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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Talladega Superspeedway

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: GEICO 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, April 25
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Ag-Pro 300
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, April 24
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300.58 miles (113 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: WISE Power 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 1
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

NASCAR Cup Series

Talladega Superspeedway gears up for the NASCAR Cup Series

Known as the most competitive track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway is the perfect stage for the wild side-by-side action NASCAR fans love and this weekend’s GEICO 500 (Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) should produce just that.

Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was held on Sept. 14, 1969. The first Cup race was won by Richard Brickhouse driving a Dodge for car owner Ray Nichels. The average speed of the first race was 153.778 mph.

The name of the facility changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989. And the surface underwent its fourth repaving on Sept. 19, 2006.

In total, there have been 103 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, one series event in 1969, and two races per year since 1970.

A total of 44 different drivers have won at least one pole at Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Cup Series; 23 of the pole winners have won more than one. Six of the 44 Talladega NASCAR Cup Series pole winners are active this weekend.

Active NASCAR Cup Series Pole Winners at Talladega Superspeedway

Active Pole Winners (6) Poles Seasons
Chase Elliott 2 2019, 2016
Kevin Harvick 2 2018, 2005
Austin Dillon 1 2019
Kurt Busch 1 2018
Martin Truex Jr 1 2016
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 2017

Due to the pandemic, this weekend’s starting lineups were determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will start from the pole and Team Penske’s Joey Logano will join Hamlin on the front row. Hamlin is the most recent winner at Talladega taking the checkered flag from the first starting position last October. In total, 15 of the 103 (14.56%) NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway have been won from the pole or first starting position. But the outside front row (second-place) starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Talladega (19.42%).

The 103 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced a total of 49 different race winners at Talladega Superspeedway; 25 of the 49 have won multiple times at the 2.66-mile track. Nine of the 49 NASCAR Cup Series Talladega race winners are active this weekend.

Active NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners at Talladega Superspeedway

Active Race Winners (9) Wins Seasons
Brad Keselowski 5 2017, 2016. 2014, 2012, 2009
Joey Logano 3 2018, 2016, 2015
Denny Hamlin 2 2020, 2014
Ryan Blaney 2 2020, 2019
Aric Almirola 1 2018
Chase Elliott 1 2019
Kevin Harvick 1 2010
Kyle Busch 1 2008
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 2017

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Talladega Superspeedway with 10 victories (1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep, 2000). Brad Keselowski leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in wins at Talladega Superspeedway with five victories (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017).

This Sunday’s GEICO 500 will be 188 laps (500 miles) in length and broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 60 laps each and the final stage will be 68 laps.

Kings of ‘Dega & Daytona

The art of ‘Drafting’ on tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway is a skill not every driver can master, but for the ones that learn to manipulate the air to their benefit at nearly 200 mph have found the spoils of Victory Lane in some of the NASCAR Cup Series’ biggest races.

No driver has been more successful in points-paying races at both Daytona and Talladega than NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with 13 combined victories – 10 wins at Talladega (1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep, 2000) and three wins at Daytona (1990, 1993, 1998).

In total 85 different drivers have visited Victory Lane at Daytona and Talladega in the NASCAR Cup Series. This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, nine active drivers have won at the 2.66-mile track and 16 have either won at Daytona or Talladega.

Active Daytona & Talladega NASCAR Cup Series Winners

Rank Active Drivers Total Wins Daytona Wins (Season) Talladega Wins (Season)
1 Brad Keselowski 6 1 (2016) 5 (2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2009)
2 Denny Hamlin 5 3 (2020, 2019, 2016) 2 (2020, 2014)
3 Joey Logano 4 1 (2015) 3 (2018, 2016, 2015)
4 Kevin Harvick 3 2 (2010, 2007) 1 (2010)
5 Aric Almirola 2 1 (2014) 1 (2018)
6 Kyle Busch 2 1 (2008) 1 (2008)
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 2 1 (2017) 1 (2017)
8 Ryan Blaney 2 0 2 (2020, 2019)
9 Austin Dillon 1 1 (2018) 0
10 Chase Elliott 1 0 1 (2019)
11 Erik Jones 1 1 (2018) 0
12 Justin Haley 1 1 (2019) 0
13 Kurt Busch 1 1 (2017) 0
14 Michael McDowell 1 1 (2021) 0
15 Ryan Newman 1 1 (2008) 0
16 William Byron 1 1 (2019) 0

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski with five victories (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Talladega wins. Keselowski is one of 11 different drivers to score his very first NASCAR Cup Series career win at Talladega back in 2009 driving for Phoenix Racing and car owner James Finch.

