NASCAR Pre Race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN)

Will We See A Fluke Winner?

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 52 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 six years but the other three winners were Austin Dillon (2nd career win), Kurt Busch (1st career restrictor plate win) and Michael McDowell (1st career Cup 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 seven playoff winners now 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 has one top five since 2007. His last eight 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 14 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 also has just two Talladega victories since 2009. Both were by Denny Hamlin.

Then there’s Kevin Harvick. He’s finished 17th or worse in five of his last seven 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.

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

Still, in saying that, 8 of the last 14 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition have earned either their first or second career victories in them. But, 4 of the last 8 at Talladega and 7 of the last 9 at Daytona, saw drivers won their first or second superspeedway race on them too.

You then have to weigh that you have drivers really on the outside of the top 20 in points knowing that this is their way into the playoffs. Aric Almirola for starters is 27th in the playoff standings, 77 points behind the final cutoff spot. With 8 winners in 9 races, the outlook for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to point his way into the postseason is slimmer and slimmer.

“I thought a lot about it this week, I still don’t know. I think pointing our way in from here is a longshot for sure, especially since we haven’t scored a lot of stage points anyway,” Almriola said on Wednesday. “Our cars have been off. A good day for us is similar to what we ran at Richmond. We flirt with a top 10, score a few stage points and get a top 10 finish. That’s what we’ve been capable of lately.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to point our way in. We’re going to need to win. Talladega is a great opportunity for us to do that. But we can’t do that if we’re on a wrecker. I think it is important for us to be mindful of that and making sure that we get to the finish so we have a shot to win the race. I personally think that winning at Talladega is more important than scoring 20 stage points and 2 playoff points from winning both stages but ending up in a big wreck. If I had to trade one for the other, I’d definitely trade the win for any stage points or bonus points.”

So, how many other drivers in this situation just join him in the back? I bet he will have company via his SHR teammates as Cole Custer (25th) and Chase Briscoe (28th) are also back there with him in the standings. Stage and playoff points do nothing for them on Sunday. A win does more. So with the odds being higher that you’d end up in a crash than not on these tracks, but also a higher chance of victory than most other places too, why not run around at the back for 90% of the day and try to capitalize in the end?

As Rick Mears once said, “in order to finish first, you first must finish.”

That’s why Sunday could separate the guys solidly in the playoff standings from those not because they can go for more stage points knowing that you’ll have a solid group of drivers not.

What Kind Of Race Will We See?

We wondered how all the unknowns were going to be answered in last June’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway. With some major adjustments to the racing package and having no practice time to test them out, how would the GEICO 500 look?

It was actually one of the more thrilling races we’ve seen in awhile. We saw 43 lead changes in the 2019 spring race and 14 more than that on the Monday rain delayed event last year for a total of 57 lead changes up front. It was a thrilling show.

19 of the 40 starters led at least one lap last June. We saw the third closest finish in Talladega history with minimal crashes.


That’s how a race is supposed to look.

“Yeah, the runs did seem a little slower,” said third place finisher Aric Almirola that day. “The other thing I noticed was with the cars going a little bit slower, we didn’t get the typical single file out right around the fence.  We kind of stayed more packed up and together, which to me, I thought there was going to be more wrecks because of it.  Early in the race I saw what I had in my racecar, I thought I had a really fast car.  I chose to kind of ride around and survive.

“These races usually have a lot of attrition, a lot of wrecks, the big one.  I thought our strategy was to make sure we were there at the end.  We did that.  The package seemed to keep the cars a lot closer together.  Nobody really broke away.”

Second place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. agreed.

“I thought it was great racing,” said the JTG Daugherty Racing driver. “You had to work really hard to form your line and really work the side draft, pushing cars, getting cars to push you.  You had to work hard for it.

“I thought that was great racing.  I felt like everybody kept their cars in control.  We had some big saves out there.  I saw I think the 12, the 11, 22, myself a couple times, get pretty sideways, but gather it back in.

“The third lane I felt like with this package got hurt the most.  It seemed like you could get some runs going, but it would stall out pretty quick.  Seemed like the bottom and middle were the way to go.  It kind of took the top lane out of it, which in turn a lot of times we run single file around the top and the race can get kind of stale.

“I thought overall the package was really good.  I don’t think any driver is going to have any complaints about it.”

