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Statistically Speaking

Geico 500 Stats

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

This week’s race: Geico 500
Traditional Name: Talladega 500
Other Notable Names: Aaron's 499, DieHard 500, Winston Select 500, Winston 500, Alabama 500 (1970, but this is the traditional name for the fall race)

Ever since that day in 1988 when Bobby Allison cut a tire and almost landed in the frontstretch grandstand, nothing has been predictable about Talladega SuperSpeedway. From a fan’s standpoint, getting the chance to see their driver—no matter how well-funded or frugal his team might be—challenge for the win is exciting. For fans without a specific driver for which to cheer, the ever-present risk of a "Big One" crash provides the excitement.

Cautions typically reign, but every now and then a calm race like the 2013 Camping World RV Sales 500 gets tossed into the mix with only three yellow flags—one of which ended the event. Lead changes are prevalent, but when NASCAR forced the teams to stop tandem drafting one year, most of the race was run in single file.

The only thing predictable about Talladega is the unpredictability of the race. This track is kind to dark horses and first time winners, but veteran experience helps in the draft. It is a place filled with dichotomies and a world unto itself.

10 best drivers at Talladega

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

1. Clint Bowyer
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 10.50
Career avg. finish: 14.4 in 18 attempts

Half of Bowyer’s Talladega starts have been impacted by crash damage, but accidents are so prevalent on this track that occasionally a driver can overcome the deficit and finish well. That is what happened in last fall’s Geico 500 when the No. 15 earned a third-place finish, which was the eighth top-10 in the past 10 races.

2. Matt Kenseth
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 11.83
Career avg. finish: 18.6 in 31 attempts

Streaks are difficult to come by on plate tracks, so not much can be read into interruptions. Kenseth swept the top five in 2012 and then followed that with an eighth in spring 2013. Last fall he finished second—and four strong runs in six races makes him as close to a sure-thing as players will find on this capricious track.

3. Kyle Larson
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 13.00 (2 starts)
Career avg. finish: 13.0 in 2 attempts

Traditional wisdom held that rookies were not supposed to be strong on plate tracks because the veterans did not want to draft with them. That has changed considerably in recent seasons since preference has nothing to do with reality and the veterans and Young Guns are forced to race side-by-side. Larson stayed in the lead draft in both ‘Dega duels last year and had a worst finish of 17th.

4. David Ragan
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 13.83
Career avg. finish: 16.5 in 16 attempts

Ragan’s position among the top-10, on the three-year average grid is entirely due to his 2012 and 2013 performance with Front Row Motorsports. He finished seventh or better in those four races and won the spring 2013 event. His last two results were well down the order in the 30s, but the same kind of erratic result is noticeable for all drivers. Ragan will be in good equipment this week and he is capable of earning another top-10.

5. Greg Biffle
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 14.17
Career avg. finish: 19.0 in 24 attempts

Like most of the top-five drivers, four strong runs in the past six races are enough to make the charts. Biffle finished second in this race last year, has a fifth and sixth-place finish to his credit, and one other result just outside the top 10. A strong run here could help reverse the trend at Roush-Fenway Racing before Biffle heads to Kansas—a track that has traditionally been extremely kind to him.

6. AJ Allmendinger
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 14.33 (3 starts)
Career avg. finish: 27.1 in 12 attempts

Allmendinger has made only three starts in the past six races and that factors into this week’s handicap. He finished on the lead lap in all three events with a best of fifth last May and a worst of 23rd in the fall. Most of the remaining efforts during his career have been in the 30s, which calls into question his ability to stay out of trouble.

7. Brad Keselowski
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 15.17
Career avg. finish: 15.1 in 12 attempts

Two victories in the past six races makes Keselowski a popular pick for this week’s Geico 500, but fantasy owners should also be aware of his crash-induced 38th last spring and a 29th the previous fall. There is no reason to avoid him this week, but use him only if he fits a particular niche.

8. Martin Truex Jr.
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 16.67
Career avg. finish: 21.3 in 20 attempts

Where four strong runs secured a spot in the top five this week, a driver needs only three strong runs in six races to be one of the more successful drivers in the bottom half of the top 10. Truex has three top-15s in that span and two of these were top-10s, which gives his fans hope that he can keep his run of 2015 top-10s alive.

9. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 17.33
Career avg. finish: 15.6 in 28 attempts

Harvick has four top-15s in his latest six races, but there is more hope for him to keep his streak alive than other drivers with the same record. He swept the top 10 last year with a seventh in the spring and a ninth in the fall, which came on the heels of a 12th the previous fall. He also has two DNFs in the past six races due to accidents.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (tied with Stenhouse)
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 17.50
Career avg. finish: 15.5 in 30 attempts

Earnhardt was once the Pied Piper of plate tracks and he earned four victories and had seven consecutive top-twos to his credit in the early 2000s. His position 10th on the charts is more of a sign of weakness on his part than strength given his historical record, but he added another second-place finish in fall 2013.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (tied with Earnhardt)
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 17.50 (4 starts)
Career avg. finish: 17.5 in 4 attempts

Stenhouse belongs much higher in this list, but the last three-year average takes failures to qualify into consideration as if they were finishing results. He mistimed his lap last fall and did not record a speed, which sent him home early and put a 44th next to his name. In the three starts he made at ‘Dega, however, he averaged a finish of 8.67 and that would have placed him at the top of this list.

Others of Note

15. Kasey Kahne
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 19.00
Career avg. finish: 21.1 in 22 attempts

Kahne might have made the top-10 this week if not for back-to-back finishes outside the top 35 in 2013. He crashed early in the spring on lap 42 to finish 42nd and lost two laps in the fall. The remainder of his last six races ended in top-15s, so fantasy players can take a risk on him if they chose.

17. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 19.50
Career avg. finish: 17.5 in 26 attempts

If a driver accumulates enough starts on plate tracks, he will eventually find Victory Lane. Johnson won the 2006 Aaron’s 499 in his ninth start and added another win five years later. Since then, he has only one top-10 and another top-15 in his latest seven attempts, which makes him a risky proposition in salary cap games or ones that control the number of starts available.

23. Jamie McMurray
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 22.17
Career avg. finish: 20.4 in 25 attempts

McMurray has a knack for winning big races. He grabbed his second Talladega victory in 2013 and that is going to be mentioned several times this week, but it does not necessarily make him a good value in light of seven sub-20th-place results in his last nine races.

30. Joey Logano
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 25.33
Career avg. finish: 19.9 in 12 attempts

Logano might have scored a better result than 11th last fall if he had not been motivated by helping his teammate Keselowski get to and maintain the lead. If that had happened, he would have scored his first top-15 in seven races. Logano is going to be much more useful on other courses later in the season, so the temptation to start him at Talladega is not great.

 

Rank

Driver

3 Yr Avg. Finish

Attempts

1.

Clint Bowyer

10.50

6

2.

Matt Kenseth

11.83

6

3.

Kyle Larson

13.00

2

4.

David Ragan

13.83

6

5.

Greg Biffle

14.17

6

6.

AJ Allmendinger

14.33

3

7.

Brad Keselowski

15.17

6

8.

Martin Truex Jr.

16.67

6

9.

Kevin Harvick

17.33

6

10.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.50

6

10.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17.50

4

 

12.

David Gilliland

17.67

6

13.

Austin Dillon

18.00

3

14.

Ryan Newman

18.17

6

15.

Kasey Kahne

19.00

6

16.

Aric Almirola

19.17

6

17.

Jimmie Johnson

19.50

6

17.

Paul Menard

19.50

6

19.

Casey Mears

19.83

6

20.

Michael Waltrip

20.17

6

21.

Jeff Gordon

20.83

6

22.

Denny Hamlin

21.33

6

23.

Jamie McMurray

22.17

6

24.

Landon Cassill

22.83

6

25.

Carl Edwards

23.00

6

26.

Bobby Labonte

23.25

4

27.

Sam Hornish Jr.

24.00

2

27.

Reed Sorenson

24.00

2

29.

Kurt Busch

24.50

6

30.

Joey Logano

25.33

6

31.

Michael Annett

26.50

2

32.

Danica Patrick

26.75

4

32.

Cole Whitt

26.75

4

34.

Trevor Bayne

28.00

6

35.

Tony Stewart

30.00

5

36.

Josh Wise

30.33

6

37.

Michael McDowell

31.17

6

38.

Justin Allgaier

32.00

3

39.

Alex Bowman

35.50

2

40.

