Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL — October 1, 2023
Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron grabbed the win at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, securing his spot in the next round of the postseason. Leaving the remaining 11 contenders still vying for one of the spots in the Round of 8 with two races left in the Round of 12 – Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
This weekend, the competitors will have to face one of the biggest hurdles in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as Talladega Superspeedway opens the gates and unleashes its 2.66 miles of asphalt with 33 degrees of banking in the turns for today’s YellaWood 500.
Eleven of the 51 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Talladega Superspeedway are active this weekend, led by Brad Keselowski with six wins at Talladega Superspeedway (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2021), followed by Joey Logano with three victories (2015, 2016, 2018).
|Active Talladega Race Winners (11)||Wins||Seasons|
|Brad Keselowski*||6||2021, ’17, ’16, ’14, ’12, ’09|
|Joey Logano||3||2018, ’16, ’15|
|Kyle Busch*||2||2023, ’08|
|Chase Elliott||2||2022, ’19|
|Denny Hamlin*||2||2020, ’14|
|Ryan Blaney*||2||2020, ’19|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||1||2017|
*Current Playoff Drivers
Of those 11 drivers, six are still active in the 2023 postseason.
Playoff Standings Heading into Talladega
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Outlook Following Race No. 30|
|Rank||Driver||Points||Race Wins||Stage Wins||Playoff Pts||+ / – Cutoff|
|1||William Byron (P)||3,083||6||8||41||In On Wins|
|2||Denny Hamlin (P)||3,074||3||7||32||37|
|3||Chris Buescher (P)*||3,059||3||1||21||22|
|4||Christopher Bell (P)||3,057||1||4||16||20|
|5||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||3,056||3||6||36||19|
|6||Ross Chastain (P)||3,049||1||5||11||12|
|7||Brad Keselowski (P)*||3,045||0||5||11||8|
|8||Kyle Larson (P)||3,039||3||5||24||2|
|9||Bubba Wallace (P)||3,037||0||0||0||-2|
|10||Tyler Reddick (P)||3,036||2||5||15||-3|
|11||Ryan Blaney (P)*||3,028||1||3||8||-11|
|12||Kyle Busch (P)||3,022||3||2||19||-17|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
From Ross Chastain in sixth place to Ryan Blaney in 11th, only 23 points separate six drivers. Kyle Larson, the driver on the cut line, is only two points ahead of Bubba Wallace, the first driver below the last qualifying position for the Round of Eight. Tyler Reddick is a single point behind Wallace.
The unpredictability of races at Talladega makes it likely that the standing could go through a major upheaval by the end of the day.
The longest oval speedway on the NASCAR Cup Circuit requires 188 laps to complete the 500-mile distance. Stages are 60/60/68 laps. Aric Almirola sits on the pole with Joey Logano next to him in the front row. Ford dominated qualifying taking seven of the top ten positions on the starting grid.
The defending champion of the race is Chase Elliott, who failed to make the playoffs this year. Elliott starts 23rd today.
Aric Almirola(10) led into the first turn. But it was Joey Logano(22) out front when the pack returned to the start/finish line. The field ran side-by-side for the first three laps. Alex Bowman(48) was the first to step out of line, moving to the high side of the track and leading a third line of cars to the front.
With coaching from their spotters, drivers began to move up in front of Bowman to join the charge. Riley Herbst(36) led that group as they pulled even with the other two lines of cars.
The outside line began to fade as drivers dropped back into the two main lines of traffic. Herbst backed up to 29th as his pushers left him hung out to dry. Erik Jones(43) started the next outside charge, and Martin Truex Jr.(19) jumped in front of the Michigan native to pull the group even with Logano. William Byron(24) had moved to the front of the inside lane as the race progressed to three-wide all the way around the track.
Ryan Preece(41) worked his way to the front of the inside line and was the headman of an eight-car breakaway separating his lane from the other two lines of traffic.
The third lane disappeared again, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) pulled the middle lane to the front.
The Fords were the first to make green flag pit stops coming to the pits on lap 40. The majority of the pack pitted on the next lap, and a few cars remained on the track for some extra laps. All pit stops were for fuel only to make it to the end of the Stage.
