In recent years in particularly, Team Penske and its Ford power have consistently been the class of the Talladega fields. Ford drivers have won seven of the last eight Talladega races and swept the three seasons from 2016-18. Ford has won at least one Talladega race in each of the last five years.
Six of the last 10 checkered flags have gone to the Team Penske driving duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski’s five-trophy haul is most in the field and Logano’s three trophies are second only to his teammate. Logano’s 89.8 driving rating is third-best, teammates Keselowski (89.0) and Ryan Blaney (86.7) are fourth- and fifth-best, respectively.
Logano endured a very uncharacteristic race at Dover last week – his No. 22 Team Penske Ford had a mechanical problem on the parade lap – and after challenging for the regular season championship he is now tied with William Byron in points, but sits behind him in ninth in the standings – one spot outside the cutoff – based on the tie-breaker. Only the top-ranked eight drivers will remain Playoff-eligible following next week’s race at Kansas Speedway.
Talladega Superspeedway, however, may be the perfect panacea for Logano. He has scored top-five finishes in six of the last eight races, including three wins. He was fifth in this race in October 2018 and fourth this last May. He’s led laps in seven of the previous eight races – in fact 81.5 percent of his career total laps led came here.
Keselowski has had a similarly positive relationship with Talladega, scoring his first career Monster Energy Series win in his first series start at the big track in May, 2009. He’s led laps in the last seven Talladega races, but his last top 10 came back in October, 2017 – his last victory there. A three-race winner in 2019, Keselowski earned top-10 finishes in the opening three Playoff races and was 11th at Dover, Del. last weekend.
As with his teammate Logano, Blaney had a rough outing in Dover. His No. 12 Team Penske Ford suffered a suspension problem and he had to retire early, taking a 35th-place finish. And after a strong Playoff start – he’s had top-10 finishes in two of the last four races – Blaney is now ranked 12th, 22 points behind Byron in the eighth position. He has not had the same good fortune at Talladega as his two teammates, however, and would love a change in vibe. He has two top-10 finishes in 10 starts and three DNFs. He was 15th this May and 29th in last October’s Playoff race. Comfort in this round may be best found at Kansas Speedway next week where Blaney has five top-10 finishes in nine starts. He finished seventh in the 2018 Playoff race there and led nine laps.