When we last left our heroes, we saw Martin Truex Jr. finally get the short track monkey off his back. He led 186 laps en route to his first Cup Series tally in that department (Kyle Busch and Joey Logano each captured a Stage), but now we’re off to a very different venue: Talladega.
Colloquially known as a “Restrictor Plate Track” (along with Daytona), we’ll have to find a new designation for ‘Dega. The Restrictor Plates are no more, and now NASCAR is going with a “Tapered Spacer” (which essentially does the same thing), limiting horsepower to the engine. The speeds crept up more than they expected to in Practice, so now we’ve got another new piece of equipment. Meet the “Wicker.”
An overly large spoiler already present on the deck lid, teams got to attach a lip, of sorts, to the top of that to drag the cars down even more. “Aww man, is this race going to stink?!” Quite the contrary, actually; we still saw plenty of “suck up” in the draft and the runs are bigger than ever. It’ll definitely be worth watching, and there should be plenty of action, front to back.
Here’s what to look for:
–Austin Dillon threw out the first pitch on Friday, and he’ll be the first to put the pedal to the metal on Sunday. P1 for AD3, he’ll have the chaos behind him when they dip into Turn 1. Not a whole lot to know about how the entirety of this race is going to go; it’s usually pretty wild, but with the new rules package there are even more variables. Dillon hasn’t really lit up the scoring pylon at Talladega, though he had a pair of Top 10s there in 2016.
–Aric Almirola will start on the front row, but he’s finished there, too! Just last Fall, in fact, the highlight on a string of five straight Top 8s here. 13.5 average finish, which is obviously better if you only acknowledge the short term. Almirola and the #10 should be sporty once more. He’s also the first of six Fords in the Top 8, the manufacturer who has won the last seven races here. Have YOU driven a Ford lately?
–Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a name that gets mentioned quite often when talking about this place. The driver of the #17 has a knack for this style of racnig, and managed to win both Plate tracks back in 2017. He leads all drivers over the last ten races with an 11.2 average finish. Stenhouse was set to roll off from the 6th position today but was moved to the rear of the field (as well as Roush Fenway teammate Ryan Newman, all of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars, and others) for “unapproved adjustments.”
–Joey Logano took the checkers at the Spring race a year ago, leading 70 of 188 laps. He started that race 9th, today he rolls off 8th. JL has three Wins at Talladega since the the 2015 Fall race.
–Ty Dillon makes his 100th start this weekend, sponsored by GEICO..at the GEICO 500. He’s got some decent numbers here, too, a 13.5 average finish over four races, each of his placements ranging from 11th to 15th. And if there’s a great place for Dillon to get his first Win, it’s here, a track that has been quite friendly to the Underdog through the years. David Ragan and David Gilliland finished 1-2 here back in 2013, and we’ve already outlined Almirola. It truly is “anyone’s race,” but the most important part is rising above the madness and being there at the end.
Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 2:00pm, green flag scheduled for 2:19pm.