After all stops were complete, Stenhouse was back in the lead. With Austin Cindric(2), Ryan Blaney(12), Byron, and Kyle Busch(8) rounding out the top five.
Erik Jones’s crew was over the wall too fast during his stop on pit road. He had to return to pit road for a drive-through penalty and went a lap down to the field.
As the laps in Stage One wound down, the focus was on Stage points as the shuffle at the front of the pack changed driver positions on every lap.
Ryan Blaney took the lead on the final lap of the Stage going down the backstretch. Kyle Busch, trying to push Stenhouse, got loose and tapped the wall. Stenhouse ran out of fuel and slowed. As Busch bounced off the barrier, he tried to pass Stenhouse on the inside and made contact with Ross Chastain(1), sending the Trackhouse Racing driver into the outside wall.
There was minor impact to Busch’s car, While Chastain suffered more damage in the incident. Christopher Bell got collected by Chastain and encountered damage his crew had to address during Stage-ending pit stops.
Chastain was eliminated from the race, his last-place finish dealing a serious blow to his chances of advancing to the Round of Eight.
The Stage ended under caution, with Blaney getting the win and the bonus points awarded with it.
Stage One Results
|1||12||Ryan Blaney (P)*||10|
|2||24||William Byron (P)||9|
|3||5||Kyle Larson (P)||8|
(P) Playoff Drivers *Ford Mustang Drivers
Erik Jones got his lap back courtesy of the “luck dog” as the highest placed driver a lap down when the caution came out.
On the restart, after the Stage break caution, it was Blaney, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Larson(5), and Logano leading back to the green flag.
Once back on the lead lap, Erik Jones led a third line on the outside of the track to the front, briefly taking the lead.
The three lines continued to jockey for the lead as the cars out front got pushed from behind. Jones, McDowell, and Cincric would get a run that would last for a portion of the lap. But, no one was able to establish a long stay as the leader.
Just as quickly as it formed, the outside line disappeared. Herbst and Tyler Reddick(45) led the pack when it dissolved into two-line racing.
Pit stops began with 15 laps to go in the Stage. Denny Hamlin was too fast entering the pit lane and was penalized with a drive-through penalty.
This time it was Brad Keselowski(6), Logano, Almirola, Blaney, and Austin Dillon(3) out front after all stops were complete.
Keselowski got the Stage win, a big help to his playoff push.
Stage Two Results
|1||6||Brad Keselowski (P)*||10|
|2||24||William Byron (P)||9|
|5||9||Chase Elliott (P)||6|
|8||5||Kyle Larson (P)||3|
|10||45||Tyler Reddick (P)||1|
(P) Playoff Drivers *Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
During Stage-ending pit stops, Ty Gibbs left his pit stall with the gas can still in the fuel inlet. It became dislodged, fell to the pavement, and caught fire. Drivers exiting the pit road had to dodge the flames and the fuel can.
After the restart, Logano, with a push from Keselowski, moved to the front and tried to make a breakaway from the remainder of the pack. Larson, with Daniel Suarez(99) behind him, tried to stay even with the Fords, who were taking advantage of the faster outside lane.
Logano and Keselowski fought off multiple challenges to the lead. One, led by Keselowski’s teammate Chris Buescher(17), pulled Denny Hamlin to the front, and he unlapped himself. Hamlin could not hold the position as Logano and Keselowski repeatedly teamed up to resume the top two positions.
William Byron led for a while. Bubba Wallace(23) took a turn at the front. With 31 laps to go, they were four-wide all the way around the track for multiple laps. Huge position changes occurred as they tried to sort out the running order.
With 27 laps to go, the Big-One occurred back in the pack as Brad Keselowski was pushing Carson Hocevar(42) in the middle of the tri-oval. Hocevar got turned sideways, and the bumper car wreck was on.
Austin Dillon(3), Chase Briscoe(14), AJ Allmendinger(16), Chris Buescher, Harrison Burton(21), and Ty Gibbs were also involved in the incident. When the dust settled, Kevin Harvick(4) was out front, and Hamlin was the “lucky dog” getting back on the lead lap.
