Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL — April 24, 2022
It’s Talladega, and anything can happen. The NASCAR Cup Series visits the largest speedway on the circuit today and if history is any indicator a surprise winner may hold the checkered at the end of the day.
Eight different winners in nine races to start the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season and this weekend’s GEICO 500 serves up a platter of opportunities for a ninth different winner to pull into Victory Lane and secure their spot in the Playoffs.
Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was held on September 14, 1969, and the event was won by Richard Brickhouse, from Rocky Point, North Carolina. The average speed of the first race at the 2.66-mile track was 153.778 mph.
The name of the facility changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989, and the surface underwent its fourth repaving on September 19, 2006. In total, there have been 105 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway; one series event in 1969, and two races per year since 1970.
The 105 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway have produced a total of 50 different race winners; 25 of the 50 have won multiple times at the 2.66-mile track.
Will Experience Prevail
This weekend 10 of the 50 NASCAR Cup Series Talladega race winners are entered into the event. Another six-time winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., joins the Fox broadcast booth today on loan from NBC Sports.
|Active Race Winners (10)||Wins||Seasons|
|Brad Keselowski*||6||2021, 2017, 2016. 2014, 2012, 2009|
|Joey Logano*||3||2018, 2016, 2015|
|Ryan Blaney*||2||2020, 2019|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2020, 2014|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||1||2017|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Of late, the Ford has dominated Superspeedway racing, but they have not always ended up in victory lane. The Mustang body seems to push well and if the Blue Oval teams can work together they may well put one of their numbers first across the finish line.
The GEICO 500 consists of 188 laps around the 2.66-mile speedway, Stages are 60/60/68 laps. The defending champion is Bubba Wallace who won in a rain-shortened event last spring. He will start ninth today. Weather is not expected to be a factor in today’s race.
Christopher Bell is the pole-sitter with his teammate Martin Truex Jr. starting beside him on the front row. The series points leader, Chase Elliott starts back in the pack in the 28th position. Big moves from front to rear are the norm at Talladega, especially if manufacturer teammates line up together and push each other to the front.
Things were somewhat calm at the drop of the green flag as drivers seemed content to run two-by-two at the front of the pack. A few drivers made early position moves, then on Lap eight a third line formed at the top of the track with Joey Logano(22) leading the charge.
By Lap 15 the movement fell apart as a single file line led by Daniel Suarez(99) formed at the front of the pack while some drivers opted to drop to the rear to avoid the potential “big one.” Denny Hamlin(11), Chase Briscoe(14), Aric Almirola(10), and Bubba Wallace(23) were some of the drivers riding out back.
A second line formed on the outside with Petty GMS teammates Ty Dillon(42) and Erik Jones(43) trying to drag a number of cars forward. They were not able to crack the Top 10 until Chase Elliott(9) moved to the upper lane and the field once again developed in side-by-side racing.
Halfway through the first Stage, Suarez led, William Byron(24) ran second, Christopher Bell(20) in third, Martin Truex Jr.(19) in fourth, and Elliott in fifth.
Green flag pit stops began with the Fords entering pit road on Lap 35, Brad Keselowski(6) made a big mistake and was caught entering pit road too fast. The error will cost him a drive-through penalty. Ross Chastain(1) was also caught speeding on pit road and suffered the same penalty as Keselowski. During the pit action, Tyler Reddick was on pit road complaining that his engine was sputtering. After almost winning last week at Bristol, Reddick became the first driver out of the race today with a broken engine.
After all pit stops were completed the Top Five were defending Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson(5), Byron, Elliott, Jones, and Daniel Hemric(16). Wallace led a line on the top side of the track that pulled even with the leaders.
The pack passed Keselowski and Chastain as they were running without a draft after serving their speeding penalties, setting up a race between the two for the free pass position.
The first incident of the day occurred with three laps to go in Stage One. Hemric slowed in Turn Three and Austin Dillon ran into the rear of Hemric’s car. That started a spin that collected Chris Buescher(17), and Chase Briscoe(14).
The caution caused Stage One to end under the yellow with the Top 10 being locked at the time the flag waved. Ross Chastain won the “lucky dog” battle with Keselowski and returned to the lead lap during the caution laps.
Stage One Results
|5||19||Martin Truex Jr.||6|
|10||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||1|
For the first time this year, Ford was shut out of the Top 10 at the end of a Stage.
Kyle Busch drug a fuel can out of his pit after the yellow flag stop. It fell off the car but the penalty will send him to the rear of the field on the restart.
