Weekend Preview: Talladega Superspeedway


  • GEICO 500
  • Talladega Superspeedway
  • Sunday, April 24, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Purse: $7,420,008
  • TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 500 miles (188 laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

The famed Talladega Superspeedway is a track beloved for its high-action and unpredictability. And those are apt adjectives for NASCAR’s Cup Series competition this season as well – with eight different winners through the first nine races.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway high banks for Sunday’s GEICO 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) which is traditionally a sure-bet season highlight.

Four Different Winners – Last Four Races

There have been four different winners in the last four races there, including a career first NASCAR Cup Series trophy earned by 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace last Fall (October). Former series champion Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this Spring race and with six career Talladega victories is the winningest driver in the field. He actually boasts an impressive double the number of victories there as any other active driver.

Brad Keselowski

A win would definitely be a huge boost for Keselowski, whose only top-10 finish of this season was a ninth place in the season-opening Daytona 500. The new owner-driver for RFK Racing was penalized after the Atlanta race when NASCAR inspectors found the team modified a “single source” supplied part on the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford. Keselowski lost 100 driver points and 10 Playoff points and crew chief Matt McCall was suspended for four races. And now Keselowski shows up at one of his career-best tracks ranked 30th in the driver standings.

A solid run – a victory this weekend – would go a long way toward turning the season around for the new driver-owner. He scored a win and a runner-up finish in his two Talladega starts last year.

Chase Elliott

Perennial crowd favorite Chase Elliott has led the championship standings for four of the last five weeks, the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet currently holds a slim three-point edge on Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney and a 21-point advantage over Blaney’s Penske teammate Joey Logano heading to Talladega.

Interestingly, these three drivers ranked highest in the series driver standings are all still winless on the season. But they are all former Talladega winners and race favorites this weekend.

Elliott, who is from nearby Dawsonville, Ga. and considered a “hometown” favorite at Talladega, dramatically won the 2019 October Playoff race at the track, but has only a single top-five finish in the five races since. When it comes to superspeedways (at Daytona and Talladega), however, Elliott has collected six top-five and nine finishes on his career.

Ryan Blaney

Blaney has two victories – in Fall, 2019 and Spring, 2020 – and is the first driver to score back-to-back wins at Talladega since NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon swept the 2007 races. However, as with Elliott, Blaney has had a rough go otherwise, with only three top-10 finishes (including those two victories) in the last 11 Talladega races despite leading laps in eight of those 11 outings.

Joey Logano

Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, trails only Keselowski in the victory count with three wins, the last coming in the Spring, 2018 race. He also has struggled recently with only a single top 10 (third place in Fall 2020) in the last five races. He does boast nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in his 26 career starts, however, and has led laps in 12 of the last 13 races.

Any of these drivers has a compelling case to win this Sunday – past Talladega performance plus a desire to score that first 2022 victory.

William Byron

And not to be overlooked is the season’s only multiple-winner, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron. He was runner-up to Keselowski in this race last year and has top-five finishes in two of the last three Talladega races. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win on the series’ other superspeedway in Daytona Beach in August 2020.

“Talladega is one of those places where you just don’t know how your day is going to end up,” Byron said. “I think that’s why driving smart and just doing what you can to make it to the checkered flag is the main focus. Your race can change so fast if you’re in the wrong lane or you get caught up in someone else’s mistake.

“I think if you can avoid those things and finish the race, you’re going to have a decent result.”

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 is schedule for Saturday morning at 11 a.m. ET on FS1.


  • Ag-Pro 300
  • Talladega Superspeedway
  • Saturday, April 23, 4:00p.m. ET
  • Purse: $1,475,583
  • TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 300.58 miles (113 Laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns after a week off to compete in the Ag-Pro 300 this Saturday, April 23 at Talladega Superspeedway (4 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Jeb Burton

Jeb Burton earned his career first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in this race last year, leading the final nine laps and ultimately holding off Austin Cindric, current series points leader A.J. Allmendinger, Riley Herbst, Ryan Sieg and Noah Gragson.

Burton, who now drives the No. 27 Our Motorsports Chevrolet, would love to back up his victory with his first top-10 finish of the year – and first for his new team – at Talladega this weekend. However, he can expect typically tight competition, among multiple drivers and the kind of last lap drama that has long characterized the speedway and made this one of the most thrilling races of the season.

