NASCAR viewer’s guide: Talladega Superspeedway


The Next Gen returns to a superspeedway this week as NASCAR rolls into Talladega Superspeedway.

Austin Cindric won the last true superspeedway race in the Daytona 500 back in February and Fords dominated the week.

But everybody feels like they have a chance to fight for the victory Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Fox) around the 2.66-mile oval in Alabama. Get set for the weekend with story lines, entry lists, forecasts and more here:

Team Penske’s turn again?

For a track as unpredictable as Talladega can be, Team Penske has an astounding record in Alabama as winners of eight of the track’s last 13 races. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano hold three wins apiece in that stretch. Ryan Blaney has two victories.

This year, of course, marks Keselowski’s first to Talladega without Team Penske since 2009, when he scored his first career win with Phoenix Racing before an eighth-place finish in the fall. Keselowski, who won this race a year ago and leads all active drivers with six Talladega wins, now drives and co-owns the No. 6 Ford for RFK Racing.

In his place is Cindric, who brought the No. 2 Ford its first Daytona 500 victory in February. The Penske brigade has been masterful in superspeedway races, but Blaney has been the team’s superspeedway leader of late, winning two of the last five at Talladega and three of the last 10 superspeedways overall.

Logano, on the other hand, has led laps in each of the last 13 superspeedway races but hasn’t won in the past 15 such events. He is also on a 38-race winless streak in points events, his last such win coming on the dirt at Bristol in 2021 – with an exhibition win in February’s Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in between.

Bubba eyeing more history?

Bubba Wallace made history the last time NASCAR came to Talladega. He won the rain-shortened October event and became the first Black driver to win a Cup Series race since Wendell Scott in December 1963.

More could be ahead for Wallace. The fifth-year driver is eyeing his fourth consecutive top-two finish on a superspeedway. In the last three on such tracks, Wallace finished second at Daytona in August 2021, won Talladega in October and finished second in this year’s Daytona 500.

A top-two finish Sunday at Talladega would make him only the fifth driver to accomplish the feat, joining Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough (who did it twice), Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett along with Ernie Irvan. Jarrett was the last to score that streak between April 1999 and February 2000, culminating with a win in that year’s Daytona 500.

Wallace has struggled this season since finishing runner-up in the Daytona 500, with no finishes better than 13th (Atlanta) in the past eight races. But the 28-year-old has shown consistent talent on superspeedways despite these races’ occasional crapshoot appearances.

When will Reddick break through?

After missing the victory by 0.33 seconds a week ago at Bristol, Tyler Reddick now has four career runner-up finishes in the Cup Series, the most of any active driver without a win.

Talladega is Reddick’s better of the two true superspeedways on the schedule with two seventh-place finishes in his four starts there. Performance on the superspeedways, though, remains a question mark for Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing team.

On Monday, Reddick joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track” program and lamented Chevrolet’s gap to the Fords to hosts Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds.

“We figured out pretty quickly at Daytona that we had some work to do to catch up to the Fords,” Reddick said. “They just were able to draft just extremely efficient with one another. The amount of work that us and the Chevrolets have to do to just keep up or just get within half a second of the Fords is a lot of work. … So we had to really go to work and we’re hoping that the work that we put in is gonna pay off. And we’re not really gonna know until we’re in the race.”

To his point, there will be no practice at Talladega — just a solo qualifying lap in the two-round format that will set the starting grid before Sunday’s race. Reddick also noted that handling tends to matter less at Talladega than at Daytona, which could play further into the hands of Ford.

“If we want to win on Sunday, we’re really gonna have to fight for it and just try and stay in the hunt all day long, stay in position and see what happens,” he said. “It’s gonna be a challenge, but if anyone’s up for a challenge, it’s our group.”

Ford has won four of the last five superspeedway races with four different drivers (Cindric, Blaney, Keselowski and Michael McDowell). Chevrolet has won once in the last 10, courtesy of William Byron at Daytona in August 2020.

Entry lists

Thirty-nine cars are on this week’s Cup Series entry list, meaning none will miss Sunday’s race.

One week after competing for Kaulig Racing, Xfinity Series points leader Noah Gragson returns to the Beard Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Wendy’s. Other open, non-chartered cars on the entry list include the No. 55 Ford from MBM Motorsports driven by JJ Yeley and the NY Racing Team No. 44 Chevrolet driven by Greg Biffle.

Daniel Hemric, defending Xfinity champion, returns to Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 car, while Landon Cassill will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

In the Xfinity Series, 41 cars are on the entry list. Three cars will fail to qualify.

Jeffrey Earnhardt will join Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 3 Chevrolet made famous by his grandfather, Dale Earnhardt. Larry McReynolds, who was Earnhardt Sr.’s crew chief when the Hall of Famer won the 1998 Daytona 500, will return to the pit box to crew chief Saturday.

