Cup Series Headed To “Sweet Home Alabama”

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The unexpected is expected when it comes to this Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The stakes are high and the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Round of 12 standings are tight as the series heads to Alabama. Last season’s Playoff race at the massive 2.66-mile superspeedway had 110 green flag passes for the lead – the most in this event since 2013.

The 2020 season marks the fourth consecutive year Talladega Superspeedway will host the fifth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2017-2020) – race No. 31 of the season. Talladega is the third different track to host the fifth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, joining: Charlotte Motor Speedway (from 2004 – 2014) and Kansas Speedway (from 2015 and 2016).

Talladega Superspeedway has participated in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs since its inception into the series in 2004 (Playoff Era 2004-Present). Talladega hosted the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs from 2004 – 2005, the fourth race from 2006 – 2008, the seventh race from 2009 – 2010, the sixth race in 2011, the fourth race in 2012 and then back to the sixth race in the postseason from 2013 – 2016. During the 2014-2016 seasons in the ‘elimination style’ Playoff format the sixth race of the Playoffs also served as the cutoff race for the Round of 12.

A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway; six of the 12 are active this weekend. Brad Keselowski (2017, 2014), Clint Bowyer (2010-2011), Jamie McMurray (2009, 2013) and Joey Logano (2015-2016) lead the series in Playoff wins at Talladega with two victories each. 

During the Playoff Era (2004-Present), the winner of the Talladega Superspeedway Playoff race has never gone on to win the title in the same season. But twice the Talladega Playoff race winner has finished runner-up in the championship standings at the end of the season: Jeff Gordon (2007) and Joey Logano (2016). 

A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series fifth race in the Playoffs; eight of the 12 are active this weekend. Hendrick Motorsport’s driverJimmie Johnson leads the series in wins during the fifth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with three victories (2004, 2005, 2009 – all at Charlotte Motor Speedway).

Twice the winner of the fifth race in the Playoffs has gone on to win the title later that season; both happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won the fifth race in the Playoffs from the pole at Charlotte and then went on to win his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title – it was his third of four wins in the 2009 postseason. Then in 2014, Kevin Harvick won the fifth race in the Playoffs from the seventh starting position at Charlotte Motor Speedway and went on to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series title – it was his first of three wins during the 2014 postseason.

The worst finish in a Playoff race at Talladega by a driver that went on to win the title that same season was 24th by Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Last season’s champ, Kyle Busch finished 19th in the fifth race of the 2019 Playoffs at Talladega.

Five times a non-Playoff driver has won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway – the most of any Playoff track:

  • In 2005, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 14th in points.
  • In 2006, Brian Vickers won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 16th in points.
  • In 2009, Jamie McMurray won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 22nd in points.
  • In 2011, Clint Bowyer won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 13th in points.
  • In 2013, Jamie McMurray won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 14th in points.

Twice a non-Playoff driver has won the fifth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff:

  • In 2010, Jamie McMurray won the fifth race in the Playoffs at Charlotte; he was 14th in points.
  • In 2013, Brad Keselowski won the fifth race in Playoffs at Charlotte; he was 16th in points.

In total Talladega Superspeedway has hosted 102 NASCAR Cup Series races, 16 of the which have been Playoff events. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was held on Sept. 14, 1969 and won by Richard Brickhouse driving a Dodge for car owner Ray Nichels. The 102 series races at the high-banked superspeedway has produced 44 different pole winners and 49 different race winners – 12 of the 49 race winners are active this weekend. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in victories at Talladega with 10 wins (1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep and 2000). Playoff contender Brad Keselowski leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers at Talladega with five wins (2009, 2012, 2014 Playoff race, 2016, 2017 Playoff race); followed by his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano with three wins (2015 Playoff race, 2016 Playoff race and 2018). The youngest series winner at Talladega is Bobby Hillin Jr (07/27/1986) at the age of 22 years, 1 month, 22 days and the oldest series winner is Harry Gant (05/06/1991) at the age of 51 years, 3 months, 26 days.

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