HomeSportsDr. Diandra: Ranking of NASCAR's Greatest Superspeedway Racers of All Time

Dr. Diandra: Ranking of NASCAR’s Greatest Superspeedway Racers of All Time

Some drivers seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to superspeedway racing. Some drivers, like Denny Hamlin, count superspeedway wins as part of their portfolio. Others, llike Ricky Stenhouse Jr.have only won on superspeedways.

That’s been true throughout NASCAR history, which has me thinking about which drivers were the best superspeedway racers of all time.

I’m only considering Daytona and Talladega because superspeedway-like Atlanta is in its own league. I also exclude Duels and other qualifying races.

To qualify, a driver must have completed a minimum of seven races between the two circuits and achieved at least two wins. Of the more than 3,000 drivers who have completed at least one Cup Series race, only 40 drivers meet my criteria for inclusion.

Some drivers on the list have completed nearly 100 races, while others have completed only a dozen or two. My ranking criteria takes that into account by using win percentage – the percentage of wins over total races completed – as a primary factor.

The second primary ranking factor is the quality of workmanship. NASCAR uses a linear scale for awarding points, but I believe the difference between first place and second place is much greater than the difference between 20th and 21st place. So I’m using a non-linear scale that rewards drivers much more for top-five and top-10 finishes. Drivers will not earn points for finishes of 36th and above.

I added the proportion of races in which each driver finished in the top five into these figures and gave drivers who completed many races a small bump as a reward for their continued excellence. Here’s how the rankings came together.

No. 1: Dale Earnhardt Sr.

No surprise here, even though Earnhardt’s winning percentage at 14.4% is only the fourth highest among all drivers considered. The Intimidator earns the most average points per race of all drivers with 49.8 on a scale of zero to 100.

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His average is 6.6 points per race more than the next highest driver. In addition to 13 victories (10 at Talladega and 3 at Daytona), Earnhardt posted nine second-place finishes, thirteen third-place finishes and finished in the top five in half of the 90 superspeedway races he completed.

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No. 2: Fireball Roberts

Fireball Roberts comes in second in the survey for having the highest winning percentage. Roberts won 36.4% of all starts – four of the eleven superspeedway races he completed. He has the third most average points per race (43.2) and his top five percentage of 45.4% is the third highest among contenders.

Roberts’ most impressive statistic is that he won four of the five superspeedway races he finished. Roberts set that record entirely at Daytona, after dying in 1964 from injuries sustained on the track. Talladega wouldn’t host its first race until 1969.

No. 3: David Pearson

David Pearson made 70 superspeedway starts (45 at Daytona and 25 at Talladega) with nine wins and 30 top-five finishes. That equates to a win rate of 12.8% and a top-five finish rate of 42.8%. He averaged 42.7 points per race, despite a DNF rate of 37.1% (26 races).

No. 4: Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed 71 superspeedway races in his career with 10 wins and nine second places. He won six times in Talladega And four at Daytona. His overall winning percentage of 14.1% is only three-tenths of a percent less than his father’s winning percentage. Junior finished in the top five 35.2% of the time in superspeedway races.

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Cale Yarborough’s numbers are close, with 11 wins in 82 races: a winning percentage of 13.4%. Yarborough beats Junior in percentage of top-five finishes 37.8 to 35.2; However, Junior averaged 2.5 points more per race than Yarborough. I listed Yarborough first because Junior had the advantage of more reliable equipment. Junior’s DNF rate due to engine failure is only 4.2%, while Yarborough’s is 23.2%.

No. 6: Richard Petty

Richard Petty ran 110 superspeedway races and won 12, giving him a winning percentage of 10.9%. Petty completed more superspeedway races than anyone in the top 10. Even considering his performance declined in his later years, King still finished in the top five in more than one in every three superspeedway races he entered.

No. 7: Bobby Allison

Bobby Allison’s name always comes up in discussions of superspeedways, usually because his 1987 accident at Talladega was the catalyst for NASCAR to adopt the restriction plate. But that’s far from Allison’s only superspeedway claim to fame. His 10 wins in 85 starts (11.8% winning percentage) and 34.1% top-five percentage place him at No. 7 on the all-time superspeedway racers list.

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Ryan Blaney has finished first or second in the last three Talladega races.

No. 8: Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon has a healthy winning percentage of 13.0%, or 12 out of 92 superspeedway races. That winning percentage is just below Yarborough’s. Gordon is not higher on the list because he achieved fewer second and third places than the aforementioned drivers.

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Honorable mentions

Davey Allison’s winning percentage of 17.2% represents five wins in just 29 races. We’ll never know if he could have maintained that percentage, but anyone with a higher winning percentage than Dale Earnhardt Sr. would like to be mentioned here.

Pete Hamilton has staggering stats on superspeedways, with three wins in twelve races. That’s a winning percentage of 25%, along with a top-five percentage of 50% and an average of 43.7 points per superspeedway race. He gets an honorable mention for doing the most in the shortest amount of time. His two Talladega wins, plus the Daytona 500, all came in 1970 while driving for Petty Enterprises.

Active drivers

Only two contemporary drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon) topped the list, but some Drivers are still adding to their statistics.

Of the drivers still hoping to move up the list, Ryan Blaney has only completed 37 superspeedway races so far, but he has four wins and a 10.8% winning percentage. That winning percentage is the 13th highest on my list and virtually the same as Richard Petty’s. In addition to four wins, Blaney also has four second-place finishes at the superspeedway. Overall, he ranks 13th on the list.

Denny Hamlin has five wins, one second place and eight third places in 73 races. His winning percentage is only 6.84%, but he has a top-five finish rate of 30.1%. That percentage in the top five is the highest among all active drivers who qualified for this list and puts him at 14th overall.

Brad Keselowski has seven superspeedway wins: six at Talladega and one at Daytona. That’s a healthy win rate of 11.7%. However, he finishes in 20th place, because he also fails to finish about a third of the races he starts.

Of the remaining active drivers on the list, Jimmie Johnson ranks 21st and Joey Logano fittingly lands at number 22. Hendrick drivers Chase Elliott and William Byron are 27th and 28th. Kyle Busch is in 30th place, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at 31st and Austin Dillon rounds out the current drivers at 36th.

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