AJ Allmendinger

Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger is in the midst of a stellar season start, earning his first victory of the year at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas road course and is the only driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with top-10 finishes in all eight races. Last year’s third place effort at Talladega is his best showing in four Xfinity Series starts there.

Ty Gibbs

Nineteen-year-old Ty Gibb, who will be making his Xfinity Series Talladega debut, is currently second in the Xfinity Series driver standings trailing Allmendinger by 20 points, with a series-best three victories. His only superspeedway experience-to-date, however, is an 11th-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona. The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has a series-best 325 laps led on the season and has won pole position in the last three races.

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson sits just behind Gibbs in the standings and the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet has been good on the Talladega high banks earning top-10 finishes in four of his six starts there with a best showing of third-place in 2020. Gragson was third in the first superspeedway race of 2022 – at Daytona. And his four-race run atop the championship standings mid-season is the longest time a driver has led the points consecutively so far.

Brandon Brown – Ryan Sieg – Brandon Jones

Brandon Brown, Ryan Sieg and the most recent Xfinity Series race winner Brandon Jones (at Martinsville, Va.) all have good cases as race favorites too. Brown won the series last race at Talladega in October of 2021 – his only win in the series. He’s finished top-10 in the last three races at the track.

Sieg, who has five top-10 finishes in 2022, has finished 11th-place or better in the last three Talladega races, including a runner-up finish in 2020. Jones, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has three top-five finishes and was runner-up to Brown in the Fall race last year

Dash 4 Cash

Saturday’s race marks the third round of the Dash 4 Cash incentive with $100,000 on the line to the top finishing driver Saturday among these four: Brandon Jones, Landon Cassill, Allmendinger and Austin Hill.

The top-four finishing eligible drivers at Talladega will then race for the final $100,000 courtesy of Xfinity – when the series competes at the “Monster Mile,” Dover (Del.) International Speedway next week. Allmendinger and Jones each pocketed one of the two $100,000 bonuses already awarded this season.

Fantasy NASCAR

Jeff Gutowski

“Where is Jeff?”

“Is Gut’s writing his Fantasy NASCAR Preview this year?”

“I miss Gutowski!”

It’s long overdue. Any of y’all that correspond with me know that it may take 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months for me to reply. (And yes, don’t worry it does weigh heavy on me the whole time.) But that’s another story.

What’s the story with Guts?

Jeff has decided that he needed a break from the long NASCAR season. He wants to step back and be a fan. And, probably do more fishing.

Jeff Gutowski. More Fishin’. Less Writin’.

One of the most reliable I’ve ever met

I looked back through my Gmail and found a steady stream of emails from Jeff saying, “I’ve posted my article”, that date back to June 6, 2008. I’m pretty sure that Jeff started writing his Cup Series Preview on my sites in sometime in 2007 from the emails content. That’s one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. The key to our success?

We’ve only talked on the phone once. We seldom email each other all year.

Jeff Gutowski is on my short-list of being one of the most reliable persons that I’ve ever met. 36+ times a year for about 15 years he’s had his NASCAR Fantasy Preview posted here before the haulers had left the track or you’ve yet turned off the post-race show.

Thanks Guts!

If Jeff had a number I’d retire it. So, second best thing is I’ll retire the name Guts on my sites. If any other Gutowski’s come along that want to write, they’ll have to spell out their whole name.

Feel free to mushy, mushy up the comments section here and let Jeff know what you think.

Fantasy NASCAR

2021 Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

The championship four are set for the culmination of the season. If the Martinsville race was any indication of what we can expect this weekend we are in for an exciting race. Who will be this year’s champion? Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, or Martin Trues Jr.. Two Hendrick drivers and two Gibbs drivers. The two teams that have been the best all season long.


The series concludes with the final race of the season at the Phoenix Raceway with the running of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race. For the second consecutive season we are on a shorter, flatter track for this race. Not like when they always ran on a mile and a half track in past seasons. I think all of these drivers have an equal chance to win this week and qualifying is going to be crucial for them. Getting the best stalls on pit road could be the difference in this race.

Kyle Larson: He’s the driver who’s been given the best odds to win this year’s championship for quite some time now. He’s the only driver of the championship four that has never won at this track. However, he does have a second and two third place finishes here. He has also finished in the top ten in each of his last five starts here with three of those being top five finishes. I think he gets the job done this week.

