NASCAR Draft Kit: 2021 Track Specialists

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2021 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 2021 for fantasy racing success.  Here is our breakdown of track specialists to watch closely in this season.  This analysis is particularly helpful for weekly lineup leagues and daily fantasy racing.

Short Track Specialists

These stats are based on tracks three-quarters of a mile or shorter and include: Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol223067
Martinsville22201116
Richmond2222612
Career Totals66722335

Keselowski finished runner-up in the championship last season, and a big reason why was his performance on the small oval circuit.  The Penske Racing star grabbed Bristol and Richmond victories early last season

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 2021 for fantasy racing success.  Here is our breakdown of track specialists to watch closely in this season.  This analysis is particularly helpful for weekly lineup leagues and daily fantasy racing.

Short Track Specialists

These stats are based on tracks three-quarters of a mile or shorter and include: Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol223067
Martinsville22201116
Richmond2222612
Career Totals66722335

Keselowski finished runner-up in the championship last season, and a big reason why was his performance on the small oval circuit.  The Penske Racing star grabbed Bristol and Richmond victories early last season and he finished with four Top-5 finishes in the five short track races of 2020.  Keselowski was zeroed-in like a laser on these small ovals, and his nearly 400 laps led in these events shows that he was running out front a lot.  Last year's efforts only added to an already rich career record of short track racing for the driver of the No. 2 Ford.  Keselowski's seven wins and 53-percent career Top-10 rate on these tracks stands out above most of the crowd.  With his strong fourth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway in November, Keselowski looks poised to carry this level of performance into this season.

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol31821419
Martinsville31221618
Richmond30611823
Career Totals921654860

The 2020 season was a rough affair for Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, but short track performance was one area that seemed relatively unaffected by his struggles.  Busch didn't manage any victories, but he did post a strong runner-up finish at Bristol late in the season.  For the total campaign the driver of the No. 18 Toyota collected two Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes on the bullring circuit with a strong average finish across the span of 8.0.  Busch wasn't as dominant as he normally is on these tracks, but he was still very good.  His career numbers on the short tracks need no amplification.  The 16 victories and 60 Top 10's (65-percent) are the envy of any active driver currently in NASCAR's top division.

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol300023
Martinsville3021713
Richmond2921612
Career Totals89421528

Truex didn't used to be one of the top performing short track drivers in NASCAR, but he's quickly been earning that reputation of late.  Four victories, two each at Richmond and Martinsville the last two seasons have remarkably improved his standing on these small ovals.  In 2020 the Joe Gibbs Racing star earned one win (Martinsville) and one runner-up finish (Richmond) to bolster his short track resume.  While Truex's career numbers somewhat pale in comparison to other veteran drivers in these rankings, his success has been very recent and impressive.  The No. 19 JGR Toyota team has become one of the top contending teams each time we visit the short tracks.  Truex should continue with that excellence well into the foreseeable future.     

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol100135
Martinsville111046
Richmond100034
Career Totals31111015

Elliott became one of the elite drivers in NASCAR on the short tracks with his fantastic 2020 campaign.  The Hendrick Motorsports youngster grabbed one win (Martinsville), three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes.  The Martinsville win would wind up propelling him to the championship, so there's no understating the importance of his short track efforts.  After spending a few seasons learning the ropes, the 25-year-old driver is coming off age on these challenging short tracks.  Now with 15 total Top 10's in his resume, Elliott is nearing the 50-percent mark for his career on these style ovals.  The win is significant and now signals that Elliott is ready to contend for wins on the short tracks and compete with the best in the Cup Series. 

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol2421610
Martinsville2415812
Richmond23221013
Career Totals71582435

Logano made a hard push to win the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship, and his short track performance was a big reason he was in the running up until the end.  The Penske Racing star led 300 laps for the year on these ovals and grabbed three Top-5 finishes.  While they weren't victories, they were very strong efforts and his third-place finish in the November Martinsville event would help propel Logano into the championship round of the Chase.  This past campaign just added to what was already an impressive career performance on the series' small race tracks.  With a career Top-5 rate hovering around 34-percent, Logano is one of the more skilled short track drivers in all of NASCAR.

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

NASCAR Short Track StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Bristol40311320
Martinsville3910519
Richmond39331526
Career Totals118743365

While Harvick was not as dominant as the five drivers above him in this list, he did continue to underpin what has been a stellar career on the NASCAR short tracks last season.  He grabbed a surprising Bristol win, the third of his career, and he grabbed a Top-10 finish at Richmond, his most successful short track.  Harvick is not quite the same dominant force that he once was on these type ovals, but he still brings some value to the fantasy racing table and an eye-popping 55-percent career Top-10 rate.  The Stewart Haas Racing veteran can be safely deployed in lineups for these short track events, but he faces slimmer odds of winning and cracking the Top 5 like he used to.  Still, Harvick is a very safe choice for weekly lineup leagues when it comes to bullring racing.

