How Often do Daytona 500 Pole Winners Win the Race?

Teams put a lot of effort into winning the Daytona 500 pole. But does that have any impact on winning the race?

Where Do Daytona 500 Pole Winners Finish?

The graph below shows the finishing positions of all Daytona 500 pole winners from 1970-2020.

A column chart showing where Daytona 500 pole winners finish
Red pillars show those drivers who started from the pole. Yellow bars indicated those who started from P2-P10.

Since 2000, not a single Daytona 500 winner started from the pole.

One problem is that the pole is determined by the fastest single-car qualifying runs and Daytona races are determined by drafting. Winning the pole may mean you have a fast car, but fast isn’t everything at Daytona.

But you would think that having the fastest car, even if alone, would still translate to a better finish. That’s not what the graph above shows.

The answer…?

Wrecks

The graph below is identical to the one above, except I’ve changed the bars:

  • Cars that didn’t finish the race are now shown in dark grey
  • Cars that were involved in accidents, but still managed to finish the race are shown in light grey.
Another column chart showing where Daytona 500 pole sitters finished, but this time showing which cars had accidents and/or DNFs

In the early days, the most likely reason a polesitter didn’t finish well was that he didn’t finish the race. If he survived all 500 laps, then sitting on the pole gave him a much better chance of winning, or at least finishing in the top five or ten.

But we don’t see as much of that in later years. Both the number of accidents and the numbers of cars involved in accidents has gone up over the years. So you’re much more likely to be involved in a wreck these days.

David Smith has data to show that you are more likely to be in a wreck running up front than running in the back. I would need to go and look at where big crashes happen to see whether your chance of getting caught up in a wreck increases if you’re the polesitter.

Conclusion

If you’re placing bets, there’s no reason to choose the Daytona pole winner solely because he’s starting up front. Although there used to be a correlation between getting the pole and winning the Daytona 500, there isn’t any more.

About Diandra 441 Articles
I'm a recovering academic who writes about the intersection of science and life. I'm interested in AI, advanced prosthetics, robots and anything that goes fast. Author, THE PHYSICS OF NASCAR and Editor, BIOMEDICAL APPLICATIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Where Do Daytona 500 Winners Start? : Building Speed
  2. Is Avoiding Accidents the Most Important Skill for Winning the Daytona 500? : Building Speed

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.