Chase Elliott: Chase won this race last year and with that won the championship. I truly believe that Kevin Harvick will not let Chase win the championship this year. I’ve never known him to say something and not follow through on it. This is why I will have Chase as my stay away from driver this week. Could I be wrong? Yes, but I don’t think so. If I am wrong, then Chase looked very good last week at Martinsville and runs well on this type of track and could repeat as champion.

Denny Hamlin: Denny won the fall race here two years ago and has finished in the top five in five of his last seven starts at the track. They are going to have to avoid pit road penalties that they are prone to have in this race. Qualifying will also be huge for this team and all teams as the person who wins the pole will get their choice of that first pit stall.

Martin Truex Jr.: The last qualifier won the spring race at Phoenix this year. That means he should have a pretty good setup when they take the car of the truck. If he can get it dialed in during practice and have a good qualifying run he is going to be a contender too. We probably couldn’t ask for a more competitive group for this years championship.

Kyle Busch: With nine top five finishes in his last twelve starts at this track, the rest of the championship drivers must be thrilled that Kyle came just short of making the top four. That doesn’t mean this team is done trying to win and I don’t think they are going to let any teammates pass them without earning it. A win is how this team wants to finish the season.

Kevin Harvick: With seven wins and three runner up finishes in his last eighteen starts here, Kevin will have a car good enough to win this race. He will also have a car good enough to get close to Chase Elliott and that will be the part of the race we’ll want to watch for. Will Kevin make good on his threat to make sure Chase doesn’t win this year’s championship. Will he do something early in the race, late in the race or not do anything?

Brad Keselowski: Brad had a good run last weekend at Martinsville and would like nothing to end his tenure with Team Penske with a win for Roger. They have nothing to lose in this race and have no teammates running for the championship. In fact, there are no Ford’s in this year’s championship either so they have nothing to worry about other than trying to get to the checkered flag first.

Joey Logano: With three straight top three finishes at this track they will be a contender once again in this race. It just seems that they have been off for most of the second half of the season and I don’t know if they are ready to win again. They might do better after they can practice instead of just taking their car off the truck and trying to race with it. They’ll be able to make adjustments early in the weekend that can help right from the start of the race.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Denny Hamlin
  • Martin Truex Jr.

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Kyle Larson
  • Aric Almirola
  • Alex Bowman
  • William Byron

Driver Group Game Group C

  • Bubba Wallace
  • Michael McDowell


  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Brad Keselowski

Dark Horse: William Byron

Stay Away From: Chase Elliott

Big 18: Tyler Reddick

Fantasy NASCAR

2021 Martinsville Speedway, Xfinity 500

Congratulations to Kyle Larson for winning again this weekend and solidifying his position as the person to beat for this year’s championship. With one race to go before the championship race, there are still seven other drivers who have a shot at making that race, but only three of them will. Who will it be?


This week the series heads to the Martinsville Speedway for the running of the Xfinity 500. This is the final race to qualify for the championship race and it is too early to tell who will make it in and who won’t. All we know for sure at this point is the Kyle Larson will race for the championship. Who he will race against is up in the air.

Martin Truex Jr.: Martin currently sits three points below the cutline, but the good news is he has a good shot at winning this week and automatically qualifying for the championship. He has won three of the last four Martinsville races and has six top five finishes in his last eight starts here. Another top five finish will most likely propel him into the championship race.

Brad Keselowski: At only six points below the cutline this team still has a great shot at making the final race. Brad has nine top five finishes in his last eleven starts at the track including two wins. He isn’t afraid to mix it up with the other drivers on the track and a little bump and run doesn’t bother him much, so he has a good shot at winning once again.

Ryan Blaney: Only one point below the cutline can be made up very easily. Ryan has four top five finishes in his last five starts at Martinsville including back to back runner-up finishes last season. He might not need to win, but a top five is something that he will be striving for in the least. If one of the bottom four driver wins this race then more points need to be made up to unseat someone who is already in the top four.

Chase Elliott: With four top five finishes in his last five starts here, Chase is feeling pretty good going into this race. He won this one last year and should have a lot of confidence this week. The question is, will Kevin Harvick leave him alone or will he make life miserable for Chase this week? I do believe he is going to do something in one of the next two races like he promised.

Denny Hamlin: With a seemingly good cushion in points this team really doesn’t need to win, but early issues could make that points lead shrink in a hurry. This team needs to avoid mistakes in the pits that has cost them in years past. The good news is that Denny has finished in the top five here in four of his last six starts. Avoiding penalties is this teams biggest challenge this week.

