NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Talladega Superspeedway

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

Next up for Cup: Talladega Superspeedway with fans

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.”

The offer is open exclusively on a first-come, first-served basis to fans who purchased tickets or reserved camping for the originally scheduled GEICO 500 on April 26 and live within 0-150 miles of the track. The geographical limitations are being implemented to limit travel and reduce risk. Eligible fans may use their April event credit to select new seats or may purchase seats, if preferred, through the following options:

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.

Notable series facts about Talladega:

  • 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.

New Rules Package for ‘Dega: What you need to know

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:

  • Addition of a lower main roll bar support bar #20 / intrusion plate and upper main roll bar support bar #21 (mandatory superspeedways, optional elsewhere).
  • Elimination of aero ducts at superspeedway tracks.
  • Reduction in size of throttle body from 59/64” to 57/64” (superspeedways only).
  • Updated roll bar padding specifications (mandatory at all tracks beginning June 1).
  • Oil reservoir tank or overflow expansion tank must contain a check valve (mandatory at all tracks beginning with Talladega).
  • 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 regains form

Joe Gibbs Racing has put everyone on notice that they have regained their winning form when Martin Truex Jr. collected his second Martinsville Grandfather clock of his career on Wednesday, and then on Sunday in a weather delayed event at Homestead-Miami, Denny Hamlin captured his third victory of the season (Daytona, Darlington). And as a result, Joe Gibbs Racing has tied Team Penske for the series-most wins in 2020 at four each.

Heading into Talladega this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing is hoping to build off of the early success. Not only does Hamlin lead the series in wins this season, he also leads the JGR stable in wins at Daytona and Talladega (all-time) with four (three Daytona 500 wins and 2014 May Talladega); followed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart with three (2008 Oct. Talladega and 2005, 2006 July Daytona), two-time series champ Kyle Busch with two (2008 July Daytona, 2008 April Talladega), NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett (1993 Daytona 500) and Erik Jones (July Daytona) each have one. The only current JGR driver still looking for his first win on a superspeedway is Martin Truex Jr., but he does have two runner-up finishes at Daytona.

Though two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are locked into the Playoffs on wins (Hamlin and Truex), all four JGR teammates will be looking to advance their position in the driver standings – Truex (sixth, -53 back from the points lead), Hamlin (seventh, -68), Kyle Busch (ninth, -104) and Erik Jones (18th, -190). Both Busch and Jones are still looking for their first wins of the season.

While the momentum might be at their backs following Homestead-Miami, the organization will still look to snap a Talladega winless streak that dates back to 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 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 Busch (20.2), Truex (21.4) and Jones (28.1)

Team Penske is tops at Talladega

You do not have to be a statistician to know who the best at Talladega has been as of late – Team Penske. Over the last 11 races at Talladega Superspeedway, Team Penske has celebrated in Victory Lane in seven of them (63.6%); including the most recent – last October’s race, when Ryan Blaney beat Ryan Newman in a thrilling photo finish.

In total, Team Penske has eight wins at the Alabama track among three drivers – Brad Keselowski (four wins: 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017), Joey Logano (three: 2015, 2016, 2018) and Ryan Blaney (2019).

Despite the crew chief shake up to start the season, all three Team Penske drivers are in the top five in points with a third of the season in the books. Leading the way are veterans Keselowski and Logano, who have both secured their spots in the Playoffs with wins this season (two wins each) and both have racked up Playoff points through stage wins. Logano is currently third in the driver standings, 29 points back from Kevin Harvick in the standings lead, and Keselowski is fourth in the standings; 51 points back from Harvick.

But this weekend, could be the one Blaney takes the spotlight and gets his first win of 2020. Just one point behind his teammate Keselowski, in fifth in the driver standings, Blaney is the highest ranked driver without a win this season. But he has been incredibly consistent posting six top fives (tied for series-most) on the year.

“I enjoy speedway racing. It’s just kind of a different deal,” said Blaney. “I’m excited to see the new rules package. We are going to get a firsthand look at it right in the race, no practice. I’m excited to see what that does.”

Blaney has made 11 starts at Talladega posting one win, two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 19.0.

He continued, “As far as the momentum side, yeah, you feel good for sure, stringing together some decent runs. But it is hard to kind of carry that over to Talladega. You just never know what can happen.”

Team Penske finished fifth (Logano), 13th (Keselowski), and 15th (Blaney) in the Spring Talladega race last season, then in the Fall they finished first (Blaney), 11th (Logano), and 25th (Keselowski).

Ford power has been on display at ‘Dega

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%.

In one word, Ford has been – dominant.