The same can be said for the Fall race. We had another 58 lead changes in fact. That’s 57 and 58 lead changes respectively in two Talladega races a year ago. How will Sunday look?

The Daytona 500 didn’t resemble that, but only because of the rain. See, normally when you get a long rain delay and the race back going, it’s pretty tame. No one wants to risk an early crash and to go home. So, you just ride it out.

Then, the end of the ‘500 was a perfect storm per say.

Hamlin had the car to beat in Sunday’s Daytona 500. He led a race-high 98 of 200 laps and well on his way to becoming the first three-peat champion in the races 63 year history.

Then the final pit sequence happened.

The Toyota’s hit pit lane last among the three manufacturers. It cost them.

The Fords were lined up and the Toyota’s couldn’t get formed quick enough to stay ahead.

Hamlin, had too big of a lead over teammate Kyle Busch and neither were close enough to use each other as drafting help. The Ford train was coming and blew right by them with 25 laps-to-go.

“We were too far out front (on the final pit stop),” Hamlin said. “We got on-and-off pit road too good. I was just too far ahead of the pack.”

The pack would go single file and run at the top of the banking all the way around until a few to go. There wasn’t enough energy built up for the Chevrolet’s or Toyota’s to make any ground. They knew it would take a lot for them to break up the five Ford’s up front.

If you go to the bottom line, you need enough cars to build some energy. There just wasn’t enough.

“I figured the Chevys would make a move from two or three to go, because they are not going to win on the last lap from fifth or sixth,” Hamlin continued. “I was able to gain some positions. I think I was 12th and everybody was running single file, so it handcuffed me. I couldn’t really do anything. I hoped once I got to eighth as long as they make a move with two to go, I’m in the energy – in the area where I can make something happen. Dominant car, just a dominant car. Just one of those things that execute too good.”

With several drivers likely going to the back and remaining there for most of the day, I do think we will see somewhat of a tame race early in the sense that there’s several drivers that can’t afford to get caught up in an early crash. I think you’ll see all four SHR cars running at the back. Normally you see some of the smaller teams do the same. What about the other guys that are falling further and further back from making the playoffs on points?

The guys who can afford to race and risk a crash will mix it up, but I don’t think it gets really wild until the final 50 or so miles.

Will We See Another Last Lap Crash?

Superspeedway racing has been vastly improved over the last couple of years. While dangerous on one side of the coin, it’s been thrilling on the other. Most of the races ran in the traditional pack, with the end of them seeing guys move towards tandem drafting.

Tandem drafting works if done right.

At one point earlier last decade, tandem drafting was the quick way around Daytona and Talladega. It was dangerous, but you’d see cars separate from big packs and pair up to make runs on everyone. It was two cars working as one. It almost looked borderline ridiculous.

So, NASCAR came in and made changes to the cars that wouldn’t allow for tandem drafts anymore which set up a move back to the traditional packs.

Now, tandem drafting isn’t outlawed in the Cup Series as drivers can pair up if they so choose, but the way that these cars are designed, they can’t tandem for too long or they’ll overheat.

But, in wake of Ryan Newman’s incident at the last lap of the 2020 Daytona 500, NASCAR is hoping that a recent change in the aero package on superspeedways, won’t allow for any tandem racing on Sunday.

“Right here, right now, sitting here today, I would say that this should eliminate it,” said John Patalak, senior director, safety engineering at NASCAR before the June Talladega race last year. “I also know they will all be working to try and get back to some form of it.  I’ve done this long enough to know that I will not make any bold, blanket statements that would challenge them to prove me wrong.

“I think with the reduction in power, the aero ducts going away, that will make sort of a smaller hole, if you will, that should make it much more difficult to get into that configuration.”

Tandem drafting was one of four “bucket list” items NASCAR hoped to alter in this new package. With adjustments made, it could make life difficult to those who try. That’s what they’re getting at.

“When you look at the goal of slowing the cars down, obviously the restriction from 59 64ths to 57 64th is an expected horsepower loss of somewhere between 35 and 40 horsepower, which general rule of thumb the teams use is 30 horsepower per second.  With the 40 horsepower, we’d expect the cars to slow down by over a second compared to what they would have run.

“As far as reducing the likelihood of tandem drafting, the elimination of the aero ducts at the superspeedway tracks were removed to try to mitigate the likelihood that cars could tandem draft.  Then also the reduction of the power would likely reduce the likelihood of tandem as well.”

