YellaWood 500 (Talladega) NASCAR preview and fantastic predictions – AthlonSports.com
Kyle Larson has six NASCAR Cup Series wins this season, spending most of 2021 as the championship favorite. He enters the YellaWood 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBC) with a 57-point gap on the cut line, what should being a comfortable position with two races remaining in the round of 12. Martin Truex Jr., fourth, has his own 31-point advantage, averaging a 4.0 four-race average in the NASCAR playoffs.
So why don’t any of them feel safe?
The most unpredictable track in all of NASCAR is looming on the horizon: Talladega Superspeedway. This 2.66-mile tri-oval could literally shake a dozen title contenders in seconds, its habit of multiple-car wrecks and surprise winners leaving all championship contenders on the edge.
“We’re going to cross our fingers, cross our toes,” Truex said. “Do some prayer this week and go to Talladega and see what happens. “
Do not believe me ? Find out what just happened at Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. 21-truck wreck on lap 59 sent a dozen drivers into the garage early, triggering a series of incidents and contacts that continued until the last lap of the race.
Coming off Turn 4, underdog Tate Fogleman saw an opening, his only chance to win this year with below-average gear. This meant Truck Championship favorite John Hunter Nemechek fell easy prey as No.12 turned No.4 to the start / finish line, winning the first race of his NASCAR career.
Fucking playoffs, right? In this series, Zane Smith lost 21 points on the cut line, just like that, despite a truck capable of winning the race. The only reason it was in the wrong place at the wrong time on a track that often doesn’t give pilots time to react when the Big One bursts.
See why all the drivers in the championship sweat? There’s a valid argument that a track like ‘Dega, with so many inability to control their own destiny, shouldn’t be on the playoff schedule. But no one will argue that the race here remains interesting, the one place all year round where literally every car on the field could end up winning if the draft (and crashes) go down.
Some are better than others at pack races; Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers with six career wins at Talladega. By comparison, Larson has never finished in the top 5 here or at Daytona in his Cup career. Most of the guys are somewhere in the middle, doing their best to just stay until the finish while learning where and how to make their moves in the draft when it counts.
And when they get out of line? There is no margin for error. A single mistake could mean a wreckage of several cars that earns you a point for 36e or worse, sitting in the garage while someone else finishes second and produces a swing of 50 points (or more) in the leaderboard.
So get ready for a wild ride, a roller coaster of lead changes until the very last second (‘Dega has averaged 50 the last three events here). Who will be able to pull the best strategy, grab all the right breaks, and work their way forward to the finish?
Dated: Sunday October 2
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Track: Talladega Superspeedway (Lincoln, Alabama)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM channel 90
Related: Starting lineup for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Who’s Up Front: Joe Gibbs Racing
JGR released the right slot machine in Las Vegas, finishing 1-3-4 with Denny Hamlin winning his second run of the playoffs and securing a spot in the round of 8. He is the only one to breathe a sigh of relief. this weekend, knowing no matter how well the # 11 Toyota gets, he’s always guaranteed a chance to make Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
JGR as a whole must be happy, even with Christopher Bell bringing up the rear in the round of 12. Truex and Hamlin combined to win three of the last four races while Kyle Busch had his best result in two months on Sunday at his hometown track (third). As an organization, they appear to be the strongest of the four remaining owners in the fight for the championship.
Who’s in the back: Team Penske
Penske, outclassed on a Vegas track they’ve dominated in recent years, would bring up this quartet. After four races in the playoffs, they did not finish in the top 3 and led a total of 84 laps (Hamlin alone led 137 laps in Vegas). While their trio of drivers (Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano) remain in the round of 16 cup line, they haven’t projected a championship-level confidence since the summer months.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. announced this week that he will return with JTG Girls Race next season. This will be Stenhouse’s third year with the organization as they choose to consolidate their resources into one car, keeping # 47 while stopping # 37 driven by Ryan Preece.
