The law of averages applies to racing just as much as anything else, and that's especially true on superspeedways. But for NASCAR's biggest race, droughts on certain trends are (way) overdue to be broken.
Do you know how long it's been since there's been a back-to-back Daytona 500 winner? How about the last time the race was won from the pole? Or by a Silly Season participant?
Let's look at those things and more ahead of Sunday's Great American Race.
Last back-to-back winner: 25 years
It's been 25 years since Sterling Marlin backed up his first career win in the 1994 Daytona 500 with his second career victory in the 1995 Daytona 500, both in Morgan-McClure Motorsports' iconic No. 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet. Marlin dominated the '95 race, leading 105 laps en route to a victory that would propel him and the MMM team into serious contenders in the mid-'90s.
Denny Hamlin, the 2019 Daytona 500 winner, has a good shot at breaking that quarter-century drought Sunday. He ran well for most of Thursday night's qualifying race, as well as last weekend's Busch Clash. And beyond that, he's established himself as one of Cup's top-level superspeedway racers in recent years and has the series' best equipment at Joe Gibbs Racing. He'll roll off 21st Sunday.
Last winner from the pole: 20 years
It's been almost as long since Dale Jarrett won the 2000 Daytona 500 from the pole, which actually was the second consecutive year the polesitter won the 500 after Jeff Gordon did the same in 1999. Jarrett and the Robert Yates Racing No. 88 Ford dominated Speedweeks 2000, winning the Clash, finishing second in the qualifying race and leading 89 circuits on the way to Jarrett's third and final 500 win. Since then, the best starting spot for a Daytona 500 winner was third by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who laid down a somewhat-surprising blistering pole lap last weekend, has a shot to break that trend today. A former Daytona winner (July 2017) and victor at DIS' sister track Talladega (May 2017), Stenhouse looked like the fastest car on Thursday night, leading most of the first duel before his drafting help faded at the end.
Last winner with new team: 10 years
Drivers who switch cars over the offseason generally need an adjustment period, and that has shown itself over the past decade of Daytona 500s, the first race of those seasons. The last to overcome that obstacle was Jamie McMurray with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2010. But McMurray was no stranger to superspeedway success, having won the fall Talladega race with Roush Fenway Racing the year before, nor to Daytona victory lane as the 2007 July winner.
The best bets for that this year are Stenhouse (Roush to JTG Daugherty Racing), Matt DiBenedetto (Leavine Family Racing to Wood Brothers Racing) and Chris Buescher (JTG to Roush).
Last Duel/500 winner: 8 years
Matt Kenseth's 2012 Daytona 500 win marks the most recent time a Thursday qualifying winner proceeded to win the Great American Race. Kenseth made a last-lap pass to win his Duel before pacing the last 38 laps in an overtime 500 win, the second of his two Harley J. Earl trophies with Roush Fenway Racing.
Joey Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, won his qualifying race for the second year in a row. William Byron, last year's 500 polesitter, claimed the second duel race. Both of them will have good shots, in Penske and Hendrick equipment respectively, Sunday.
Justin Epley is a sports writer for The News Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8943.
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