NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Track Specialists

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Track Specialists

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The NASCAR Cup Series presents as diverse a set of tracks as any racing series in the world. From intermediate ovals to winding road courses, each track has its own special configuration and special set of characteristics. This lineup of tracks is designed to test the NASCAR driver's ability in virtually every racing condition. From the fantasy racing standpoint, it helps to know which drivers succeed at certain facilities. Recent historical information gives us an edge, but we also need to be mindful of current trends and past statistical information in context. We've taken a long look at both and come up with the drivers you need to have at certain style tracks in 20200 for fantasy racing success. Here is our breakdown of track specialists to watch closely this season. This analysis is particularly helpful for weekly lineup leagues and daily fantasy racing.

SHORT-TRACK SPECIALISTS

These stats are based on three-quarter-mile tracks or shorter, including Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Kyle Busch
Car: No. 18
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol29821217
Martinsville29221617
Richmond29611822
Career871654656

The champion had a great season of short track racing and added to what is already an incredible career resume on the NASCAR short tracks.  Busch picked up the win in the spring Bristol race and a runner-up finish in the fall

The NASCAR Cup Series presents as diverse a set of tracks as any racing series in the world. From intermediate ovals to winding road courses, each track has its own special configuration and special set of characteristics. This lineup of tracks is designed to test the NASCAR driver's ability in virtually every racing condition. From the fantasy racing standpoint, it helps to know which drivers succeed at certain facilities. Recent historical information gives us an edge, but we also need to be mindful of current trends and past statistical information in context. We've taken a long look at both and come up with the drivers you need to have at certain style tracks in 20200 for fantasy racing success. Here is our breakdown of track specialists to watch closely this season. This analysis is particularly helpful for weekly lineup leagues and daily fantasy racing.

SHORT-TRACK SPECIALISTS

These stats are based on three-quarter-mile tracks or shorter, including Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Kyle Busch
Car: No. 18
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol29821217
Martinsville29221617
Richmond29611822
Career871654656

The champion had a great season of short track racing and added to what is already an incredible career resume on the NASCAR short tracks.  Busch picked up the win in the spring Bristol race and a runner-up finish in the fall Richmond event.  Those two stood out, but he also nabbed four Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes total on the circuit's bull rings.  An outstanding effort on these small ovals that led to the eventual 2019 Cup Series title.  Now with eight wins at Bristol, Busch ranks among the legends at that track.  Only Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Cale Yarborough have more wins at that facility.  Busch has always been strong and Richmond, and he improves nearly every start at Martinsville.  The driver of the Joe Gibbs No. 18 Toyota is our top short track performer in the series for 2020.

Denny Hamlin
Car: No. 11
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol  28   2   4   9  14
Martinsville  28   5   4  15  21
Richmond  27   3   3  13  17
Career  83  10  11  37  52

Hamlin had a rebound campaign in 2019, and a big part of that success was his revival on the short tracks.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star grabbed two pole positions, one victory and six Top-5 finishes on the small ovals last season.  It was a stellar performance and a reminder of this driver's racing roots.  Those totals added to what is already a very impressive career racing on the NASCAR bull rings.  Martinsville in particular stands out as Hamlin's favorite short track.  With gaudy 54-percent Top-5 and 75-percent Top-10 rates at that facility, this veteran driver is almost a lock for a great performance each time he races there.  Hamlin has also been coming on strong at Bristol in recent seasons.  His lone short track victory of 2019 came in the Bristol night race.  The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team is one to watch closely this season on the circuit's short tracks. 

Martin Truex Jr.
Car: No. 19
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol  28   0   0   2   3
Martinsville  28   1   1   6  12
Richmond  28   2   1   5  11
Career  84   3   2  13  26

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion has been improving dramatically in the last couple seasons on the small ovals.  Truex doesn't have the career-long resume on these tracks like some other veteran drivers, but his accomplishments the last two seasons can't be overlooked.  Last season alone he piled up three wins on the bull ring circuit.  Truex swept both races at the Richmond oval, and nabbed and incredibly impressive victory in the Martinsville event during the Chase for the Cup.  Those wins along with his Top-10 finish earlier in the season at Martinsville were an impressive effort.  Only Bristol stood out as the lone weak spot for the No. 19 Toyota team in 2019.  We expect Truex to continue his winning ways on the short tracks this season.  Now that this veteran driver has found his stride and broken through for wins, the short track excellence should continue for the foreseeable future. 