Kyle Larson led the pack back to the green flag. But it was Byron, Michigan’s own favorite son Erik Jones riding the outside line to the lead. Jones with Wallace pushing and Larson with Byron on his rear bumper swapped the lead lap after lap.
Jones finally committed to the bottom lane ahead of Larson who pushed him into a clear lead.
On Lap 81 Greg Biffle(44) stalled on the track bringing the field under caution and allowing everyone to come to pit road for service. The caution period allowed Keselowski to get his lap back as the lucky dog.
Pit stops scrambled the lineup as Byron was out first followed by Truex and they will lead the field back to green. Elliott, Larson, Ryan Blaney(12), and Jones will make up the next two rows.
BJ McLeod(78) lost a wheel after making a tire change during his pitstop before the field could complete a lap and the caution waved again.
Back to racing with 31 laps to go in the Stage, just across the start/finish line, Bubba Wallace gave Logano a bump in the rear. Logano slid into the outside wall and careened back down across the track and the “big one” was on. Daytona 500 winner Austin Dindric(2), Suarez, Ty Dillon, Harrison Burton(21), Kyle Busch(18), Todd Gilliland(38), Cole Custer(41), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) were all involved in the incident, all with varying degrees of damage.
After the caution, Byron led a breakaway with a push from Elliott. They hoped to cruise to the end of the Stage. However, with 15 laps to go in Stage Two, Cody Ware(51) spun bringing out the caution again. This sets up an interesting pit strategy decision. By stopping now only one more stop will be required to finish the race. Several drivers back in the pack opted to do that. The leaders, protecting track position for the Stage points, stayed out.
The restart came with 10 laps to go in the Stage. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates lined up together on the bottom lane with Byron, Elliott, Larson, and Alex Bowman(48) leading the pack with most of the drivers forming up in a single line.
While Bowman got shuffled out of position by drivers scrambling for every stage point they could gain, Byron, Larson, and Elliott held the top three spots.
Stage Two Results
|5||19||Martin Truex Jr.||6|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Erik Jones leads the field back to the green flag with Kyle Busch beside on the outside row. Cindric, with damage from an earlier accident, held up some of the cars in that line and effectively brought the field into single-file racing.
Drivers upfront may be content to ride for some laps as one more pit stop will be needed to finish the race. When positions settled out Ryan Blaney(12), Wallace, Kyle Busch, Jones, and Kevin Harvick(4) were the Top Five.
Chastain gathered a following on the outside lane and led them to the front of the pack starting a scramble to the lead. With 37 laps to go, Jones worked his way to the top spot and held the lead as he battled side-by-side with Wallace.
Pit stops began when the Fords came to pit road with 30 laps to go. Pit stops were complete by lap 27. Kyle Busch and Bell collided exiting pit road, Busch was able to continue, Bell spun and had to right his car to rejoin the race. Keselowski was too fast on pit road for the second time today. The penalty likely took him out of contention for the win.
After pit stops the Top Five were Hamlin, Larson, Jones, Byron, and Chastain. Ryan Blaney was the top running Ford in the 13th position, it will take a lot of work for the Mustangs to form up and make a run to the front.
With 23 lead lap cars lined up single file, the pack quickly ran down Keselowski and put him a lap down. In the process, Larson and Jones teamed up and took the lead from Hamlin. Without a pusher, Hamlin dropped to sixth before he could find a place in line.
With 13 laps to go, Elliott jumped to the top lane and made a charge towards the front. With six laps to go Erik Jones and Kyle Larson raced door-to-door at the front. With three to go Jones dropped down in front of Larson and the top lane went away.
Jones took the white flag and led coming out of Turn Four as everyone raced to the checkered flag. The leaders fanned out four wide and a door opened for Ross Chastain to drive through and take the win.
Austin Dillon(3) came out of nowhere to take second. Michigan’s Erik Jones finished sixth after his best run of the year.
Only 35 points separate 13th from 18th in the standings, not much breathing room for drivers hovering around the cut line.
|1||William Byron||334||In Win(2)|
|2||Ross Chastain||292||In Win(2)|
|3||Kyle Busch||312||In Win|
|4||Alex Bowman||309||In Win|
|5||Kyle Larson||299||In Win|
|6||Chase Briscoe*||246||In Win|
|7||Austin Cindric*||238||In Win|
|8||Denny Hamlin||178||In Win|
|9||Chase Elliott||368||Pts Leader|
|12||Martin Truex Jr.||298||+56|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the GEICO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway
|5||19||Martin Truex Jr.||0.250||188|
|30||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-93||95|