Talladega Superspeedway To Stir-up An Already Unpredictable NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs

Four NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races into the 2022 championship run and none of the Playoff drivers have won any of the postseason races this season, leaving all 12 still looking to clinch their spot 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 Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).

As the pinnacle ‘Wild Card’ event, expect the unexpected at Talladega as it is literally anyone’s to win.

The 2022 season marks the sixth consecutive year Talladega Superspeedway will host the fifth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2017-2022) – 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 (2004 – 2014) and Kansas Speedway (2015 – 2016). The 2.66-mile track is the largest paved oval the series competes on with 33 degrees of banking in the turns.


NASCAR Cup Series

  • Next Race: YellaWood 500
  • The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
  • The Date: Sunday, October 2
  • The Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • The Purse: $8,338,881
  • TV: NBC, 1 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
  • Distance: 500 miles (188 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

Talladega Superspeedway has participated in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs since its inception into the series in 2004 and has occupied five different spots on the postseason schedule. Talladega has hosted the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2004 – 2005); the fourth race (2006 – 2008 and 2012); the fifth race (2017-2022); the sixth race (2011, 2013 – 2016); and the seventh race (2009 – 2010).

A total of 14 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway, six of the 14 are active this weekend and three of the six are Playoff contenders this year – Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano.

Brad Keselowski (2017, 2014), Clint Bowyer (2010-2011), Jamie McMurray (2009, 2013) and Joey Logano (2015-2016) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff wins at Talladega Superspeedway with two postseason victories each.

Talladega Superspeedway Playoff Race Winners
Track Race Winner Date
Talladega Bubba Wallace Monday, October 4, 2021
Talladega Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 4, 2020
Talladega Ryan Blaney Sunday, October 13, 2019
Talladega Aric Almirola Sunday, October 14, 2018
Talladega Brad Keselowski Sunday, October 15, 2017
Talladega Joey Logano Sunday, October 23, 2016
Talladega Joey Logano Sunday, October 25, 2015
Talladega Brad Keselowski Sunday, October 19, 2014
Talladega Jamie McMurray Sunday, October 20, 2013
Talladega Matt Kenseth Sunday, October 7, 2012
Talladega Clint Bowyer Sunday, October 23, 2011
Talladega Clint Bowyer Sunday, October 31, 2010
Talladega Jamie McMurray Sunday, November 1, 2009
Talladega Tony Stewart Sunday, October 5, 2008
Talladega Jeff Gordon Sunday, October 7, 2007
Talladega Brian Vickers Sunday, October 8, 2006
Talladega Dale Jarrett Sunday, October 2, 2005
Talladega Dale Earnhardt Jr Sunday, October 3, 2004

During the NASCAR Cup Series 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 14 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series fifth race in the Playoffs; seven of the 14 are active this weekend. Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins during the fifth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with three victories (2004, 2005, 2009 – all at Charlotte Motor Speedway).

NASCAR Cup Playoff Race No. 5 Winners
Track Race Winner Date
Talladega Bubba Wallace Monday, October 4, 2021
Talladega Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 4, 2020
Talladega Ryan Blaney Sunday, October 13, 2019
Talladega Aric Almirola Sunday, October 14, 2018
Talladega Brad Keselowski Sunday, October 15, 2017
Kansas Kevin Harvick Sunday, October 16, 2016
Kansas Joey Logano Sunday, October 18, 2015
Charlotte Kevin Harvick Saturday, October 11, 2014
Charlotte Brad Keselowski Saturday, October 12, 2013
Charlotte Clint Bowyer Saturday, October 13, 2012
Charlotte Matt Kenseth Saturday, October 15, 2011
Charlotte Jamie McMurray Saturday, October 16, 2010
Charlotte Jimmie Johnson Saturday, October 17, 2009
Charlotte Jeff Burton Saturday, October 11, 2008
Charlotte Jeff Gordon Saturday, October 13, 2007
Charlotte Kasey Kahne Saturday, October 14, 2006
Charlotte Jimmie Johnson Saturday, October 15, 2005
Charlotte Jimmie Johnson Saturday, October 16, 2004

Twice the winner of the fifth race in the Playoffs has gone on to win the title later that season; both happening at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2004-2014). In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won the fifth race of the Playoffs from the pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway 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 of 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 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway by a driver that went on to win the title that same season was 37th by Kyle Larson in 2021.

Six times a non-Playoff driver has won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

  • In 2005, 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.
  • In 2021, Bubba Wallace won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 21st in points.