Now though, you may get a combo of tandem drafting in the end as well as the tapered spacer being put to use for drivers manipulating runs to get to the front. Combined, it’s still a wrecking combination.

Both Talladega races last year ended with some wild finishes. You have the crash in the tri oval last Spring and the out of bounds decision in the playoff race. Daytona has a fiery last lap crash in February.

Blocking is the reason for 99.9% of these crashes. You get tandems and big runs and the lead car trying to stay out front and stopping that momentum.

Also, tandem drafting in the end can cause a big crash if the car leading the charge moves to the high or low lane and the car behind doesn’t move quick enough to stay locked. It can also cause carnage if the group or groups of cars in front move to block. The lead car has to counter the block and if the guy behind doesn’t follow suit, the lead car gets spun. If he does follow suit and the cars in front keep blocking, then they’ll get run over and cause a big crash too.

That’s why we see so many cars wadded up.

The final lap of the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 was a perfect storm. You had two teammates running 1-2. Both said just how badly that they wanted to get a Daytona 500 triumph — a second for Joey Logano and a first for Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski, running third with two laps left, backed up off Kevin Harvick’s bumper in order to get some drafting help from behind via Michael McDowell. It’s a technique drivers use to make passes on superspeedway’s now. It worked. Keselowski, was now in second. With the final lap coming and a Daytona 500 win in his grasps, he had to do the same move on his teammate in Logano.

Keselowski, let Logano, just like he did Harvick, get far out there off Turn 2 and was hoping to use a push by McDowell again to get him his first Daytona 500 triumph.

“I had a big run down the backstretch,” Keselowski said. “Went to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and ended up really bad.”

McDowell, said that he was going to help Keselowski there until the crash occurred.

“My plan was to stick to (Keselowski),” McDowell said. “I knew he would go for a race-winning move and my plan was to let him make that move and then coming off of (Turn) 4 try to get to his outside or inside. I knew I didn’t want to make my move too early, so I was committed to (Keselowski’s) bumper and when he made the move, the hole opened up.

“It’s just unbelievable.”

Logano, said he saw the strategy Keselowski was going and he was doing it back. He didn’t want Keselowski to keep backing up, so he was doing it too.

“Once I saw Brad lay back and shuffle the 4 [Kevin Harvick] out, I said, ‘OK, this game’s about to change, this isn’t going the way I expected it to,’ and I knew things were going to be a little different and that’s what kind of developed into the last few laps,” Logano said. “Cars were laying back so much trying to form runs; I’m backing up trying to keep everyone tight behind and not get so far out because … you just know there is just so much energy being built up, everyone is going to be bumper to bumper. You saw that all come to fruition when we went down the back straightaway and everyone opened it up — you saw some cars go to the bottom, and that top lane had five cars pushing each other. There’s going to be a few runs coming at you that way.

“(Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of (McDowell) and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot.”

Combine all three and you get what you saw — a last lap crash.

Trends say, we’re likely going to see a last lap crash again on Sunday.

Will Daytona 500 Ending Affect How Logano and Keselowski Race Each Other Sunday?

Roger Penske vowed to sit his team down before this weekend’s race and talk about how they will ensure what happened at Daytona won’t happen again. The final lap of February’s 63rd running of the Daytona 500 was a perfect storm. You had two teammates running 1-2. Both said just how badly that they wanted to get a Daytona 500 triumph — a second for Joey Logano and a first for Brad Keselowski.

The two drivers let the whole week go by before talking about it before the next race on the schedule, the Daytona road course.

“We’re fine,” Logano said via his zoom conference after his runner-up in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253. “We had a good conversation, everything that I would hope it would be, very honest and open. I think everything is going to be good moving forward.

“It was a healthy conversation. I’m glad we waited a few days to cool our jets.”

Logano likened their relationship as teammates as like a marriage.

“When you’re married to somebody, you have to figure it out,” Logano said on Friday. “You’re married. You don’t just leave. You get married, it’s supposed to be forever. And so, when you have conflict or differences of opinion, you have to talk about it. You can’t just roll it up under the rug. It’s not going to work. It’s not healthy. It’s kind of the situation here.