Ryan blaney himself officially has a new crew chief for 2022. Jonathan Hassler, currently Matt DiBenedetto and the Wood Brothers’ crew chief, will switch to the No.12 Ford to replace the retiring Todd Gordon.
Kevin harvic will be without a longtime team leader Rodney Childers in Talladega. Childers will be replaced by Greg Zipadelli after a post-race inspection in Las Vegas revealed two loose lug nuts on the No.4 Ford Stewart-Haas Racing. This triggers a one-race suspension for the team manager under NASCAR rules.
In the Camping World Truck Series, GMS races hired Grant enfinger as a senior driver for the 2022 season and beyond. Champion Power Equipment will sponsor Enfinger full-time as the organization replaces the departure of Sheldon Creed, restructuring as well as a pending stint in the Cup Series with at least one driver to announce next season.
NASCAR in numbers
Drivers who won their first Cup race at Talladega since the turn of the century: Brian Vickers (2006), Brad Keselowski (2009) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2017).
The last time a Talladega race went without warning (or also without warning as they can be nowadays with automatic stage interruptions). Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the event in the fall of 2002.
Play the Odds (Fantasy Spin)
I do not claim to be an expert in this field when it comes to pack racing. In this type of scenario your guess is often as good as mine with drivers simply unable to avoid the big wrecks which are a virtual certainty here.
That said, it’s worth noting Denny hamlin has nothing to lose and is the reigning winner of the Talladega race. A 32sd-place run in the spring ended a three-top-four streak, the type of run you rarely see at ‘Dega. Maybe luck is back on her side?
I will also keep an eye on Kevin harvic. With just two top-10s in Talladega’s last six races, you’d think the law of averages here would balance out. Harvick also has a trio of teammates to help him out, not all of whom are in the playoffs and can devote their time trying to push the No.4 Ford forward.
Related: Best Talladega Superspeedway Drivers For DraftKings
This is where you earn money on a daily basis: find an intermediate driver who can spend all day at the front. I’m going with Matt DiBenedetto because his window to audition for a tour in 2022 is getting smaller and smaller. Still a free agent, Matty D might need a win to secure a run in the sport’s top three series and he’s more than capable of getting it here, leading 28 laps in the spring and crossing the finish line. last fall before a NASCAR misconduct penalty. the passage made him back down to 21st.
Austin Dillon has had a disappointing year, going from a possible top 10 point ranking and black horse playoff contender to a total absence from the playoffs. Can the 2018 Daytona 500 winner bounce off a sister track that hasn’t been so kind to him? Dillon has just two career laps at Talladega and only one top-5 in 16 starts. The reason I think ‘yes’ is because of how fast teammate Tyler Reddick has shown over the past two months. Dillon could use it here on a type of track he’s excelled at throughout his career.
You gotta go with Corey LaJoie, right? The Speyer Motorsports No.7 rider was set for an unlikely surprise victory at Daytona before some poor picks on restarts in the final laps. Well aware of how these tracks can be a boost for underfunded teams, he’s won all of his four career top 10s in the Daytona and Talladega pack races.
Rookie Anthony Alfredo is the type of cheap choice to fill your roster that can pay huge dividends here. The rookie has struggled all year with Front Row Motorsports, but draft parity offers a rare opportunity for success. 12e in the spring a similar performance here would earn your list if everyone managed to avoid the big wrecks.
What Vegas thinks
Poleman Denny Hamlin starts off with a slight advantage, +900 Sunday winning chances according to vegasinsider.com. Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are all close behind at +1000.
Do you know who is a good choice here? Kyle Larson, sitting at +1200 due to his difficulties on this type of track. Not very far, I know, but he had a season to overcome the adversity of the past.
What I think
Close your eyes, throw a dart at the board and see where it lands? Mine ended up in Ryan Blaney’s name, which earned him a second pack victory this season. I think the Fords have worked well together at Daytona and Talladega this year, giving them a slight edge.
But in this race? Virtually anyone could visit the Victory Lane and it wouldn’t raise eyebrows.
– Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and majority owner of the NASCAR website Frontstretch.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.