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. (see chart below for breakdown of wins of last 15 Talladega races)

OEM Winner Organization Date
1 Ford Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Racing Sunday, October 7, 2012
2 Ford David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Sunday, May 5, 2013
3 Chevrolet Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Sunday, October 20, 2013
4 Toyota Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Sunday, May 4, 2014
5 Ford Brad Keselowski Team Penske Sunday, October 19, 2014
6 Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Sunday, May 3, 2015
7 Ford Joey Logano Team Penske Sunday, October 25, 2015
8 Ford Brad Keselowski Team Penske Sunday, May 1, 2016
9 Ford Joey Logano Team Penske Sunday, October 23, 2016
10 Ford Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Sunday, May 7, 2017
11 Ford Brad Keselowski Team Penske Sunday, October 15, 2017
12 Ford Joey Logano Team Penske Sunday, April 29, 2018
13 Ford Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Sunday, October 14, 2018
14 Chevrolet Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Sunday, April 28, 2019
15 Ford Ryan Blaney Team Penske Monday, October 14, 2019

In total, nine different manufacturers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford with 29, Mercury (seven), Buick (six), Oldsmobile (six), Dodge (four), Plymouth (three), Toyota (three) and Pontiac (two).

Playoff Outlook: Big names on the outside looking in

With seven drivers already locked into the NASCAR Cup Series postseason on wins, Talladega Superspeedway could be the golden ticket for one lucky driver to add his name to the Playoff list as 10 former Daytona and Talladega winners are entered this weekend who are still looking for their first victory of 2020.

Rank Driver Points Leader Next Pts From Cutoff
8 Ryan Blaney 411 -52 1 132
9 Kyle Busch 359 -104 21 80
10 Kurt Busch 338 -125 21 59
11 Jimmie Johnson 322 -141 16 43
12 Clint Bowyer 316 -147 6 37
13 Aric Almirola 303 -160 13 24
14 Matt DiBenedetto 301 -162 2 22
15 William Byron 291 -172 10 12
16 Austin Dillon 281 -182 10 2
17 Tyler Reddick # 279 -184 2 -2
18 Erik Jones 273 -190 6 -8
19 Chris Buescher 233 -230 40 -48
20 Bubba Wallace 231 -232 2 -50
21 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 218 -245 13 -63
22 John Hunter Nemechek # 209 -254 9 -72
23 Michael McDowell 206 -257 3 -75
24 Christopher Bell # 196 -267 10 -85
25 Ryan Newman 191 -272 5 -90

*Former Daytona & Talladega series race winners are bolded.

Of the 10 drivers looking for their first win this season, seven of them are ranked inside the top 16 in the driver standings and could currently get into the postseason on points. Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney leads the way as he is the highest ranked driver in the standings, plus he won at Talladega last season. Blaney currently has a comfortable lead (132 points) above the postseason cutoff.

Next are the Busch brothers, Kyle has two wins at Daytona and a win at Talladega back in 2008 and Kurt won the 2017 Daytona 500. Kyle Busch is 80 points up on the postseason cutoff heading into this weekend, and Kurt is up 59 from the cutoff.

Seven-time series champ, Jimmie Johnson is also looking to get his first win of the season and snap a winless streak that dates back to 2017. Fortunately, Johnson has found success at both Daytona (two Daytona 500s) and Talladega (two wins: 2006, 2011). Johnson is only 43 points up on Reddick in 17th, the first spot outside the Playoffs.

Next on the list are Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola. Bowyer has two wins at Talladega (2010, 2011) and Aric Almirola has won at Daytona (July 2014) and Talladega (Oct. 2018). Bowyer is a mere 34 points up on the postseason cutoff and Almirola is up 24 points.

And last of the 2020 winless drivers inside the top 16 in points that has formerly won at Daytona or Talladega is Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon. He is currently in the 16th spot, just two points ahead of his RCR teammate and Sunoco rookie Tyler Reddick in 17th. Dillon won the 2018 Daytona 500. He has made 13 starts at Talladega posting one top five and three top 10s.

Erik Jones (July Daytona), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2017 Talladega and July Daytona) and Ryan Newman (2016 Daytona 500 winner) are the three former superspeedway winners just outside the top 16 looking for their first win of 2020.

Kings of Talladega

NASCAR Cup Series
Talladega Active Race Winners
Active Race Winners (12) Wins
Brad Keselowski 5
Joey Logano 3
Clint Bowyer 2
Jimmie Johnson 2
Aric Almirola 1
Chase Elliott 1
Denny Hamlin 1
Kevin Harvick 1
Kyle Busch 1
Matt Kenseth 1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1
Ryan Blaney 1

When anyone is speaking about someone being the best of the best at something, they’re often deemed the ‘King’ of the particular subject. For example, NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins with 200 and his next closest competitor is 95 behind him (David Pearson at 105). Rightfully so, he was nicknamed ‘The King’. But who are the kings of Talladega Superspeedway?

The three drivers that have won the most at Talladega Superspeedway all-time are NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (10 wins: 1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep, 2000), Jeff Gordon (six win: 1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007 sweep) and the soon-to-be-inducted Dale Earnhardt Jr. (six wins: 2001, 2002 sweep, 2003, 2004, 2015). Earnhardt Jr. holds the record for most consecutive wins at the 2.66-mile track, winning four straight from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2003.

