The pressure-packed buildup for this weekend’s (Oct. 3-4) NASCAR Playoffs tripleheader at Talladega Superspeedway is finally upon us.
This Sunday’s YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series race will serve as the second (of three) event in the Round of 12 for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs while Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 will be the second race in the Round of 12 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. The first event of a double dose of action on Saturday will be the elimination race for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series where the field of title contenders will be cut from 10 to eight.
Many view the YellaWood 500 as the “wild card” event of the Cup Series Playoffs because of the uncertainty it bestows. It can considerably strengthen or dash a driver’s hopes of moving on to the next round, and ultimately competing in the Championship 4 finale in Phoenix for the title. Of the 12-driver playoff field, eight have driven to the mammoth 2.66-mile track’s Gatorade Victory Lane at least once. If one of the 12 wins the YellaWood 500, he will automatically gain a spot in the Round of 8.
After this past weekend’s kickoff to the second round in Las Vegas, Kurt Busch, with his victory, punched his ticket to the third round. Kevin Harvick leads the point standings by three over Denny Hamlin while there is a log jam beginning with Brad Keselowski (-45) through the rest of the eligible field. Currently under the cutoff line are former Talladega winners Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola, along with Austin Dillon.
Below is the lineup of championship contenders, along with their playoff points and resume at Talladega Superspeedway:
- Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (3041 points (-63)/14th playoff appearance): While he is 63 points behind Harvick, with his win Sunday, he has already advanced to the Round of 8. The 21-year veteran scored a victory at Talladega in the 2003 International Race of Champions (IROC) event, but he is still searching for his first Cup triumph after 39 starts at the track. With eight top-five and 21 top-10 results, TSS is statistically one of Busch’s better playoff tracks. The 2004 premier series champion has come close to earning a win several times, including a runner-up finish in the 2018 GEICO 500 and four third-place results. In the last seven Talladega races, his average finish is 12.86 with four top-10 results.
- Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (3104 points/14th playoff appearance): The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and current championship points leader has 39 career Cup Series starts at Talladega and holds one win (April 2010). He has recorded seven top-five and 15 top-10 efforts. Since 2017, he has one top-five result and two top-10s with an average finish of 20th.
- Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3101 points (-3)/14th playoff appearance): The three-time Daytona 500 champion (2020, 2019, 2016) drove to the ’Dega Gatorade Victory Lane after the 2014 GEICO 500 in what is still his only win in 29 Cup starts at Talladega. The 2006 series Rookie of the Year has compiled eight top-fives – including three of the last four races (third and a pair of fourths) – and 12 top-10s. Since 2017, his average finish is 11.14.
- Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford (3059 points (-45)/ninth playoff appearance): Keselowski has more wins at TSS than any other active driver with five. His first-ever Cup victory came at the biggest track in NASCAR in the 2009 GEICO 500. In 23 Cup starts at the track, the 2012 Cup Champion has totaled seven top-five and 11 top-10 performances. Over the last seven races at TSS, he has one win (’17 YellaWood 500) but just two top-10s.
- Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3058 points (-46)/eighth playoff appearance): Truex, Jr. is still looking for his first ’Dega win, after 31 Cup starts. The 2017 Cup Series champion has recorded eight top-10s at TSS, but unfortunately, Talladega has been one of his worst playoff tracks. Over the last seven races, his best finish is 20th with an average of 25.14. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he has been to Gatorade Victory Lane a record three times, consecutively from 2004-06.
- Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford (3054 points (-50)/seventh playoff appearance): The 2018 Cup champion posted his first victory at NASCAR’s most competitive track in the 2015 YellaWood 500, and a year later, made it back-to-back fall triumphs. His most recent TSS win came in the 2018 GEICO 500. In 23 career Cup starts at the track, he has three victories and eight top-five finishes. Since spring of 2017, his average finish has been 10.57 with one win and four top-five results.
- Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3053 points (-51)/fifth playoff appearance): Elliott went to ’Dega’s Gatorade Victory Lane in the 2019 GEICO 500. In nine career starts at TSS, the 2016 series Rookie of the Year has produced three top-five results. His first came in his initial Cup series race at Talladega in the 2016 GEICO 500, a race in which he also started on the pole. Over the last seven races he has the victory with an 18.14 average finish.
- Alex Bowman, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3052 points (-52)/third playoff appearance): Bowman has 10 TSS Cup career starts, with his best career finish coming in the 2019 GEICO 500 where he crossed the line in the runner-up position. Bowman has one top-five and three top-10 performances with an average finish of 17.40 over the last seven races. He was seventh earlier this year in the GEICO 500.
- Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3043 points (-61)/13th playoff appearance): In 30 Cup starts at ’Dega, the defending Cup Series champion has one victory (2008 GEICO 500) and six top-five finishes. Over the last seven races, his average finish is 18.57. Busch holds the record at TSS as the only active driver to visit Gatorade Victory Lane in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series, having won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2011 and back-to-back NASCAR Gander Trucks Series events in 2009 & 2010.
- Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (3032 points (-72)/ninth playoff appearance): Bowyer will be making his 30th series start at TSS, looking to add a third win to his resume to go along with his victories in both the 2010 and 2011 YellaWood 500 events. He has tallied seven top-five and 13 top-10 performances at ’Dega in the Cup level. Over the last seven races here, his average finish is 22.71.
- Aric Almirola, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (3025 points (-79)/fourth playoff appearance): If the last eight races are any indication, this is the guy to bet on. The 2018 YellaWood 500 champ has recorded eight straight top-10 results, including five top-five efforts, with an average finish of 5.125 during that span. He was fourth in last fall’s YellaWood 500 while third earlier this year in the GEICO 500.
- Austin Dillon (3020 points (-84)/fourth playoff appearance): Piloting the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, which has 12 triumphs at Talladega, Dillon has three top-10 efforts at the 33-degree banked venue with a best result of third in May of 2016. Over the last seven races, his average finish is 25.14. He was sixth in last year’s YellaWood 500.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Chase Briscoe advanced to the Round of 8 by winning Saturday in Vegas. Austin Cindric (-17) is in second in the championship standings, followed by Noah Gragson (-34), Justin Allgaier (-42), Justin Haley (-56), who won at Talladega in June, Brandon Jones (-57), Ryan Sig (-61) and Harrison Burton (-68). Currently below the cutoff line are: Ross Chastain (-70), Michael Annett (-78), Riley Herbst (-82) and Brandon Brown (-88).
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Heading into Talladega’s cutoff race, Austin Hill is guaranteed to advance to Round of 8 as a result of his win at Vegas. Sheldon Creed leads the points chase by eight over Brett Moffitt, followed by Zane Smith (-13), Grant Enfinger (-21), Tyler Ankrum (-37), Matt Crafton (-37) and Christian Eckes (-46). Ben Rhodes (-52) and Todd Gilliland (-65) have work to do and sit below the cutoff line.
The YellaWood 500 gets the green flag on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m. CT. The full schedule for Oct. 3-4 Playoff Weekend for Talladega Superspeedway includes:
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Chevy 250 at TALLADEGA NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at 12:00 p.m. CDT (FS1, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 94 laps
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Ag-Pro 300 At TALLADEGA NASCAR Xfinity Series at 3:30 p.m. CDT (NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 113 laps
- Sun, Oct. 4 – YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series at 1:00 p.m. CDT (NBC, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 188 laps
For further information, including infield camping possibilities for the weekend, fans may learn more by calling the ticket office at 1-877-Go2-DEGA. Fans can keep up with all the happenings at the biggest, baddest race track on the planet by following Talladega Superspeedway on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and by downloading the track’s mobile app.