Most drivers find themselves in the 40-60 percent range, just around the series average. At "almost 50 percent," it's basically a coin flip whether or not they can make it through the race unscathed. But some names stand out more than others—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth tend to do a good job of staying safe, each with a crash rate at about 40 percent or less. Notice their names at the top of the chart, the good side to be on. Unsurprisingly, these drivers have won many plate races—and almost all of them have their own Daytona 500 victory.
My NBCSports colleague Dustin Long notices one driver in particular: Landon Cassill, an up-and-coming young driver. His crash rate is better than the stars we mentioned above. Last year, he finished in the top 12 three times out of the four plate races. He could be on his way to a future 500 win during his career. If you're looking for an undervalued bet, this might be the guy.
On the other hand, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are among the more well-known drivers who all crash out over 60 percent of the time, worse than the series average. It figures these guys don't have that many plate race wins—including a grand total of zero Daytona 500s. Maybe it's something about their temperament in the race car, balancing aggression with patience, or it could just be bad luck.
So if you're betting on who might make it to the checkered flag in one piece, these numbers should help guide you to make those picks.
Finally, we can see that some drivers tend to crash more—or less often—than we would expect based on their performance at regular race tracks. Drivers below the trendline do worse at plate races, and drivers above the line do better at plate races. This is a comparison to how they generally perform relative to everybody else at non-plate tracks. Consider Sam Hornish Jr. at the top of the grid, suggesting his crash rate at regular races is very high. Conversely, Austin Dillon is at the bottom, meaning that he rarely crashes in regular races—but does particularly poorly at Daytona and Talladega.