The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits wind and arrives at Talladega Superspeedway for the final race in the “Round of 12” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans from all 50 states and 22 countries around the world will embark on Alabama for the Hellman’s 500. This race kicks off the second half of the Chase.
42 drivers are currently slated to qualify for the race, but only 40 drivers will start on Sunday. Ryan Reed will be entering a fourth Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“I can’t wait to get to Talladega. To be this close to achieving a goal of mine is huge. I know our Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association team has been working really hard to bring a stout piece to the track. Our goal is to go out there and keep our nose clean, run all of the laps, earn some respect and hopefully be in contention for a solid finish at the end,” said Reed.
Talladega Superspeedway is the largest and steepest track on the NASCAR circuit at 2.66-miles in length and is banked at 33 degrees. After Daytona was built in 1959, Bill France Sr. wanted to build something bigger and better for the stars of NASCAR to race on. The speedway hosted its first event in 1969.
There have been 94 races ran at Talladega. 39 drivers have won a pole at the famed speedway. Earlier this year, Chase Elliott became the youngest driver to win a pole, while Mark Martin was the oldest driver to win a pole set back in 2011. 45 drivers have claimed victory with Bobby Hillin Jr being the youngest winner and Harry Gant being the oldest. 13 drivers have won the race from the pole; Jeff Gordon was the last driver to do in 2007. in 1997, Mark Martin set the race record at 188.354 mph. The qualifying record, which will never be broken due to the restrictor plate, is owned by Bill Elliott, who set the speed in 1987, at 212.809 mph.
Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are the only Chase drivers that have immunity this weekend. The four driver currently out of advancement include Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott. Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Joey Logano are the bottom three drivers in jeopardy of elimination.
Drivers are frightened yet excited to be returning to Talladega.
“The thing about going to a superspeedway like Daytona or Talladega is obviously not getting involved in a wreck since the chances of being caught up in one is so much higher at those tracks. You also need to have a fast race car in order to have a successful day there. There have been many times lately that we’ve had fast Toyotas that were able to keep their position towards the front and sometimes it works out and other times it just doesn’t. At Talladega, you need a car that’s fast enough to pull the pack and stay out front in order to have a greater chance of success. It’s just too easy for people to get shuffled out and back into the pack where then you’re fighting to get back up to the front. You can’t ever really predict when or where a wreck if going to happen, so to me the best strategy is to go there with the fastest car that you can possibly build and hopefully get to the front and stay out there,” said Matt Kenseth, driver of the no. 20, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I have yet to win one of the points-paying races at a restrictor-plate racetrack. This one is tough because it’s a Chase race. Winning versus finding a consistent finish is such a razor-blade edge versus wrecking. We can’t have a wreck take us out of advancing through the Chase. One year in the Chase, I tried going for a win, got spun at the end and I kicked myself for years afterward. In 2009, I was going for a win instead of just trying to ride it out for a better finish and it took me from second in points back to fourth in points. Over the years, Talladega has just turned into a points-gathering race in the fall,” said Ku. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Friday at Talladega is practice day. All practices, qualifying, and the race will be live on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network. The first practice will be at 2:00 p.m. EST and the final practice session will be at 4:30 p.m EST. Qualifying will be held after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at approximately 4:00 p.m. The Hellman’s 500 will hit airwaves at 2:00 p.m EST.