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Statistically Speaking

Food City 500 Stats

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

This week’s race: Food City 500
Traditional Name: Southeastern 500
Other Notable Names: Valleydale 500, Valleydale Meats 500

Staying out of trouble at Bristol is no small feat.

At only a half-mile in length, drivers are constantly in traffic and even with the addition of a second groove with progressive banking, it is not easy to navigate.  A huge crash at the start of last spring’s Food City 500 damaged a lot of top-contending cars and among the top 10 qualifiers only Matt Kenseth survived to the end with a top-10 finish.

Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman were the only two drivers to sweep the top 10 last year and no one has a current, active streak of more than three consecutive strong runs.

10 best drivers at Bristol

Over the past six races, these drivers have the best average finish on this track.

1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 11.17
Career avg. finish: 11.2 in 6 attempts

Stenhouse tops the three-year average despite suffering crash damage last fall and finishing four laps off the pace. He narrowly missed the top 20 with a 21st. Don’t expect to see a lot of this driver in the coming weeks because Bristol is his best track overall, but it is certainly nice to see a fresh face at the top of the leaderboard and he could be this week’s top dark horse.

2. Clint Bowyer
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 11.33
Career avg. finish: 15.3 in 20 attempts

Bristol is a driver’s track. There is a possibility that with a little luck and well-timed cautions, Bowyer could keep a current eight-race streak of top-17 finishes alive. Martinsville is another driver’s course, however, and Clint was not overly impressive in the STP 500, so he can only be considered a dark horse at best. Notably, he has survived crash damage in five of his last six races on this track.

3. Ryan Newman
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 12.00
Career avg. finish: 16.2 in 28 attempts

The top-three this week are not the same-old drivers one sees every week. Stenhouse, Bowyer, and Newman prove that dark horses roam free on short tracks and this week is a good time to gamble. The cream may rise to the top, but think of these drivers like the nutmeg sprinkled on top of the whipped cream at your local Starbucks.

4. Paul Menard
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 13.33
Career avg. finish: 19.1 in 18 attempts

Menard makes the top of the order this week with consistency. He has only one top-five in his 18-race career, but in the past eight events he finished between sixth and 11th six times. His other two efforts were in the low- to mid-20s, so he will not cost fantasy players much if he stumbles.

5. Joey Logano
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 14.00

Career avg. finish: 18.6 in 14 attempts

Logano’s car was severely damaged last year in this race when teammate Brad Keselowski spun in front of him. Collected in the crash, he lost 50 laps and struggled to finish 40th. He still makes the top 10 list, however, because he has won the last two August night races.

6. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 14.50
Career avg. finish: 14.1 in 28 attempts

Johnson seems to be taking Bristol in spells. He had a four-race streak of top-10s in 2011/2012—three of which were top-fives—then finished 19th or worse in his next three races, and now has a three-race, top-five streak. One has to wonder which driver is going to show up this week.

7. Brad Keselowski
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 15.00
Career avg. finish: 14.3 in 12 attempts

Keselowski has a pair of victories on this track and they came back-to-back in 2011/2012. He would be much higher on this list if not for crash damage in 2013 and last spring, but his position in seventh actually tells fantasy owners something about Bristol. It tough to predict, but solid drivers often find a way to the front.

8. Austin Dillon
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 15.50 (4 starts)
Career avg. finish: 15.5 in 4 attempts

Dillon needs a strong run this week after crashing at Texas Motor Speedway. Bristol is not the track on which one wants to stake their season, however, and the driver of the No. 3’s best result there is a 10th. With the confidence the early part of the season has given him, he should finish on the lead lap and get a career-best result this week.

9. Matt Kenseth
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 15.83
Career avg. finish: 12.8 in 32 attempts

Kenseth’s last six races at Bristol have been bookended by an accident in spring 2013 and a blown engine last fall. In between, he showed just how strong he can be on the bullring with two victories and another third-place result. So far in practice and qualification for the Food City 500, Joe Gibbs Racing has been solid and this could be another week when they dominate the top-10 finishing results.

10. Carl Edwards
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 16.00
Career avg. finish: 14.8 in 23 attempts

Edwards went 10 races between his second and third wins. He started 12th in spring 2014 and won in overtime, but he has continued to show promise. In his last three attempts, he scored top seventh-place finishes and qualified third each time. This week, he’ll lead the field to green from the pole.

 

Rank

Driver

Avg. Fin. L3Yr

Attempts

1.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

11.17

6

2.

Clint Bowyer

11.33

6

3.

Ryan Newman

12.00

6

4.

Paul Menard

13.33

6

5.

Joey Logano

14.00

6

6.

Jimmie Johnson

14.50

6

7.

Brad Keselowski

15.00

6

8.

Austin Dillon

15.50

4

9.

Matt Kenseth

15.83

6

10.

