The chaos of superspeedway racing is showing up during the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this weekend.
Hoping to advance to the next round in play, the title contenders are ready for the second race of the round of 12 with the YellaWood 500 on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m. ET, NBC / NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Before these riders do three and four wide on Talladega’s high shores, let’s set the stage for 188 laps of high-voltage 200mph close-quarters racing.
RELATED: Talladega Weekend Schedule | Cup Series Ranking
LINE ‘EM UP
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch will lead the green flag peloton Sunday afternoon in Alabama. Hamlin is the reigning winner of this Talladega race as well as the winner last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Row 2, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, while Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. make up Row 3. Check out the full starting lineup here.
The teams will use the 450 horsepower superspeedway package this weekend, which will be the same one used five races ago at Daytona International Speedway. This setup features taller rear spoilers and longer front splitters to aid drafting in a pack with high downforce.
Joey Logano’s turnaround on the Alabama Superstretch in April triggered changes to the old superspeedway package, including a reduction in power and the removal of a wicker that created drag on the spoiler.
RELATED: NASCAR issues rule changes to slow Cup cars on superspeedways
HISTORY OF TALLADEGA
– Originally named Alabama International Motor Speedway, Talladega’s 2.66-mile oval layout was an idea of Bill France that began on the site of a former Navy training airport that was almost abandoned in 1969.
– The first Cup race in Talladega was held on September 14, 1969 and was won by Richard Brickhouse as most of the series regulars took time off for safety reasons fearing that the tires supplied would hold up to high speeds high.
– Talladega is the largest oval on the circuit while housing the steepest incline (33 degrees), longest backstretch (4,000 feet), most head changes in a race (88, Spring 2010 and 2011) and the closest victory margin in the historic Cup Series (0.002 seconds, spring 2011).
– Talladega also hosted the only race in series history where a winner’s first lap in the series was the last lap (Brad Keselowski, April 2009).
Source: Race preview
Although it was repaved in 2006, the surface of the Talladega Superspeedway remains smooth and does not regularly tear the tires. And while the tires will continue to wear down throughout a race, strategy will be key as the Cup teams use the same tire they have used at Talladega since October 2019.
“Since its refurbishment in 2006, the track surface at Talladega has aged a bit and will wear down the tires somewhat this weekend,” said Greg Stucker, racing director for Goodyear. “That said, teams will still have the option of mixing two-tire and no-tire stops in their pits strategy throughout the race. Being able to do this will help teams earn their place on the track and potentially help them line up with their teammates so they can work together in the draft. “
STORIES ENTERING TALLADEGA
– The Penske team have won five of the last seven qualifying races at Talladega.
– Chase Elliott’s victory in April 2019 marks Chevrolet’s only victory in Talladega’s last 12 races, while Ford has won 10 of the last 12.
– Matt DiBenedetto has been passed for victory in each of the last two races at Talladega.
– Each of Talladega’s last three competitions has been won via a final overtime lap, and 17 of the last 20 races featured a final green flag race of two laps or less.
–Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick are the only playoff drivers to finish in the top 10 in each of the first four playoff races.
– Kevin Harvick remains the only driver without a win among those in the round of 12.
– The October 2020 race featured 12 extra laps in overtime, increasing the final race distance by 32 miles.
– Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega. The driver with the most wins is teammate Joey Logano with three.
– There were at least 10 withdrawals in 10 of Talladega’s 17 qualifying races.
Source: Race preview
Despite the generally unavoidable calamity at Talladega, some drivers are inherently better on the superspeedways than others. There’s a reason why four of Talladega’s last seven races have been won by the driver who has led the most laps.
Denny Hamlin is this week’s favorite at 8-1 odds, according to BetMGM, and the numbers don’t lie. In the last 11 superspeedway races dating back to the 2019 Daytona 500, Hamlin has had three wins and seven top five.
Behind Hamlin in the odds are Joey Logano (9-1), Chase Elliott (10-1), Ryan Blaney (10-1) and Brad Keselowski (10-1). Blaney looks to be a great game this weekend as he won two of Talladega’s last four races as well as the regular season final at Daytona on August 28.
Martin Truex Jr.’s (25-1) top 10 streak could be compromised this weekend because Talladega didn’t treat him well. In 33 career starts at Talladega, Truex has just two top five and has finished outside the top 20 in 10 straight races. His 66 starts on the 2.66 mile track are the most numerous among active drivers without a win at Talladega.
RELATED: Odds for Sunday’s Race in Talladega
Want to manage a team and fight your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out the playoff version of NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is now open and offers a fresh start for those of you who entered the regular season contest. The free game lets you pick your drivers each week and show off your instinct as a team leader, and there is a prize of $ 10,000 for the winner.
The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Denny Hamlin (1,222) Kyle Larson (1,208) and Chase Elliott (998).
This year, NASCAR.com is also offering the Playoffs Grid Challenge game, presented by Ruoff Mortgage, where you can choose the winners for each round of the playoffs up to Championship 4. The top prize is $ 10,000.
How to play: Playoff Grid Challenge | Playoff Fantasy Live
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging into NASCAR Drive, where a number of on-board cameras will be available each week, along with a combat camera and aerial view.
New for this season, NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR mobile app. Connect to the mobile app while racing for polls, quizzes, joy meter and more – and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.
And finally, head to the NASCAR mobile app for AR Racing brought to you by Mobil 1, where you can design your own car and race the playoff drivers on the playoff tracks in augmented reality.