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Statistically Speaking

Irwin Tools Night Race Stats

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

This week’s race: Irwin Tools Night Race
Traditional Name: Volunteer 500
Other Notable Names: Sharpie 500, Goody's 500, Bud 500, Busch 500

For those who think stock car racing has gotten a little big for its britches, it’s time to put on an old pair of faded blue jeans and a t-shirt with the arms cutoff and head to the short track.

Bristol.

That one single word sends shivers up the spine tens of thousands of fans who grew up in the grandstands of their local bullring. For all the improvements made to this half-mile track, it still evokes exhaust fumes, engine growls, and vertigo. It only takes about 15 seconds to get around this joint and there is no way to watch every bit of significant action. Bristol Motor Speedway is sensory overload—and folks love it.

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: 9.20 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 9.2 in 5 attempts

One doesn’t get many opportunities to see Stenhouse ranked among the top 10, much less at the top of the leaderboard. He not only has the best average finish this week, he has gotten progressively better each time he comes to the track. Stenhouse enters with a three-race, top-10 streak at Bristol.

2. Kyle Larson
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 9.67 (3 starts)
Career avg. finish: 9.7 in 3 attempts

Larson has graced the top-10 list a few times this year and he has been uneven in the races that followed. In his second full season, he is closer to his grass roots than most of the others in the field and surely knows how to wield a car around this bullring. He posted the fastest single lap in Friday morning’s practice session with a 129.833 mph.

3. Paul Menard
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 11.00
Career avg. finish: 18.8 in 17 attempts

It is fitting that the first driver on this week’s list to start all six of the most recent races is nevertheless a sleeper. Menard is having a career year, but his averages are not usually enough to get him profiled among the top 10. With six results of 11th or better in his last seven Bristol races and a bunch of top-15s in 2015, he is one of this week’s greatest values.

4. Jeff Gordon (tied with Bowyer)
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 11.67
Career avg. finish: 12.0 in 45 attempts

Gordon has a share of the most wins by an active driver with five, but the latest of these came more than a decade ago in 2002. If he wants to break his current tie with the Busch Bros., he has only one more chance. He might have a shot (unless the Irwin Tools Night Race has a late-race restart) because he finished third at Bristol this spring.

4. Clint Bowyer (tied with Gordon)
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 11.67
Career avg. finish: 15.8 in 19 attempts

After getting spun from the pack last week at Michigan and finishing in the 40s, Bowyer desperately needs a strong showing in the final three regular season races. The only problem is that Bristol can smell desperation on a driver and often sets out to put him in his place. Bowyer is a free agent now that Michael Waltrip Racing has announced they will not field a car in 2016 and this will be an interview of sorts.

6. Matt Kenseth
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 13.00
Career avg. finish: 11.8 in 31 attempts

Kenseth has a chance to tie the Busch Bros. and Gordon for the most wins among active drivers this week. Bristol dominance often comes in waves and this spring Kenseth sat of the pole, dominated the top five, and won the Food City 500. He was second-fastest in Friday morning’s practice.

7. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 14.17
Career avg. finish: 14.5 in 27 attempts

Johnson’s position among the top 10 this week is fairly remarkable in light of the fact that he has three sub-15th-place finishes in the last six races. All three of those results were marred by incidents. His average could have been much worse because he also had problems in his latest two efforts before scoring back-to-back top-fives.

8. Justin Allgaier
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 14.67 (3 starts)
Career avg. finish: 14.7 in 3 attempts

Allgaier joins Stenhouse, Larson, and Menard as one of this week’s freshest faces among the top 10. He has swept the top 20 in three starts and scored an impressive eighth this March. The best thing about him is that he is cheap in salary cap games—only $10 in NASCAR Fantasy Live—and that allows players to stretch their budget.

9. Greg Biffle (tied with Logano)
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 15.17
Career avg. finish: 12.6 in 25 attempts

Biffle entered the Food City 500 with a four-race streak of top-15s, but a mistimed fuel stop before the halfway point cost him the first of seven laps he lost in that event. Ultimately he finished 30th and that snapped a six-race streak in which he had been running on the lead lap each time.

9. Joey Logano (tied with Biffle)
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 15.17
Career avg. finish: 20.0 in 13 attempts

For some reason Logano is much stronger in the summer under the lights than during the spring. His last four Irwin Tools Night Races ended in a sweep of the top 15 and a victory last year. His past four Food City 500s have all landed outside that mark including a 40th this April.

Others of Note

17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 17.83
Career avg. finish: 13.0 in 31 attempts

Earnhardt crashed and failed to finish his first Bristol race in 2000. Since then, he was mostly error free and made it to the end of almost every race with an unwrinkled car—until last August. He retired from the Irwin Tools Night Race with crash damage on lap 176 and failed to go the full distance again this spring with a bent up Chevy.

19. Brad Keselowski
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 19.00
Career avg. finish: 15.1 in 11 attempts

Two of Keselowski’s last six races ended comfortably in the top three with a best of second in this race last year. Unfortunately he also has three 30-something results in that same span of time and that has spoiled his six-race average. All three of his bad finishes were the result of crash damage.

