Identifying Each NASCAR Superstar's Favorite Track
It's no secret that every NASCAR driver has a handful of tracks that he or she loves going to each season. Jimmie Johnson, for example, must salivate every time that Charlotte, Dover or Martinsville come up on the schedule.
Tony Stewart, on the other hand, can almost feel the checkered flag in his hand when the series stops in Watkins Glen or Chicago.
But what about some of the sport's other big-name drivers? Where do the Busch brothers run the best? And what track does Carl Edwards always have circled on his calendar?
I am going to take a look at 15 of the superstars of NASCAR and tell you which track each of them favors from a statistical point of view.
Note: Driver averages and statistics come from DriverAverages.com.
1. Jimmie Johnson
Favorite Track: Martinsville Speedway
You could make a case for many of the tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule as being a favorite of Jimmie Johnson's. But the five-time series champion has been dominant at Martinsville more than any other track.
In 23 career starts at the paperclip-shaped oval, Johnson has posted eight wins. He has failed to post a top-10 finish in only three of those events, and 16 times he ended his day inside the top five.
Johnson has also been particularly strong at Charlotte and Dover over the course of his career, with 13 wins combined between the two. He swept the races in Charlotte in both 2004 and 2005, but he's scored just one win at the facility since.
Meanwhile, he won his first two races in Dover and has posted an additional five wins since. In 23 races there, Johnson has averaged a ninth-place finish, which is bested only by his average finish at Phoenix and, of course, Martinsville.
In 23 starts at NASCAR's shortest race track, Johnson has averaged an astounding finish of 5.3 and has only finished worse than 12th place one time.
2. Clint Bowyer
Favorite Track: Sonoma Raceway
While most people would guess that Clint Bowyer's best track is either New Hampshire or Richmond, he has statistically been the best on the road course of Sonoma.
In eight career starts, Bowyer has posted one win and finished in the top 10 on six different occasions. He has an average finish of 9.1 on the road course and has completed all 887 laps that he's run there during his career.
Though he has posted multiple wins at both New Hampshire and Richmond, he has only posted a top-10 finish in 15 of the 30 races that he has run there combined.
His three top-five finishes at Richmond are only half of the top-five total he has posted at Sonoma in seven fewer starts.
3. Carl Edwards
Favorite Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Carl Edwards likes to save his best for last, as his best track on the schedule is the season-ending race in Homestead-Miami.
In nine career races at the mile-and-a-half race track, Edwards has posted seven top-10 finishes, with five of those ending up in the top five.
The 560 laps that he has led during his career at Homestead are the most in the track's history.
While Edwards has posted very respectable career statistics at Atlanta and Phoenix as well, it is at Homestead that he has shined the brightest.
4. Kevin Harvick
Favorite Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Kevin Harvick won the first two races at Chicagoland Speedway and has continued to run strong there ever since. Of his seven career Chicagoland top-10 finishes, six of them resulted in a top five.
Only two other drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, have posted more top-10 finishes in Chicago than Harvick. His average finish of 10.5 is also third-best among drivers who have started at least eight races at the speedway.
You could certainly argue in favor of Richmond International Raceway, where he has posted 16 top-10 finishes in 25 starts, as being Harvick's best track. But there is something about winning the first two races held on a speedway that leaves a lasting impression in your mind.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Favorite Track: Daytona International Speedway
If you were to think just in terms of recent history, you might assume that Michigan would be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s favorite track. But over the course of his career, Earnhardt has become a restrictor-plate master.
His only two wins driving for Rick Hendrick have come at Michigan. The first came in 2008, and the second was last year. However, in his Michigan career, Earnhardt has posted just 10 top-10 finishes in his 28 career races.
In the same number of starts at Daytona, he has posted 10 top-five finishes out of a total of 16 top-10s.
While some may argue that Earnhardt is actually better at Talladega, where he has five wins, his top-five and top-10 totals are both higher at Florida's restrictor-plate track.
6. Matt Kenseth
Favorite Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Matt Kenseth has been one of the two hottest drivers in the first half of the 2013 season. He is a four-time winner this year, and it seems like the only track where he wasn't in Victory Lane is the one where he has posted some of his best career numbers.
In 22 races at Texas, Kenseth has twice visited Victory Lane, most recently in 2011 while driving the No. 17 for Jack Roush. In total, he has posted 15 top-10 finishes at the lightning-fast mile-and-a-half race track.
Kenseth has been equally as impressive at both Dover and Michigan over the course of his career, posting similar numbers to the ones he has put up at Texas. The deciding factor came down to the fact that he has posted nearly identical amounts of top-five finishes at all three tracks, but has done so in six fewer races in Fort Worth.
7. Kyle Busch
Favorite Track: Richmond International Raceway
When the series makes one of its two annual visits to Richmond International Raceway, you can almost certainly pencil in Kyle Busch for a good run. In 17 starts at the three-quarter-mile race track, Busch has scored 13 top-10 finishes with all but one of those ending in a top five.
He is a four-time Sprint Cup Series winner in Richmond, having scored an additional four victories in the Nationwide Series as well. He's completed all but one of the 6,816 laps run there during his career and has led 931 of those laps, which trails only Denny Hamlin for most during that time.
Busch has proven to be a top runner at many other tracks as well, most notably Auto Club Speedway, where he has posted 11 top-10s in 16 starts. But there is no denying who the man to beat is when it comes to Richmond.
8. Greg Biffle
Favorite Track: Michigan International Speedway
Greg Biffle's lone victory of 2013 came at Michigan International Speedway. Winning in the Black Hills is something that he has done on a regular basis.
In 21 starts on Michigan's two-mile oval, Biffle has posted four victories, including the last two times the Sprint Cup visited the track. He has scored 13 top-10 finishes, 10 top-fives and failed to finish a grand total of just nine laps out of 4,139.