Camping World Truck Series regular Chandler Smith makes his Xfinity debut with Sam Hunt Racing’s No. 26 team this weekend. Ryan Sieg, who sits ninth in the points standings, will switch from the No. 39 Ford into the No. 38 Ford, allowing brother Kyle Sieg a seat in the No. 39 car due to the qualifying scenario.

NASCAR Cup Series Entry List — Talladega Superspeedway

NASCAR Xfinity Series Entry List — Talladega Superspeedway

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, April 22

Forecast: Sunny, high of 83 degrees, low of 57 degrees

  • 4 – 5 p.m. — ARCA practice (groups)
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (single-vehicle, single-lap, two rounds, FS1)

Saturday, April 23

Forecast: Sunny, high of 84 degrees, low of 60 degrees

  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (single-vehicle, single-lap, two rounds, FS1)
  • 1 p.m. — ARCA race (76 laps, 202.16 miles; FS1)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity race (113 laps, 300.58 miles; FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, April 24

Forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 85 degrees, low of 62 degrees

  • 3 p.m. — Cup race (188 laps, 500 miles; FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Jesse Iwuji Motorsports seeks $4.125 million in lawsuit against sponsor


Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, has filed a $4.125-million lawsuit against Equity Prime Mortgage, one of the team’s sponsors.

In the lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the team alleges that EPM committed a breach of contract. JIM alleges that EPM agreed to pay the team $2.25 million for sponsorship in the 2022 season and $3.75 million for 2023.

The lawsuit attempts to recoup what Jesse Iwuji Motorsports calls two missed payments totaling $375,000 from 2022 and the $3.75 million for 2023. The filing of the lawsuit was first reported by

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The team scored one top-10 finish in 30 Xfinity starts in 2022. The team’s cars were driven by Kyle Weatherman and Iwuji. Weatherman had a best finish of eighth; Iwuji’s best run was an 11th.

The team was founded by Iwuji, former National Football League player Emmitt Smith and a group of investors.

The lawsuit claims that an EPM executive informed the team in September 2022 that EPM had been “margin called” and was dealing with problems because of rising mortgage rates and that EPM could not make any more payments to Jesse Iwuji Motorsports .

According to the lawsuit, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports sent EPM a Notice of Intent to terminate the sponsorship agreement after the payment due Oct. 1 was missed. The suit claims EPM “took no action” after EPM offered 30 days to remedy the situation.

The suit also claims EPM “allegedly continued to take advantage of their status as a sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series team, as EPM continued to make promotional posts on social media, which featured the company’s logo on the JIM race car.”

EPM is based in Atlanta.

Dr Diandra: The best driver of 2022


NASCAR’s elimination playoff format means that the driver with the best statistics — arguably the “best driver of 2022” — doesn’t always win the championship.

Races unfinished

Drivers involved in a lot of crashes also failed to finish a lot of races. But not all accidents end drivers’ races. Comparing accidents and spins to DNF (did not finish) totals helps gauge how serious those incidents were.

Ross Chastain and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in the most accidents for a single driver with 15 caution-causing crashes each. The difference is that Chastain had only five DNFs (33.3%), while Stenhouse had nine (60.0%).

Ty Dillion tied Stenhouse for the most DNFs in the series with nine DNFs and 10 accidents.

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie tied for third place with eight DNFs each. Reddick had 10 accidents, while Dillon and LaJoie were each involved in 11 crashes.

No driver avoided DNFs entirely. Among full-timers, Michael McDowell had the fewest DNFs in 2022 with two. Justin Haley and Ryan Blaney tied for second with three DNFs each.

In 2021, only Denny Hamlin finished every race running. This year he had five DNFs, with four in the first nine races.

This year’s 225 DNFs are up significantly from 179 in 2021. and the most DNFs since 2017. I’ll be watching in 2023 to see if the rise in DNFs continues, or if this was a one-time phenomenon due to the first year with a new car.


“Best driver” doesn’t necessarily mean most wins.

This year’s champion, Joey Logano, didn’t have the most wins. That’s not at all uncommon in NASCAR. With 19 different winners in 2022, no driver dominated the season the way Kyle Larson did in 2021 with 10 wins.

The winningest drivers in 2022 were: Chase Elliott (five wins) and Logano (four wins). Christopher Bell, Larson and Reddick tied for third with three wins each.

Top-five and top-10 finishes

While wins matter more than good finishes, the number of top-five and top-10 finishes show how close a driver got to taking home the checkered flag. Running up front means being there to take advantage of other drivers’ mistakes and misfortune.

In 2021, Larson had the most top-five finishes (20) and the most top-10 finishes (26). This year, good finishes were much more spread out.2022's best drivers in terms of top-five and top-ten finishes

Chastain deserves a special shoutout for having 13 more top-10 finishes than he earned in 2021.

Also deserving of a shoutout, but for different reasons: Hamlin had the same number of wins this year as last, but nine fewer top-five finishes. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. also had nine fewer finishes in the top five.