First-Time NASCAR Cup Series Winners at Talladega Superspeedway

First-Time Race Winners (11) Date
Ricky Stenhouse Jr Sunday, May 7, 2017
Brad Keselowski Sunday, April 26, 2009
Brian Vickers Sunday, October 8, 2006
Ken Schrader Sunday, July 31, 1988
Phil Parsons Sunday, May 1, 1988
Davey Allison Sunday, May 3, 1987
Bobby Hillin Jr Sunday, July 27, 1986
Ron Bouchard Sunday, August 2, 1981
Lennie Pond Sunday, August 6, 1978
Dick Brooks Sunday, August 12, 1973
Richard Brickhouse Sunday, September 14, 1969

Over the last 11 Cup races at Talladega, no organization has been stronger than Team Penske, posting seven wins in the last 11 events (Brad Keselowski had two wins, Joey Logano had three wins and Ryan Blaney had two wins).

In total, Brad Keselowski has made 24 series starts at Talladega posting five wins, seven top fives and 11 top 10s. Joey Logano has made 24 series starts at Talladega posting three wins, eight top fives and 10 top 10s. And Ryan Blaney has made 13 series starts at Talladega posting two wins, three top fives and four top 10s.

Hot Streak: Standings leader Denny Hamlin rides wave of top fives

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin continues to build his massive lead in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings riding a hot streak of top fives that has reached eight straight – the longest streak of top-five finishes of his Cup career.

Now the Chesterfield, Virginia native heads to Talladega Superspeedway, a wildcard event he is the most recent driver to master taking the checkered flag last October, to continue his streak of top fives and try to become the ninth different driver to win consecutive races at the 2.66-mile track; joining Pete Hamilton (1970 sweep), Buddy Baker (1975 sweep, 1976), Darrell Waltrip (1982 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1990, 1993-94, 1999 sweep), Sterling Marlin (1995-96), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2001-2003), Jeff Gordon (2007 sweep) and Ryan Blaney (2019-2020).

If Hamlin finishes in the top-five for the ninth time in the first 10 races of the season he will become the third different driver to accomplish such a feat in the NASCAR Cup Series; joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough (1974) and Darrell Waltrip (1979).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most consecutive top-five finishes to start a season with nine straight in the first nine races of the 1974 season.

This season, Hamlin has made nine starts and has put up eight top fives (series-most among active drivers) and an average finish of 4.2 (series-best among active drivers). He has also led a quarter of the laps run this season (694 laps led; 26.75% of laps run).

At Talladega, Hamlin has made 30 series starts posting two wins (2014, 2020) nine top fives (series-most among active drivers) and 13 top 10s.

Playoff Picture: Eight winners, eight spots still open

Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman snatched the win from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin last weekend at Richmond Raceway to become the eighth different winner in nine races this season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Bowman has now locked himself into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and added his name to the list of contenders in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 13). With eight winners already in the books that leaves eight postseason spots still up for grabs as the series heads to one of the wildest events on the schedule, the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

2021 Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 9
Rank Driver Points Wins Stages Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 353 2 1 11 In On Wins
2 Joey Logano 352 1 2 7
3 William Byron 310 1 1 6
4 Ryan Blaney 304 1 3 8
5 Kyle Larson 299 1 3 8
6 Christopher Bell 257 1 0 5
7 Alex Bowman 236 1 0 5
8 Michael McDowell 199 1 0 5
9 Denny Hamlin 434 0 5 5 230
10 Chase Elliott 285 0 1 1 81
11 Kevin Harvick 273 0 0 0 69
12 Brad Keselowski 269 0 1 1 65
13 Kyle Busch 245 0 0 0 41
14 Austin Dillon 239 0 0 0 35
15 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 222 0 0 0 18
16 Kurt Busch 214 0 0 0 10

