StatChat - NASCAR Cup Series @ Talladega

We’re officially 1/4 of the way through the 2021 season, and while there may be some underperforming drivers, it might still be too soon to overreact.  A prime example is the hate being thrown at Denny Hamlin for not having won yet.  Can Hamlin’s 2021 season be classified as troubling?  He’s finished every race on the lead lap, his worst finish is 11th, he has already built up an 81-point lead in the standings, and he’s got a better average finish through the first 9 races than Kevin Harvick did in 2020.  The only thing missing is the ever-elusive P1.  Are we ready to believe that he won’t score a win in any of the 17 remaining regular season races?  Let’s talk again in 10 weeks if he still hasn’t won.  Until then, Hamlin shouldn’t be discounted as a real championship threat.


This weekend, the Cup Series makes its way to Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500.  Talladega is the longest oval on the NASCAR circuit, at 2.66 miles long.  The inaugural race in 1969 was a bit peculiar, as most of the top drivers at the time boycotted the race over tire wear concerns.  It was won by the relatively unknown Richard Brickhouse, which wound up being his one and only Cup win.


This weekend’s race will be 188 laps (for a total of 500 miles), with stage breaks occurring at 60 – 120 – 188, and a competition caution at lap 25.  The fuel window is approximately 40-46 laps.


NASCAR has run 3,064.05 miles so far this year, and the only driver who has driven 100% of them is Denny Hamlin.


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Talladega:

Ryan Preece

11.50 over 4 races

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

12.73 over 15 races

Tyler Reddick

13.50 over 2 races

Chase Elliott

14.50 over 10 races

Kurt Busch

15.78 over 40 races


Bottom 5 Career Average Finishers at Talladega:

Christopher Bell

34.00 over 2 races

Michael McDowell

29.40 over 20 races

Matt DiBenedetto

27.25 over 12 races

Cole Custer

26.50 over 2 races

Alex Bowman

23.36 over 11 races


Talladega is a Superspeedway:


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Superspeedway:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16.12 over 33 races

Denny Hamlin

16.33 over 61 races

Kevin Harvick

16.64 over 80 races

Ryan Preece

16.95 over 9 races

Kurt Busch

17.19 over 80 races


Both Dale Earnhardt and his son Dale Jr. were notably very successful at Talladega, winning 10 and 6 times respectively.  Jeff Gordon also has won 6 times at Talladega.  Brad Keselowski is the winningest current driver with 5 wins, Joey Logano a distant 2nd with 3.


Notable drivers who have not won at Talladega:

Kurt Busch

(has won at 17 other tracks)

Martin Truex Jr.

(has won at 15 other tracks)

Ryan Newman

(has won at 12 other tracks)


Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Quin Houff all list Talladega as their BEST track by average finish, and surprisingly no driver currently lists it as his WORST.


Two drivers have scored their first Cup Series win at Talladega.  Brad Keselowski did it in his 5th Cup race, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did it in his 158th race.


Based on their point pace, let’s have a look at who’s having a better year than last year.


Drivers Faring Better than in 2020

Denny Hamlin

+432 pts

William Byron

+334 pts

Christopher Bell

+306 pts

Daniel Suarez

+303 pts

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

+297 pts


Drivers Faring Worse than in 2020

Aric Almirola

-472 pts

Kevin Harvick

-335 pts

Erik Jones

-279 pts

Matt DiBenedetto

-211 pts

Brad Keselowski

-163 pts


While some drivers may be doing better this year than they did in 2020, how does this year stack up against their entire career?  This statistic does not include rookies, as this is their first full year in the Cup Series.


Drivers Having their BEST Career Year

Denny Hamlin


Joey Logano


Martin Truex Jr.


William Byron


Kyle Larson


Michael McDowell



Drivers Having their WORST Career Year

Tyler Reddick





In 2017, NASCAR introduced the concept of Stage Racing, which pauses the race at certain intervals and awards bonus points for the top 10 at that moment.  Here are the Top-5 Stage Point earners so far this year:


Stage Point Leaders:

Denny Hamlin

139 pts

Martin Truex Jr.

68 pts

Joey Logano

68 pts

Ryan Blaney

65 pts

Brad Keselowski

62 pts


For those that aren’t aware, the Manufacturer Standings are calculated by awarding points to the highest finisher for each manufacturer according to their finishing position.  (40 for 1st, 35 for 2nd, 34 for 3rd, etc.)  No stage points or playoff points count.


Manufacturer Standings








Here is the same formula, but used on a team-vs-team basis:


Chartered Team Standings

Joe Gibbs










Richard Childress


Chip Ganassi




Front Row


Wood Brothers




Richard Petty






Rick Ware


Live Fast







The race begins Sunday, April 25th at 2 pm EST (11:00 am PST) – Enjoy the race everyone!


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