20. Kurt Busch
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 19.67
Career avg. finish: 14.5 in 29 attempts

If Busch wants to break out of the three-way tie for the most wins this season, he is going to have to keep his car in one piece. Four of his last six races have been marred by crash damage, but he has not lacked strength. Busch’s other two results landed in the top five including a fifth in this race last year.

25. Martin Truex Jr.
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 23.83
Career avg. finish: 20.7 in 19 attempts

Often a switch flips on rhythm courses like Bristol and once that happens, drivers rattle off a consistent string of strong runs. Truex finished second then third in summer 2011/spring 2012, but those are his only top-10s on this track. He came close in the next two races with an 11th and 12th before slipping to 20th or worse in each of his past four attempts.

27. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Bristol: 25.17
Career avg. finish: 15.0 in 19 attempts

If a player is going to leave Harvick in the garage any time between now and the Chase, Bristol is the place to park him. Three of his last attempts on this track ended in the 30s and he could only muster an 11th last year after leading the field to green from the pole. He was seventh fastest in Friday morning’s practice at Bristol, but he needs to contend for top-fives to be a good value at his level. 

 

Rank

Driver

Avg. Finish

Attempts

1.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

9.20

5

2.

Kyle Larson

9.67

3

3.

Paul Menard

11.00

6

4.

Jeff Gordon

11.67

6

4.

Clint Bowyer

11.67

6

6.

Matt Kenseth

13.00

6

7.

Jimmie Johnson

14.17

6

8.

Justin Allgaier

14.67

3

9.

Greg Biffle

15.17

6

9.

Joey Logano

15.17

6

 

11.

Kasey Kahne

15.33

6

12.

Austin Dillon

16.33

3

12.

Ryan Newman

16.33

6

14.

Kyle Busch

16.80

5

15.

Tony Stewart

17.00

4

16.

Jamie McMurray

17.67

6

17.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

17.83

6

18.

Carl Edwards

18.50

6

19.

Brad Keselowski

19.00

6

20.

Kurt Busch

19.67

6

21.

Denny Hamlin

20.67

6

22.

AJ Allmendinger

21.50

4

23.

David Gilliland

22.33

6

24.

Danica Patrick

22.83

6

25.

Martin Truex Jr.

23.83

6

26.

Aric Almirola

24.00

6

27.

Kevin Harvick

25.17

6

28.

Reed Sorenson

26.00

3

29.

Travis Kvapil

26.25

4

30.

Casey Mears

26.33

6

31.

Sam Hornish Jr.

26.50

2

32.

David Ragan

26.67

6

33.

Alex Bowman

28.00

3

34.

JJ Yeley

29.00

6

34.

Michael Annett

29.00

3

36.

Landon Cassill

29.17

6

37.

Brett Moffitt

29.50

2

38.

Michael McDowell

30.50

6

39.

Bobby Labonte

31.00

3

40.

Josh Wise

32.00

6

41.

Cole Whitt

32.33

3

42.

Mike Bliss

40.25

4

 

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

Final Caution, last five races:
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)
March 2013: Lap 456 of 500: 1-car accident in turn 3 (Jimmie Johnson)

Most caution laps: 167, 1965 Volunteer 500
Fewest caution laps: 0, 1971 Volunteer 500
Average number of caution laps per race: 63.5

Leading the way

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

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

Victory Lane

Last five winners at Bristol (starting position):
April 2015: Matt Kenseth (1)
August 2014: Joey Logano (5)
March 2014: Carl Edwards (12)
August 2013: Matt Kenseth (5)
March 2013: Kasey Kahne (2)
August 2012: Denny Hamlin (8)

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 109 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
Jeff Gordon: 5
Matt Kenseth: 4
Carl Edwards: 3
Brad Keselowski: 2
Jimmie Johnson: 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 1
Denny Hamlin: 1
Kevin Harvick: 1
Kasey Kahne: 1
Tony Stewart: 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

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Bristol race they started:
Paul Menard (16)
Brad Keselowski (11)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5)
Justin Allgaier (3)
Alex Bowman (3)
Austin Dillon (3)
Kyle Larson (3)
Cole Whitt (3)
Trevor Bayne (2)
Matt DiBenedetto: (1)

AJ Allmendinger had been running at the end of all 13 races he started before he was eliminated in a crash this spring.
Kyle Busch had been running at the end of all 19 races he started before he was eliminated in a crash last August on lap 442.
Joey Logano blew an engine and failed to finish in 2009, but he has been running at the end of 12 races since.
Danica Patrick crashed and failed to finish in 2012, but she has been running at the end of five races since.

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
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., three top-10s
Matt Kenseth, two top-fives
Jimmie Johnson, two top-fives
Tony Stewart, two top-10s

On short tracks
Jeff Gordon, five top-10s
Matt Kenseth, four top-10s
Jimmie Johnson, two top-fives

In 2015
Matt Kenseth, six top-10s
Brad Keselowski, six top-10s
Carl Edwards, three top-10s
Kevin Harvick, two top-fives
Joey Logano, 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.