When the second round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs begin this Sunday, it presents a number of challenges for the 12 drivers fighting it out for this year’s championship.
First off, it’s imperative for drivers to get off to a good start.
But at the same time, all 12 of the remaining championship contenders will be looking ahead to next week’s race at Talladega.
The reason is simple: a bad showing in Charlotte, coupled with the always unpredictable outcome at Talladega, could seal a driver’s chances of being eliminated from advancing to the third round even before the final race of the second round two weeks from now at Kansas.
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Jeff Burton and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett gave their thoughts on Charlotte and looking ahead to Talladega:
BURTON: “Historically, if you run well at Dover, you run well at Charlotte. I think the fact that Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott ran so well, it’s going to show us we’re in contention here and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see those two guys running in the front again at Charlotte. And that starts to mix up who we think the favorites are. I know everybody thinks the top 3 are just walking into Homestead. I don’t believe that. If they have problems, they’re going to have to earn it. I just think Charlotte is very important to set the tempo for the second stage.”
JARRETT: “I think it’s going to show us so much about exactly who’s going to be part of that round of 8. You don’t want to go to Talladega if you had a bad weekend at Charlotte, knowing you have to make up anything there, because it’s already stressful enough and you don’t want to put yourself in that position. But I think a lot of what you do at Charlotte can transfer to Kansas, as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how some of these drivers play this.”
Check out the video above for more of Jarrett’s and Burton’s thoughts.
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)
Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.
Saturday, Oct. 1
(All times Eastern)
- 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
- 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
- 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series
- 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, 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).
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.
TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.
Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.
Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.
Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.
Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.
The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.
Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).
Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway
(All times Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.
PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.
TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.