Dillon and Gibbs hit the outside wall in almost the same spot doing some damage to the “safer barrier.” NASCAR red-flagged the race with 25 laps to go so repairs could be made to the steel and polystyrene foam protective cushion.
When the cars began to roll again, it gave everyone an opportunity to make their final pit stop. Some teams opted for two tires. Others took Sunoco Racing Fuel only.
Restarting with 20 laps to go, Bowman, Almirola, Blaney, Harvick, and Larson led the field to the green. Bowman and Almirola swap the lead repeatedly. The yellow was displayed again with 17 laps to go for debris on the backstretch. To this point in the race, 63 lead changes have occurred, the most since 2011. More will be added to that total in the next few laps.
Restarting again with 13 laps to go, Bowman and Blaney are out front. Blaney got a bad restart, and Bowman pulled away. Harvick jumped to the high side, and with Blaney pushing, and they drove to the front.
Bowman fights back on the bottom and pulls up in front of Harvick. Bowman shits lanes repeatedly to block, but Chase Elliott(9) gets inside him and drives to the lead. Bowman comes back on the high side and continues to block once in the lead. His drops low, and Harvick gets to his outside and passes back into the top spot with eight laps to go.
Bowman and Harvick trade the top spot, with the #48 car gaining the advantage. Bowman’s blocking technique backfires as Harvick goes high around him, and Elliott goes low, trapping Bowman in the middle, where he is passed by all the leaders.
Elliott jumps out to a big lead with a push from Byron. However, Byron opts to leave his teammate and move to the top side. With Harvick pushing, Bowman drives to the lead and then drops down in front of Elliott.
With a big run, Harvick moves back out front. Blaney pushes him to a big lead, and Harvick becomes the lane-swapping blocker with three laps to go. Blaney gets a fender up on Harvick’s rear quarter, and they race side-by-side to the white flag.
Harvick has a two-car-length lead heading down the backstretch on the final lap. He pulls high to block Blaney, who drops low to get back beside the #4 car. The two cars are side by side in the middle of the tri-oval, and Blaney manages to get a bumper out front to take the win by 0.012 of a second.
Cars begin wrecking behind the leaders, further scrambling the finish order.
Late Breaking News
The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Kevin Harvick was disqualified Sunday evening in a post-race inspection after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Talladega Superspeedway.
Harvick had just crossed under the checkered flag with an apparent second-place finish to Ryan Blaney in his final Talladega race as Harvick wraps up his final Cup Series campaign. But his No. 4 entry was found in violation of Sections 18.104.22.168.F and 14.1.E and P; the former states that “windshield fasteners must remain secure for the entire Event,” and the latter section pertains to “Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules.”
The ruling demotes Harvick to a last-place finish in the 38-car field for the YellaWood 500, and all other finishers behind him move up one position each. He also relinquishes the three Stage points earned for an eighth-place finish after Stage 1.
William Byron moves up to second place behind Blaney in the revised results. No other infractions were found in the post-race inspection, confirming Blaney’s second win of the season.
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings
|Rank||Driver||Points||Race Wins||Stage Wins||Car Number||+ / – Cutoff|
|1||William Byron||3,135||6||8||24||In With Win|
|2||Ryan Blaney*||3,078||2||4||12||In With Win|
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||3,074||3||6||19||+17|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Cup Series now moves to the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the elimination race that will determine who moves forward to the Round of 8. The Lasco Press will be live with full coverage of the weekend’s activities from Charlotte.
Results of the YellaWood 500 from Talladega Superspeedway
|1||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||—||188|
|3||24||William Byron (P)||0.061||188|
|4||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||0.177||188|
|8||9||Chase Elliott (P)||0.395||188|
|15||20||Christopher Bell (P)||0.527||188|
|16||5||Kyle Larson (P)||0.528||188|
|17||45||Tyler Reddick (P)||0.609||188|
|19||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||0.686||188|
|20||17||Chris Buescher (P)||0.689||188|
|23||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||0.825||188|
|24||23||Bubba Wallace (P)||40.581||188|
|26||8||Kyle Busch (P)||0.954||188|
|33||6||Brad Keselowski (P)||-27||161|
|38||1||Ross Chastain (P)||-129||59|