Brad Keselowski
Car: No. 2
Team: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol  20   2   0   5   6
Martinsville  20   2   0   9  14
Richmond  21   1   2   5  11
Career  61   5   2  19  31

Speaking of revivals, we saw another veteran driver revert to his old self on these short tracks last season.  Keselowski turned in a marvelous campaign on these small ovals.  The Penske Racing star put on a dominant performance in the spring Martinsville race and grabbed an impressive win, the second of his career, at that Virginia bull ring.  Keselowski now boasts a stellar 70-percent Top-10 rate at Martinsville Speedway, and he rides an incredible eight-race Top-10 streak there into the 2020 campaign.He also managed four Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes on these ovals last season, which placed him among the elite performers in the Cup Series on the short tracks.  The No. 2 Ford team is back to their legend and lore on the small ovals, and Keselowski is a driver to watch closely at these facilities this season.

Kevin Harvick
Car: No. 4
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol  38   2   1  12  19
Martinsville  37   1   0   5  19
Richmond  38   3   3  15  25
Career 113   6   4  32  63

While Harvick was not as dominant as the four drivers above him in this list, he did continue to underpin what has been a stellar career on the NASCAR short tracks last season.  There were no short track victories for the Stewart Haas Racing star in 2019, but he managed to win one pole, lead 58 laps and grab four Top-10 finishes in those six events.  It was mostly a "hold serve" type of season for Harvick at these tracks.  Still, when we take into account his career exploits on these tracks, we have to give Harvick his due respect.  The 32-career Top-5 finishes in 113 starts at these ovals works out to a strong 28-percent rate.  The veteran driver may not be the threat to win on these bull rings that he was earlier in his career, but Harvick is still a tried and true short track performer.

Joey Logano
Car: No. 22
Team: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Bristol  22   2   1   6  10
Martinsville  22   1   5   6  10
Richmond  22   2   2   9  12
Career  66   5   8  21  32

The season was a bit of a mixed bag for Logano on the circuit's short tracks, but when he was on his game the No. 22 team were a force.  The Penske Racing star led 203 laps, nabbed one pole position, grabbed a runner-up finish at Richmond during his 2019 short track campaign.  Logano also grabbed an equally impressive third-place finish at Bristol during the spring.  In the latter half of last season, the veteran driver seemed to cool a bit on the small ovals, but he did round out the season with a solid eighth-place finish at Martinsville in October.  It was a bit of a down season for Logano on these ovals, but does nothing to diminish his past accomplishments and potential on the short tracks.  We look for this driver and team to be even better in these events this season.

ROAD-COURSE SPECIALISTS

Although road courses are a small percentage of the overall schedule, they can be a huge factor in a fantasy racing championship. The circuit's road courses include Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International and the new Roval at Charlotte.

Martin Truex Jr.
Car: No. 19
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma  14   3   0   4   5
Watkins Glen  14   1   0   6   9
Charlotte Roval   2   0   0   0   1
Career  30   4   0  10  15

The last two seasons Truex has feasted on NASCAR road circuits.  The driver of the JGR No. 19 Toyota has claimed two victories and four Top-5 finishes in those six events.  The 2019 campaign brought a Sonoma victory and runner-up finish to Chase Elliott and Watkins Glen.  The Charlotte Roval has been a bit more puzzling for Truex, but he still managed a very dependable seventh-place in this past season's Bank of America Roval 400.  Truex cracks the Top 10 at a strong 50-percent rate for his career on these winding circuits, and the victories have been coming in recent seasons.  Given how well this driver and team has performed of late, it's easy to see why we rank Truex and his Joe Gibbs Racing team as the kings of the hill in road course racing.

Chase Elliott
Car: No. 9
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma   4      0   0   1   2
Watkins Glen   4   2   1   2   2
Charlotte Roval   2   1   0   1   2
Career  10   3   1   4   6

For such a young driver it's interesting to see how well Elliott has adapted to the road circuits of NASCAR's top division.  His first-career Cup Series win came two seasons ago on the winding circuit in Watkins Glen, New York.  Like a precursor, he's been nearly unstoppable on these tracks ever since.  In fact, three of his six victories to this point in his NASCAR career have come on road courses.  2019 was a big season for the No. 9 Chevrolet team at these tracks.  Elliott not only became a two-time winner at Watkins Glen, but he also came from one lap down at the Charlotte Roval to rally and improbably win that very important playoff race.  The sample size is small to be sure, but his 30-percent win rate and 60-percent Top-10 rate on these tracks jumps right off the page. 

