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Statistically Speaking

Geico 500 Stats

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:05 pm ET

Synopsis: Fantasy NASCAR is often about a driver’s current momentum. Here is a look at significant stats and predictions for this week’s Geico 500 at Talladega.

This week’s race: Geico 500 at Talladega
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)

Streaks are so difficult to create and maintain at Talladega that no one enters the weekend with a better-than 10th-place average finish in the past six races there. That makes a successful racer on this plate track kind of like a weatherman; if one is correct more than half the time, they make the notable list.

There are a lot of familiar names among the top 10, however, and that suggests the cream still rises to the top. There are some very notable drivers well down the order, however, such as Joey Logano in 20th, Denny Hamlin in 25th, and Kasey Kahne in 32nd. That should not overly concern fantasy players though, because each of those racers is capable of finishing with the leaders.

In fact, if a driver’s car cranks on Sunday, they have an almost equal opportunity of finish with the leaders as anyone else in the field.

10 best drivers at Talladega

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

1. Martin Truex Jr.
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 11.83
Career avg. finish: 19.9 in 22 attempts

Truex got off to a rocky start at Talladega. He crashed out of seven of his first 10 attempts, blew an engine once, and was running with crash damage on one other occasion. Despite the damage to his car in 2006, he finished fifth to show just how unpredictable this track can be. Last year he swept the top 10 in both races—one of only three drivers to do so.

2. Clint Bowyer
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 12.00
Career avg. finish: 14.9 in 20 attempts

While anyone can run well on restrictor-plate, superspeedways, Bowyer has been struggling to find chemistry since the drop of the green flag at Daytona International Speedway. He should have been a good value in the 500, but he lost a lap to the leaders and finished only 33rd. Last week, he was 33rd again at Richmond International Raceway and it is going to be hard to trust him this Sunday.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 13.17
Career avg. finish: 14.7 in 32 attempts

Earnhardt regained his reputation as the Pied Piper of plate tracks last year with a sweep of the top-three positions in both Daytona and Talladega races. He won the May Geico 500 and came within a few inches of sweeping Victory Lane last fall. He spun by himself at Daytona this spring, however, and that has to cause some concern among fantasy owners who have already been bitten once.

4. Paul Menard
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 13.50
Career avg. finish: 19.7 in 19 attempts

A driver doesn’t get into the top-five list in terms of three-year averages just by being lucky. Menard has shown a propensity for missing accidents, which has contributed to four results of sixth or better in his last five Talladega tries. Then again, no one can play this form of Russian Roulette forever without the occasional fender bender and he was 36th in fall 2014 after sustaining crash damage.

5. Ryan Newman
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 13.83
Career avg. finish: 20.1 in 28 attempts

Newman is among the top five largely because of consistency. His worst result in the latest five races on this track was an 18th and once an accident in spring 2013 ages out of the formula, he could ascend to the top three if he scores another top-15 this week.

6. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 14.17
Career avg. finish: 16.9 in 28 attempts

Johnson has finished worse than he started in more 61 percent of his starts at Talladega. That’s getting uncomfortably close to a two-thirds failure rate on a track that is unpredictable at best. Johnson has two wins on this track and three other runner-up results, but he is going to be more predictable on other courses later in the year.

7. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 15.17
Career avg. finish: 15.3 in 30 attempts

Harvick is in the same boat at Johnson. It’s not that he is predicted to finish all that badly—after all, he has five top-15s in his last five attempts—but it is difficult to know if he will avoid the almost-inevitable "Big One". Last fall, he would not have advanced out of the Contender Round without a late-race caution that he drew after turning Trevor Bayne on the one and only attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Forget about “Swervin’ Irvan;” he’s been replaced with “Swervin’ Harvick.”

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 17.50
Career avg. finish: 17.5 in 6 attempts

Because it is often a signal of strength, the Fantasy Power Rankings formula looks at failures to qualify as if they were race results. While NASCAR was still experimenting with the qualification format, Stenhouse and several other top-named drivers mistimed their run in October 2014 and he failed to make the show. With that effort removed from the list, he would have an average finish of 12.2, which would place him third on the list between Bowyer and Earnhardt.

9. Carl Edwards
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 18.00
Career avg. finish: 20.8 in 23 attempts

For the past six seasons prior to 2016, NASCAR started 43 cars in each race; Edwards lands in the top 10 with an average finish of 18th, which means he is one of the top performers despite beating only 60 percent of the competition on any given week. That really is as close to a crapshoot as one is ever going to experience.

10. Brad Keselowski
Last six races average finish at Talladega: 18.17
Career avg. finish: 14.8 in 18 attempts

Keselowski has been extremely inconsistent at Talladega with top-fives in his last two fall efforts compared to results outside the top 20 in the last two spring events. One of his strong runs was a victory, however, and that barely tips the balance in his favor over Kurt Busch’s 18.33. 