JJ Yeley

38.40

5

 

Exercise Caution

Most caution flags: 11, 2004 Aaron's 499
Fewest caution flags: 0 (2 times), 2002 EA Sports 500, 1997 Winston 500
Average number of caution flags per race: 5.5

Final Caution, last five races:
October 2015: Lap 189 of 194 (to set up second green-white-checkered finish): 5-car accident on backstretch (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, David Gilliland, Michael Annett, and Greg Biffle)
May 2014: 188 of 188 (on last lap): debris
October 2013: 188 of 188: 2-car accident on backstretch (Austin Dillon and Casey Mears)
May 2013: 184 of 192 (to set up green-white-checkered finish): 12-car accident on backstretch (Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, JJ Yeley, Danica Patrick, Bobby Labonte, David Stremme, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael Waltrip)
October 2012: 189 of 189 (last lap of a green-white-checkered): 25-car accident in turn 4 (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Jimmie Johnson, Dave Blaney, Regan Smith, Michael Waltrip, Casey Mears, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr., David Gilliland, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Travis Kvapil, and Tony Stewart).

Most caution laps: 62, 1972 Winston 500
Fewest caution laps: 0 (2 times), 2002 EA Sports 500, 1997 Winston 500
Average number of caution laps per race: 28.5

Leading the way

Most leaders: 29, 2010 Aaron's 499
Fewest leaders: 4, 1971 Winston 500
Average number of leaders: 13.7

Most lead changes: 88 (2 times), 2011 Aaron's 499, 2010 Aaron's 499
Fewest lead changes: 13, 1973 Winston 500
Average number of lead changes: 40.2

Victory Lane

Last five winners at Talladega (starting position):
October 2015: Brad Keselowski (5)
May 2014: Denny Hamlin (34)
October 2013: Jamie McMurray (9)
May 2013: David Ragan (19)
October 2012: Matt Kenseth (15)

Worst starting position for race winner: 36th, Jeff Gordon: 2000 DieHard 500

A race at Talladega has been won by the pole sitter 13 times and from the front row 33 times in 91 races.

Recent races won from the pole:
April 2007: Jeff Gordon, Aaron's 499
April 1998: Bobby Labonte, DieHard 500
July 1995: Sterling Marlin, DieHard 500
July 1990: Dale Earnhardt Sr., DieHard 500

Active winners at Talladega
Jeff Gordon: 6
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 5
Brad Keselowski: 3
Clint Bowyer: 2
Jimmie Johnson: 2
Jamie McMurray: 2
Kyle Busch: 1
Denny Hamlin: 1
Kevin Harvick: 1
Matt Kenseth: 1
David Ragan: 1
Tony Stewart: 1
Brian Vickers: 1
Michael Waltrip: 1

First time winners at Talladega:
Brad Keselowski, 2009 Aaron's 499
Brian Vickers, 2006 UAW-Ford 500
Ken Schrader, 1988 Talladega DieHard 500
Phil Parsons, 1988 Winston 500
Davey Allison, 1987 Winston 500
Bobby Hillin Jr, 1986 Talladega 500
Ron Bouchard, 1981 Talladega 500
Lennie Pond, 1978 Talladega 500
Dick Brooks, 1973 Talladega 500
Richard Brickhouse, 1976 Talladega 500

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Talladega race they started:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3)
Justin Allgaier (2)
Brendan Gaughan (2)
Kyle Larson (2)
Ryan Blaney (1)

Aric Almirola blew an engine and failed to finish his first race in 2007, but has been running at the end of the last nine.
Austin Dillon crashed on lap 187 of 188 in his first start in fall 2013, but has been running at the end of the last two.
Danica Patrick failed to finish her first race in 2013, but has been running at the end of the last three.
Cole Whitt failed to finish his first race in 2012, but has been running at the end of the last two.

Great Starts

Active drivers with top-10s in their first start on this track:
Brad Keselowski: first (2009)
Kurt Busch: third (2001)
Tony Stewart: fifth (1999)
Jimmie Johnson: seventh (2002)
Kyle Larson: ninth (2014)
Joey Logano: ninth (2009)

Current Streaks

At Talladega
Clint Bowyer, three top-15s
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., two top-10s
Kevin Harvick, two top-10s

On restrictor-plate, superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona)
Clint Bowyer, four top-10s
Casey Mears, three top-10s
Kevin Harvick, two top-10s

In 2015
Jeff Gordon, six top-10s
Jimmie Johnson, three top-fives
Matt Kenseth, two 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.