Does Starting Spot Matter for Daytona 500? Stats Say Yes, Recent History Says No

Daytona Beach, Fla – Normally, most people don’t think starting position matters on a restrictor plate track like the Daytona International Speedway. With plate tracks, using the draft can send cars backwards as fast as the others can move forward. That’s why starting position never usually matters.

But, with points on the line to just the top 10 finishers in each Can-Am Duel on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN) and some eye opening stats, the Duels will hold more merit than normally thought.

The pole position is the most proficient starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position in the entire field. But, no one has won from the pole since 2000. Followed by that, is second-place (seven wins) as well as fourth-place (seven wins) too. 

But, take this stat for what it’s worth, 16 of the 58 Daytona 500s (27.6%) have been won from the front row; nine from the pole position and seven from the second-place position. That’s great news for Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Also, add to the fact that 28 of the 58 Daytona 500s (48.3%) have been won from a top five starting position, and you add the two winners of the two Duels on Thursday night with Elliott and Earnhardt Jr. combined with the second place finisher of the first duel, and they have better odds than anyone else statistically, to drive to victory lane in Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN). 

On top of that, the winner on Sunday is likely to come from the top 10. 72.4-percent of all Daytona 500 winners (42 of 58) have been won from a top 10 starting position. Four of the last five have done so in fact. Counter that with only five of the 58 Daytona 500s (.08%) have been won from a starting position outside the top 20, and you can see why starting position really does matter. 

The only discrepancy to all of this is out of those five Daytona 500 winners that have started outside of the top 20, three of which have occurred in the last 10 years. Kevin Harvick started 34th in 2007, Matt Kenseth 39th in 2009 and Trevor Bayne 32nd in 2011.

From 1980-2000, 20 of the 21 Daytona 500 winners came from the top 10 starting position and 14 of which from the top two rows. Since, only three winners in the last 16 Daytona 500’s have come from the top four starting spots, but half of which from the top 10.

That means since 2001, eight winners have come from the top 10 starting spots, but eight have also come from outside of that too.

So, does starting position matter?

Stats say yes, recent history says no.

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