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Chase Elliott
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Statistically Speaking

Turning right on the road courses

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: December 31, 2019, 3:16 pm ET

When asked about how he’d won so many races, Richard Petty once quipped that it was easy: “Go as fast as you can down the straightaway and then turn left.” Road courses require a slightly different set of skills and driver have to navigate the right turns just as effectively.

Road courses have been part of the schedule throughout NASCAR’s history. For most seasons, it didn’t make too much difference what type of road courses they were. Drivers in the Golden Era of racing spent about as much time off the course as on it, so technical tracks and high speed tracks were much the same.

Over time, the drivers have become more proficient at road racing. Every race counts and a win at Sonoma Raceway of Watkins Glen International has the same effect as any of the other 24 events during the regular season. Those races are a good way to lock into the championship for a driver with special skills or a superior strategy. The Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval is a good way to advance from one round to another in the playoffs.

With the addition of the Roval, NASCAR now has three distinct road course types. Sonoma is a technical track that requires precision. Watkins Glen is a wide-open speed course with dangerous choke points. The Roval is as close to an enclosed street course as NASCAR is likely to visit in our lifetime.


While the courses are distinct, they share a personality much as the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks do. Different skills are required on every track, but the cream tends to rise to the top.

In the past few years, two drivers have emerged as the best on this course type.

Dating back to the beginning of the 2017 season Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott have won three road course races apiece, leaving only two courses available for the competition. Truex has wins at Sonoma in the last two seasons and one at the Glen in 2017. Elliott won the last two races at Watkins Glen and overcame a crash into the Turn 1 wall last fall to win on the Roval.

The other two race winners in the past three seasons were Kevin Harvick at Sonoma in 2017 and Ryan Blaney at the Roval in 2018.

If a fantasy player is setting multiple lineups in any game, these four drivers deserve to anchor at least one roster.

Let’s start with the big winners: If not for a blown engine this summer in the Toyota 350k at Sonoma, Elliott would almost certainly enter the 2020 season with a six-race streak of top-10s. As it stands, he has five results of sixth or better in that span of events which are highlighted by his three wins.

In the past two races at the Glen, he has not only won, but showed a lot of dominance along the way with a perfect Driver Rating of 150 in 2019 and a near-perfect 149 in 2018. If not for his accident midway through the BoA Roval 400k, he would have had a similar number there.

Truex was perfect in regard to top-10s on road courses last year. His victory at Sonoma was followed by a second at the Glen when he was the only driver capable of running with Elliott at various stages of the race. He was leading the inaugural Roval race in 2018 before he was run over from behind by Jimmie Johnson in a desperate attempt to erase the winless streak on the No. 48. If that had not happened, he would enter 2020 with seven-race top-10 streak on the twisty tracks.

As it currently stands, Harvick is the driver with the longest active top-10 streak on road courses. He has finished that well in his last six races and over the course of the last three years he has only one sub-10th-place result to his credit. That gives him the best three-year average of 6.88 and it is highlighted by his 2017 Sonoma win.

Along with Harvick and Truex, Blaney is the only other driver to sweep the top 10 last year. Proving that his 2018 Roval win was not a fluke, he backed it up with a third at Sonoma last year and a fifth at the Glen. He finished eighth at the Roval. During the past three years, Blaney has finished worse than 12th only one time on a road course and that was a 34th at Sonoma in 2018 after he suffered a power steering failure.

Clint Bowyer earned only one top-10 last year, but he came close with an 11th at Sonoma. His best effort netted a fourth on the Charlotte Roval. In 2018 he scored a pair of third-place finishes at Sonoma and the Roval with an 11th at the Glen. In 2017, he was in the top five in both road course races, which gives him the second-best average finish of 7.38 during the past three years.

Road ringers have become a thing of the past, but fantasy players can still find some great bargains on the twisty tracks.

Last year in the Toyota 350k, Matt DiBenedetto scored a remarkable fourth-place finish that kicked off an incredible summer. Part of his surge bore a sixth at the Glen and he barely missed sweeping the top 10 with an 11th at the Roval. In better equipment this year, he should be able to keep that streak alive.

Michael McDowell failed to crack the top 10 on a road course last year, but he has been a much better value on this track type than the unrestricted, intermediate speedways. In 2017 he swept the top 15 with a 14th at Sonoma and a 12th at the Glen. Last year he added a 12th at the Roval and during the past three years, he has finished worse than 18th only twice in eight races.

 

3-Year Avg. Fin
Road courses

Driver

Avg. Fin

Avg. Start

Starts

Kevin Harvick

6.88

14.50

8

Clint Bowyer

7.38

12.63

8

Martin Truex Jr.

8.13

5.63

8

Denny Hamlin

8.75

14.25

8

Chase Elliott

8.88

5.75

8

Kurt Busch

9.50

17.63

8

Alex Bowman

9.50

12.17

6

Ryan Blaney

10.00

11.38

8

Kyle Busch

12.75

7.13

8

Brad Keselowski

13.88

15.75

8

Aric Almirola

15.00

17.14

7

Kyle Larson

15.63

3.38

8

Chris Buescher

15.75

14.88

8

Daniel Suarez

15.88

13.25

8

Erik Jones

16.13

17.25

8

Jimmie Johnson

16.38

10.38

8

Matt DiBenedetto

16.88

25.88

8

Michael McDowell

17.00

16.00

8

William Byron

18.83

8.33

6

Ryan Newman

19.75

21.88

8

Joey Logano

19.75

11.38

8

Paul Menard

21.50

20.75

8

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

22.75

19.75

8

Ty Dillon

24.63

29.13

8

David Ragan

24.88

27.25

8

Austin Dillon

25.50

25.63

8

Matt Tifft

25.67

30.00

3

Parker Kligerman

25.80

30.80

5

Daniel Hemric

26.50

19.75

4

Ross Chastain

27.60

34.60

5

Bubba Wallace

28.00

30.50

6

Ryan Preece

28.67

21.00

3

Landon Cassill

30.57

33.86

7

Corey LaJoie

31.50

30.50

4

JJ Yeley

31.67

34.33

3

Timmy Hill

34.00

36.50

2

Cody Ware

35.00

35.67

3

Josh Bilicki

35.50

34.00

4

Reed Sorenson

37.00

37.67

3

 

See Also
The Oddities: 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.