Weekend Preview: Talladega Superspeedway
NASCAR announced a plan to introduce the return of fans to its race events last week, which includes the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, June 21 (on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR’s modified event procedures, protocols and number of attendees have been finalized with guidance from public health officials, medical experts and local, state and federal officials. In order to adhere to local social distancing guidelines, a limited number of guests (5,000) will be allowed in the frontstretch grandstands/towers for the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. In addition, there will be limited motorhome/5th-wheel camping spots available outside the track high atop the Alabama Gang Superstretch.
“Our frontstretch grandstands and towers are massive, measuring an incredible eight tenths of a mile long,” said Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton. “That provides us ample room to be able to welcome race fans back with plenty of safe distancing between guests. NASCAR and the track staff will continue to work with health and government officials and be ready to provide a safe experience for the NASCAR fans in attendance.”
And the fans will have a lot to look forward to as the competition in the NASCAR Cup Series has been red hot since the return to racing following the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the whole world to a halt back in March.
The NASCAR Cup Series cars will have a new rules package this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway aimed at improving the overall safety of the vehicles. These rules changes were implemented in a May 1 technical bulletin and include lessons learned from the investigation into the No. 6 car incident at Daytona.
The changes are as follows:
Ø Addition of a lower main roll bar support bar #20 / intrusion plate and upper main roll bar support bar #21 (mandatory superspeedways, optional elsewhere).
Ø Elimination of aero ducts at superspeedway tracks.
Ø Reduction in size of throttle body from 59/64” to 57/64” (superspeedways only).
Ø Updated roll bar padding specifications (mandatory at all tracks beginning June 1).
Ø Oil reservoir tank or overflow expansion tank must contain a check valve (mandatory at all tracks beginning with Talladega).
Ø Slip tape must be applied along the entire length of the lower rearward facing surfaces of the rear bumper cover and extension (superspeedways only).
Joe Gibbs Racing regained their winning form last week collecting checkered flags at both Martinsville on Wednesday night and Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, and as a result are now tied with Team Penske for the most wins on the season with four each.
While the momentum might be at their backs following Homestead-Miami, the JGR organization will still look to snap a Talladega winless streak that dates back to Denny Hamlin’s win in 2014 - the last time a Toyota visited Victory Lane at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Last season in this race, Kyle Busch was the highest-finishing JGR driver in 10th; followed by Erik Jones (19th), Martin Truex Jr. (20th) and Denny Hamlin, who finished 36th after being involved in an incident.
Unpredictability is one of the assets of Talladega that has fans so intrigued by the races, and that might be even more ramped-up without practice leading into the race this Sunday, but the series season wins leader (Hamlin) seems unphased.
“. … We've run a different package at superspeedways almost every other year,” said Denny Hamlin following his win in Miami. “We'll adapt pretty quickly. So, for me there is not really any concerns. … These drivers are so good; they're going to figure it out pretty quick.”
Hamlin also leads his teammates in average finishing position at Talladega heading into the weekend with a 19.0; followed by Busch (20.2), Truex (21.4) and Jones (28.1).
But the Toyota camp will have their work cut out for them because over the last 15 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway one manufacturer has stood above the rest, and it is not even close. Ford and Roush Yates Engines has won 11 of the last 15 Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series races – a winning percentage of 73.3%.
Led by the seven wins of Team Penske and followed by the two victories of Roush Fenway Racing and the single wins of Stewart-Haas Racing and Front Row Motorsports, Ford has nearly been unstoppable.
Among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday, Brad Keselowski has been the most successful (five wins). This weekend, the Team Penske driver has the opportunity to etch his name alongside the names of some of Talladega’s royalty. With five wins under his belt, Keselowski can tie Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second-most wins all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway with six victories.
XFINITY DASH 4 CASH GOES SUPERSPEEDWAY RACING
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program is back for its third installment of the year and this time around the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway to decide the winner of the $100,000 prize.
Dash 4 Cash kicked off at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 6, when Noah Gragson won the season’s first bonus.
Then last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, AJ Allmendinger grabbed the second $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize.
As the Xfinity Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for the Unhinged 300 (at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Allmendinger, Chase Briscoe, Brandon Jones and Ross Chastain will be the drivers competing for the bonus prize money.
Xfinity is also making donations in each Dash 4 Cash race market to reaffirm their companywide commitment of connecting families, veterans and seniors to the digital tools necessary for navigating these challenging times.
