NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Talladega Track Trends, Race Preview, etc

TRACK: Talladega Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval). DISTANCE: 500 Laps — STAGE 1: 60 Laps, STAGE 2: 60 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 68 Laps, MILES (500.08 Miles)

The spring race has been around since 1970 but the Fall race was the 1st race ever at Talladega on Sept. 14, 1969. This year will mark the 106th and 107th races on the high speed Alabama superspeedway.

  • 9 of the last 10 winners have came from the top 6 Rows including 13 of the last 15. Bubba Wallace started 19th and won last year’s rain shortened playoff race.
  • Only 2 pole winners (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2017, Denny Hamlin 2020) won in the last 34 Cup races at Talladega. Those are the only 2 front row starters to win since the playoff race of 2011 (21 races). Previously, 5 of the 13 races before were won by front row starters.
  • Ford has won 10 of the last 13 overall Cup races at Talladega with 5 of the last 6 in the spring race.
  • Toyota has won the last 2 Fall races but has only won 3 times in the last 26 races overall. 2 of which were won by Denny Hamlin.
  • Just 2 of the last 7 races ended at the scheduled distance. 3 of the last 4 went into overtime with the other rain shortened.
  • At Talladega though, just seven times since 1995 has a driver earned their first or second career wins there.
  • 9 of the last 15 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition have earned either their first or second career victories. Michael McDowell won his first career race at Daytona last February and Bubba Wallace at Talladega last Fall.
  • 6 of the last 10 at Talladega and 7 of the last 10 at Daytona, saw drivers who won their first or second superspeedway race on them too. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started it in the Spring of 2017, followed by Aric Almirola in the Fall of 2018, Chase Elliott in the Spring of 2019, then Ryan Blaney did so in the Fall of 2019 and Spring 2020 race while Bubba Wallace did it last Fall.
  • That’s 5 straight years for Talladega that someone won their 1st or 2nd career Speedway race on it.
  • Since the win and advance format was introduced to the sport in 2014, the playoff race has always been won by an existing playoff driver with the exception of last year. They’re 7-for-8.
  • 6 times has a non-playoff driver won the NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff race at Talladega. It first occurred in 2005 with Dale Jarrett. It happened again a year later (2006) with Brian Vickers. Then we saw it twice in 2009 and again in 2013 with Jamie McMurray as well as 2011 with Clint Bowyer and last year with Bubba Wallace. Only Wallace is in Cup anymore.
  • The last four Talladega playoff winners were outside the top eight in the playoff standings entering Talladega including Wallace not even being in the playoffs last year.

TRACK COMPARISONS

This is the biggest track on the schedule. The track is wide enough to do 3-4 wide all the way around. With tapered spacer, Talladega is always a pack race to where drafting help is better than outright speed. Only pit strategy is to pit with teammates and have help on and off pit road with them.

Closest comparison is to Daytona and maybe even now Atlanta.

Prime Sports NASCAR – Bristol recap show


TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – APRIL 25: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Dog Brew Ford, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Cole Custer, driver of the #41 HaasTooling.com Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Toyota, and Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 DoorDash Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Favorites

Denny Hamlin

He won the 2020 Fall race, was fourth in the spring race prior to go along with third in the 2019 playoff race. Last year, he was just 32nd and 7th respectively.

His superspeedway finishes in 2020 were – 1st, 4th, 3rd and 1st respectively. He was 5th, 32nd, 13th and 7th last year on them.

Brad Keselowski

You always go with Brad on a superspeedway race. He’s won six times at Talladega, including last spring. He was also runner-up last Fall too. RFK Racing’s last two wins also came on superspeedway’s so this could be a good omen this weekend. His 1st Cup win came here as a driver, so why not his first Cup win as an owner too?

Joey Logano

He has five top five finishes in his last nine Talladega starts and is a three-time Talladega winner in his last 14 tries too.

Ryan Blaney

He has won 2 of his last 5 Talladega starts to go along with a Daytona win in last year’s regular season finale. He’s become one of the best superspeedway racers in the sport.

Sleepers

Aric Almirola

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has eight top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts at Talladega including five of which in the top five. He won there in the Fall of 2018, was fourth and spun across the finish line to a third place result in June of 2020.

William Byron

He won Daytona in 2020 He won his Duel in Daytona that year too and had the top car in the qualifying race last February in Daytona. He has 3 top 11 finishes in his last four starts at Talladega including a runner-up finish last spring.

Kevin Harvick

He’s only had two top five finishes in his last 20 Talladega starts. However, he was fourth and eighth last year though and has completely changed his approach for speedway racing. Harvick, normally rides in the back for most of the race to ensure he’s there in the end just as he did in the Daytona 500. He was there in the end…He got caught up in a crash.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 

Always a superspeedway threat. Stenhouse Jr. was runner-up in the 2020 spring race. He was ninth in the Fall race in 2019 too. He’s had three top five finishes in his last eight Talladega starts including six top 10’s over his last 11 Talladega races overall. Five of those six were inside of the top five too including a win.

Chris Buescher

He was sixth in the spring race of 2020 and has always had great finishes at Daytona. Worth a risk.

