Every sport has their "big game" and, usually, it is a grand finale with the best teams competing at the very end of the season to claim the most respected title: champion. But not for NASCAR. Instead, they start the season with the most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, which also offers the largest pay day for the top finishers. For many racecar drivers, their goal is to one day make it to Victory Lane at the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, many of them fall short of this goal due to the difficulty of the track and for some, a string of bad luck. Even though Daytona International Speedway has a reputation for its massive wrecks and high speeds, it isn't the only race track on the NASCAR circuit that drivers have difficulty navigating. We decided to take a look at some of the toughest tracks in NASCAR, along with the drivers who have been fortunate enough to take the most victory laps at each of these raceways.
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Nascar's Toughest Tracks Transcript
Daytona International Speedway: Daytona Beach, Florida
Total Races: 139
Average Caution Flags Per Race: 4.63
Most Wins at Daytona International Speedway: Richard Petty
- 10 Wins
- 74 Starts
- 28 Top 5 Finishes
- 37 Top 10 Finishes
- DNF The Race 27 Times
Home to the Daytona 500, arguably the most significant race of the season, the Daytona International Speedway has historically been considered a tough track despite its relatively oval design. It is one of NASCAR's restrictor plate races where an engine cap prevents drivers from reaching higher speeds. Daytona is known for its large pileups and, in 1960, one accident took out 37 cars in the field.
Talladega Super Speedway: Talladega, Alabama
Total Races: 95
Average Caution Flags Per Race: 5.52
Most Wins at Talladega Superspeedway: Dale Earnhardt
- 10 Wins
- 44 Starts
- 23 Top 5 Finishes
- 27 Top 10 Finishes
- DNF The Race 11 Times
Talladega Superspeedway is the only other track aside from Daytona that uses the restrictor plates. While the restrictor plates are good for capping the maximum speed, it actually causes the cars to stay bunched in packs. This can lead to the exciting type of "rubbings racing" that many NASCAR fans love, but one slight wobble of the steering wheel can cause a huge pileup that leaves few cars unscathed.
Martinsville Speedway: Martinsville, Virginia
Total Races: 136
Average Caution Flags Per Race: 8.97
Most Wins at Martinville Speedway: Richard Petty
- 15 Wins
- 67 Starts
- 30 Top 5 Finishes
- 37 Top 10 Finishes
- DNF The Race 20 Times
The shape of Martinsville Speedway models that of a paperclip, making it tough for many drivers to navigate. Coming into the turns, drivers have to get used to really hard braking followed by smooth acceleration moving into the straightaway. Martinsville Speedway is also the smallest of all the tracks, which causes tight racing and ultimately more collisions, averaging nearly nine caution flags per race.
Darlington Raceway: Darlington, South Carolina
Total races: 113
Average Caution Flags Per Race: 7.21
Most Wins at Darlington Raceway: David Pearson
- 10 Wins
- 47 Starts
- 24 Top 5 Finishes
- 30 Top 10 Finishes
- DNF The Race 17 Times
Often referred to as "the track too tough to tame", drivers have a hard time leaving the track without earning a "Darlington stripe". The egg-shaped track makes it difficult for cars to adjust in the turns, which causes the drivers to drift up to the top of the track and into the wall. Many drivers will end the race with little paint left on the right side of their car, and the wall needs to be repainted frequently.
Pocono Raceway: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Total Races: 78
Average Caution Flags Per Race: 6.64
Most Wins at Pocono Raceway: Jeff Gordon
- 6 Wins
- 47 Starts
- 20 Top 5 Finishes
- 32 Top 10 Finishes
- DNF The Race 5 Times
Known to most drivers as the "tricky triangle", Pocono Raceway is unlike any other track because of the tough turns. Sharp turns tend to prevent drivers from reaching high speeds and all of the turns and straightaways are very unique, making it much more difficult on the drivers. Chassis adjustments are crucial and generally account for the difference between a top finish and trailing in the back of the pack.
What's your favorite part about NASCAR? Is it the excitement of a close finish? Someone getting loose in turn three as you anxiously anticipate a pileup? Or the goosebumps you get when someone proclaims, "Start your engines"? There are just so many things to love about NASCAR that we cannot choose either. Feel free to share your answers with us in the comments below, and if you have a favorite track to visit or a driver that you are always rooting for, we would love to hear about that, too. If you're feeling like dressing up in a NASCAR costume for Halloween, we fully support that. In fact, we might just join you! "Boogity boogity boogity, let's go racing!"
Design Credit: Abby Bartels & Jason Knudson