Logging laps

While Truex didn’t make the championship race, he did tie Elliott for the most lead-lap finishes in the season with 29, or 80.6% of starts. Blaney, Byron and Kevin Harvick each had 28 lead-lap finishes.

Elliott led the most laps in 2022 with 857. He’s followed by Logano (784), Byron (746), Chastain (692) and Blaney (636).

I remain slightly wary of metrics that purport to measure quickness because so much of a car’s speed depends on where in the field it’s running. Lap traffic, or even being far back in the field, can slow fast cars. That’s especially true at short tracks.

For completeness, however, the next two tables show the drivers’ numbers of fastest laps and those with the best rank in green-flag speed according to NASCAR’s loop data.

Two tables showing the drivers with the most fastest laps and the highest rank in green-flag speedChampion Logano ranked 11th in fastest laps with 319, and eighth in overall green-flag speed with an average ranking of 9.281.

Best Finishes

The tables below show drivers’ rankings throughout the season for average finishes and average running position.

Two tables comparing 2022's best drivers in terms of average finish and average running position

Elliott ranks first in both average finish and running position. Chastain takes second for best average finish and fourth for best average running position, while Blaney is second for running position and fourth for finishing position.

Logano finished 2022 third in both metrics.


NASCAR defines a quality pass as a pass for position inside the top 15. Interpreting the meaning of the number of passes is a little tricky. A driver who runs up front a lot doesn’t make many quality passes because he doesn’t need to.

I focus instead on the percentage of quality passes: the fraction of all green-flag passes that qualify as quality passes. A higher percentage means that the driver is efficient: The passes mean something.

Elliott scores first in percentage of quality passes with 63.4%, just edging out Bell, who has 63.3% quality passes. Larson is third with 61.2%.

Who was the best driver in 2022?

I combined the metrics I think matter most for determining the best driver in the table below. I color-coded drivers who appear in the top five in more than one metric to make it easier to see patterns.

A table showing the top five in each of the metrics discussed in the hopes of identifying 2022's best driver.

This table confirms that the NASCAR playoffs format did a good job identifying the top four drivers in the series. Elliott, Logano, Chastain and Bell are well-represented in the top five in each metric.

The table also shows that Larson and Blaney contended strongly in 2022. With a slightly different distribution of luck, one (or both) might have found their way to the Championship Four.

Logano’s consistency is also evident, even though he doesn’t rank first in any of these metrics and fails to make the table in top-five finishes or quality passes. It’s not uncommon for the driver with the most wins not to win the championship. And this year has been anything but common.

But overall, it’s hard not to argue that Elliott had the statistically best year. He led the series in wins, laps led, average finish, average running position and percent quality passes. If his playoffs had been comparable to his regular season, he would have taken the trophy.

But they weren’t and he didn’t. That may have ended the 2022 season on a down note for the No. 9 team, but they can look forward to 2023 knowing they have a strong base on which to build.

While skill is reproducible, luck isn’t.

Kaz Grala, Connor Mosack join Sam Hunt Racing for 2023


Kaz Grala is scheduled to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for Sam Hunt Racing in 2023.

Connor Mosack will drive a second Hunt car — No. 24 — in 20 races for the team. Grala will drive the No. 26 Toyota.

The new season will mark Grala’s first as a full-time Xfinity driver.

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“I’ve scratched and clawed for each opportunity over the past several seasons, and while it hasn’t been easy, it’s made me appreciate this sport and its difficulty more than I ever could if things had been easy,” Grala said in a statement released by the team. “I feel like everything has finally come together at the perfect time in my life with the right team around me to start that next chapter in my career.”

Grala, 23, has scored five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 44 Xfinity starts. He has raced in all three NASCAR national series and won a Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway in 2017.

Allen Hart will be Grala’s crew chief.

Mosack, who will begin his schedule at Phoenix Raceway March 11, was the CARS Tour rookie of the year in 2020. He drove in two Xfinity and two Truck races in 2022.

Kris Bowen will be Mosack’s crew chief. The team said it will announce other drivers for the 24 car later.


Ryan Truex to drive six races for JGR Xfinity team in 2023


Ryan Truex is scheduled to run six Xfinity Series races in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023.

Truex ran five races for JGR in 2022, finishing in the top five three times. He ran third at Atlanta.

Truex also drove limited Xfinity schedules for JGR in 2011 and 2012.

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“We are looking forward to having Ryan back in our lineup in 2023 to run the No. 19,” said JGR vice president Steve DeSouza in a statement released by the team. “He has done well in the races he has run at JGR. His previous experience and driving ability will be assets as the No. 19 competes for an owner’s championship next year.”

JGR has not announced which races Truex will run or which drivers will be his teammates in the 19.

“I am thrilled to be behind the wheel of the No. 19 for a few races next season,” Truex said in a team statement. “It was fun to run well with this team this past year. I appreciate the opportunity to race for JGR again next year.”

Jason Ratcliff will be the team’s crew chief.

Truex, 30, has run 26 Cup, 84 Xfinity and 73 Camping World Truck Series races without a win.