NASCAR Playoff Drivers Looking to at Least Survive at Talladega

NASCAR Cup Series cars wrecking in the YellaWood 500 10-02-22
NASCAR Cup Series cars wrecking in the YellaWood 500 10-02-22 (Photo credit: YouTube)

The NASCAR Playoffs are heading to a wild card race at Talladega Superspeedway. If those drivers can’t win the YellaWood 500, they hope to at least survive it.

When the Cup Series races at Talladega it means speeds of 200 mph while racing inches apart in large packs. This allows any driver the chance to be in the right place at the right time to make a move for the win. However, it also allows for any driver to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to be collected in “The Big One.”

William Byron won last week’s race in Texas. That means the pressure is off him and his team. He gets an automatic advance to the next round in the playoffs. The remaining 11 drivers in the Round of 12 must still either win to advance or score enough points to be above the cut line in the next two races. Below is the NASCAR Playoffs Outlook heading to Talladega.

2023 NASCAR Playoffs Outlook heading to Talladega Superspeedway
Drivers in red area in danger of being eliminated from Playoffs; Drivers in grey already eliminated

Here is what all the drivers and teams will be facing this week at the track and in the race.

Talladega Superspeedway Data:
Track Size: 2.66-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 33 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 33 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 16.5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Frontstretch Length:  4,300 feet
Backstretch Length:  4,000 feet

YellaWood 500 Data:
Season Race #: 31 of 36 (10-01-23)
NCS Playoff Race #: 5 of 10
Round of 12 Race #: 2 of 3
Race Length: 188 laps / 500.08 miles
Stage 1 & 2 Length: 60 laps (each)
Final Stage Length: 68 laps

These are the active drivers that have won a NASCAR Cup Series race during their careers.

Brad Keselowski6 Wins 2021, ’17, ’16, ’14, ’12, ’09
Joey Logano3 Wins2018, ’16, ’15
Kyle Busch2 Wins2023, ’08
Chase Elliott2 Wins2022, ’19
Denny Hamlin2 Wins2020, ’14
Ryan Blaney2 Wins2020, ’19
Ross Chastain1 Win2022
Bubba Wallace1 Win2021
Aric Almirola1 Win2018
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.1 Win2017
Kevin Harvick1 Win2010

Brad Keselowski has yet to win as a driver/owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing. He has the most wins (by double) of any active driver at Talladega in NASCAR’s top division. If he were to get his first win of 2023 and for RFK Racing this week, it would ensure he would be a driver in the Round of Eight.

Kevin Harvick is in his final year as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver. He was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 16. He has yet to win this season. Getting a second career win in his final race at Talladega would likely be a popular win among fans. Although it would be a spoiler for those remaining playoff drivers.

It is really hard to predict which driver will win at Talladega. The fastest cars can get caught up in “The Big One” and change the outlook for the race. There can be (and has been) more than one “Big One” that can change the race outlook multiple times. There can be a decent car that avoids calamity to be at the right place at the right time to make the right move to win the race.

We will see how it all plays out Sunday, October 1st starting at 1 p.m. central time (2 p.m. eastern time) in the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

By: Buck Stevens

Buck Stevens