Saturday’s Sparks 300 (4 p.m. ET, USA, MRN) race preview/picks

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be heading to Alabama next for what is sure to produce some of the craziest racing this season. The second race of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs Round of 12 will take place on Saturday, Oct. 1 with the Sparks 300 at 4 p.m. ET on the USA Network, the NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.

The Sparks 300 this weekend will be the 34th NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. The previous 33 races have produced 27 different race winners and 22 different pole winners. Only three races have been won from the pole (or first starting position). The last time it happened was in 2020 when Justin Haley won from the pole. Haley is also the youngest winner in series history at Talladega at 21 years, one month and 23 days old.

Joe Nemechek is a known name at the track, currently sitting with the most races (22), poles (five), top 10s (nine), lead lap finishes (14), laps completed (2,153) and laps led (202). He is also tied with Joey Logano with most top fives (seven). The only record he does not hold is for most wins, which lies in the hands of Martin Truex Jr (three).

The most recent race at Talladega was earlier this season. Noah Gragson took the victory over Jeffrey Earnhardt after starting from the 19th position by a margin of victory of .131 seconds. Playoff drivers AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Sieg finished in the third and fourth place positions while Landon Cassill rounded out the top five.

If Gragson once again makes the trip to Victory Lane this Saturday for the Sparks 300, he will become the third driver in the track’s Xfinity Series history to post back-to-back wins, joining Martin Truex Jr. (2004, 2005, 2006) and Justin Haley (2020 sweep). Plus, he will be going for a NASCAR Xfinity Series unprecedented five consecutive victories, as he tied Sam Ard’s 1983 record of four straight wins with his victory last weekend at Texas. But Gragson is not the only former Talladega winner entered this weekend, the Las Vegas native is also joined by Jeb Burton and Brandon Brown.

The series will kick off their second Playoff race of the season with qualifying on Friday, Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network and streamed on the NBC Sports App.

Clinch Scenarios: Xfinity Series Playoff run continues

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be taking on Talladega Superspeedway this weekend after eight of the 12 Playoff drivers finished in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend but it was only Noah Gragson, who grabbed the win and secured his spot in the Round of 8, leaving seven spots still up for grabs this weekend. As they continue in their battle for the championship, let’s take a look at clinch scenarios heading into this weekend:

Already Clinched

The following driver has clinched a spot in the eight-driver field of the next round: Noah Gragson.

Can clinch via points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 7th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier or Sam Mayer.

  1. AJ Allmendinger: Could only clinch with help
  2. Ty Gibbs: Could only clinch with help
  3. Austin Hill: Could only clinch with help
  4. Josh Berry: Could only clinch with help
  5. Justin Allgaier: Could only clinch with help
  6. Sam Mayer: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Ryan Sieg or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 6th winless driver in the standings.

  1. AJ Allmendinger: Could only clinch with help
  2. Ty Gibbs: Could only clinch with help
  3. Austin Hill: Could only clinch with help
  4. Josh Berry: Could only clinch with help
  5. Justin Allgaier: Could only clinch with help

Can clinch via win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer, Ryan Sieg, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements

Scouting the Playoff field at ‘Dega

In true superspeedway fashion, Talladega has produced some of the wildest, most unexpected racing and this weekend’s Xfinity Playoff race should be no different.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers range in experience at Talladega Superspeedway, from vets to rookies, so let’s take a look at how they’ve handled the 2.66-mile track:

Noah Gragson: Already clinched into the Round of 8, he heads to Talladega with seven starts, one win (2022), three top fives and five top 10s.

AJ Allmendinger: Currently sitting in second in the Playoff standings, he has five starts, two top fives and three top 10s at the Alabama superspeedway. His most recent finish at the track is third.

Ty Gibbs: He heads to Talladega third in the Playoff rankings. He has one start at Talladega where he started in the third position but was caught in an incident on Lap 76 and finished in 35th.

Austin Hill: Heading into Talladega fourth in the Playoff rankings, Hill will be looking to redeem himself on the 2.66-mile track as both of his starts have resulted in crashes. Hill did win the season-opener at Daytona, though.

Josh Berry: Sitting in fifth in the Playoff standings, he goes into Talladega with three starts and one top 10 finish.

Justin Allgaier: Currently sixth in the Playoff rankings, he heads into Talladega with 14 starts, four top fives and seven top 10s under his belt.

Sam Mayer: Heads to Talladega sitting in seventh in the Playoff standings with two starts at the track (2021, 2022). Both races resulted in incidents that left him in 38th and 28th, respectively.

Ryan Sieg: Sits in eighth in Playoff points heading into this weekend, he has 11 starts at Talladega with three top fives and four top 10s. His most recent finish at the track is fourth.

Riley Herbst: Coming in at ninth in the Playoff rankings, he has five starts at the Alabama superspeedway with one top five and two top 10s.

