Low on car count, can Toyota end Talladega slump?


What do Dodge, a manufacturer that left NASCAR after the 2012 season, and Toyota have in common?

They both have just one Cup win at Talladega in the last decade.

Toyota enters today’s playoff race at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC) trying to earn its first win at the superspeedway since 2014. That came courtesy of Denny Hamlin in the spring race at the 2.66-mile track.

It’s most recent Talladega victory prior to that was in 2008 when Joe Gibbs Racing swept that year’s races with Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.

In the six years between Toyota wins, Brad Keselowski claimed Dodge’s lone Talladega win during its 12-year Cup tenure.

Toyota goes into today’s race with far fewer cars compared to Chevrolet and Ford.

In addition to JGR’s four cars, it will have Christopher Bell in Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car, Daniel Suarez in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 car and Timmy Hill in the No. 66 car.

Spearheading Toyota’s seven-car effort against Chevy’s 17 cars and Ford’s 15 cars will be Hamlin, who starts from the pole.

“I think that we obviously know that we can win there, it’s just a lot of it is circumstances,” Hamlin said. “A lot of it is kind of putting yourself in the right place, which you don’t always know what that place will be. It’s historically – the playoff race in Talladega – is pretty wild, because you have probably two-thirds of the field has been eliminated that’s really not racing for much except trying to win and you have some other ones that are going to be fighting tooth and nail for stage points.

“I suspect it will be pretty wild again, but I’m confident that all of our cars are good enough to win every time we go there. It’s just sometimes it is a number game. As Toyota as an organization, we are short on numbers from everyone else. We just kind of count on people getting selfish at the end and use them.”

Despite being 58 points above the cutline, Hamlin is mindful of his situation as he tries to advance to the Round of 8.

“I think with our points position, we need to have a good solid day,” Hamlin said. “We are going to try to lock ourselves in just as soon as possible, so that would be the first stage. If we don’t (think) that is a good option for us once the racing gets going, we will alter that strategy and focus more towards the end of the race. I don’t know how it will play it out. It is kind of a wait and see based on how the pack is reacting.”

Not as secure as Hamlin are his teammates, Busch and Truex.

Truex enters the weekend 15 points above the cutline. Busch, who is winless this season, is the first driver below the cutline. He is nine points behind Alex Bowman.

Busch’s 2008 victory is his lone Talladega triumph in 30 starts.

“I’m just going to do what I’m told to do,” Busch said in a media release. “For us and where we’re at, we don’t have anything to lose. We have to go race. We can’t just sit there and ride and protect a cushion like we have been able to do in the past. We’re going to be on the outside looking in, so we have to go for broke and do all we can do to get those stage wins and points and try to get a race win to automatically punch your ticket to the next round. We have been good at the superspeedway races so far this year, but none of them have turned out to be great finishes.”

Busch also noted the importance of manufacturer car count when it comes to winning at Talladega.

“In the June race there, we had a strong car and ran up front, but just didn’t have enough Toyotas running up front at the end to get any help,” Busch said. “That’s what it comes down to a lot at Talladega, getting the help from your teammates, since it’s hard to do that on your own.”

For Truex’s part, he’s never won a points paying superspeedway race.

“I think you’ve got to approach it like any other race and try to get as many stage points as possible and put yourself in position to be up front all day,” Truex said in a media release. “Talladega is always going to be what it is, and things can and probably will happen regardless of where you’re running in the pack. Everyone knows that going in, so we’ll just have to race hard and make the most of the day.”

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.