Friday July 19th, 2024 10:59PM

Talladega Superspeedway adds chaos to Cup Playoffs

By Holly Cain-NASCAR Wire Service

One of the most highly anticipated races on the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff slate is Sunday’s race at the famed full-action track, Talladega Superspeedway.

Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott – always the Talladega fan favorite – is the defending race winner of this event on the 2.66-mile speedway. Elliott is still racing for his first victory of this season – an example of the multiple motivators sure to add to the excitement of Talladega.

Whether hoping to secure a win to advance to another Playoff round or simply to claim a first trophy of the season, there are plenty of intriguing scenarios when it comes to competing on NASCAR’s biggest track.

One driver that won’t be dependent on his Talladega showing, however, is William Byron, who punched his ticket to the Round of 8 with a dramatic victory last week at Texas in a race that dramatically shuffled the Playoff standings.

With his series-best, career-best single season sixth victory, Byron is already on to the next round. The rest of the Playoff 12 are fairly close in points – from Denny Hamlin, who holds a 37-point advantage on the cutoff line to Kyle Larson, who led almost 100 laps last weekend, but crashed in the closing minutes of the race and now holds only a tenuous two-point edge in that crucial eighth place position over Bubba Wallace for the final transfer spot.

Chris Buescher (+22 points on the cutline), Christopher Bell (+20), Martin Truex, Jr. (+19), Ross Chastain (+12), Brad Keselowski (+8), and Larson (+2) are currently above the cutoff line.

Needing a good weekend, Wallace’s teammate Tyler Reddick – who like Larson won a race in the Playoff’s opening round – is ranked 10th, three points off Larson. Ryan Blaney is 11 points back and two-time series champion Kyle Busch is now 17 points back – both suffering DNFs at Texas.

Busch earned his second Talladega victory just this spring and his Richard Childress Racing team is historically strong on the big tracks such as Talladega and Daytona.

Eleven former Talladega winners are in the race and six of them are Playoff drivers. The winningest active Talladega driver is Keselowski, whose six trophies are twice more than anyone else he’ll compete against Sunday. Reigning series champion, Joey Logano has three wins. Elliott, Busch, Hamlin and Blaney each have a pair of trophies. Blaney’s wins in 2019-20 make him the most recent driver to earn back-to-back trophies.

Wallace, Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. all have a Talladega win too.

“Talladega is just so unpredictable,” said Denny Hamlin. “Everyone wanted to maximize their points at Texas last week because Talladega and the (Charlotte) ROVAL are very iffy. We feel pretty good about the position we’re in, but we still have to go into this week trying to get stage points and put ourselves in a good position to get another good finish before the ROVAL.”

An interesting fact about this Talladega race. No Talladega Playoff race winner has gone on to win the championship that same year. Larson won the title in 2021 with the worst ever Talladega finish (37th) for a Playoff driver.

NCTS: Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs Return To Competition At Talladega

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to Playoff action after an off week on Saturday at the famed Talladega Superspeedway.

There have been seven different race winners in as many Talladega Playoff races for the Truck Series. Matt DiBenedetto is the 2022 race winner. Grant Enfinger (2016) is the only current Playoff competitor with a past Playoff victory at Talladega.

Marietta, Georgia’s Corey Heim has already earned his spot in the Championship 4 with a victory in this round’s opener at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago. His three challengers for the title remain to be set among a highly motivated closely ranked group of Playoff drivers.

Christian Eckes, who won both stages and led the most laps (150) at Bristol, enters Saturday’s race with a comfortable 29-point edge atop the points standings. Carson Hocevar is 18-points above the four-driver cutoff line and Enfinger holds a 14-point edge to the good.

Reigning series champion Zane Smith (-14), Ben Rhodes (-19), rookie Nick Sanchez (-22) and Ty Majeski (-22) are currently below the cutoff line.

Enfinger boasts the best finishing record among Playoff drivers at his home-state track with the 2016 victory and three top-10 finishes in nine starts. The 2021 series champion Rhodes, has a pair of top-five finishes in seven starts. Eckes is the only other driver among the Playoff 8 with a top-five and his 11.5 average finish in two starts is tops among the championship challengers.

Sanchez joins seven other drivers making their Talladega debut this weekend.

Zane Smith, who will be competing fulltime with Trackhouse Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series next year, has advanced to the Championship 4 three times, but he does not have a top-10 in three previous Talladega Playoff races.

Of note, TRICON Garage co-owner and former NASCAR Cup Series regular David Gilliland will drive the No. 1 Toyota at Talladega. It is his second race of the season and his first at the big track since winning the pole and finishing third in the 2018 race there.

Former series champion Brett Moffitt will join Front Row Motorsports this weekend in the No. 34 Ford as Smith’s teammate. And NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff competitor Parker Kligerman – a two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Talladega winner – is also entered this weekend in the No. 75 Henderson Motorsport Chevrolet.

NASCAR Weekend Preview

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: YellaWood 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway – Talladega, AL
The Date: Sunday, October 1
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,806,315
TV: NBC, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 500 miles (188 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Next Race: Love’s RV Stop 250
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway – Talladega, AL
The Date: Saturday, September 30
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
The Purse: $779,790
TV: FS1, 12 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)

WDUN will carry live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 from Talladega Superspeedway beginning at 1 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.

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  • Associated Tags: nascar, motorsports, Auto Racing, Craftsman Trucks, Stock Car, Asphalt, Motorsports Live On WDUN, NASCAR Cup Series
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