race at Daytona and Talladega. While you tend to see some fluke winners, you also have guys that excel at this better than everyone else. Here’s my top five list of the current NASCAR Cup Series drivers that are at their best at Daytona and Talladega.
5. Ryan Newman
Yes, I chose Newman. It’s hard to believe when first seeing this that I have Newman who’s won just once on superspeeeday’s over a few other drivers that I think as you scroll down you’d expect to see on here. But, Newman has been superb lately on these tracks. He has two top five finishes and eight top 10’s over his last 12 starts. He also has seven top 10’s in his last nine starts on them overall including 16 top 11’s in his last 20. For racing on these tracks being like a lottery, to come away with a top 11 in all but four starts on these tracks in his last 20 tries is nothing short of remarkable. His eight top 10’s in his last 12 is tied with Denny Hamlin for most in the series in this span.
4. Aric Almirola
He’s scored two wins on superspeedway’s and a third was close a few years ago for the 2018 Daytona 500. Still, Almirola has one win, three top five finishes and six top 10’s in his last 12 and nine top 10 finishes in his last 13 on them overall. The top 10’s rank third most among all active drivers since 2018. Each year we go to Daytona/Talladega, Almirola is a threat.
3. Joey Logano
He was second on this list heading into last year but falls to third entering 2021. Over the last 12 superspeedway races, no one has led as many laps (297) as Logano has in his No. 22 Ford. He’s had one win, five top five finishes (2nd most) and five top 10’s (tied for 4th most) that span as well. He’s also had 11 top six results in his last 19 starts on this discipline of tracks and 19 in his last 31 overall. That’s phenomenal. Also, Logano has five top six finishes in his last six Daytona 500 tries. But, last year he was only 26th, 17th, 27th and 26th respectively in his four points paying starts on superspeedways, allowing him to get passed on this list by his teammate.
2. Ryan Blaney
He’s rapidly ascended on this list. Each of Blaney’s last two career Cup wins were on superspeedway’s. Both coming at Talladega. He was runner-up in last year’s Daytona 500 as well. In fact, his last five superspeedway starts have seen him finish first, second, first, sixth and 25th respectively. He’s even led 255 laps in the last 12 on these tracks, ranking second only to Logano. For the Daytona 500, Blaney has three top seven finishes, two of which being runner-ups, in his last four tries. He’s rapidly becoming one of the best.
1. Denny Hamlin
How can I not choose him? No one has as many wins on superspeedway’s since 2018 as Hamlin’s three. He also has eight top five finishes in that span with the next best being Logano’s five. His 200 laps led make he, Blaney and Logano as the only drivers to lead at least 200 laps in the last 12 races as well. Hamlin, has won the last two Daytona 500’s and three of the last five. Also, he has six top four finishes in his last seven Daytona 500 starts as well. On superspeedway’s last year, he was first, fourth, third and first respectively. He’s got five career superspeedway wins which is one shy of Brad Keselowski for most in the series today.
I’ve got to have Ricky Stenhouse Jr. a close sixth. He has two wins, both coming in 2017. He’s as good as they come but his aggression can sometimes get the best of him. That’s also what it takes to win though, so he’s on that fine line of being from sixth to arguably at the top.
Brad Keselowski just barely misses out here too. Yes, he has the most superspeedway wins (6) as anyone in the sport right now. But, all came with the old restrictor plate. He’s not won since the Busch Clash in 2018. His last points paying superspeedway win came back in 2017 at Talladega. He’s had one top five in his last 17 tries on them. 13 of his last 18 have seen him finish 17th or worse. That’s why he’s slid out.