CONCORD, N.C. – The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday for the second time in 2022. The trip to the 2.66-mile circuit will also mark the middle race in the Round of 12 for the Cup Series playoffs.
Opening in 1969, the goal of Talladega’s design was to be a longer version Daytona International Speedway with additional banking. Since then, the circuit’s configuration of roughly 33 degrees of banking in all four turns has resulted in close quarters racing throughout the field. This style of competition has also led to several dramatic, tight finishes at the track. In fact, the 2011 Talladega spring race tied the record for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history when then-Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag by .002 seconds.
In their most recent trip to Alabama, Hendrick Motorsports contended at the front of the pack for the majority of the race. Kyle Larson was the highest finisher from the quartet with a fourth-place run, pacing the field for 32 laps along the way. Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both finished inside the top 10 in seventh and ninth, respectively. William Byron rounded out the organization with a 15th-place finish. He did win stage two and led the most laps on the day with 38 circuits in front of the pack.
Despite not taking home a checkered flag, the team left the track with several impressive stats from the race. Hendrick Motorsports drivers led 37% of the laps run, spent 44% of their laps in the top five and 72% percent of their laps in the top 10. Larson (4.77), Byron (4.87) and Elliott (7.84) had three of the four best average running positions in the race. The top-10 finishes of Larson, Elliott and Bowman marked the fourth time that the organization had at least three drivers place in the top 10 at the venue.
In addition to the solid performance at the Alabama venue, Hendrick Motorsports has been strong in the five "drafting races" this year. In the season-opening race at Daytona, Larson and Bowman qualified on the front row. The team swept both races at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Byron taking the victory in March and Elliott winning the July race. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has finished inside the top 10 in four of the five "drafting races" this season - the only driver to do so this year.
Coming off last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Larson now leads the quartet with a 23-point cushion over the cutoff line. Elliott also enters this weekend above the cutoff line at +11. A post-Texas penalty (that is under appeal) leaves Byron eight points behind the cutoff line in 10th place, while Bowman is 26 points behind the elimination line in 12th.
Bowman will be sidelined for this race after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following an accident in the Sept. 25 event at Texas Motor Speedway. Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend.
As an organization, Hendrick Motorsports’ 13 Cup Series victories at Talladega are the most of any team in the sport. Jeff Gordon (six) and Jimmie Johnson (two) serve as the only drivers to win more than once for the team at the sport's biggest track. Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers each account for a single victory to the organization’s current total.
Here is what you need to know to catch this weekend’s action.
WHAT TIME IS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
There will be no group practice this weekend. Single-car qualifying will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 1, and will be broadcast on the NBC Sports App.
Single-car qualifying will consist of two rounds with the top 10 transferring to the final round to battle for the pole.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The 500-mile Cup Series main event is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 2, and will be broadcast on NBC.
CAN I LISTEN ON THE RADIO?
The race will be on MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING INTO TALLADEGA
Data provided by Racing Insights
4: Active streak of top-10 finishes for Byron (all four playoff races so far from Darlington Raceway to Texas Motor Speedway). This is the second-longest run of consecutive top-10 finishes in his career.
5: Since the start of 2021, Bowman has earned five Cup Series victories. This is the third-most of any driver in the field.
6: Top-10 finishes from Elliott in the last nine superspeedway races. The 26-year-old driver leads the Cup Series in this category.
8.50: Larson’s average finish in the 2022 playoffs. This mark gives the Elk Grove, California, native the third-best average finish in the playoffs.
1988: The year that saw Hendrick Motorsports became the first organization to record a one-two finish at Talladega. Crossing the line first was Ken Schrader with teammate Geoff Bodine close behind in the runner-up position to secure the feat.