Chaos will ensue over the next two weeks in the Round of 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as Talladega hosts Sunday afternoon’s race and the Round of 8 will be set at the Charlotte Roval next Sunday. Who will survive the calamity and continue their quest for a championship?
Kurt Busch can have a relaxed day on the superspeedway after clinching his spot into the Round of 8 due to winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Sunday. Busch has never won at Talladega but boasts 21 top-10 finishes in 39 races, which is the most of any driver in the field. He will start on the front row with pole-sitter Denny Hamlin.
While he came up short at Las Vegas, Hamlin still earned the pole for Sunday’s race due to having a gap in the points ahead of Busch. Heading into Talladega, he is virtually secured into the Round of 8 with a 58-point cushion over the cutline. However, to hold that gap and not have to worry about points, he will need to stay out front, score stage points and not get caught up in the inevitable big wreck.
It’s no secret that Martin Truex Jr.(+15) is not a big fan of Talladega. The Joe Gibbs Racing product hasn’t scored a finish better than 20th since the Spring 2016 race and hasn’t had a top 10 at the track since 2015. Truex will have an advantage starting in the second row but will need to avoid the chaos to hold a steady gap ahead of the cutline.
Sunday could be a big day for Chevy as both Chase Elliott (+10) and Alex Bowman (+9) look to separate themselves from the cutline. While he did crash out in last year’s Talladega playoff race, Bowman has finished inside the top 10 in two of the last three races at the track and is riding some momentum as he has five top-10 finishes in the last six races. Elliott does have a win at Talladega (Spring 2019) and is usually at the front of the pack when not involved in an accident. However, after a poor result at Las Vegas, he will start 10th and will have to find friends early to get out of the middle of the pack.
Below the cutline heading into Sunday are Kyle Busch (-9), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Austin Dillon (-32). These drivers have one job, stay up front. They will need to earn stage points in order close that gap to the cutline. Aggression will be the name of the game for them.
Stages for the race end on lap 60, lap 120 and the finish on lap 188. NBC will provide TV coverage and you can listen to the race on the Motor Racing Network.
Pit stall assignments:
Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2020/09/29/goodyear-fast-facts-talladega-5/