Road Course Specialists

Although road courses are a smaller percentage of the overall schedule they can be a huge factor in a fantasy racing championship as NASCAR is shifting the schedule more in this direction.  The circuit's road courses in the 2021 schedule include: Road America, Watkins Glen International, Sonoma Raceway, IMS Road Course, Charlotte Roval, Daytona Road Course and Circuit of the Americas.

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma40012
Watkins Glen42122
Charlotte Roval32023
Daytona Road Course11011
Career Totals125168

With his four consecutive road course victories, Elliott has strengthened his grip on the top of this list.  The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet picked up wins at both Daytona and Charlotte in 2020 and that added to his two prior road course victories of 2019.  Elliott has become the man to beat each time we visit these circuits.  With NASCAR trending more in the direction of road circuits in 2021, this only favors Elliott more.  The upcoming schedule now has six events on these style tracks, and that's double what's been in the recent schedule.  With NASCAR doubling their road course schedule, this gives Elliott a major boost in defending his 2020 championship.  He'll be a mandatory fantasy racing start on these race weekends this season. 

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma143045
Watkins Glen141069
Charlotte Roval30002
Daytona Road Course10011
Career Totals32401117

Truex has really been the chief competition for Chase Elliott on these road courses the last couple seasons.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star was the last driver to win on a NASCAR road circuit prior to Elliott's current four-win streak.  Truex grabbed that win in the 2019 Sonoma race, his third-career win at that facility and fourth road course win overall.  When he's not winning, Truex is generally not far off the rear bumper of Elliott in these races.  His last two seasons have netted one win, three Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes on these winding circuits.  The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has the tools to push up into contention with Elliott for more of these race wins in 2021. 

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma140046
Watkins Glen141147
Charlotte Roval30000
Daytona Road Course10011
Career Totals3211914

Hamlin doesn't have the career-long stats at the road courses like you'd expect, but his surge in performance on these circuits has been more recent in nature.  The last two seasons have seen the Joe Gibbs Racing star grab three Top-5 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the inaugural Daytona road course race this past year.  Hamlin has worked hard to improve his driving on these style tracks, and the results are beginning to show.  There's still a big gap between Hamlin and the top two drivers in these road course rankings, but the driver of the No. 11 Toyota great improvement.  Hamlin has the ability to challenge the Top 5 in most of these road course races this season.

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma40012
Watkins Glen40012
Charlotte Roval31023
Daytona Road Course10000
Career Totals121047

Blaney popped onto our road course radar back in 2018 when some unlikely events would propel the young driver to win the inaugural Charlotte Roval 400.  His good fortune aside, Blaney's 16 laps led and win that day have stood up to critical examination.  Blaney has gone on to post 33-percent Top-5 and 58-percent Top-10 rates on these style tracks since his rookie season.  The driver of the No. 12 Ford has been pretty strong in this style of NASCAR racing, but we believe he still has some untapped potential.  That thought should have Chase Elliott looking over his shoulder in the near future.  Blaney has grabbed Top 10's in four of his last five road course starts, and that's elite level performance.  It won't be long before Blaney visits victory lane again on one of these style tracks. 

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma1911710
Watkins Glen1901310
Charlotte Roval30122
Daytona Road Course10000
Career Totals42131222

Busch doesn't have the wins that the other drivers above him in these rankings have, but his career-long excellence in this style of racing is what makes him special.  The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran has two Top-10 finishes in his last four road course starts and that dovetails nicely with his 52-percent career Top-10 rate on the winding circuits.  The course in Sonoma appears to be his favorite, but the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet is right at home on the oval-style road courses as well.  Busch peddled to an impressive fourth-place finish in his last road course start on the Charlotte Roval.  It was his second Top 10 in three starts at that facility, and may quickly be becoming his favorite.  Busch is a long shot at winning these races, but he's not far off the leader's back bumper on most road course weekends.

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

NASCAR Road Course StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Sonoma110124
Watkins Glen111035
Charlotte Roval30013
Daytona Road Course10001
Career Totals2611613

The Penske Racing veteran overcame what was a rough campaign in 2019 on these tracks to post some great results in 2020.  Logano peddled the No. 22 Ford to strong ninth- and second-place finishes at Charlotte and Daytona respectively last season.  Those results returned him to the 50-percent career mark for cracking the Top 10 on NASCAR road courses.  We've always thought of Logano when it comes to racing at Watkins Glen due to his victory there and generally good numbers.  However, it seems he is quickly warming up to the oval style of road circuits as well.  Logano is four-for-four in Top 10's vs. starts on those tracks and that bodes well for the future.  With NASCAR racing at both the Charlotte circuit and the Indianapolis circuit in 2021, you have to like Logano's odds of keeping his performance level high.