At Talladega Superspeedway the donation will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Alabama, which gives young people in need the developmental tools to achieve great futures as productive, responsible citizens in the community. The donation will help with academic and character-building programs to continue through the crisis.
All four drivers will have an uphill climb this weekend to take the Dash 4 Cash prize, but Jones and Briscoe might have a bit of an advantage as both finished in the top-five in this race last season. Chastain has made six series starts at Talladega posting two top-20 finishes and this will be the series track debut for AJ Allmendinger.
Another driver to watch this weekend at Talladega is rising star and Sunoco rookie Harrison Burton, son of NBC Sports TV Analyst and former Cup driver Jeff Burton. The youngster has already won twice this season (California, Homestead-Miami) and has surpassed Carl Edwards’ 2005 rookie record (nine) of the most consecutive top-10 finishes to start the season with 10 top 10s so far in 2020.
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: GEICO 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, June 21
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)
2019 Race Winner: Chase Elliott
What To Watch For: This weekend will be the 103rd NASCAR Cup Series race hosted at Talladega Superspeedway, dating back to the very first series event at the track on September 14, 1969 – a race won by Richard Brickhouse. ... Since then, the 102 Cup races at Talladega have produced 44 different pole winners, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott with eight poles. ... The Cup Series has also seen 49 different race winners at Talladega, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with 10 victories. ... Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Talladega with 13 victories, with Chase Elliott’s victory in this race last season breaking the tie they had held with Richard Childress Racing (12 wins). ... Twelve of the 49 different winners are active this weekend, led by Brad Keselowski with five wins. ... Youngest series winner at Talladega is Bobby Hillin Jr (07/27/1986 - 22 years, 1 months, 22 days) and the oldest is Harry Gant (05/06/1991 - 51 years, 3 months, 26 days). ... Since the advent of electronic scoring, the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway is the April 17, 2011, race won by Jimmie Johnson over second-place Clint Bowyer with a margin of victory of 0.002 second – the margin of victory is tied with the 2003 Darlington race as the closest finishes in the series using electronic scoring. ... Talladega Superspeedway leads the series all-time in the number of lead changes in a race with 88 (happened twice, most recently in 2011) and the number of leaders in a race with 29 (April 2010). ... There have been 14 NASCAR Cup Series races resulting in NASCAR Overtime at Talladega – most recent was the Oct. 2018 event. ... Prior to this weekend, only one NASCAR Cup Series race held at Talladega Superspeedway was not run on its scheduled date. The April 27, 1997, race was postponed due to inclement weather to May 10, 1997 – Mark Martin won the event. ... A total of 11 different drivers have won their first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5/7/2017), Brad Keselowski (04/26/2009), Brian Vickers (10/08/2006), Ken Schrader (07/31/1988), Phil Parsons (05/01/1988), Davey Allison (04/30/1987), Bobby Hillin Jr. (07/27/1986), Ron Bouchard (08021981), Lennie Pond (08/06/1978), Dick Brooks (08/12/1973) and Richard Brickhouse (09/14/1969). Twenty drivers entered this weekend at Talladega are still looking for their first career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Unhinged 300
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, June 20
The Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 5 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300.58 miles (113 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)
2019 Winner: Tyler Reddick
What To Watch For: Talladega Superspeedway has hosted 28 NASCAR Xfinity Series races dating back to the inaugural event in 1992 won by Ernie Irvan. ... The 28 races have produced 23 different race winners and 21 different pole winners. Martin Truex Jr. has the most wins at the track with three and Joe Nemechek has the most poles with five. ... The youngest Xfinity Series winner at Talladega is Joey Logano (05/05/2012 - 21 years, 11 months, 11 days) and the oldest is Mike McLaughlin (04/21/2001 - 44 years, 6 months, 15 days). ... Two of the 28 series races have been won from the pole or first starting position - the most recent was Tony Stewart (4/26/2008). ... Joe Nemechek is tied with Joey Logano for the most top fives (seven) and leads the way in most top 10s (nine) in the series at Talladega. ... Nemechek also leads the series in laps led at Talladega with 202. ... Chevrolet has the most wins by a manufacturer at the track with 16 victories. ... Joe Gibbs Racing has the most wins by a car owner in the series at Talladega with five victories. ... Joe Nemechek is the only former series Talladega winner entered in the Unhinged 300 on Saturday. … Three drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Talladega Superspeedway – Spencer Gallagher (04/28/2018), David Ragan (04/25/2009) and Greg Sacks (07/27/1996).