“I will be forced, and he will be forced to work with me. We’re still teammates. We will have to figure this out. We may not have to agree on everything, but we at least have to find a way to move forward, and that is going to be the approach we need to do because going back to the 400 men and women who work at Team Penske, we owe it to them to figure this out and we will fix it. It’s fine.

“Like I said, you can look at this thing three different ways, and there are going to be six different opinions on how the last few laps went, and depending on what seat you’re in, you would pick differently.”

Logano said that it’s maybe not what needs to be said, but what is the goal moving forward. The goal for them is to move on and not say, ‘You raced me hard, so I’m going to race you hard’ and now we’re going to beat the doors off each other and it grows and grows and grows and grows.

“That’s the goal that you can’t have,” he continued. “You can’t seek revenge or just, ‘Well, you made my life hard, so I’m going to make your life hard.’ That’s childish. We’re adults. We’re not doing that. I’m not going to do that for a multiple of reasons. … If you do that, it’s the most selfish thing you can do because you’re not just hurting yourself or hurting him, you’re hurting all the people that work on that car and what did they do to you? They’re the same people that work on my car by the way, so it’s a matter of just saying how do we move forward, not you did this, you did this, you did this.

“It’s, ‘OK, that’s that.’ Start at zero. Clean slate. Never to bring up anything that’s happened six months ago, a year ago, five years ago. If you want to talk about it, that is the time. The best time to talk about it, bring it up, be honest, get it off your chest. If you need to get it of your chest because it makes you feel better, good. That’s going to be healthy, but after that it’s never being brought up again. Never. It’s got to start at zero.”

Keselowski, acknowledged the talk too in saying that the Daytona 500 ending was hopefully an anomaly.

“I don’t really think what happened at Daytona big track has anything to do with most of the rest of the season,” Keselowski said. “The speedway races are their own animals, and there’s something to be learned from last week and hopefully we will learn. It’s certainly not a high coming off of last weekend.

“But it’s not the end of the world.”

Penske needed one more meeting with everyone to be sure this is done. But, what happens if they’re in the same position again?

“I just pray for clarity,” said Logano following his third place run at Richmond last week in regards to working with teammates on superspeedway’s. “Tell me what to do and what I can’t do and how to work together the best way possible.”

Logano said that while they’ve had fast race cars on these tracks lately, they’ve also crashed a lot too and that he knows that he can’t win on Sunday without an ally. You have to have a plan on how you pit together and how you draft together and what’s okay and what’s not okay and does it end or does it not end. This will is important to get some clarity to those questions he says.

Keselowski, admitted that they had a meeting via zoom already this week and that they had talked through some different scenarios. He said that he didn’t think that there’s any perfect answers, but there is good spirit, and he’s looking forward to this weekend.

“I think Talladega is a lot different than the Daytona 500,” Keselowski said. “There’s more room to race, a lot of other different things that go on, the way the cars drive is significantly different. I don’t really think I have a lot of concern about us to be quite honest.

“Everybody has their own definition. I know it’s not fun for anyone at Team Penske to have two cars, first and second and another one (13th), so three cars in the top (15) in the biggest race of the year, and all three of them come back on a hook. That’s probably not what anybody would say is acceptable, but I think there is a spirit of ‘Hey, we should all be trying to win the race for sure.’ ”

Asked if nothing changes, Keselowski said: “I don’t think so, but I don’t know if I have a great answer to that.”

Keselowski was the one who wanted Logano to come to the team for 2013 and beyond. The two were close. But over the last couple of seasons, one could say that the two could be growing apart as well.

Keselowski’s contract was up last season. He only got a one year extension. Logano, meanwhile is their future still. Combine this with a run in at Daytona last year and you can sense the friction.

With 10 laps remaining of last years Busch Clash, Logano, moved to block Kyle Busch down the banking in Turn 3 of the 2020 Busch Clash. The duo would spark a six car crash which collected Keselowski when he had no where to go.

“Just got wrecked for no reason,” Keselowski told reporters after the crash during last year’s Clash. ” … just dumb moves being thrown out there. Guys that don’t know what they’re doing, so they throw crazy-ass blocks.

“It’s just ridiculous. We shouldn’t be wrecking all these cars. I’m not Tony Stewart. I’m not as smart as he is and he could say it a lot better than I could, but this is just dumb.”