Three times a non-Playoff driver has won the fifth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs:

  • 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 2021, Bubba Wallace won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 21st in points.

Sweet Home Alabama: NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega

Since it opened it has been deemed one of the most daunting tracks on the schedule and this weekend’s YellaWood 500 (Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway looks to be another fantastic opportunity for some close side-by-side competition the fans have come to love.

In total there have been 106 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, one Cup event in 1969, and two races per year since 1970. Among the 106 Cup events, the track has hosted 18 Playoff races in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Overall, 45 different drivers have qualified on the pole at Talladega Superspeedway, 23 of the 45 have done it multiple times and six of the 45 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Talladega are active this weekend.

Active Talladega Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Chase Elliott 2 2019, ’16
Kevin Harvick 2 2018, ’05
Christopher Bell 1 2022
Austin Dillon 1 2019
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 2017
Martin Truex Jr 1 2016

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Talladega Superspeedway with eight poles (1985 sweep, 1986 sweep, 1987 sweep, spring 1990 and fall 1993). Kevin Harvick (2005, 2018) and Chase Elliott (2016, 2019) lead all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in poles at Talladega with two each.

The 106 Cup races at Talladega have also produced 51 different NASCAR Cup Series race winners at the 2.66-mile track. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in wins at Talladega with 10 victories (1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep and 2000).

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 Wins Seasons
Brad Keselowski 6 2021, ’17, ’16, ’14, ’12, ’09
Joey Logano 3 2018, ’16, ’15
Denny Hamlin 2 2020, ’14
Ryan Blaney 2 2020, ’19
Ross Chastain 1 2022
Bubba Wallace 1 2021
Chase Elliott 1 2019
Aric Almirola 1 2018
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 2017
Kevin Harvick 1 2010
Kyle Busch 1 2008

This weekend’s YellaWood 500 will be broken up into three stages the first two stages will be 60 laps each and final stage will be 68 laps.

On-track activity for the NASCAR Cup Series begins with Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, October 1 at 10:30 a.m. ET and will be streamed live on the NBC Sports App.

Clinch Scenarios: Wide open Round of 12 heads to Talladega

Just two races left for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff challengers in the Round of 12 to secure their spot in the Round of 8, and with a non-Playoff driver taking the win last weekend at Texas (Tyler Reddick), all eight spots are still up for grabs as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the YellaWood 500 (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the fifth race of the 2022 postseason.

Already Clinched

No drivers have clinched a spot in the eight-driver field of the next round.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 8th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suárez or Chase Elliott.

  • Joey Logano: Could only clinch with help
  • Ross Chastain: Could only clinch with help
  • Kyle Larson: Could only clinch with help
  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help
  • Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help
  • Daniel Suarez: Could only clinch with help
  • Chase Elliott: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Chase Briscoe or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 7th winless driver in the standings.

  • Joey Logano: Could only clinch with help
  • Ross Chastain: Could only clinch with help
  • Kyle Larson: Could only clinch with help
  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help
  • Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help
  • Daniel Suárez: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suárez, Chase Elliott, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman

Playoff Bubble: Round of 12 provides plenty of unpredictability

While the unpredictability of the close quarters racing at Talladega Superspeedway, or the twists and turns of the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL are enough to keep the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff teams up at night, they should find some solace in knowing it could be those same track attributes that help get them to Victory Lane over these next two weekends.

Since the inception of the ‘elimination-style’ format in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014, the driver that wins at Talladega Superspeedway in the postseason has clinched a needed spot in the next round in six of the eight races held (2014-2021). Joey Logano in 2015 is the lone winner at Talladega since 2014 that had already clinched his spot in the next round prior to competing at the 2.66-mile track – Logano swept the Round of 12 in 2015 winning all three races that season (Charlotte, Kansas, Talladega). Then last season, for the first-time a non-Playoff driver (Bubba Wallace) won the Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race since the ‘elimination-style’ format was introduced in 2014.

