The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs head back to the Southeast region, landing at one of the series‘ most iconic tracks in Talladega Superspeedway. Don‘t miss the upcoming Round of 12 action in the YellaWood 500 at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday (NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
But first, here‘s what you need to know.
At 2.66 miles around, Talladega Superspeedway is the largest oval on the NASCAR circuit. Formerly known as Alabama International Speedway, the track has a long history and tradition dating back to its inaugural race in September of 1969. Dale Earnhardt still holds the record for most wins at the track with 10 — and remains the only premier series driver to ever reach double-digit victories there.
The 48-feet wide asphalt racing surface spans 4,000 feet long on the backstretch, with the frontstretch between the turns and tri-oval measuring 2,150 feet. The track features up to 33 degrees of variable banking in the turns, with a 16.5-degree frontstretch banking and 2 degrees of tilt on the backstretch.
Stage 1 will end at Lap 60, Stage 2 at Lap 120 and the Final Stage at Lap 188.
Denny Hamlin is the recipient of this week‘s Busch Pole Award, earning the honor of leading the field to green Sunday. This is Hamlin‘s second time this season starting a race from the pole position. Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman and Kevin Harvick fill out the top five.
The lineup was determined using NASCAR‘s competition-based formula, which is a total number based on the previous event: 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver‘s final race finish position, 25% of the owner‘s final race position and 35% of the owner points position.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for superspeedways will be in effect, with additional engine restrictions intended to drop the target horsepower to around 510. The cars will use the superspeedway package, but aero ducts will be eliminated and a smaller throttle body will be used. Competition officials introduced the changes May 1 after Ryan Newman‘s severe wreck in the season-opening Daytona 500. Learn more about the crash findings and the intent of the safety and competition changes here.
Cup Series teams will have seven sets of Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials for the race.
Tire management and taking risks might be the theme of this week, as it is possible to pit here without losing a lap. With the importance of track position and chances to make moves at the end of a stage, working with teammates and manufacturer groupings to perfect a winning strategy will be a focus for drivers and crew chiefs all afternoon.
“While not known as a high-wear track, we do actually see some wear at Talladega,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “Talladega was repaved in 2010, but tire wear is really not an issue. This leaves open the possibility for some pit strategy, with teams having the opportunity to take two tires, or even no tires on occasion. This will impact them in two ways — to gain a little track position and help them stay close to teammates or other cars they are working with in the draft.”
PLAYOFF STATS TO KNOW
— Team Penske drivers have won five of the last six playoff races at Talladega. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, the team’s two remaining playoff drivers this year, have a combined eight career wins here. Ryan Blaney, who was knocked out of the playoffs after the Round of 16, has won the last two Talladega races.
— Kurt Busch has made the playoffs seven times during the current elimination format but has never made it to the Championship 4. With his win at Las Vegas, he advances to the Round of 8 but still has a point total that is below the cutline.
— Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman are the only remaining playoff drivers who do not have a superspeedway win in their Cup Series career.
— Kyle Busch has just six races left to extend his 15-year win streak. He has four runner-up finishes this season.
Source: Racing Insights
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR Mobile App to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner (which is FREE for both races), and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
A .007-second margin was all that separated Ryan Blaney from the runner-up at Talladega in last season‘s playoff thriller. Blaney edged Ryan Newman on the last lap to collect his third career victory at the track and secure the sixth-closest margin of victory in Cup Series history.
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ACTIVE TALLADEGA WINNERS
Brad Keselowski (five wins); Joey Logano (three); Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer (two each); Aric Almirola, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (one each).