Can Anyone Win the 2021 Daytona Summer Race?

The 2021 Daytona Summer Race is the magic ticket for winless drivers hoping to make the playoffs. How much hope should they have?

Past Winners

We’ve found previously that ‘underdogs’ rarely win the Daytona 500. In fact, it’s about once a decade.

But the summer race is different. So should drivers who have no chance to make the playoffs by points fill with optimism at the chance of winning the 2021 Daytona Summer race?

To answer that, I looked at all winners of the summer race since 1988 (which is as far back as I’ve gotten in processing full races). I then plotted their ranking as of the last race they ran in the series.

A vertical bar chart showing the rank of each driver who won the Summer Daytona race

In 13/33 races (about 40%), drivers ranked in the top five won the race

In 18/33 races(54.5% of the races considered), drivers ranked in the top 10 won the race.

That means drivers outside the top 10 in season points have won the race 15 times in 33 years. That’s about 45% of the time.

But Recently…

Things change in NASCAR, so it’s worth looking at the most recent history for any trends.

In the last seven years, no one ranked in the top 5 has won the race

In the last four years, no driver ranked better than 14th has won the race.

Interestingly, of the last 13 races…

  • 8 races went into overtime
  • 2 races ended early because of rain
  • 5 officially ended under caution

The 2021 Daytona Summer Race is Different

This is the first year that Daytona has been the cutoff race for making it into the playoffs. One groups of drivers can only get into the playoffs by winning this race. They’ll be making daring moves — hopefully not too early in the race.

The other group is already in, but either has something to prove, or wants to earn stage points. These drivers have to balance those rewards with the risks of getting into — or causing — The Big One.

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