All eight of the drivers currently in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook without a win this season have won at Daytona or Talladega previously. Brad Keselowski (five Talladega wins), Denny Hamlin (two Talladega wins), Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (each have one Talladega win) have all won at Talladega and are looking for their first win this season. Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch have each won at Daytona.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

The Mighty Vulcan Trophy Awaits Talladega Superspeedway’s GEICO 500 Winner – It stands more than 38 inches tall, weighs over 130 pounds, and is called the Vulcan Trophy. Talladega Superspeedway’s tradition (that started in fall of 2016) is a locally made piece and will be found in Victory Lane after the checkered flag falls on Sunday’s GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race

The trophy is a hand-made, miniature version of the colossal Vulcan statue – a 56-foot-tall structure fastened to a 124-foot platform that stands tall over the city of Birmingham, Alabama – just 45 minutes west of the race track. It is the largest cast-iron statue in the world and is the main attraction at Birmingham’s Vulcan Park Museum (www.visitvulcan.com).

Each trophy is handcrafted by local artists from Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, pouring hot iron into a created cast, then chiseled to perfection.

Team Penske driver Joey Logano was the inaugural recipient of the Vulcan Trophy after his triumph in the fall of 2016. “I was pumped to be the first driver to win one,” Logano said. “Trophies are one of the best parts of what we do, and some of them are just cooler and more special because of what they are. Talladega Superspeedway nailed it when they had the Vulcan Trophy made.”

Live Fast Motorsports Honors NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Farmer at Talladega – This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, Live Fast Motorsports will honor NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Farmer, adorning the No. 78 in Farmer’s Long-Lewis Ford paint scheme.

“Racing and Red Farmer have been a part of the Long-Lewis heritage for more than 50 years and so has the strong friendship between Vaughn Burrell and Red,” said Todd Ouellette, Owner and President of Long-Lewis Auto Group. “To have these two legends actually at the Talladega race on Sunday watching our Cup Series car run in honor of that relationship, will be a day I will never forget! I cannot wait!”

Long-Lewis started sponsoring Farmer in 1962, and the iconic gold and white paint scheme will hit the high banks at the superspeedway once again for Sunday’s race in the Geico 500.

“It’s nice to have Long-Lewis on the 78 car this weekend,” said Charles ‘Red’ Farmer. “I’ve had that gold and white car since 1955 and Long-Lewis started sponsoring me in ’62 and have been on my car ever since. Talladega is a great place for me, I call it my home-town track. I won two Arca 500’s on that track and a bunch of others. Glad to see a cup team running my colors again there.”

“It’s so important to look back and reflect on the history of our sport, especially as being one of the newest teams in NASCAR,” said team owner Matt Tifft. “There are no more legendary than that of Red Farmer and his dedication to this sport that put NASCAR on the map.”

NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie Update – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe continues to hold a big lead (+54 points) on fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and Front Row Motorsport’s driver Anthony Alfredo in the rookie standings through nine races this season.

Both drivers are still finding their footing this season. Though nine races Briscoe has posted an average finish of 22.7 and Alfredo has an average finish of 29.1.

Both drivers will be making their NASCAR Cup Series track debut this weekend at Talladega. And both have previous experience at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Briscoe has made four Xfinity Series starts at Talladega posting one top-five finish (fourth) and an average finish of 14.2. Alfredo has made two Xfinity Series starts at Talladega posting one top-10 finish (sixth) and an average finish of 9.0.

Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell looking for another trop to Victory Lane – The NASCAR Cup Series started competing at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway twice a year at each track in 1970. Since then, no driver has ever swept all four-season races at Daytona and Talladega. Only twice has a driver won three of the four season races at Daytona and Talladega in the NASCAR Cup Series – Pete Hamilton accomplished the feat in 1970 winning the Daytona 500 and both races at Talladega that year. Bobby Allison spoiled Hamilton’s four race sweep by winning the summer Daytona race. The second time it happened was in 1990 when NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt won both races at Talladega and the summer Daytona race. Earnhardt almost swept all four in 1990, he led a race high 155 laps in 1990 Daytona 500 and was coming to the checkered flag for the win when his tire blew in Turns 3 and 4 allowing Derrick Cope to pass him for the win.