Keselowski has been adamant and staunchly against blocking on superspeedway’s. He punted William Byron in practice for the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 to send a message. Well, Logano blocked in the Clash and Keselowski was collected. Last Sunday, Logano blocked Keselowski’s run and instead of a Penske 1-2 finish for the 2021 Daytona 500, both were wrecked.

“Don’t feel like I made a mistake but can’t drive everybody’s else car. Frustrating,” Keselowski said following the Daytona 500.

They’ve spoken and Logano feels that they’re fine, but does Keselowski?

Manufacturers and teammates work together almost exclusively on superspeedway’s now. These two are going to have moments where they’re working together.

Toyota started it in 2016, Ford perfected it there after and Chevrolet brought it to a head in the 2019 Daytona 500. What “it” is, is manufacturer alliances on superspeedway’s.

For the 2016 Daytona 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have strength in numbers compared to their car count vs. the Ford’s/Chevy’s, so they teamed up only with each other. It panned out for a 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500 that year.

After that race, Ford took notice and had their powerplant line up together and draft with one another during the four combined annual stops at Daytona and Talladega. Ford, already had good motors for these tracks, but throw in teamwork and you get domination in the form of 13 of the last 20 races won when using the restrictor plates.

They were in everyone’s head. So, for the 2019 Daytona 500, the Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have the numbers to contend for the win. Hendrick Motorsports, a Chevrolet team, knew that the other Chevy cars weren’t good enough to hang with them to challenge the Ford’s. So, we saw an unlikely tandem for the ‘500 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota’s and their alliance car at Leavine Family Racing and the Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevy’s.

Combined, that’s nine very good race cars that with even the smallest bit of help from any other Chevy team, could work together and break up the Ford party up front.

See, Ford’s knew that if they lined up in tow, go up to the high line and pull each other around the 2.5-mile track, it didn’t matter how many Chevy’s or Toyota’s lineup, no one could stop them.

So, HMS and the Toyota’s teamed up and ran up there with them, then would use the draft to take air off the Ford’s and break them apart.

It worked.

Toyota finished 1-2-3 in the ‘500, Ford’s grew frustrated with one another and the Chevy teams were pissed that HMS sought out a late hour deal with a rival manufacturer.

In turn, Chevy had a closed door meeting afterwards and made sure that this didn’t happen again. Chevy teams could only work and draft with other Chevy teams. No more helping the competition.

Ford teams would still try and do the same. The Toyota’s? Well they were hung out to dry.

Chevy was the biggest beneficiary of this. HMS would finish 1-2 in the first race with the tapered spacer in April 2019 in Talladega including Chevy going 1-2-3 overall and taking five of the top six finishing positions.

In the July race at Daytona, Chevy went 1-2-3-4 this time.

But, in the second stop to Talladega in the Fall that year, the Ford’s found a way to get back to prominence. They’d lead 125 of the 188 laps run and take a 1-2 finish and four of the top five. Chevy, took spots 6-8-10.

Last year and Daytona this year was the same way.

How do you race a teammate in the end with the ultimate goal of wanting to win and doing everything in your power to do so, but your teammate could block you. It’s not like you can lift. That causes mayhem.

So, if we’re in the same position again, Logano-Keselowski and they’re 1-2 in any order on the final lap, how does this play out where they don’t both wreck and one of them wins?

Who Are The Best Superspeedway Racers Around Right Now?

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 13 starts. He also has seven top 10’s in his last 10 starts on them overall including 16 top 11’s in his last 21. For racing on these tracks being like a lottery, to come away with a top 11 in all but five starts on these tracks in his last 21 tries is nothing short of remarkable. His eight top 10’s in his last 13 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 13 and nine top 10 finishes in his last 14 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 (323) 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 20 starts on this discipline of tracks and 19 in his last 32 overall. That’s phenomenal. 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. Two of Blaney’s last three wins have come on superspeedway’s. Both coming at Talladega. He was runner-up in the 2019 Daytona 500 as well. In fact, his last five superspeedway starts have seen him finish first, second, first, sixth, 25th and 30th respectively. He’s even led 255 laps in the last 13 on these tracks, ranking third only to Logano and Hamlin. 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 298 laps led make he, Blaney and Logano as the only drivers to lead at least 200 laps in the last 13 races as well. Hamlin, has won two of the last three Daytona 500’s and three of the last six overall. 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.

Honorable Mention

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 18 tries on them. 13 of his last 19 have seen him finish 17th or worse. That’s why he’s slid out.

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