Kevin Harvick
Car: No. 4
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma1910610
Watkins Glen1910310
Charlotte Roval20012
Career40201022

The 2017 season in Sonoma was the last time we saw Harvick in victory lane at a road course.  He's not a major threat to win at these facilities, but like his teammate Bowyer, Harvick is a very consistent performer at these road circuits.  He carries an amazing six-race Top-10 streak on these tracks into the 2020 season.  Last season's highlights include a strong third-place finish at the Charlotte Roval, and sixth- & seventh-place finishes at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.  The average finish on these style tracks over the last two seasons stands at miniscule 6.2 for Harvick.  While he may not be winning theses races, he is leading laps and racing among the leaders each time.  The star driver of the No. 4 Ford has a high ceiling on these road circuits, and he's a very safe fantasy racing selection.

Clint Bowyer
Car: No. 14
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma  14   1   0   8  10
Watkins Glen  14   0   0   2   5
Charlotte Roval   2   0   0   2   2
Career  30   1   0  12  17

Bowyer doesn't possess the homerun potential that Truex and Elliott have on these tracks, but his steady and consistent performance over 14 seasons of racing at NASCAR's top level are impressive.  The lone victory in his resume came at Sonoma way back in 2012, but he's been a near-lock for a Top-5 finish there ever since.  Bowyer has also taken very quickly to the new circuit at Charlotte.  The Roval has seen the Stewart Haas Racing veteran grab a pair of Top-10 finishes in his first two attempts.  With an average finish of 8.7 over the last two seasons on NASCAR's winding road courses, it's clear that Bowyer is a dependable and safe fantasy racing play each time the series visits one of these tracks.

Kyle Busch
Car: No. 18
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma  15   2   0   5   7
Watkins Glen  15   2   2   6  12
Charlotte Roval   2   0   0   0   0
Career  32   4   2  11  19

Despite winning the championship, the four-time road course winner had a mixed season on these road courses in 2019.  Busch turned in a brilliant runner-up performance at Sonoma, was a steady 11th-place finisher at Watkins Glen, but ran into troubles at the Roval and came home 37th-place.  Busch has had trouble adapting to the new Charlotte Roval as his two starts illustrate.However, his career body of work at Sonoma and the Glen are unquestionable.  Busch registers an impressive 63-percent Top-10 rate at those two facilities alone.  Obviously Watkins Glen is his favorite of the three, so it would be wise to tilt your fantasy racing utilization of Busch in that direction.  However, he still stands as one of the top performers in the NASCAR Cup Series on these challenging road circuits. 

Ryan Blaney
Car: No. 12
Team: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Sonoma   4   0      0   1   2
Watkins Glen   4   0   0   1   2
Charlotte Roval   2   1   0   1   2
Career  10   1   0   3   6

The young Penske Racing driver has come a long way in a short period of time on these road courses.  In 2018 he racked up a surprising victory in the inaugural Charlotte Roval event.  To prove that was no fluke Blaney went out and posted three Top-10 finishes on these tracks in 2019, including an impressive third-place finish (career-best) at Sonoma.  The driver of the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford carries a four-race road course Top-10 streak into the 2020 campaign.  That type of performance on these challenging tracks doesn't happen by accident.  Blaney has clearly learned the ropes and is getting better with each start on these tracks.  We have this driver and team pegged for a break out season, and Blaney's performance on these road courses will play an integral part.

SUPERSPEEDWAY SPECIALISTS

As with the road courses, the superspeedways represent a small portion of the overall schedule. However, these tracks are raced twice a season, so the stakes are much higher. The circuit's superspeedways include Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Joey Logano
Car: No. 22
Team: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona  22   1   0   6   9
Talladega  22   3   0   8  10
Career  44   4   0  14  19

While Logano didn't grab any victories on the NASCAR superspeedways last season, he did everything to keep his name at the top of this list.  The Penske Racing star led 104 combined laps between Daytona and Talladega, he grabbed a pair of fourth-place finishes in the early-season races at the two tracks and he nabbed a pole position in the July Daytona race.  All-in-all the No. 22 Ford team once again proved they have world class speed on these huge ovals.  Those totals added to an already impressive career sheet for Logano at these tracks.  Had the luck part of the equation fell in line for Logano he might have grabbed one or two wins on these tracks last season, but it just didn't come together.  However, 2020 is a new season and once again all eyes will be on Logano and his race team as Speed Weeks begins at Daytona in February. 