This weekend, Michael McDowell has the opportunity to become the ninth different driver in the NASCAR Cup Series to win the Daytona 500 and go on to win the first race of the season at Talladega Superspeedway; joining Pete Hamilton (1970), Buddy Baker (1980), Cale Yarborough (1984), Bill Elliott (1985), Davey Allison (1992), Jeff Gordon (2005) and Jimmie Johnson (2006).

McDowell has made 20 series starts at Talladega posting a best finish of fifth in 2019.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

After break in action, NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Alabama

The NASCAR Xfinity Series was off last weekend as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Cup Series took on Richmond Raceway. Prior to that, the NASCAR Xfinity Series was in Martinsville, Virginia for the Cook Out 250. The race was postponed after weather took over during the originally scheduled start on Friday. The race was rescheduled for Sunday, April 11 and the series crowned another first-time winner in JR Motorsport’s driver Josh Berry.

Berry, who drives part-time this season, took the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs on Lap 223 of 250 and held onto it the rest of the way in only his 13th series start.

Berry crossed the finish line 0.590-seconds before his JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson. Gragson had an extra payday of $100,000 as the highest finisher among the four Dash 4 Cash eligible drivers to kick off the initiative.

Berry led a race-high 95 laps and became the first driver to win a Xfinity race in the No. 8 car since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Michigan back in 2006.

Daniel Hemric finished third while Ty Gibbs held onto fourth. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth. Series leader Austin Cindric finished sixth, followed by Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett rounding out the top 10.

All four of the JR Motorsports Chevrolets and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas finished in the top 10.

Berry is now eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus at the next event at Talladega Superspeedway along with Gragson, Hemric and Jones.

The Xfinity Series gets back on track this Saturday, April 24 at Talladega Superspeedway at 4 p.m. ET for the Ag-Pro 300 on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The race will be 300 miles and 113 laps.

The starting lineups for this weekend’s race were determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Austin Cindric will start on the pole with Daniel Hemric joining him on the front row. Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley won this event last season from the first starting position; the third driver all-time to accomplish the feat joining Tony Stewart (2008) and Joe Nemechek (1998).

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley looks to make it three straight wins at Talladega
Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley swept both Talladega Superspeedway race weekends last season in the No. 11 Chevrolet, and this weekend he’s definitely one to keep an eye on as he tries to become just the second driver in series history to win three consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Talladega Superspeedway; joining Martin Truex Jr. (2004-2006).

The spring race at Talladega last season was 2 hours, 12 minutes and 22 seconds long with an average speed of 136.249 mph. There were six cautions for 22 laps and 22 lead changes. The Margin of Victory was .299 seconds.

There were 4,184 green flag passes (46 per green flag lap). Ross Chastain finished second in this race last year, making it a Kaulig Racing 1-2 sweep. Jeb Burton, who is now piloting the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig in 2021, finished third then driving for JR Motorsports.

Haley has as a good shot as any this weekend at Talladega, the pre-race Loop Data has him listed with the best driver rating at Talladega at 103.0 and Noah Gragson has the second-best driver rating at 97.1.

In total, Haley has made three series starts at Talladega posting two wins, three top 10s and an average finish of 3.0 (series-best).

Taking on ‘Dega
Talladega Superspeedway has had 30 NASCAR Xfinity Series races starting with the inaugural race on July 25, 1992 won by Ernie Irvan. Dale Earnhardt won the second Xfinity Series race run at Talladega in 1993 after starting 22nd.

The 30 NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Talladega have produced 21 different pole winners and 24 different race winners. The youngest winner was Haley last season at 21 years, 1 month, 23 days. The oldest winner was Max McLaughlin in 2001 at 44 years, 6 months and 15 days.

Mark Martin holds the race record at Talladega from 1997 at 168.937 mph and Joe Nemechek holds the qualifying record at 193.517 mph also in 1997.

