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Statistically Speaking

Road Course aces are hard to come by

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: June 3, 2021, 4:56 pm ET

Common opinion holds that Chase Elliott (+215) is the best current road course racer. Common opinion is often wrong.

This time it is dead on.

Since earning his first NASCAR Cup victory at Watkins Glen International in 2018, Elliott has gone on to win five of the last eight races. He finished sixth in the inaugural Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and there are asterisks behind the two races in which he earned results outside the top 20.

Elliott blew an engine at Sonoma in 2019. This spring, he spun off the nose of Denny Hamlin while trying to get into a hole that did not exist. But Elliott’s odds of slightly more than 2/1 at PointsBet Sportsbook are too low to make him a very exciting value.

Moreover – and this is the more important consideration – no one stays on top forever.


So who are some of the other road course aces?

Martin Truex Jr. (+400) is commonly considered the second-best on this track. Common opinion is often outdated.

We won’t know if Truex could have overcome his poor start in the Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) if he had not been involved in an accident with Michael McDowell and Cole Custer, but it was certainly not guaranteed that he would. Truex wasn’t running particularly well before that incident. Of course, no one knew what to expect on the wet track and Truex may have been caught unawares.

Truex has four wins to his credit, the second-most in the field behind Elliott. The last of these came in 2019 before Elliott rattled off four consecutive victories on the track type. Truex finished second to Elliott once and was third in one of those races. His other two efforts landed outside the top five.

Truex is tied at four wins with Kyle Busch (+850). Two of Busch’s wins came deep in the past with back-to-back victories at Watkins Glen and Sonoma in 2008. His last victory on this course type came in 2015, and while he came close in the next seven races with results of seventh or better, he’s mostly struggled since.

Busch crashed out of the inaugural Roval race and has only one top-five in the last seven events. That was a second at Sonoma. Busch would have been one of the top-five contenders two weeks ago at COTA if not for a mistimed pit stop, so he is more than just nominally interesting this week.

After those three drivers, you will find only one more active driver with multiple road course wins. Kevin Harvick (+2000) won the 2006 race at The Glen and in 2017 at Sonoma. In 11 races since that last victory, he has only two more top-fives. One of these was a second at Sonoma in 2018.

Ryan Blaney (+2200), Joey Logano (+1800), Denny Hamlin (+1300), Christopher Bell (+3300), and Kurt Busch (+5000) each have one win apiece.

One thing to note this week, is that stat is not a fluke. Over the course of history, only nine drivers have three or more wins. This is a track type on which drivers tend to develop a level of expertise that is hard to match. Jeff Gordon won six consecutive road course races from 1997 through 2000.

Tony Stewart had three straight in 2004/2005.

Rusty Wallace won three of his four road course races in a clump.

The landscape doesn’t change much when one looks at top-fives over the past five years. Hamlin has eight such finishes to lead the pack. Truex and Elliott tie with seven. Logano has five top-fives while three others, Brad Keselowski (+2800), Busch, and Blaney have four.

With a handful of drivers dominating the way they have, there has not been a lot of room for interlopers, so you will need to make this week’s top-three and –five bets cautiously.

Top-10s are a little more forgiving; 13 drivers have five or more of those in the past five years and they are detailed below.

For the record, Elliott is three wins away from tying Gordon for the most all time at nine.

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Road Course top-10s

Last five years (12 races)

Driver

Top-10s

Martin Truex Jr.

10

 

Chase Elliott

9

Denny Hamlin

9

Kurt Busch

9

Kevin Harvick

9

 

Joey Logano

8

Kyle Busch

8

 

Ryan Blaney

7

Clint Bowyer

7

 

Erik Jones

6

Alex Bowman

6

 

Brad Keselowski

5

AJ Allmendinger

5

 

William Byron

4

Kyle Larson

4

Jamie McMurray

4

 

Jimmie Johnson

3

Michael McDowell

3

 

Matt DiBenedetto

2

Matt Kenseth

2

Ryan Newman

2

Tony Stewart

2

Daniel Suarez

2

Aric Almirola

2

 

Chris Buescher

1

Ross Chastain

1

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1

Kaz Grala

1

Trevor Bayne

1

Christopher Bell

1

Cole Custer

1

Chase Briscoe

1

Carl Edwards

1

Ryan Preece

1

Kasey Kahne

1

Tyler Reddick

1

 

COOKIE-CUTTER KINGS
DRIVER RATING: BRISTOL THROUGH DARLINGTON
SUPERSPEEDWAYS AND THE IRRELEVANCE OF SPEED

 

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.