Talladega Superspeedway Playoff Race Winners Since 2014
Track Race Winner Clinch Status Heading Into ‘Dega Date
Talladega Bubba Wallace 22nd in Points Monday, October 4, 2021
Talladega Denny Hamlin 2nd in Points Sunday, October 4, 2020
Talladega Ryan Blaney 12th in Points Sunday, October 13, 2019
Talladega Aric Almirola 9th in Points Sunday, October 14, 2018
Talladega Brad Keselowski 10th in Points Sunday, October 15, 2017
Talladega Joey Logano 8th in Points Sunday, October 23, 2016
Talladega Joey Logano Clinched On Wins Sunday, October 25, 2015
Talladega Brad Keselowski 10th in Points Sunday, October 19, 2014

This weekend, rookie Austin Cindric (ninth), William Byron (10th), Christopher Bell (11th) and Alex Bowman (12th) find themselves south of the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 cutline as they head into the Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 30 at Texas Motor Speedway
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts +/- Cutoff
1 Joey Logano (P) 3,071 2 5 25 37
2 Ross Chastain (P) 3,059 2 5 20 25
3 Kyle Larson (P) 3,057 2 4 20 23
4 Ryan Blaney (P) 3,056 0 6 14 22
5 Denny Hamlin (P) 3,049 2 3 13 15
6 Daniel Suarez (P) 3,045 1 2 7 11
7 Chase Elliott (P) 3,045 4 5 40 11
8 Chase Briscoe (P) 3,041 1 4 9 7
9 Austin Cindric # (P) 3,034 1 1 6 -7
10 William Byron (P) 3,033 2 4 15 -8
11 Christopher Bell (P) 3,016 1 4 13 -25
12 Alex Bowman (P) 3,015 1 2 7 -26
13 Tyler Reddick 2,107 3 2 17 Eliminated from the Playoffs
14 Austin Dillon 2,083 1 0 5
15 Kyle Busch 2,068 1 3 10
16 Kevin Harvick 2,063 2 0 12

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (3,034 points) is ninth in the Playoff outlook standings – the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff – seven points back from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe in eighth. Cindric’s lone NASCAR Cup Series career win, came in the season-opening Daytona 500, so the rookie has found success on superspeedways. But has a few head winds to work through as this is his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and just his second career Cup start at Talladega. He made his series track debut at the 2.66-mile track earlier this season; he started 18th and finished 21st.

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron (3,033 points) was issued a penalty of 25 driver points for his contact with the No. 11 car driven by Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas last weekend. Now the North Carolina native sits 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook standings eight points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Byron is looking to advance out of the Round of 12 for the first-time in his career. In nine starts at Talladega, he has put up two top fives and an average finish of 19.0.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (3,016 points) is ranked 11th in the Playoff outlook standings, 29 points back from the Round of 8 cutoff after finishing 34th at Texas Motor Speedway. After a strong start to the Playoffs with three top fives in the first three races, Bell skidded out in Texas and now is trying to advance out of the Round of 12 for the first time in his career. The Oklahoma native has made five starts at Talladega posting one top-five finish.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman (3,015 points) finds himself in the 12th and final position in the Round of 12 Playoff outlook standings following a 29th-place finish at Texas last weekend. Now the Arizona native is 30 points back from the Playoffs’ Round of 8 cutline. Bowman has yet to win at Talladega, but has posted a best finish of runner-up in (April) 2019. And in 14 Cup Series starts he has posted one top five and four top 10s. Bowman is looking to advance out of the Round of 12 for the second-time in his career (2020).

Cup Series’ Playoff Dozen at ‘Dega

This weekend, five of the 12-driver Playoff field are former NASCAR Cup Series Talladega Superspeedway winners (race winners bolded in chart below). With none of the 12 postseason contenders locked into the Round 8, below is a look at the Playoff dozen and their NASCAR Cup Series statistics at Talladega Superspeedway.

Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating
1 Joey Logano 27 0 3 9 11 9 17.5 90.4
2 Ross Chastain 7 0 1 1 1 0 19.6 58.0
3 Kyle Larson 15 0 0 1 3 5 23.1 76.0
4 Ryan Blaney 16 0 2 3 5 4 16.9 91.1
5 Denny Hamlin 33 0 2 9 14 5 16.9 83.5
6 Daniel Suárez 11 0 0 0 1 4 22.1 66.2
7 Chase Elliott 13 2 1 4 6 3 15.2 89.3
8 Chase Briscoe 3 0 0 0 0 1 20.7 57.3
9 Austin Cindric 1 0 0 0 0 0 21.0 57.9
10 William Byron 9 0 0 2 2 3 19.0 85.4
11 Christopher Bell 5 1 0 1 1 1 22.4 73.7
12 Alex Bowman 14 0 0 1 4 6 24.4 74.2

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Alabama Native Bubba Wallace and NASCAR to Host “Bubba’s Block Party” at Railroad Park in Downtown Birmingham Friday, Sept. 30 – NASCAR announced this week plans for a community block party hosted by 23XI Racing driver and Alabama native Bubba Wallace at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham this Friday, September 30. The event will precede two days of NASCAR Playoffs racing action at Talladega Superspeedway, culminating Sunday, Oct. 2, with the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500, which Wallace is the defending champion.

