Superspeedways are the biggest wildcard races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Many fans enjoy them for their excitement but dismiss them as being races that “anyone can win”. While it is true that superspeedway races tend to produce surprise/underdog winners, I tend to subscribe to the thought that superspeedway racing is an art form that certain drivers just excel at. Like Dale Earnhardt Jr. says, a lot of the same guys always tend to be upfront in these races. So, with no further ado, here are the biggest favorites to win at superspeedway races.
While the name Elliott is not as synonymous with Daytona and Talladega as, say, Earnhardt, it would be a mistake to overlook Chase’s and his father’s contribution to the big, daunting tri-ovals. Bill Elliott still holds the qualifying speed record at Talladega (and, since the cars were unrestricted then, it’s very, very, VERY unlikely that it’ll ever be broken) and Chase is no scrub at these sorts of tracks either. The younger Elliott has won a handful of his duel races at Daytona and has won Talladega twice in his young career. He has also won at Atlanta after the superspeedway reconstruction. He also won the Daytona season opener in the Xfinity Series.
Additionally, he’s always in the mix at the end of the Daytona 500, so long as he wasn’t involved in a prior incident. That, by my estimation, makes Chase Elliott one of the biggest threats on the superspeedways.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
There were some NASCAR fans who considered Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s 2023 Daytona 500 win to be a “surprise win”…but, it really wasn’t. Stenhouse has won a total of 3 NASCAR races in his career, all of which came on superspeedways.
In 2017, he emerged as the elite superspeedway racer as Dale Earnhardt Jr. was about to retire by winning both the spring Talladega race and the (then) summer Daytona race. His Daytona 500 win last year was just frosting on the cake.
Meanwhile, he’s always in the mix so long as he doesn’t get wrapped up in somebody else’s mess. Look for Stenhouse’s No. 47 Chevy to be strong at the 6 superspeedway races in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season!
Perhaps one of the most disliked drivers in the NASCAR garage (unjustly, in my opinion), Austin Dillon isn’t turning many heads. While some may be quick to label the third-generation driver a NASCAR bust, he has 4 NASCAR Cup wins to his name, 2 coming on the high banks of Daytona. He won the Daytona 500 in 2018 and then won the regular season finale race in 2022 to make that year’s playoffs. Think what you want about him, the RCR cars are always strong on superspeedways.
That brings us to Kyle “Rowdy” Busch. Rowdy is largely considered a jack-of-all-trades driver: he can win just about anywhere on any kind of track. Prior to moving to RCR, though, his reputation on superspeedways had been less than stellar. Save for 2008 when he won 2 superspeedway races (he won at both Daytona and Talladega that year), he’s usually involved in a crash. But he’s typically in contention! Making the move to RCR with their dominant superspeedway program, Kyle Busch’s 8 car is always in the mix in the closing laps. He even won at Talladega his first year with RCR and I expect him to finally win the Daytona 500 with the team before hanging it up for a career.
Where do I begin with Corey LaJoie? The second-generation driver used to have a pretty decent fan following. However, following a lackluster performance in Chase Elliott’s No. 9 car last year, much of the enthusiasm for him from fans has cooled. I mean, he’s still pretty well-liked but I think he’s under the microscope more than ever now with many fans wondering if he was all talk a number of years ago when he pitched himself as the replacement for Jimmie Johnson. In the eyes of many, Corey’s chances to prove himself are dwindling.
All that said, what cannot be denied is that LaJoie is a great superspeedway racer. He’s almost always in the mix contending for the win, even if Lady Luck doesn’t always have his back. Who can forget the thrilling finish between him and Chase Elliott at Atlanta in 2022? This year, expect that Spire No. 7 up front as the laps run out at the superspeedways.
Of course, Brad Keselowski is going to be on this list! How could he not? He’s always up front challenging for wins when the superspeedway package is implemented. In his last points-paying win at the end of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Keselowski tied the likes of all-time drafting aces Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second-most wins at Talladega…second behind only the superspeedway goat, Dale Earnhardt.
Keselowski is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to superspeedways though as he is much better at ‘Dega than Daytona. That said, during his first year as co-owner at RFK he did win his Duel, sweeping the twin races with his teammate Chris Buescher. As of late, Keselowski has been around at the end of these superspeedway races, particularly in the Daytona 500. Maybe 2024 is the year he finally nabs the big one? In any case, expect the No. 6 Ford to be strong at ‘Dega, Daytona, and Atlanta in 2024.
We have to have the defending champ on this list! Ryan Blaney is a SUPER competitive driver on superspeedways. He’s won several in his career (like his former teammate Brad K., most of them came from Talladega) including the fall Talladega race last year. In the 2023 Daytona 500, he was leading when he was wrecked, getting involved in a scary head-on crash into the wall in turn 4. Expect the second-generation driver to be up near the front in all 6 of the superspeedway races in 2024.
Now on to one of the more (unjustly) controversial drivers on this list. Bubba Wallace’s 2022 win at Kansas was dominant. While Wallace is pretty strong these days on intermediates, his true talent lies in the draft. The No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota is always near the front at superspeedway races. And, if things had gone a little more his way the last two years, he’d be a Daytona 500 champion, easily.
Wallace nabbed his first win at Talladega in 2021. Yeah, it was a rained-shortened race which delegitimizes it in the minds of some fans but, hey, if I as a Dale Jr. fan get to count his 2015 rained-shortened victory at Phoenix to his credit, Bubba and his fans deserve to be able to do the same. Besides, it’s not like Wallace is a scrub at these tracks. He’s always up front and he was one of the better cars that day. Expect the No. 23 Toyota to be strong on superspeedways this year.
In some ways, Denny Hamlin sort of replaced Dale Jr. as the Pied Piper at Daytona. Unlike Keselowski, though, Hamlin is much stronger at Daytona than he is in Talladega though he seems to also be relatively competitive at Atlanta. As much as he’s disliked, expect him to “beat your favorite driver” at one of the 6 superspeedway races this season.
Honorable mention for the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame class member, Jimmie Johnson. In his prime, the 7-time champ was always a serious contender at superspeedways and, well, everywhere, really. But HMS had the superspeedway package down to an art and was always consistently in the mix. While Jimmie didn’t run too great in his limited starts in 2023, he was near the front almost the whole 2023 Daytona 500 until he was wrapped up in a late-race crash. The only superspeedway race he’s running in 2024 is the Daytona 500. With a new alliance with Toyota, expect that No. 84 Camry near the front as the laps run out.
While it can be argued that superspeedway races are wildcard races where luck largely outweighs skill, it cannot be denied that some drivers just have a knack for this type of racing. These are the drivers we think you should keep an eye on at the 6 superspeedway events in 2024. What did you think of this list? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know your thoughts by commenting. We’re excited for the 2024 season to start and we hope you are too. We here at The Daily Downforce will be covering races all year long! So be sure to follow us on all our socials for all the latest news and hot topics in the world of NASCAR!