 

Rank

Driver

Avg. Fin. L3Yr

Attempts

1.

Martin Truex Jr.

11.83

6

2.

Clint Bowyer

12.00

6

3.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

13.17

6

4.

Paul Menard

13.50

6

5.

Ryan Newman

13.83

6

6.

Jimmie Johnson

14.17

6

7.

Kevin Harvick

15.17

6

8.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17.50

6

9.

Carl Edwards

18.00

6

10.

Brad Keselowski

18.17

6

 

11.

Kurt Busch

18.33

6

12.

Aric Almirola

19.17

6

13.

Matt Kenseth

19.67

6

14.

AJ Allmendinger

20.25

4

15.

Cole Whitt

20.40

5

16.

Austin Dillon

20.60

5

17.

Michael Waltrip

21.00

6

18.

Kyle Busch

21.00

5

19.

Joey Logano

21.33

6

20.

David Gilliland

21.67

6

21.

Greg Biffle

21.83

6

22.

Casey Mears

22.33

6

23.

Josh Wise

22.67

6

24.

Denny Hamlin

22.83

6

25.

Jamie McMurray

23.00

6

26.

Kyle Larson

23.00

4

27.

Ryan Blaney

23.00

3

28.

David Ragan

23.33

6

29.

Reed Sorenson

24.00

2

30.

Landon Cassill

24.50

6

31.

Kasey Kahne

25.17

6

32.

Danica Patrick

25.83

6

33.

Bobby Labonte

26.00

4

34.

Matt DiBenedetto

29.00

2

35.

Tony Stewart

29.60

5

36.

Michael McDowell

30.83

6

37.

Michael Annett

31.75

4

38.

Trevor Bayne

33.50

6

39.

Brian Scott

42.50

2

 

 

 

 

 

Regan Smith

6.00

1

 

Chris Buescher

24.00

1

 

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
In 2016: 6.9

Final Caution, last five races:
October 2015: “The Swerve” on lap 196, only attempt at g-w-c, 11-car accident triggered by Kevin Harvick into Trevor Bayne, included Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, David Gilliland, Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., and Alex Bowman 
May 2015: Lap 159 of 188: fluid on the track (from Austin Dillon)
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)

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: 28.4
In 2016: 40.9

Leading the way

Most leaders: 29, 2010 Aaron's 499
Fewest leaders: 4, 1971 Winston 500
Average number of leaders: 13.9
In 2016: 7.6

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: 39.9
In 2016: 19.6

Victory Lane

Last five winners at Talladega (starting position):
October 2015: Joey Logano (10)
May 2015: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4)
October 2015: Brad Keselowski (5)
May 2014: Denny Hamlin (34)
October 2013: Jamie McMurray (9)

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 92 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
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 6
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
Joey Logano: 1

Top-10 All-time Winners:
Dale Earnhardt Sr.: 10
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 6
Jeff Gordon: 6
Bobby Allison: 4
Buddy Baker: 4
Darrell Waltrip: 4
Brad Keselowski: 3
Cale Yarborough: 3
David Pearson: 3
Davey Allison: 3

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

Restrictor-plate, superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona)
Dale Earnhardt Sr.: 13
Jeff Gordon: 12
Cale Yarborough: 12
Richard Petty: 12
David Pearson: 11
Bobby Allison: 10
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 10
Fireball Roberts: 7
Dale Jarrett: 6
Bill Elliott: 6
Buddy Baker: 6

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Talladega race they started:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5)
Matt DiBenedetto (2)
Chris Buescher (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 11.
Danica Patrick failed to finish her first race in 2013, but has been running at the end of the last five.
Cole Whitt failed to finish his first race in 2012, but has been running at the end of the last five.

In two starts, Brian Scott has failed to finish a Talladega race.

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)

Chase Elliott won the pole in his first start in 2015.
Jimmie Johnson won the pole in his first start in 2002 and was awarded the pole by NASCAR’s rule book later that year.
David Gilliland won the pole in his first start in 2006.
Brian Scott won the pole in his first start in 2014.

Current Streaks

At Talladega
Dale Earnhardt Jr., two top-two finishes
Paul Menard, two top-10s
Martin Truex Jr., two top10s

On Restrictor-plate, superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona)
Kyle Busch, three top-10s
Carl Edwards, two top-fives  
Joey Logano, two top-10s
Martin Truex Jr., two top-10s

In 2016
Carl Edwards, six top-10s and back-to-back wins
Kevin Harvick, three top-10s
Joey Logano, three top-10s
Kurt Busch, three top-10s

Previous Columns 

Restrictor-plate, superspeedways 2016 pre-season 
Fall 2015, CampingWorld.com 500 
Spring 2015, Geico 500 

 

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.