Kyle Busch: Even after hitting the wall multiple times last week, Kyle still finds himself in the top four in the standings for the time being. He only has a one point lead and know that he might need to win this race to get in. If their car isn’t handling well at the beginning of the race and he gets frustrated they’re done. If he has a car that can stay in touch with the front of the pack they have a chance. He had a streak of eight straight top five finishes here that ended a couple of seasons ago, but if they can get back to that handling all is well again.

Joey Logano: Joey has only won here once in his career and being twenty-six points below the cutline and with three other drivers in front of him in the standing this is probably another must win situation for him. He’s been pretty good here in his career, but hasn’t been as consistent as any of the other playoff drivers which makes this an even tougher task to accomplish. I have a feeling things won’t go quite as planned for this team.

Kyle Larson: This team looks almost unbeatable, but this week they are going to have their work cutout for themselves. Kyle has never run great at this track although he did finish fifth here this spring. In thirteen career starts he has only finished in the top ten three times. He should be thankful that this isn’t the championship track.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Martin Truex Jr.

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Kurt Busch
  • Christopher Bell

Driver Group Game Group C

  • Daniel Suarez


  1. Martin Truex Jr.
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Kyle Busch

Dark Horse: Tyler Reddick

Stay Away From: Austin Dillon

Big 18: Tyler Reddick

Fantasy NASCAR

2021 Kansas Speedway, Hollywood Casino 400

Kyle Larson wasted no time in securing a spot in the championship race by winning at Texas this past weekend. The odds on favorite to win this years championship didn’t have much of a problem winning his eighth win of the season and third of the playoffs. Joey Logano took the biggest hit when he lost an engine late in the race and now sits forty-three points below the cut line. He’s probably going to need to win to make it in.


This week the series heads to the Kansas Speedway for the running of the Hollywood Casino 400. This is the second race of the round of eight and only three more drivers can make the championship race. Things are going to heat up as these seven drivers try to win one of the next two races or position themselves to get in on points.

Kyle Larson: How can you not pick Kyle to win every week through the end of the year? He has nothing to lose and nothing to gain. They might try to do some testing for next year, but I think they just try to stay focused and keep winning races. As dominant as he was last weekend there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again this week.

Kyle Busch: Kyle won the race here back in May of this year and had a pretty good early showing last week at Texas. This team knows that they almost have to win one of the next two races to make the championship and they can win either of those. The Gibbs drivers don’t seem quite as fast as the Hendrick drivers, but Kyle doesn’t want to head to Martinsville needing to win.

Martin Truex Jr.: Martin hasn’t won here since sweeping the races here back in the 2017 season. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been good here though either. He has only finished outside of the top ten once in his last nine starts at Kansas. The problem is they just don’t seem to be in the same groove they were in for a few years at the intermediate tracks.

Chase Elliott: Chase won at Kansas during the fall of 2018 and has finished in the top six in five of his last six starts there. He currently sits just below the cutline, but that doesn’t really matter right now with two races to go. The question is, when will Kevin Harvick make sure he doesn’t win the championship again this year? I think he waits until Phoenix if Chase makes it in.

Ryan Blaney: Ryan has run well here his whole career, but lately he hasn’t been getting the types of finishes he would expect. In his last four starts at Kansas he has scored points in every stage, yet he has only finished in the top twenty once. They are going to have to figure out why they can’t finish a race here in the top ten consistently and get that corrected this week. He should have a car capable of winning this race.

Brad Keselowski: Brad had a good run at Texas last week and needs to continue that momentum this week at Kansas. He finished third in the May race and has finished in the top ten in four of his last five starts including a win in the spring of 2019. All they need to do is the same thing they did last week and hope for a little bit of luck.

Joey Logano: After losing an engine late in last weeks race this team really needs to win one of the next two races. He won this race last season, but they haven’t run consistently well with only three top ten finishes in their last nine races. This could be the beginning of the end for them for this season.

Denny Hamlin: Denny won back to back races here in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He currently sits in third place, but only has a nine point cushion. Nobody is truly in or out at this point with two races left to determine the championship four so they can’t sit back and points race. He has scored points in each stage in the last five races so that’s something else he’s got going for himself.


Driver Group Game Group A

  • Ryan Blaney

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Alex Bowman
  • Christopher Bell

Driver Group Game Group C

  • Chase Briscoe


  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Ryan Blaney
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Brad Keselowski

Dark Horse: Tyler Reddick

Stay Away From: Matt DiBenedetto

Big 18: Austin Dillon