We’ve begun the Round of 12, and once again we’ve watched a non-Playoff contender drive away to victory. This isn’t how the Playoffs are supposed to work! And now we’re at Talladega, quite possibly the most unpredictable race of the entire year. We’ll do what we can here though, checking on those trends, and stalwart performers.
Here’s what to look for:
–Christopher Bell was quickest on Saturday mernin’, no Practice for the drivers and a different Qualifying procedure than they’ve been used to this year. Bell will have his Toyota out front in a very important race for those still Championship-eligible. Next week is the ROVAL, so a Win this week would absolve any drivers from dealing with a must-win situation there. Neither is ideal, but Bell will have to lean on his starting position because his 22.4 average finish in five Talladega races is 33rd “best.”
–Ross Chastain won the Spring race earlier this year. He led only the final lap, disembarking from 19th to start the event. Today he’ll roll off 6th with teammate Daniel Suarez not too far behind.
–Bubba Wallace was our winner of this race in 2021, a rain-shortened affair but a Win is a Win! He took the checkers at Kansas a few weeks ago (in a full-length affair) so we know he’s got the equipment and the ability to get there. And he had to be out front in 2021 for that victory; can he pile another one on today?
–Aric Almirola has the best average finish over the last ten Talladega races, and six Top 10s in there. You’ve got to go back to the 2018 race to find the last time he won here, and he was on a much better streak then — Aric hasn’t had a Top 10 since the Spring of 2020 when he finished 3rd. Starting 4th, he can already see the lead.
-Feeling good about Daniel Hemric this week. While his teammate Noah Gragson fills in for Alex Bowman (concussion protocol), Hemric will be behind the wheel of his familiar #16. Gragson was supposed to drive for Beard Motorsports in the #62 this week, but that ride will now be piloted by Justin Allgaier. Enough about them, back to Hemric! He finished 5th in his first try here, but hasn’t been as successful in recent runs. Hemric finished 8th in yesterday’s Xfinity race, and AJ Allmendinger took the #16 to Victory Lane. Is today the day?
Busy month for us, no NASCAR food today but we’re all sheeted up with 50 wings for the Bills. Go Bills!
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 2:00pm, green flag scheduled for 2:04pm.