Bubba’s Block Party is a community-focused NASCAR initiative that aims to drive awareness, access and engagement to the sport among the Black community while generating excitement around the race weekend. The family-friendly event will take place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“We’re excited to bring Bubba’s Block Party, a community event, to the heart of Birmingham” said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. “Events like this allow us to bridge the rich history and culture of Birmingham to a NASCAR staple like Talladega.”

The free event will host guests for hours of live music, games and activities, as well as an assortment of food offerings. Wallace, from Mobile, who made history in last year’s YellaWood 500 when he became the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race since 1963, will engage the audience as part of a fireside chat which will focus on his career journey and NASCAR’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion across the sport.

“Our sport has made real gains in expanding and diversifying our fan base,” said Bubba Wallace. “It’s my hope that Bubba’s Block Party will resonate with the Birmingham community and allow people to see all that NASCAR has to offer. I want everyone to feel welcomed, to experience the thrill of the sport and have a good time.”

NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: YellaWood 500 – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

Tyler Reddick vs. Austin Dillon (Fan Vote) – Who can forget Austin Dillon’s win at Daytona to secure his spot in the Playoffs this season? Tyler Reddick helped push Austin Dillon to victory, ensuring that both Richard Childress Racing cars got into the postseason. Unfortunately, both Reddick and Dillon are no longer in the Playoffs, even though Reddick got his third win of the season last week at Texas in the opening race of the Round of 12. Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick have had RCR’s best year in quite some time, combining for four wins for the first-time since 2013. Even though they are not in the Playoffs, Reddick and Dillon both want to finish the season strong amongst uncertainties about what next season will look like.

Denny Hamlin vs. William Byron – Denny Hamlin may have added another name to his list of enemies last weekend at Texas. Him and William Byron got tangled up coming out of a turn causing Hamlin to get into Byron from the inside. Byron went up and made contact with the wall before conceding the position, but tempers flared when Byron appeared to spin Hamlin under caution, resulting in Hamlin dropping from third to 22nd. Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart voiced their displeasure with the move, and Hamlin said that he would get Byron back down the road. For two Playoff drivers fighting for a championship, it will be interesting to see how they race each other at Talladega, where working together is crucial.

Alex Bowman vs. Christopher Bell – It wasn’t the race they were looking for to start off the Round of 12. Both Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell had trouble and failed to finish on the lead lap last weekend at Texas. They certainly have their work cut out for them if they want to reach the Round of 8. Bell sits 25 points below the cutline while Bowman sits 26 points behind. That means that Talladega will likely be a points race for both of these drivers. Bell and Bowman will most likely try to get to the front and stay in the front most of the race. Racking up stage points and trying to finish well will be paramount for Bowman and Bell as they look to make up for a poor week at Texas.

Bubba Wallace vs. Chris Buescher – This was a Featured Matchup for the regular season finale at Daytona where both drivers had a chance to win their way into the Playoffs. Although it didn’t work out for Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher making it into the Playoffs, they’ve made the most of their season. Both Wallace and Buescher have won a race in the Playoffs, although they aren’t in the Playoff field. Wallace won three weeks ago at Kansas, while Buescher won two weeks ago at Bristol. They’ve also had good runs at superspeedways; Buescher won one of the Daytona Duel’s before the Daytona 500, while Wallace won at Talladega last year and finished runner-up in this year’s Daytona 500. Both drivers have the talent to win their second race of the year this Sunday, so it will all be about having a little luck and making the perfect move at the right time if they want to continue the streak of non-Playoff drivers winning Playoff races.

Auburn Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl to Serve as Honorary Starter for YellaWood 500 – Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who has guided the Tigers to over 150 wins in eight seasons, as well as the team’s first-ever appearance in the Final Four, will serve as the Honorary Starter for Sunday’s (Oct. 2) YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I am super excited to wave the green flag to start the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway,” said Pearl, a Boston, Mass. native. “I can’t wait to see the speed of the cars plus see how the race teams will strategize to get to get a ‘W.’ I am thankful to the YellaWood team for giving me this opportunity.”

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