Daniel Hemric: Last year’s Xfinity Series champ currently holds the 10th Playoff position and has six starts, two top fives and two top 10s at Talladega.

Brandon Jones: Currently in the 11th position, Jones heads to Talladega with nine starts, three top fives and three top 10s.

Jeremy Clements: In the final Playoff position (12th), Clements goes into this race weekend with 14 starts, one top five and two top 10s.

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, and crew celebrate after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Fabulous Five: Gragson goes for unprecedented fifth straight Xfinity win

JR Motorsports’ superstar Noah Gragson not only claimed his seventh victory of the season last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, but also his fourth victory in a row tying Sam Ard’s 1983 NASCAR Xfinity Series record. Now, the Las Vegas native has the opportunity to go for an unprecedented fifth straight win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Prior to the race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sam Ard was the only Xfinity Series driver to win four consecutive races, a feat he accomplished in 1983. The following season in 1984, he went on to once again manage wins in three back-to-back races. Other drivers to score three consecutive wins in the Xfinity Series are Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Harry Grant, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman and Larry Pearson.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Consecutive Wins – Three or More (1982-2022)
RankDriversConsecutive WinsFromTo
1Sam Ard4Saturday, September 17, 1983Saturday, October 8, 1983
Noah Gragson4Saturday, September 3, 2022Saturday, September 24, 2022
3Sam Ard3Saturday, May 5, 1984Saturday, May 19, 1984
Larry Pearson3Saturday, August 15, 1987Sunday, August 30, 1987
 Harry Gant3Friday, September 6, 1991Saturday, October 5, 1991
Mark Martin3Saturday, February 22, 1997Saturday, March 8, 1997
 Dale Earnhardt Jr3Saturday, June 5, 1999Sunday, June 27, 1999
Ryan Newman3Saturday, August 13, 2005Friday, August 26, 2005
 Kyle Busch3Saturday, April 5, 2008Sunday, April 20, 2008
Kyle Busch3Saturday, March 16, 2013Friday, April 12, 2013
 Kyle Busch3Saturday, February 27, 2016Saturday, March 12, 2016
Kyle Busch3Friday, July 8, 2016Saturday, July 23, 2016
 Christopher Bell3Friday, July 13, 2018Saturday, July 28, 2018
Austin Cindric3Thursday, July 9, 2020Saturday, July 18, 2020

Now that Gragson has tied the record for most consecutive wins at four, he will head to Talladega Superspeedway in hopes of surpassing Ard and holding the record himself. A win at Talladega is in Gragson’s reach considering he took the checkered flag when the Xfinity Series ran at the Alabama track earlier this season. In his seven starts, he has posted one win, three top fives and five top 10s.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Talladega: A place of firsts – A driver’s first win is always exciting but to win at an iconic track like Talladega is even more special. Only five drivers can claim that their first trip to Victory Lane was at Talladega Superspeedway – Greg Sacks (1996), David Ragan (2009), Justin Haley (2020), Jeb Burton (2021) and Brandon Brown (2021).

Some cannot claim a first win at the track, but they can flaunt a first pole – Bill Elliott (1993), Johnny Sauter (2002), Clint Bowyer (2004), Brad Coleman (2007), Travis Pastrana (2013), Matt Tifft (2016), Blake Koch (2017), Michael Annett (2019), and Jeffrey Earnhardt (2022).


  • 8 of the last 9 winners were Chevy drivers including 7 straight.
    • Kaulig has won 3 of the last 5
  • Toyota last won here in 2014. 0 for their last 10.
  • The last 2 winners started 19th
  • Just 1 pole winner has won here in the last 16 tries.
  • 7 of the last 10 were won by a driver coming from outside the top 5 starting spots.
  • 3rd and final playoff race here.
  • Just once did the driver lead the most laps and win at Talladega during the stage era (2019)
  • 6 of the 8 Stage 1’s did the eventual race winner score stage points. 4 of the 6 finished either 1st or 2nd.
  • 0 the last 3 races saw the eventual winner score points in Stage 2. In fact, the eventual race winner has a top 5 in just 1 of the last 6 2nd stages.


  1. 9 Gragson – Why not ride the hot hand who won here in April?
  2. 21 Hill – A Daytona win, an Atlanta win, an Atlanta runner-up and a solid outing at the summer night race lands him here.
  3. 16 Allmendinger – 3rd in the spring and 3rd in both Daytona races land him here. He’s finished 3rd in 2 of his last 3 Talladega starts to go with 3 top 7’s in the last 5 races there overall.
  4. 19 Jones – 2 top 4’s in the last 4 Talladega races, each in the Fall at that.
  5. 51 Clements – Won Daytona so why not?


  • Allgaier – 5 of his last 6 have landed him 22nd or worse.
  • Berry – 0 finish better than 9th in 3 Talladega tries. He was 16th and 18th at Daytona.
  • Mayer – 28th and 38th at Talladega 30th and 34th at Daytona.l

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