Nemechek holds the record for the most races (22), poles (five), top fives (seven), top 10s (nine), lead lap finishes (14), laps completed (2,153) and laps led (202) at Talladega.

Martin Truex Jr. has the most wins at Talladega in the Xfinity Series with three victories (2004,2005, 2006) and Joey Logano is tied with Nemechek with seven top fives. Clint Bowyer still holds the best average start at Talladega in the series at 5.375 and Logano has the best average finish at 5.125.

This weekend’s race, the Ag-Pro 300, will be 113 laps (300.58 miles) and broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 25 laps each and the final stage will be 63 laps.

Justin Haley is the only active NASCAR Xfinity Series Talladega winner entered in this weekend’s event.

Show Me The Money: Gragson wins first Dash 4 Cash prize, Talladega on deck
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program was designed to add elements of unpredictability and drama leading up to and during four designated races, increase on-track competition, engage fans and reward and recognize NASCAR Xfinity Series regular competitors.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash will take place at four tracks in 2021 – Martinsville Speedway (April 9), Talladega Superspeedway (April 24), Darlington Raceway (May 8) and Dover International Speedway (May 15).

The March 20 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the initial qualifier for 2021 Dash 4 Cash program. The top four full-time finishers in the Atlanta race qualified for the first round of the Dash 4 Cash at Martinsville – Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger. JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson ultimately won the first $100,000 bonus at Martinsville and is eligible again this week at Talladega Superspeedway with his teammate Josh Berry, and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Daniel Hemric and Brandon Jones.

The Dash 4 Cash winner and next three highest finishing full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers at Talladega will then qualify for the next round of the Dash 4 Cash program at Darlington. That format will continue to Dover.

Dash 4 Cash Qualifiers at ‘Dega:
Noah Gragson will make his fifth start at Talladega on Saturday. He has two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.0. He’s led 40 laps and his best finish came at the second race at the Alabama track last season.

Daniel Hemric will make his fourth start at Talladega this weekend. He has one top-five finish and one top 10. His best finish also came last season in the second race at Talladega in fifth. He has an average start of 3.0 and an average finish of 22.0.

Brandon Jones has the most starts at Talladega among all four Dash 4 Cash qualifiers with six starts. He will make his seventh start on Saturday. He has two top fives, two top 10s, has led 38 laps and has an average start of 10.8 and average finish of 15.8. His best finish was runner-up in 2018.

Josh Berry will make his first Xfinity Series start at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend with JR Motorsports.

Keeping Tabs on the Rookies, Manufacturers

Ty Gibbs continues to lead the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 128 points and two awards. But Josh Berry is only eight points behind him with 120 and two awards after his victory at Martinsville. Ryan Vargas is in third with 61 points and three awards. Jordan Anderson and Sam Mayer have still not made a start in the Xfinity Series in 2021 so they have no points accounted for at this time.

Chevrolet is leading the manufacturers championship standings right now with four wins and 261 points. Myatt Snider, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry got Chevrolet their four wins. Toyota is second in the manufacturer standings with one win and 249 points. Ford’s one win came from Ty Gibbs at the Daytona Road Course. Ford is currently in third place in the manufacturer standings with 242 points and two wins. Their two wins came from Austin Cindric in the season-opener and at Phoenix Raceway.

Xfinity Playoff Bubble: Who’s in, Who’s out?

With six different race winners so far in 2021 and four drivers already locked in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, there are a lot of shakeups each week in the Playoff picture.

With Josh Berry’s win two weeks ago at Martinsville and Berry not running a fulltime season, he is not locked into the Playoffs. As a result, the standings were shaken up in another way.

Daniel Hemric has stayed consistent and keeps the highest Playoff spot without a win. He’s 117 points above the cutline and has three stage wins and three Playoff points. He finished third at Martinsville.

In terms of biggest surprises in the Playoff outlook so far, two drivers are standing out. Jeremy Clements has been in the top 12 for most of the season and has shown speed all year. Clements is currently 40 points above the Playoff cutline and finished 14th at Martinsville.

