Daytona Nibbles: The Leader: Most Laps Led Are Not Always A Driver’s Friend

The driver who has led the most laps in the Daytona 500 has only won two of the last five races (Denny Hamlin in 2016 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014). Twice in that time, a driver has led only the last lap for victory – Austin Dillon in 2018 and Kurt Busch in 2017.

Ryan Blaney’s 118 laps led last year was the most prolific time out front in the race since Davey Allison led 127 laps en route to the 1992 winner’s trophy. Since then, Blaney is the only driver to lead 100 laps or more since Tony Stewart led 107 laps in 2005. Both Blaney and Stewart finished seventh in those races.

In between those 100-lap efforts, the Busch brothers led 80 or more laps and did not win a race. Kyle Busch led 88 laps in 2009 and 86 laps in 2008. His older brother Kurt led 95 laps in 2007.

In fact, since 1993 a driver has led 100 or more laps only six times. Only twice did that result in a Daytona 500 win. Dale Earnhardt led 107 laps en route to his historic 1998 victory and Sterling Marlin led 105 laps en route to his 1995 win.

More on those leaders…

The 2016 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in laps led in the Daytona 500. He’s been out front 267 laps, which is 12th all-time. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is next on the list with 245 laps led. Only four active drivers are on the list of the top-25 lap leaders in the Daytona 500. Kurt Busch is ranked 19th all-time with 205 laps out front. And Jimmie Johnson is 25th on the list-leading in 10 of his 17 starts for a total of 148 laps

The top mark in this category is – not surprisingly- held by seven-time Daytona 500 winner Richard Petty, who led 780 laps compiled in 20 of his 32 Daytona 500 starts.

Fireball Roberts led 170 of 200 laps in the 1961 Daytona 500 but did not win the race – the most laps led in a race without winning. Marvin Panch won the race – leading only 13 laps while Roberts ended up 20th. (NASCAR PR)

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