This weekend, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski 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.

Keselowski has made 22 series starts at Talladega posting five wins (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017), seven top fives and 11 top 10s. He finished 13th in this race last season.

Harvick continues to hang on to the top

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick took over the points lead following the fourth race (Phoenix) of the 2020 season and in spite of a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a busy condensed schedule following, he hasn’t relinquished the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings as the series heads to its 13th race of the season at Talladega Superspeedway.

With his first win of the year at Darlington Raceway, the first race back from the break, Harvick locked himself into the Playoffs and over the next few races built his points lead up over second in the standings to 48 points following his second win of the season at Atlanta.

But these last two races have been disastrous for Harvick’s points lead, finishing 15th at Martinsville and 26th at Homestead-Miami. Harvick heads to Talladega this weekend with just an eight-point lead over second-place Chase Elliott and that could be in jeopardy as well. Harvick has made 38 series starts at Talladega posting one win (2010), seven top fives and 15 top 10s. But, in his last three starts at the 2.66-mile raceway he has finished 17th or worst, including a 38th-place finish in this race last season. On a bright note though, he finished fifth in the season opening Daytona 500, the last time the series ran on a superspeedway.

Tyler Reddick has the Sunoco rookies on the rise

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings
Rookies Points Awards
Tyler Reddick 279 7
John H. Nemechek 209 2
Christopher Bell 196 2
Cole Custer 181 1
Brennan Poole 91 0
Quin Houff 52 0

The 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year class has started to prove not only do they belong in the NASCAR Cup Series, but they intend to contend.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick has been the most impressive rookie this season, but really showcased his skills on one of his favorite tracks last weekend – Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Californian, Reddick, posted his first top-five (fourth) of the season and ran amongst the leaders for the majority of the race; even leading his first three laps of his series career. Reddick leads the rookie standings by 70 points over second place John Hunter Nemechek.  In 12 starts this year, he has put up one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 17.0.

Riding in Reddick’s wake is driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, John Hunter Nemechek, currently second in the rookie standings 13 points up on third place Christopher Bell. In 12 starts this season, Nemechek has collected one top 10 and an average finish of 19.8.

“Front Row Motorsports has always had a strong program at Talladega,” said John Hunter Nemechek. “We started the season strong with a good run at Daytona, so hopefully we can have a repeat performance for an even better finish this weekend.”

All six rookies in the 2020 class will be making their series track debuts this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. At Daytona earlier this season John Hunter Nemechek had the highest finish of the rookies (11th); followed by Brennan Poole (16th), Christopher Bell (21st), Tyler Reddick (28th), Cole Custer (37th) and Quin Houff (39th).


NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Gaughan fights COVID-19 while not racing – Beard Motorsport’s driver Brendan Gaughan has officially retired from fulltime racing and instead has started a part-time driving campaign where he races just the four superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega. In between racing, Gaughan works for his family’s company at the South Beach Casino in Las Vegas and runs his sanitation company he recently started. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown of Las Vegas casinos, Gaughan and his team have been working around the clock to provide services to the Las Vegas area to combat the virus and get the area back up and running.

“My little cleaning company that I don’t talk much about – New Wave Cleaning Solutions that I started about three years ago – it’s just exploded,” said Gaughan. “It’s been a great little, no frills company, but with all of the disinfecting and sanitizing that needs to be done (due to COVID-19), New Wave Cleaning Solutions became a big part of what it took to get Vegas back open. Trying to get PPE for casinos, trying to get disinfectants and the machines for disinfecting in the casinos, sourcing out sanitizers other than alcohol-based ones because everybody is getting tired of alcohol-based sanitizers – we did all of that. I don’t think I’ve ever slept less in my life, talking to people across the world at all hours of the night, trying to source and find supplies, and getting those products and protocols into the casinos. The Station Casinos use a lot of my products. They’re massive in town. My family’s casinos, everybody who’s a friend of ours and is a casino operator, we called and said, ‘Hey, we want to take care of the people we know and get this town open.’ It was really exciting, if you want to know the truth. But to do it while being the homeschool dad and just staying current with things in NASCAR, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been.”

Gaughan will be back in the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend at Talladega. Gaughan has made nine starts at Talladega posting one top five and two top 10s.

Upcoming Milestones – Ryan Blaney will be making his 175th NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. … B.J. McLeod will be making his 50th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Talladega this weekend. … Brad Keselowski can tie Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second-most series wins all-time at Talladega with a victory this weekend.

Manufacturer Standings Update – Through the first 12 races of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season Ford has won half of the events (six); followed by Toyota with four and Chevrolet with two. Ford (444 points) leads the series manufacturer standings by 25 points over second place Toyota (419) and 36 points up on third place Chevrolet (408).

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