DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Superspeedway racing has become 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 completely 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. 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 14 and nine top 10 finishes in his last 17 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.
4. Brad Keselowski
Yes, he has the most superspeedway wins (7) as anyone in the sport right now but he’s also had three top fives in his last 20 tries on them. 13 of his last 21 have seen him finish 17th or worse. That’s why he’s down to fourth.
3. Joey Logano
He was second on this list heading into last year but falls to third entering 2022. Over the last 15 superspeedway races, no one has led as many laps (333) as Logano has in his No. 22 Ford. He’s had one win, six top five finishes (2nd most) and six top 10’s (tied for 4th most) that span as well. He’s also had 12 top six results in his last 23 starts on this discipline of tracks and 20 in his last 35 overall. That’s phenomenal. But, 2020 he was only 26th, 17th, 27th and 26th respectively in his four points paying starts on superspeedways and 12th, 39th, 23rd and 3rd last year allowing him to get passed on this list by his teammate.
2. Ryan Blaney
He’s rapidly ascended on this list. He won the 2019 Fall Talladega race, was runner-up in the 2020 Daytona 500, won the spring Talladega race that year, sixth in the summer Daytona race and 25th in the Fall Talladega race. Last year, he was 30th in the Daytona 500 but ninth in Talladega (Spring) and and 15th in the Fall race but won the summer Daytona stop.
That’s four top two results in his last nine superspeedway starts.
He’s even led 266 laps in the last 16 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. In his last 10 Daytona 500 starts, he has eight top fives. He was third in the 2020 summer Daytona race too.
At Talladega, he has six straight top seven’s in the Fall race.
He also has nine top five finishes in that span (since 2018) with the next best being Logano’s six. He, Blaney and Logano are the only drivers to lead at least 200 laps in the last 16 races as well. He’s got five career superspeedway wins which is two 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.