Bubba Wallace looks to continue superspeedway run at Talladega

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Bubba Wallace can join an elite group of drivers this weekend, and if he does, he likely will use an unconventional strategy to do so.

Wallace comes to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend as the track’s most recent Cup winner, scoring his first career series win in last year’s playoff race.

A runner-up finish at Daytona preceded that Talladega win and a runner-up finish in this year’s Daytona 500 followed it. Sunday, Wallace goes for his fourth consecutive top-two finish at a superspeedway race at Daytona and Talladega.

Only four drivers have accomplished that feat. Three are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Cale Yarborough (who did it twice), Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt. One other to reach that milestone was Ernie Irvan. Jarrett was the last to do so, completing his mark in the 2000 Daytona 500.

To score such results, it would seem that a driver would spend much of the race at or near the front. That hasn’t been the case with Wallace. 

By design.

While Wallace had solid results at Daytona and Talladega shortly after moving to Cup — he finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500 — he admits that he still needed to make better decisions in those races.

“We had speed the rest of the races, and I would make dumb moves and take us out of contention or just be caught up in somebody else’s mess,” he said. “So I just kind of took it as, ‘Hey we fight like hell at the beginning. Wherever we start, if we can get to the lead, get there. If we lose it, we lose it, it’s fine. 

“We don’t need to be in the eye of the storm to get our spots back because it’s not worth it. We’d like to get stage points, but at the end of the day, getting a race win is the most important thing for us.”

It worked last year at Talladega. 

He took his time to get to the front. Wallace was 25th at Lap 80 and ran 22nd at Lap 100 in a race that would be shortened to 117 laps because of rain.

Wallace ran 14th at Lap 105 before making a charge. He moved to sixth at Lap 110 and took the lead at Lap 113 to win.

“It seems like that has been our trend,” Wallace said of coming through the field. “You’ll see us start midpack, drive up to the lead, go to the back, run around a little bit and not be talked about until the last stage and then we’re there. We’ve just got to continue to do that.”

That strategy also worked at Daytona last year and this year. 

In last year’s regular season finale at Daytona, Wallace was 16th near the halfway point of the 165-lap race. He moved to ninth at Lap 100 and led at Lap 130. Wallace was back to 20th after a pit stop under caution at Lap 150. He was ninth at Lap 160 and finished second to Ryan Blaney.

In this year’s Daytona 500, Wallace was 19th at Lap 100 before he climbed to fifth at Lap 125. He never ran lower than 11th after that, placing second to Austin Cindric. 

Wallace’s win at Talladega last year made him the second Black driver to win a Cup race in NASCAR’s history. He had to wait through a rain delay before he was declared the winner.

“A nerve-racking experience,” Wallace said. “You just didn’t know. You want to win. It’s so hard to win at this Cup level. It took me five years to get a win. You just cherish every moment of it, highs and lows, good and the bad. I’m ready to hopefully relive that Sunday.”

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.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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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.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

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.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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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.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

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.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.