The 565 laps that Biffle has led are fourth-most among active drivers, and he has led at least 25 laps in the last six Michigan races.
Biffle has posted equally impressive numbers at Kansas, scoring nine top-10s in 14 career starts, including a pair of wins. Michigan gets the vote here, though, based on having twice the wins and because his consistency has come over a greater stretch of races.
9. Brad Keselowski
Favorite Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Brad Keselowski's first career win came in his first start at Talladega Superspeedway. It was a finish that saw Carl Edwards' car nearly end up in the grandstands, and third-place finisher Ryan Newman had the whole front end of his race car nearly torn off.
Since that race in early 2009, Keselowski has scored a second win on the 2.66-mile track. He has also posted six top-10 finishes in nine career starts and has led at least one lap in all but one of his appearances at the track.
I am sure that some critics will say that anyone can get a few lucky breaks at Talladega. While that may be true, to be able to say that you have finished in the top 10 in two-thirds of your races there with all of the unpredictability that is involved is really saying a lot.
10. Kasey Kahne
Favorite Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
There are only two tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule where Kasey Kahne has posted multiple victories. He has won twice in Atlanta, and he is a four-time winner at NASCAR's home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kahne swept the two races at Charlotte in 2006, posted his third win at the track in 2008 and most recently was the winner of last year's Coca Cola 600, held at the speedway.
In total, Kahne has posted 11 top-10 finishes in Charlotte. The 968 laps that he has led are third-most among active drivers, and he trails only Jimmie Johnson by four laps for most laps led at Charlotte since 2004.
The most surprising statistic of Kahne's career in Charlotte is the fact that it is one of just nine tracks that he has never won a pole at.
11. Jeff Gordon
Favorite Track: Sonoma Raceway
Trying to pick which track Jeff Gordon was best at was equally as difficult as making a selection for Jimmie Johnson. Gordon has enjoyed so much success at such a wide variety of tracks, it was nearly impossible to pick just one.
Darlington, Indianapolis and Martinsville are just a handful of tracks that Gordon has won at least four races and posted a top-10 finish in more than half of his career starts on. But, ultimately, it was his Sonoma dominance that earned its place as Gordon's favorite track.
Other than Tony Stewart, who has two wins on the track, Gordon is the only driver with multiple victories in the Wine Country.
In 21 career starts at the tricky road course, Gordon has amassed five victories, including three straight from 1998 through 2000. He has posted 17 top-10 finishes and even won the pole for five of the races.
In his most recent foray at the California-based track, Gordon posted his fourth career runner-up finish. His 454 laps led are more than three times the amount of second place Mark Martin.
12. Tony Stewart
Favorite Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Tony Stewart is yet another driver who has found plenty of success on multiple race tracks. His Indianapolis conquests are the stuff legends are made of, and for as good as Jeff Gordon is at Sonoma, Stewart is just as good at the other road course, Watkins Glen.
But in the end, if you were to pick one track for Stewart, it would have to be Chicagoland Speedway. In 12 starts at the track, he has posted three victories to go along with 10 top-10 finishes.
His three wins, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s are all tops in the sport. The 434 laps that Stewart has led in Chicago trail only Jimmie Johnson for the most all time.
While in his heart, hometown track Indianapolis may be his favorite, on the stat sheet, Chicagoland is Tony Stewart's best.
13. Kurt Busch
Favorite Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Between 2002 and 2006, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Kurt Busch was going to be near the front of the field at Bristol Motor Speedway. He scored all five of his Bristol wins during that 10-race period.
In total, Busch has visited the high-banked half-mile track 25 times. He has posted 14 top-10 finishes, with half of those ending in the top five. Maybe the most impressive thing about all of his quality runs in Bristol is that Busch has qualified inside the first six rows only seven times.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, he has also posted some very respectable numbers at Pocono Raceway. In 24 starts, he has scored a couple of victories and posted 13 top-10 finishes.
In the end, Bristol has to be the pick, though. He has posted five DNFs at Pocono—four of them crash-related—while at the much smaller and tighter Bristol, he has only failed to finish two races.
14. Denny Hamlin
Favorite Track: Martinsville Speedway
When the Sprint Cup Series schedule is released, Denny Hamlin must circle four races: the two events at Pocono Raceway and the two at Martinsville Speedway. He has put together an impressive resume at both.
During his career at Pocono, Hamlin has won four times, including each of his first two races at the triangle-shaped race track. In total, he has competed in 15 events and notched 10 top-10 finishes.
While he has had a fair share of success in Pocono, though, Hamlin's Martinsville stat line looks even better. In the same number of starts he has twice the amount of wins and two additional top-10 finishes. He has also led 1,139 laps in his Martinsville career, which is third-most since he joined the series in 2005.
For much as Hamlin loves Martinsville, it had to be one of the most gut-wrenching races of his career earlier this season. Hamlin was forced to watch from the pit box as Mark Martin drove the No. 11 FedEx Toyota while he recovered from a back injury.
15. Mark Martin
Favorite Track: Watkins Glen
If you are new to NASCAR and only know Mark Martin as a part-time driver who hasn't run a road-course race since 2011, it may surprise you to learn that he was once the most dominant driver at Watkins Glen.
Martin is a three-time race winner at the New York road course, having won consecutively from 1993 through 1995, all while starting from the pole for all three events.
Overall, he has posted 16 top-10 finishes in 22 starts at Watkins Glen. And from 1989 through 2005, he never finished worse than 15th at the road course.
While the 54-year-old Martin has posted at least four wins and 30 top-10 finishes at both Dover and Michigan in his career, it is Watkins Glen that will go down statistically as his best track.