Denny Hamlin

Car: No. 11
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona  28   2   0   8   9
Talladega  28      1   0   7  11
Career  56   3   0  15  20

Hamlin's rebound season was pretty evident on the superspeedway circuit.  He won the season-opening Daytona 500 for the second time in his Cup Series career.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star would go onto post an impressive third-place finish in the fall Talladega race during the playoffs.  That effort would help catapult Hamlin and the No. 11 team deep into the Chase for the Cup and eventually racing for the championship at Homestead.  Those performances bolstered what was already an impressive career resume on the superspeedway tracks for this veteran driver.  Hamlin is equally dangerous at both these ovals and that sets him apart from many drivers who enjoy success at one or the other, but not both. 

Chase Elliott
Car: No. 9
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona   8   0   3   0   0
Talladega   8   1   2   3   4
Career  16   1   5   3   4

Elliott finally proved his mettle on these superspeedway tracks with his emotional victory at Talladega in the spring of last season.  He overcame many obstacles that day to win his first-career superspeedway event.  The Hendrick Motorsports youngster would return to Talladega in the fall and nab the pole position.  Elliott would lead 19 laps in that wild race before eventually finishing a respectable eighth-place.  The No. 9 Chevrolet team truly had some fantastic cars on these big ovals last year, and Elliott is getting better with them in each start.  His career resume racing at these two ovals pales in comparison to some of the other drivers in this listing, but don't be fooled.  Elliott is coming up quickly in this style of racing.  In 2019 he established that he will be a driver to beat each time we visit these two tracks for the foreseeable future.

Aric Almirola
Car: No. 10
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona  16   1   0   2   3
Talladega  20      1   0   4   8
Career  36   2   0   6  11

Almirola has been one of the most consistent performers of the last few seasons on these superspeedway ovals.  Last year alone the Stewart Haas Racing veteran led 30 laps and nabbed three Top-10 finishes on the tracks of Daytona and Talladega.  The most impressive of those performances was Almirola's fourth-place finish in the fall Talladega race.  In his last 10 starts on these huge ovals, the driver of the No. 10 Ford has grabbed one win, three Top-5 and six Top-10 finishes.  The average finish checks in at an impressive 11.4 across the span in this very risky form of stock car racing.  Almirola knows how to get to the front in the draft, and knows how to avoid the crashes for the most part.

Brad Keselowski
Car: No. 2
Team: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona  21   1   0   3   4
Talladega 22   5   0   7  11
Career  43   6   0  10  15

The career resume suggests that Keselowski is one of the series' most decorated drivers on the superspeedways and he is that for certain.  However, the driver that once headed this listing is now further down the ladder thanks to a couple tough seasons on the superspeedway circuit.  The six-time superspeedway winner is currently mired in a nine-race Top-10 drought between Daytona and Talladega.  During that span Keselowski has crashed out and DNF'd a whopping five times.  However, he has also led 83-combined laps in those nine starts.  Qualifying well and racing at the front has not been a problem for this Penske Racing star, however, luck and finishing these races has been the problem.  2020 could be the campaign where we see this slump break.  Talladega tends to be the better of the two ovals for this driver and team, and that's something to remember in daily fantasy and weekly lineup leagues.

Kurt Busch
Car: No. 1
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Daytona  37   1   0  13  18
Talladega  38   0   1   8  20
Career  75   1   1  21  38

Busch has more Top-10 finishes between these two ovals than any other active driver in NASCAR.  Years of good racing have produced those 38 Top-10 finishes, which check in at an impressive 51-percent rate.  As you can see his Top-5 rate is strong as well, coming in at 28-percent which is a pretty remarkable number.  Last season saw the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet post 24 laps led and a pair of Top-10 finishes in the four superspeedway events.  Busch led 16 laps in the fall Talladega race and looked like a contender to win before a late-race crash would take him out of the running.  Of all the drivers in NASCAR's top division, Busch may be the most reliable and consistent superspeedway performer of the lot. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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