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Martin Truex Jr.
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Statistically Speaking

Ride the rhythm: Short, flat tracks

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 21, 2020, 5:37 pm ET

After unrestricted, intermediate speedways, flat tracks make up the second-greatest set of tracks on which NASCAR drivers run.

And just as the unrestricted, intermediate speedways can be separated into similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and 2-mile tracks, the flat courses can be divided into the 2.5-milers and short, flat tracks measuring 1-mile or less than a mile in length.

There is a lot of overlap in some of the categories we use for handicapping. Two of the three short tracks are minimally banked. And while Martinsville and Richmond are distinct from Bristol, it is often helpful to look at those three tracks in tandem.

The same is true about the short, flat tracks. Adding Phoenix and New Hampshire to those two short courses can often give us a distinctive look at who should be considered the top value in the seven weeks on these venues.


Three drivers swept the top 10 on short, flat tracks last year. Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin shared the distinction of having the best average finish during the 2019 season with a 3.57.

We will give the nod to Truex as the top-ranked driver of 2019, however, since he scored three victories with a sweep of Richmond and a dominant win at Martinsville (for which he had a perfect Driver Rating). Truex has been closing in on a short track win for quite some time and with solid runs at New Hampshire and Phoenix in recent seasons, it was no surprise that he finally achieved that victory on a minimally-banked course.

Dating back to the April 2017 Richmond race, Truex earned 17 top-10s in 20 starts on this course type. The overwhelming majority of those were top-fives. This year the strategy of the team seemed to change as they went for broke on a number of weekends. That caused Truex to fall out of the top 10 on some other course types, but on the short, flats he finished eighth or better each week.

Hamlin has long been regarded as a flat track master. When he lost some of his dominance in the previous two seasons, he slipped everywhere and in 2018 he was outside of the top 10 a little more often than we would have liked on this course type.

He made up for that deficit in 2019. Hamlin was much more consistent than Truex with a sweep of the top five in seven races. He wouldn't earn his first win until Phoenix, but that was a clutch performance that got him to the playoffs. Thirteen of Hamlin’s 37 wins have come on short, flat tracks encompassing every curse in this type.

Kevin Harvick was the third driver to sweep the top 10 on short, flat tracks last year. His average finish was 5.57, but in some ways he may be stronger even than Truex or Hamlin. While four of his seven top-10s last year were outside the top five, they are part of a 16-race streak of results 10th or better on this track type. The only driver who has been better in that span of time on average failed to sweep the top 10 last year when he had a self-imposed problem at Martinsville in the fall.

Kyle Busch entered the First Data 500 with his own 16-race top-10 streak going, but he lost his patience in traffic and damaged his Chevrolet. Busch managed to finish on the lead lap, but a 14th-place finish was not among his top 50% and made him a marginal value in Pick ‘Em games. Still, over the course of those same 16 races in which Harvick swept the top 10 and accrued an average of 4.88, Busch’s average was 3.69.

Brad Keselowski was another driver who earned six top-10s in 2019. He got his poor performance out of the way early with a 19th in the TicketGuardian 500k at Phoenix. He rebounded with a victory in the STP 500 for which he earned a perfect Driver Rating. He finished fourth and third in the fall races at Richmond and Martinsville and while his best performances on the 1-mile flat tracks was a 10th, his salary cap was much more manageable than any of the drivers listed above.

Ryan Blaney scored five top-10s on the short, flat tracks last year. His Achilles Heel was Richmond with a pair of results that saw him struggle badly enough to fall off the lead lap in both events. Richmond is disctinctly different than the other short, flat tracks, however. Sometimes it can respond like the 2-mile tracks and when it is an outlier, it can be disregarded. Players will want to be cautious in 2020 on the .75-mile course, but they should feel confident in the No. 12 on the other tracks.

Ryan Newman should also be considered as a top dark horse contender on short, flat tracks. He earned his first victory at New Hampshire in 2002 and this is a course type that is often kind to former dirt track drivers. In 2019 Newman score four top-10s in seven races plus another 12th. Dollar for dollar, he was one of the best values.

One of the drivers who should be avoided on short, flat tracks is Chase Elliott. He has a great overall record on there, but last year was abysmal. In 2018 he scored top-10s in all but one of these races; four of those were top-fives. Last year, he could manage only one top-10. While that run was a solid second in the spring Martinsville race, it was greatly outbalanced by three sub-25th-place finishes. Two of these terrible results came during his disastrous Round 3 in the playoffs.

 

3-Year Avg. Fin
short, flat tracks

Driver

Avg. Fin

Avg. Start

Starts

Kyle Busch

4.64

7.55

22

Martin Truex Jr.

6.45

6.23

22

Kevin Harvick

7.50

8.86

22

Brad Keselowski

8.50

10.00

22

Denny Hamlin

8.68

7.91

22

Joey Logano

12.68

9.55

22

Ryan Newman

12.91

19.36

22

Clint Bowyer

13.55

13.36

22

Chase Elliott

13.68

9.23

22

Aric Almirola

14.59

16.05

22

Kyle Larson

14.91

10.64

22

Jimmie Johnson

15.18

17.82

22

Ryan Blaney

15.32

7.82

22

Kurt Busch

15.50

10.32

22

Daniel Suarez

15.91

18.32

22

William Byron

17.14

16.43

14

Erik Jones

17.68

11.73

22

Austin Dillon

17.73

21.27

22

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

18.23

18.05

22

Alex Bowman

18.86

13.93

14

Paul Menard

20.36

19.68

22

Ty Dillon

20.77

25.86

22

Chris Buescher

21.95

22.36

22

Bubba Wallace

22.86

26.00

14

Ryan Preece

23.71

21.00

7

Matt Tifft

24.40

30.60

5

Daniel Hemric

24.50

20.50

8

Michael McDowell

25.18

23.09

22

Matt DiBenedetto

25.55

23.82

22

David Ragan

26.05

27.09

22

Ross Chastain

28.86

31.14

14

Landon Cassill

29.62

31.10

21

Corey LaJoie

29.72

31.39

18

Garrett Smithley

31.50

34.50

2

Bayley Currey

31.67

32.00

3

JJ Yeley

31.67

36.67

6

Quin Houff

32.50

33.25

4

Reed Sorenson

32.50

34.08

12

BJ McLeod

32.67

37.67

3

Jeb Burton

33.00

34.00

3

Kyle Weatherman

33.33

37.33

3

Austin Theriault

33.50

34.00

2

Cody Ware

33.75

36.00

4

Gray Gaulding

34.09

33.00

11

Joey Gase

34.20

35.00

5

Timmy Hill

35.25

37.50

8

 

See Also:
2-Mile Tracks
1.5-Mile Tracks
Short Tracks
Road Courses
Pocono and Indy

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.