The biggest jump in the standings that is notable is Noah Gragson. Gragson, who won the Dash 4 Cash prize at Martinsville as well as finishing second, had been sitting below the Playoff cutline prior to Martinsville. But, with a solid finish at the track, he’s now above the cutline in 11th. His JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett also jumped ahead of the cutline as the last driver in the top-12, only 10 points to the good.

Brandon Brown fell below the cutline after finishing 27th at Martinsville. He is just 10 points back from Annett.

Of the drivers inside the Playoff outlook top 12 that are still looking for a win this season, Justin Haley has the best average finish at Talladega Superspeedway with a 3.0; followed by Noah Gragson (7.0), Jeb Burton (10.0), Brandon Jones (15.3), Jeremy Clements (21.7), Daniel Hemric (22.0), Michael Annett (23.0) and Harrison Burton (27.5).

NASCAR Xfinity Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Martinsville-1:

Rank Driver Points Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Austin Cindric 317 2 4 14 In On Wins
2 AJ Allmendinger 218 1 1 6
3 Myatt Snider 206 1 0 5
4 Justin Allgaier 199 1 0 5
5 Daniel Hemric 275 0 3 3 117
6 Harrison Burton 242 0 0 0 84
7 Justin Haley 230 0 0 0 72
8 Jeb Burton 221 0 0 0 63
9 Jeremy Clements 198 0 0 0 40
10 Brandon Jones 187 0 1 1 29
11 Noah Gragson 168 0 1 1 10
12 Michael Annett 168 0 0 0 10
13 Brandon Brown 158 0 0 0 -10
14 Riley Herbst 143 0 0 0 -25
15 Josh Williams 126 0 0 0 -42

NASCAR Xfinity Series Etc.

Harrison Burton making Cup debut at Talladega: Xfinity Series regular Harrison Burton will hit the big stage and make his NASCAR Cup Series debut on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in the GEICO 500 for Gaunt Brothers Racing. Burton will pilot the No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota in his first ever Cup start. Burton, who is in his sophomore season in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing, won four races last season and will also be making his 50th career Xfinity Series start on Saturday before heading to the Cup race on Sunday. Burton has made two Xfinity Series starts at Talladega finishing 32nd in the first due to a crash and finished 23rd most recently.

Natalie Decker back in Xfinity Series this weekend: Natalie Decker will make the first of four total starts scheduled with Our Motorsports in the Xfinity Series starting this Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. She made her Xfinity debut in February at the Daytona Road Course with RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing. Originally, that was going to be the first of five races for her in that car. However, Our Motorsports acquired the No. 23 car and now Decker will run her remaining races with the team. She will be behind the wheel at Nashville Superspeedway, Road America and Martinsville, too. Decker will become the ninth different Xfinity Series female competitor to race at Talladega Superspeedway; joining Patty Moise, Tina Gordon, Danica Patrick, Johanna Long, Shawna Robinson, Kim Crosby, Chrissy Wallace and Jennifer Jo Cobb.

The best finish by a female competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega Superspeedway was seventh by Patty Moise on July 22, 1995. Moise started 13th. Tina Gordon (10th) is the only other female competitor to finish in the top-10 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega Superspeedway (April 5, 2003).

Natalie Decker will start from the 38th starting position on Saturday.

LS Tractor sponsoring Jeb Burton at ‘Dega: LS Tractor, a longtime partner of Jeb Burton, will be the primary partner on the Kaulig Racing No. 10 Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway. LS Tractor has been voted best tractor manufacturer for the last five consecutive years. The company offers subcompact, compact and utility tractors and has been in business for more than 35 years. LS Tractor will serve as an associate partner for the rest of the season on the No. 10, too.

Allgaier honoring Dale Earnhardt at Darlington: Justin Allgaier always has a throwback paint scheme that stands out for the Darlington Throwback Weekend and he will do it again this season with Good Humor as the sponsor. Allgaier will run a throwback scheme honoring Dale Earnhardt and the GM Goodwrench Service/Tasmanian Devil paint scheme that was run in the 2000 Daytona 500. In that race, Earnhardt started and finished 21st.