Carl Edwards

16.00

6

 

11

Greg Biffle

16.17

6

12

Kasey Kahne

16.50

6

13

Jamie McMurray

16.67

6

14

Kyle Busch

17.20

5

15

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.33

6

16

Kurt Busch

17.33

6

17

Kyle Larson

17.50

4

18

Aric Almirola

21.00

6

19

Denny Hamlin

21.00

6

20

Trevor Bayne

21.50

2

21

AJ Allmendinger

22.40

5

22

Danica Patrick

22.50

6

23

Kevin Harvick

23.00

6

24

Casey Mears

26.67

6

25

Martin Truex Jr.

26.67

6

26

Matt DiBenedetto

27.00

2

27

David Ragan

28.00

6

28

Josh Wise

31.50

6

29

Landon Cassill

31.50

6

30

Cole Whitt

31.50

4

31

Michael McDowell

31.83

6

32

Michael Annett

32.50

4

33

Reed Sorenson

32.67

3

Drivers with Only One Start

 

Ryan Blaney

22.00

1

 

Chris Buescher

25.00

1

 

Exercise Caution

Most caution flags: 20 (three times), 2003 Sharpie 500, 1997 Food City 500, 1989 Valleydale Meats 500
Fewest caution flags: 0, 1971 Volunteer 500
Average number of caution flags per race: 8.9
In 2016: 5.5

Final Caution, last five races:
August 2015: 431 of 500: debris on backstretch
April 2015: 495 of 511 to set up a green-white-checkered finish: 5-car accident on backstretch (Sam Hornish Jr. Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, and Justin Allgaier)
August 2014: 432 of 500: debris
March 2014: Lap 500 of 503: caution laps inadvertently tripped.
August 2013: Lap 448 of 500: 8-car accident in turn 3 (Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ken Schrader, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, and David Stremme)

Most caution laps: 167, 1965 Volunteer 500
Fewest caution laps: 0, 1971 Volunteer 500
Average number of caution laps per race: 63.3
In 2016: 30.7

Leading the way

Most leaders: 16, 1989 Valleydale Meats 500
Fewest leaders: 1, 1973 Southeastern 500
Average number of leaders: 6.7
In 2016: 7.8

Most lead changes: 40, 1991 Valleydale Meats 500
Fewest lead changes: 0, 1973 Southeastern 500
Average number of lead changes: 13.0
In 2016: 20.5

Victory Lane

Last five winners at Bristol (starting position):
August 2015: Joey Logano (5)
April 2015: Matt Kenseth (1)
August 2014: Joey Logano (5)
March 2014: Carl Edwards (12)
August 2013: Matt Kenseth (5)

Worst starting position for race winner: 38th, Elliott Sadler 2001 Food City 500

A race at Bristol has been won by the pole sitter 23 times and from the front row 36 times in 110 races.

Recent races won from the pole:
Matt Kenseth: 2015 Food City 500
Carl Edwards: 2008 Sharpie 500
Matt Kenseth: 2005 Sharpie 500
Jeff Gordon: 2002 Sharpie 500
Rusty Wallace: 2000 Goracing.com 500

Active winners at Bristol:
Kurt Busch: 5
Kyle Busch: 5
Matt Kenseth: 4
Carl Edwards: 3
Brad Keselowski: 2
Joey Logano: 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 1
Denny Hamlin: 1
Kevin Harvick: 1
Jimmie Johnson: 1
Kasey Kahne: 1

Top-10 All-time Winners:
Darrell Waltrip: 12
Dale Earnhardt: 9
Rusty Wallace: 9
Cale Yarborough: 9
Kurt Busch: 5
Kyle Busch: 5
Jeff Gordon: 5
David Pearson: 5
Bobby Allison: 4
Matt Kenseth: 4

First time winners at Bristol:
2002: Kurt Busch, Food City 500
2001: Elliott Sadler, Food City 500
1990: Ernie Irvan, Busch 500
1986: Rusty Wallace, Valleydale 500
1979: Dale Earnhardt Sr., Southeastern 500

Short tracks (Bristol, Richmond [current configuration], Martinsville)
All time

Darrell Waltrip: 23
Rusty Wallace: 22
Richard Petty: 18
Dale Earnhardt: 17
Jeff Gordon: 16
Cale Yarborough: 15
Jimmie Johnson: 12
Kyle Busch: 10
Fred Lorenzen: 9
Kurt Busch: 9

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Bristol race they started:
Paul Menard (17)
Brad Keselowski (12)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (6)
Alex Bowman (4)
Austin Dillon (4)
Cole Whitt (4)
Trevor Bayne (3)
Matt DiBenedetto: (2)

Great Starts

Active drivers with top-10s in their first start on this track:
Greg Biffle: fifth (2003)
Travis Kvapil: seventh (2005)
Jimmie Johnson: seventh (2002)
Kyle Larson: 10th (2014)

Current Streaks

At Bristol
Jimmie Johnson, three top-fives
Ryan Newman, two top-10s

On Short tracks (Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond)
Kyle Busch, four top-10s
Ryan Newman, two top-10s

In 2016
Kyle Busch, two victories
Carl Edwards, four top-10s
Jimmie Johnson, three top-10s

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.