Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Cup Veterans’ Worst Tracks (By Average Finish)

Watching some of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing of the past few weeks has yielded the usual talk of ace drivers at different tracks, the best of the best, cream of the crop, etc., etc., etc.

But at one point there was mention of this or that driver — can’t recall who — who was downright terrible at said track. Like, hopeless. Could barely get a top 20 to save their life, let alone a top 10. And this was a driver plenty of people consider one of the best in the sport.

So it got me thinking: at which tracks are these drivers the worst?

Think about it: you’re a championship NASCAR driver and everyone sits around talking about how great you are at road courses, or superspeedways, or short tracks. They put your production at Auto Club Speedway on a golden pedestal. They tell tales around the campfire of the time you won three straight at Bristol Motor Speedway.

No one talks about how terrible you are at a track, though, unless you’re, say, a 20-time loser of the Daytona 500 or something. And even then, it’s not so much that you’re bad at the track. You just never won a race. A crown jewel race of NASCAR, sure, but you could have five second-place finishes to your name there and be considered, all in all, a decent racer at that track. Just the bridesmaid, not the bride.

But there are drivers out there who are actually kinda… not great at some of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Maybe you’re aware, maybe not (and maybe you’re a fan of said driver and have blocked it from your mind).

Ground rules: 19 drivers, all of whom are full-time competitors in the Cup Series in 2017 and have at least five full years of experience before this year. We’re looking at the tracks at which they have their worst average finish.

And they are:

Daytona International Speedway

Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray

The funniest one here is Jamie McMurray, because he has two wins to his credit at Daytona — not exactly someone one would think of as a poor restrictor plate driver. But that’s the thing about Daytona, of course: it can be such a crapshoot with regards to the finishing order that finishes over the years can vary wildly. So yeah, while McMurray has two wins, he’s also finished 30th or worse 14 times, including the first five races of his career there. Ouch.

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick exits Atlanta earlier this year with a 17.3 average finish, which probably doesn’t sound terrible — because it isn’t. That just so happens to be his worst average finish across all current Cup tracks. I’d totally use that as an argument for his eventual Hall of Fame inclusion, by the way.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill

Am I the only one who finds the fact that Kurt Busch’s worst average finish (21.8) is at his home track fairly amusing? I mean, I’m sure he doesn’t, but…

Talladega Superspeedway

Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman

Little shock that the other superspeedway on the circuit also houses the worst average finish for four different drivers. Kasey Kahne’s especially unlucky at a 22.1, with just six top 10s in 27 starts (though he finished fifth there earlier this year, driving the average up a little bit).

Sonoma Raceway

Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, David Ragan

I feel like David Ragan is the kind of guy that NASCAR teams in the early 2000s and prior would have subbed out on road courses (or put him in an additional car that needed to qualify its way in on time) because of his lack of road course racing prowess. He has an average of 30.7 at Sonoma, and his 25.6 at Watkins Glen International isn’t much better.

Watkins Glen International

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bear in mind once the media circus surrounding Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final full-time season comes to Watkins Glen: he’s not very good there, with just an average finish of 21.7. He’s never won there, and realistically, that’s not going to change later this summer.

Darlington Raceway

AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard

The Track Too Tough to Tame remains the worst on the circuit for AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard, whose average finishes sit at 25.7 and 24.9, respectively. Please, please never stick them in your fantasy lineup. Doesn’t matter how good the throwback scheme is that year.

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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