Active drivers with multiple road-course wins will soon be hard to come by

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Road course racing is not for everyone.

And when the Sprint Cup Series only visits two road courses a year, that leaves little opportunity for drivers to showcase their abilities.

With Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart having combined for 17 wins at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway since 1997, only one other active driver has managed to win more than once on a road course.

Kyle Busch first claimed road course glory by sweeping the races in 2008. He’s since won once more at each track, at WGI in 2013 and then at Sonoma in 2015, which was his first win after returning from serious leg injuries.

In his 23 road course starts, Busch has seven top fives and 13 top 10s.

With Stewart and Gordon likely making their final road course starts, where does the rest of the field in Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen stand?

With two wins each by the no longer active Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya, nine drivers have managed to win at either road course once and never again.

That includes Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger and Jimmie Johnson.

Watkins Glen represents one of four Sprint Cup tracks that Johnson – who has 77 career victories –  hasn’t won at.

Notable drivers who haven’t yet claimed a road course win are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.

While Kenseth finished fourth at the Glen in 2015, it was only his first top five in 33 road course starts. The 2003 Sprint Cup champion has seven road course top 10s, but he’s only led three laps at them in his entire career. Sonoma remains the only track he has not led a lap at.

Keselowski has three top fives at WGI after finishing second three years in a row (2011-13), but he has only one top 10 at Sonoma in seven starts.

While Kasey Kahne has a win at Sonoma (2009), two poles and six top 10s at Sonoma, the Hendrick Motorsports’ driver has never finished better than 12th in his 12 starts at WGI.

In the most recent road race race, the June visit to Sonoma, Stewart claimed his eighth road-course win. But it came at the expense of Hamlin.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 33 laps – which tied his career best at road courses – and after passing Stewart on the last lap lost the lead back Stewart after overshooting the final turn.

It left Hamlin still winless at road courses, but it gave the Daytona 500 champion his first road course top five in his last 13 starts.

His first of three top fives came in 2007.

That year he finished second to Stewart as the three-time champion won his fourth of five races at WGI.

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE

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Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really a playoff wildcard?

 

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.