TALLADEGA, Ala — Christopher Bell was 3rd quickest in the opening round of qualifying for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN). Luckily for the Oklahoma native, this is 2 round qualifying.
In the final round, Bell shot to the top of the speed charts with a lap of 180.591 mph in his No. 20 Toyota. Would that hold up? Only Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin were left.
Briscoe went 179.770 mph which slotted him 4th at the time, right behind his teammate Aric Almirola (180.115 mph). It was down to Bell vs. Hamlin. The winners of the last 4 poles here.
Bell won the spring race pole while Hamlin the 3 prior.
Hamlin came up just short is circling the high banked 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway with a speed of 180.42 mph which put him 3rd in his No. 11 Toyota. It meant that Bell swept the Talladega poles and is hoping to score his 1st win on the track on Sunday.
Bell enters this weekend’s race 25 points below the cutline after a two tire failures took him out last weekend in Texas. However, he had a top 5 finish in all 3 races in the first round and was 5th here last year. He also had 2 top 6’s in 3 Truck Series starts on this track and was 3rd in his last Xfinity Series start in 2019.
Is this his time?
Kyle Larson (180.516 mph) will share the front row with Bell. He started 5th in each of the last 2 Talladega races. This is his 9th consecutive top 10 starting spot on the season, 5 of which coming in the top 5.
The thing is, only 2 pole winners (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2017, Denny Hamlin 2020) won in the last 35 Cup races at Talladega. Those are the only 2 front row starters to win since the playoff race of 2011 (22 races). Previously, 5 of the 13 races before were won by front row starters.
Is that a bad omen for Bell and Larson?
Hamlin rolls off 3rd in his No. 11 Toyota for his 5th top 3 starting spot in his last 6 starts here. Almriola and Briscoe rounded out the top 5.
Toyota has won the last 2 Fall races but has only won 3 times in the last 27 races overall. 2 of which were won by Denny Hamlin.
Ford has won 10 of the last 14 overall Cup races at Talladega
Chevrolet has won 4 of the 5 superspeedway races this season all by different drivers (Byron, Elliott at Atlanta, Dillon at Daytona, Chastain at Talladega).
A scary moment occurred on Saturday morning when Tyler Reddick didn’t have enough brakes on his qualifying run and when he rejoined pit road he couldn’t stop quick enough and hit an official. He was in the top 10 at the time and even advanced to the final round. He’d qualify 8th.
Ty Gibbs also made the final round but due to some smoke coming from his car during his first round attempt, he elected not to qualify and was 10th out of 10 in the 2nd round.
The final round saw some youth in it with both fill in drivers (Gibbs, Noah Gragson) being a part of it. Gragson (179.474 mph) will start 7th.
6 of the 10 drivers in the final round were 27 years of age of younger with 5 of the 10 being in their 1st, 2nd or 3rd respective season.
13 of the previous 14 races prior to Bubba Wallace’s win last year were won by the top 6 Rows. So that’s good for these 10 plus Joey Logano and Erik Jones.
The last 2 winners here though each started 19th. That distinction goes to Ryan Blaney.
Starting spots of winners for superspeedway’s race this (5th, 21st Daytona, 19th Talladega). Atlanta was 12th and 1st.
YellaWood 500 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Christopher Bell (P), Kyle Larson (P)
Row 2: Denny Hamlin (P), Aric Almirola
Row 3: Chase Briscoe (P), Ross Chastain (P)
Row 4: Noah Gragson, Tyler Reddick
Row 5: William Byron (P), Ty Gibbs
Row 6: Joey Logano (P), Erik Jones
Row 7: Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez (P)
Row 8: Harrison Burton R, Chase Elliott (P)
Row 9: Austin Cindric (P), Brad Keselowski
Row 10: Ryan Blaney (P), Austin Dillon
Row 11: Justin Haley, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 12: Chris Buescher, Kevin Harvick
Row 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch
Row 14: Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer
Row 15: Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon
Row 16: Justin Allgaier, Corey LaJoie
Row 17: Landon Cassill, Todd Gilliland R
Row 18: BJ McLeod, JJ Yeley
Row 19: Cody Ware