Tyler Reddick

He won an Xfinity Series race at ‘Dega as well as having two straight seventh place finishes on the 2.66-mile track before being 39th last Fall.

Michael McDowell

He won the Daytona 500 in 2021 and was third in the spring at Talladega last year too.


Who To Fade?

Kyle Larson

He’s never had a top 10 in Talladega before. Heck, he’s never had a top five on a superspeedway either (0-for-30). In fact, his last four finishes at Talladega are 39th, 40th, 40th and 37th respectively. 5 of his last 7 results are 39th or worse.

Chase Elliott

He’s not had a top five in any of his six Fall races at the track. His finishes are 12th, 16th, 31st, eighth, 22nd and 18th respectively. In the spring race, he had three top fives including a win in the first 4 tries but was 38th and 24th the last two years after.

Alex Bowman

His Fall race finishes are 33rd, 37th, 14th and 38th. He was 38th last spring too after being 8th, 2nd and 7th in the spring race prior.

Kurt Busch

He’s been 28th or worse in three of his last five Talladega results.

Kyle Busch

Not one of his better races. Busch’s last eight finishes in the Fall Talladega race have been 11th or worse including his last six being 30th, 27th, 26th, 19th, 27th and 27th respectively. He was 32nd and 18th the last two spring races too as well as being 10th or worse in 4 straight spring races.

Martin Truex Jr. 

He’s had one top five finish at Talladega since 2007. His last 10 finishes there are 40th, 35th, 23rd, 26th, 23rd, 20th, 24th, 23rd, 31st and 12th respectively.


Of Note

Talladega Sweeps:

2007 – Jeff Gordon

2002 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1999 – Dale Earnhardt

1990 – Dale Earnhardt

1982 – Darrell Waltrip

1975 – Buddy Baker

To only happen four times in the last 38 years doesn’t bode well for Sunday’s winner to win again in the Fall.


TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – APRIL 25: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 MoneyLion Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

GEICO 500 Race preview

After a wildcard race last weekend on Bristol Dirt, we head to the ultimate wildcard race Sunday in Talladega. However, will Talladega actually produce a wildcard winner? We’ve already have seen 8 double digit odds winners in 9 this season including 9 of the last 15 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition having earned either their first or second career victories. Michael McDowell won his first career race at Daytona last February and Bubba Wallace at Talladega last Fall.

33% (3-for-9) of the races run this season have been won by 1st time winners. 60% of the last 10 Talladega races have been one by a 1st or 2nd time winner. Will Sunday’s GEICO 500 produce another longer shot?

Be careful thinking so. While the odds are better for these types of races with the favorites all being near double digit odds, Talladega is a place you actually want to bet the favorites.

Part of that is due to most of the usual favorites on a weekly basis struggling on speedway tracks. Kyle Larson is 0-for-30 in terms of top fives at either Daytona/Talladega. Martin Truex Jr. has 1 top 5 finish on this track since 2007. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, etc all struggle.

Also, since 1995, we’ve really only seen what you could consider 7 “fluke” winners at the Talladega Superspeedway anyway.

Just look at the names who have won at Talladega lately. Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr., Elliott, Almirola, Stenhouse Jr. All very good superspeedway racers.

So, while some of the longshots may look like the sexy picks, I’d side with “buyer beware.” You just have to look at who’s good on these tracks and break it down further from there. Speedway racing is a form of art and if you’re good at it, you’re good. If you’re not, well you typically end up crashed.

Toyota has won the last 2 Fall races but has only won 3 times in the last 26 races overall. 2 of which were won by Denny Hamlin. They didn’t look great in Daytona but part of that is due to the lack of numbers compared to the rest of the manufacturers.

So, that opens up the door for the Ford camp. They have strength in numbers and the speed that it takes on these tracks.

Ford has won 10 of the last 13 overall Cup races at Talladega with 5 of the last 6 in the spring race. They went 1-2-3-4-5 in all 4 Cup practice sessions in Daytona, 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4 in the 2 Duel races as well as taking 7 of the top 9 finishing spots for the Daytona 500 itself.

Key Stat

Ford has won 10 of the last 13 races at Talladega. They’ve won 4 of the last 7 points paying Speedway races.

Live Betting

Just 1 in the last 4 Talladega races has the eventual winner scored stage points in the opening stage. However, in each of the last 3 races, the winner actually finished 2nd in Stage 2. Furthermore, since 2017 (the start of stage race) we’ve had 10 races at Talladega. The eventual race winner finished 2nd in the 2nd stage 5 times. They won another (Spring 2019) and have a top 6 finish in 80% of them.

In the first stage, they had 5 top 4 finishes in the first 6 tries but since? Just 1 top 10 (6th in Spring 2020).

In 3 of the last 4 Cup races on the season, a driver has led every lap of the opening stage. None of them went on to win the race. 2 of the last 3 race winners took over the lead inside of 5 laps-to-go. Half of the superspeedway races last year saw the winner lead just 1 lap all day – the final one. In fact, it happened in this very race last season. Wait to live bet at the end of the second stage.

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