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.

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

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona30301011
Talladega3020913
Career Totals60501924

With two superspeedway victories in 2020, Hamlin entrenched himself as the driver to beat when the Cup Series visits these huge ovals.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star is now a three-time Daytona 500 winner and he grabbed his second-career Talladega victory this past season.  Hamlin has a 75-percent Top-5 rates at these tracks over the last two seasons, so he seems to always be in the mix for the win late in these races.  The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has won the last two Daytona 500's, so all eyes will be on Hamlin this February to see if he can extend that streak to an unprecedented three in-a-row.  Superspeedway racing often comes down to knowledge and skill as opposed to just pure speed in the car.  Hamlin has acquired this knowledge and put it to good effect over the last five years. 

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

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona110024
Talladega132034
Career Totals242058

In the past two seasons, Blaney has supplanted Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as the top superspeedway driver at Penske Racing.  The youngster has nabbed a pair of Talladega victories since 2019, and also has one runner-up Daytona 500 finish during this span.  Blaney is overcoming some subpar performance on these big ovals from earlier in his career, and the total numbers are beginning to shape up nicely.  The driver of the No. 12 Ford has a 33-percent Top-10 rate to this point in his career between Daytona and Talladega, but over the last two seasons it's been right on the 50-percent mark.  We expect continued excellence in the 2021 season, and Blaney's numbers between these two ovals will only continue to improve.

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

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona100311
Talladega101245
Career Totals201556

After some tough luck earlier in his career, Elliott has begun to change his luck on these superspeedway ovals.  The Hendrick Motorsports star grabbed a Talladega win in 2019 and he added to that a pair of Top-5 finishes in 2020 on the superspeedway tracks.  One of those was a strong runner-up finish in the late-season Daytona race, and the other was an impressive fifth-place finish with 41 laps led during the Chase playoffs at Talladega.  Much like Ryan Blaney, Elliott's resume on these tracks just continues to improve at a very fast rate.  Talladega has trended better so far than his luck at Daytona, so that's something to keep in mind when using Elliott in weekly lineup or salary cap based fantasy leagues.

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

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona241069
Talladega2430810
Career Totals48401419

Logano had a rough season of superspeedway racing in 2020.  The Penske Racing star was rolled up in crashes in three of the four events last season and he failed to crack the Top 10 in all four races.  However, we'll chalk that up to bad luck and expect a rebound performance for Logano in 2021.  He's fallen a few spots in these rankings as a result, but the Penske Racing veteran is not to be underestimated at all in this style of racing.  Upon closer examination we see that Logano led a whopping 224 laps last year on the big ovals.  That showed that the No. 22 Ford had the speed to race out front and contend for wins.  Logano's luck will surely improve this season, and the skill and speed necessary to challenge for wins is present with this driver and team.

William Byron
Car: No. 24
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona61122
Talladega60011
Career Totals121133

Byron's learning curve is beginning to go vertical on these fast ovals.  Season 3 in NASCAR's top division saw the young driver begin to turn the corner in superspeedway racing.  Byron claimed a thrilling win in the late-season Daytona race, and he grabbed fourth- and 11th-place Talladega finishes last season.  The inexperience that was holding Byron back his first two seasons of superspeedway racing is beginning to fade and the light bulb is definitely switched on for the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet.  Byron's crew chief, Chad Knaus, has had many years of success racing on the big ovals with his former driver Jimmie Johnson.  It appears Knaus is going to guide Byron to some similar success in the coming years. 

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

NASCAR Speedway StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
Daytona181023
Talladega221059
Career Totals4020712

While Almirola's 2020 season on the tracks of Daytona and Talladega fell a little bit short, we still have to respect him for his career-long achievements in this style of racing.  The driver of the No. 10 Ford picked up just one Top-5 finish last year.  However, Almirola's 30-percent Top-10 rate at these tracks is a bit above the norm, and his two-career victories show that this veteran driver brings the capability of spoiling the bigger names and winning these wild races.  The Stewart Haas Racing veteran was developing a relationship with a new crew chief last season, and that could be much of the reason for his dip in performance last year.  Almirola should rebound nicely this season as he clearly knows how to race in these challenging events.  He also understands the importance of making your move at the right time and with the right help on these tracks.    

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
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.
NASCAR Barometer: Logano Dominates to Win 2022 Championship
NASCAR Barometer: Logano Dominates to Win 2022 Championship
NASCAR DFS: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
NASCAR DFS: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Lucas Oil 150
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Lucas Oil 150