My top 5 Daytona/Talladega (superspeedway) racers in the sport today

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Superspeedway racing has become an art form in NASCAR. It’s unlike anything else that these drivers do all year. The now six 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. Austin Cindric

A newcomer to this list, but Cindric exceled on superspeedway’s a year ago. He won the year’s biggest race (Daytona 500) was third in his return trip to Daytona (Coke Zero Sugar 400) as well as finishing in the top 10 in 1 of the other 2 Talladega races.

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 24 tries on them too. 13 of his last 21 have seen him finish 17th or worse. That’s why he’s down to fourth.

3. Bubba Wallace

He was runner-up in two of his last three overall Daytona starts. He also won the Fall Talladega race in October of 2021. In five career Daytona 500 appearances, he has a pair of runner-up finishes including last February. More times than not, Wallace finds a way to the front at Daytona and Talladega.

Since 2020, Wallace is tied for third most top 5’s scored (4) in that 12 race span with the second best average finish.

2. Ryan Blaney

Where Denny Hamlin is this generation’s Dale Earnhardt, Ryan Blaney is on the verge of becoming the next Denny Hamlin. Blaney won the summer Daytona race in 2021 and also had two prior wins at Talladega too. 6 of his last 8 Daytona results overall (counting the summer ‘400) have been inside of the top 6. Last year’s loss in the end (4th) still resonates with him as the sting still burns. He’s had two Top-4 finishes in his last three Great American Races and it would be fitting to enter the 2023 season on the heels of going winless in all of 2022 to win the first race out of the gates.

Since the start of the 2020 season, only Hamlin has as many speedway wins as Blaney, but Blaney tops all with average finishing position (10.1) too. He’s had the second most Top 5’s (5) and tied for most Top 10’s (7) in that span. He also has the third most laps led (186) in that span.

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 11 Daytona 500 starts, he has eight top five finishes. He was third in the 2020 summer Daytona race too.

At Talladega, he has seven straight top seven’s in the Fall race.

He also has 10 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 20 races as well. He’s got five career superspeedway wins which is two shy of Brad Keselowski for most in the series today.

The thing is, with this Next Gen, his gap to the next best is closing…His finishes on them last year were 37th and 25th at Daytona and 18th and 5th at Talladega.

At one point, he and Joey Logano (left off the list this year) were the top drivers on these types of tracks. They’ve got 9 superspeedway victories between them.

Since though, they’ve not had the best of success.

Logano was 32nd in Talladega last spring and 27th last Fall with finishes of 21st, 9th, 32nd, 26th and 12th on superspeedways last season in general. In the year prior, he was 12th and 23rd at Daytona and 39th and 3rd at Talladega. In 2020, he was 26th and 27th at Daytona and 17th and 26th at Talladega. His final 2 superspeedway starts in 2019 were 25th and 11th.

That’s just 1 top 5 and 2 top 10’s in the last 16 superspeedway starts and no wins on these tracks since the 2018 spring race here.

Did they lose their advantage or is this just a case of bad luck?

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