How Will Sunday’s Cup Race Look at Talladega?

TALLADEGA, Ala – Expect Sunday’s 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Talladega Superspeedway to look a lot like the most recent superspeedway races that have been run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite so much on the line in terms of playoff implications, today’s race will be manufacturer driven.

Toyota finished 1-2-3 in this past year’s Daytona 500. We didn’t know it then, but that race forever changed the way the Cup Series would race on the four annual stops on superspeedways. Ford finished 1-2-3 in this race last year. Chevrolet went 1-2-3-5-6 on this track back in April. They backed that up with going 1-2-3-4 in the rain shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 back in July too.

Toyota started this new trend back in 2016. Ford perfected it after. Chevy used their strength in numbers to their advantage from the spring race at Talladega on.

Just look at the starting lineup for today’s 188 Lap race. Hendrick Motorsports starts 1-2-3-4. Team Penske starts 6-9-10. Stewart-Hass Racing rolls off 5-8 meaning nine of the top 10 starting spots belong to those three organizations.

The favorites all start up front and this has been a race that has seen nine of the last 10 winners all start in the first 6 Rows. With HMS, Penske and SHR being those cars in those starting spots, they’re certainly in store for a big day it seems. 

Almirola start fifth and he won this race last year. Elliott and Bowman start 1-2 and that’s exactly how they finished this past Spring.

In terms of the start, SHR and Penske will likely line up together for an early blue oval freight train. 12 of the top 19 starters are all Fords and they will start -5-6-7-8-9-10-13-14-15-16-17-19. Among that group is both Roush Fenway cars, all three Penske’s and their alliance car with Wood Brothers, all four SHR drivers and two Front Row Motorsports cars.

For Chevy, they’ll get all four Hendrick cars, Kyle Larson (12th) and his teammate Kurt Busch (24th) and both Dillon Brothers (20th, 21st). As you can see, they may lack the cars to counter the Ford train early. The HMS cars will have to really lineup and hope Larson, Busch and both Dillon’s can lineup and push their ways forward. If they don’t, then the Ford’s could control this race early on.

In terms of the Toyota’s, they lack cars. That’s no secret. There’s only seven in Sunday’s race and they start all over the place. With the three still being playoff eligible being so good above the bubble in the standings, their best bet is to get together in the back and ride around. They can give up stage points for clean race cars.

See, Keselowski said it best in Daytona, while Ford’s lacked power to Chevy, they did work well together but the problem was that with all the manufacturers running in line, if a big one occurs, it can take out a lot of cars from the same make.

If Toyota’s stay together and clean, they let Ford and Chevy take each other out in the sure to be crashes. That helps their numbers come closer together in the end. That’s their best gameplan since Toyota hasn’t had much success at Talladega before.

They had just one car in the top 18 of the Spring race at Talladega back in April. They had just two cars (8th, 14th) in the top 21 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona back in July.

Toyota has just one Dega victory since 2009 and only three overall. That could be shocking to some seeing that they finished 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 back in February. But, the ‘500 was run with the old restrictor plate package.

That’s why the Ford and Chevy drivers need to work with their makes early on and often and take care of one another.

Will we see a fluke winner?

6 of the last 10 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition have earned either their first or second career victories in them. But, 3 of the last 5 at Talladega and 5 of the last 6 at Daytona saw drivers won their first or second superspeedway race on them too.

Odds say that we very well could.

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