Crunching numbers: Daytona delivers again

July, 5, 2011

Who needed to go out to see a summer blockbuster when you have Daytona?

What didn't Saturday night's race have? It was a tale of redemption, as David Ragan came back from disappointing 2009 and 2010 seasons and the heartbreak of this year's Daytona 500. I'm definitely rooting for the protagonist.

Maybe you want a little more action? The two-car drafts again caused that, and if you weren't on the edge of your seat during the two green-white-checkered finishes, then you might not have a pulse.

Want a love story? I was loving that pizza I was chowing down on throughout the race.

What about some of the other staples of the summer blockbuster? Car chase scene? Check plus. Stunning starlet? If the Victory Lane girls want to reach me, my e-mail address is in my bio. Explosions and special effects? Um, maybe it's best we didn't have those, unless you count the postrace fireworks.

One thing the summer blockbusters do lack is a sweet statistical analysis. Luckily for my dedicated readers, I'm all over that, and here we go.

Feels Like the First Time

After not having a single first-time winner all of last season, we've already had three this season, with Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith joining Ragan.

Ragan took 163 Cup starts to reach Victory Lane. That's the most for a driver before his first win since Johnny Benson won in his 226th in 2002 at Rockingham.

Ragan also became the seventh driver to get his first Cup win in the July race at Daytona and the first since his teammate Greg Biffle did so in 2003.

Among the previous six, two never won again, and two won only one more race at the Cup level. The others were Biffle, with 16 career wins, and A.J. Foyt, with seven career wins.

Trivia break: The last time a track had two first-time winners in a year was Daytona in 1994. Who were the drivers?

When It Baynes, It Pours

Call it the curse of the Daytona 500 winner.

But with Trevor Bayne's 41st-place finish at Daytona, five of the past six Daytona 500 winners have now finished outside the top 30 in the July race at Daytona that same season.

The only exception was in 2009, when Matt Kenseth followed his 500 win with an eighth-place finish.

Trivia break: Who was the most recent driver to sweep both Cup races at Daytona in a season?

The Big One Times Two

Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information's Trevor Ebaugh for this note.

Since the start of 2008, there have been almost 37,000 laps run in 125 points-paying Cup races. Over that span, 994 cars were involved in multi-car accidents, 189 of those coming at Daytona (19.0 percent).

Saturday's race saw two wrecks on green-white-checkered attempts that each collected 15 cars, the second-highest total in a single accident. Of the past 125 races, only last July's race at Daytona had a larger wreck, a 19-car wreck late in the race.

The average track on the Cup schedule sees a multi-car collision every 154.6 laps, compared to one every 34.8 laps at Daytona. To put that into perspective, Las Vegas has averaged 534.0 laps per multi-car accident over the past three years.

Trivia break: Mark Martin became the eighth driver to win 50 poles. What track has he won the most at, with nine?

Trivia Break Answers

(1) Sterling Marlin and Jimmy Spencer both got their first wins at Daytona in 1994.
(2) Bobby Allison swept at Daytona in 1982.
(3) Martin has won nine poles at Bristol.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.


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