2021 NASCAR Preview: Best Drivers at Intermediate Tracks

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

There are fewer intermediate tracks on the 2021 NASCAR schedule than at any time since 2000. But they still make up a quarter of the schedule. We’ve looked at superspeedways and road courses already. Let’s see which drivers are the best at 1.5 mile tracks.

Best Career Averages Among 2021 Competitors

Let’s look first at the career average finishes of the drivers who will be on track this year. I’ve included only those drivers with an average finishing position of 17 and better.

A column graph showing the career averages of 2021 drivers at intermediate tracks
  • Harvick has the best record at intermediate tracks, with an average finish of 12.0.
  • That’s one position better than Elliott and Truex, Jr., who tie for second with an average finishing position of 13.0
  • There’s a whole group of drivers in the 13-14 range, among them Keselowski, Logano and Hamlin.
  • Cole Custer just misses making the graph with a career average finishing position of 17.1

Who Won Intermediate Tracks in 2020?

Let’s look next at wins, top 5s and top 10s in 2020.

I’m showing only drivers who are a) active in 2021 and b) have a career average finishing position of at least 17. That leaves out Ryan Newman, who’s won three intermediate track races, but has a 17.5 career average finish and hasn’t won at an intermediate track since 2003.

A column chart showing the win rate of 2021 drivers at intermediate tracks
2020 win rate (plus top 5, top 10 rates) at intermediate tracks for 2021 drivers
  • Nine drivers in the current group have won a 1.5-mile track race.
  • Although Harvick has the highest average finish, Logano and Hamlin tied for highest win rate in 2020.
  • Keselowski finished in the top 10 in 90% of the intermediate track races
  • Harvick finished in the top 10 in about 80% of all intermediate track races.

Last Year vs. Career Stats at Intermediate Tracks

While a career average is a more robust number simply because there’s more data, it’s worth seeing whether drivers performed better than their career average or worse.

A column chart comparing 2020 results to career average finishing positions

It’s interesting that, even with almost no practice or qualifying, most of the drivers with an average finishing position of 20 or better in 2020 did much better than their career-average finishing positions.

  • Although Kyle Busch struggled in 2020, he didn’t struggle at intermediate tracks. His career average at intermediates is 13.1 while is 2020 average is 9.5
  • This is one of the track types Chase Elliott needs to work on if he’s going to repeat as champion. His 2020 average wasn’t much better than his career average and was almost double the best driver’s average
  • Ryan Blaney had the best 2020 average finishing position at 6.8, followed by Keselowski at 7.0
  • It’s a little unfair to put Kyle Larson on there because he ran so few races in 2020, but I did anyway.
  • You can see the impact of being in better equipment in the change for Matt DiBenedetto.

Best Intermediate Track Drivers of the Last 20 Years

Let’s compare this year’s drivers to the career records of the cohort of drivers who ran at least ten intermediate track races in the last 20 years.

A column graph showing drivers between 2000 and 2020 with the best average finishing position at intermediate tracks
Career average finishes for all drivers active in at least one race between 2000 and 2020.
  • Kevin Harvick’s career average finishing position of 12.0 is the best among this group as well.
  • Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson tie for second at 12.2. As you’ll see in the last post of the series, Earnhardt scored at or near the top of the list in just about all track types.
  • The next 2021 driver on this list is Chase Elliot, who is second on the list of current drivers, but fifth here.
  • I ran the list all the way out to 17 just because I thought it was interesting to see where drivers like Kasey Kahne, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton showed up.

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