Sam Hunt Racing sporting Kyle Petty’s Hot Wheels paint scheme at Darlington: Brandon Gdovic and Sam Hunt Racing will honor Kyle Petty’s 1997 Hot Wheels paint scheme for Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway. Petty accumulated two top-five and nine top 10 finishes in 32 races that season and had a best finish of third. Gdovic, who will be making his first start at Darlington that weekend, will be sponsored by SnapMobil.Shop.

Tommy Joe Martins running Rich Bickle throwback: Martins Motorsports announced that Tommy Joe Martins will run a Rich Bickle throwback scheme for the Darlington Throwback Weekend. Martins will run the 1999 Lucky Dog 10-10-345 paint scheme in the Steakhouse Elite 200 on May 9 with the No. 44’s primary sponsorship coming from Capital City Hauling. Martins has six starts at Darlington with an average finish of 28.3 and a best finish of 22nd in 2018.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Toyota tops in trucks thus far this season

While much of the focus in Victory Lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season has been on Kyle Busch Motorsports with their four consecutive wins in the most recent four races, what may be overlooked is that Toyota has actually started the season with six straight wins.

ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes opened the season by sweeping the races on the two Daytona configurations. KBM then started their streak, with John Hunter Nemechek winning at Las Vegas, team owner Kyle Busch taking the checkered at Atlanta, Martin Truex Jr. on the dirt at Bristol, and Nemechek once again last weekend at Richmond.

This marks only the fourth time in series history that a manufacturer has started out the season with six or more wins in as many races and is the second time Toyota has done it. Toyota actually owns the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series record for the most consecutive wins to start a season with 10 in 2014.

Dodge and Chevrolet have each had seasons with eight wins to start out – Chevrolet in 1995 and Dodge in 2001.

The record-setting Toyota run in 2014 has one thing in common with the current streak – Kyle Busch. Busch won five of those 10 opening wins in that season.

Season Manufacturer Race Winners Track
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Daytona
2014 Toyota Matt Crafton Martinsville
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Kansas
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Charlotte
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Dover
2014 Toyota Matt Crafton Texas
2014 Toyota Bubba Wallace Gateway
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Kentucky
2014 Toyota Erik Jones Iowa
2014 Toyota Bubba Wallace Eldora

Looking at the driver standings in the Camping World Truck Series, Toyota drivers hold six of the top seven slots and seven of the top 10 positions. Nemechek and Rhodes are sitting one-two in the standings, while Austin Hill and Matt Crafton are fourth and fifth.

Crew chief spotlight: Eric Phillips

When John Hunter Nemechek announced his intent to return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2021 season, the team paired him up with veteran crew chief Eric Phillips.

This season marks a return to KBM for Phillips, who was originally with the organization from 2010 to 2014. He was a vital part in Toyota’s record-setting 10 consecutive wins to open the season, serving as crew chief for six of those victories – the five with Kyle Busch and then with Erik Jones at Iowa.

And he has another connection to Nemechek as Phillips’ first job as a NASCAR crew chief was in the Xfinity Series with NEMCO Motorsports – owned by John Hunter’s father, Joe. He sat atop the pit box for one race in 2003, guiding Joe to victory at Texas.

Phillips has 39 wins under his belt in the series, including two this year with Nemechek. That 39 is the most in the series for any crew chief, with 29 of them coming with KBM trucks.

Nemechek entered this season with six wins to his credit in the Camping World Truck Series, and it appears that matching him up with Phillips has been the perfect formula for KBM as the duo has already recorded two wins together.

Following the yellow brick road

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is taking the weekend off while the Xfinity Series and Cup Series take on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway, but the break will be short as they will jump back into action next week at Kansas Speedway for the Wise Power 200 (Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Kansas has hosted 22 Camping World Truck Series races – including three last year as part of the schedule re-shuffling that was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series raced a pair of races there in July, with Austin Hill and Matt Crafton winning. The trucks then returned in October for the Playoffs with Brett Moffitt taking the checkered flag.

In total, 19 different drivers have posted a win at the 1.5-mile track with Crafton leading all with three victories. Kyle Busch is the only other driver with multiple wins at the track with two.

Amongst the remaining series regulars, only Johnny Sauter joins Crafton, Hill and Moffitt as an active winner at the track. Cup Series regular Ross Chastain has also recorded a victory at the track.

— NASCAR —