Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Saturday Talladega Notebook

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Michael McDowell has been a force to be reckoned with in qualifying on superspeedways this season and he was back at it again at Talladega, banking his second pole position of the season.

With a lap of 52.609 seconds, 182.022 mph, McDowell put his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford on the front row for the third time on a superspeedway in 2024.

For teams like Front Row and drivers like McDowell, Talladega is one race that they circle as an opportunity and starting on the front row sets both driver and team off on the right foot when the green flag drops on Sunday.

“It’s great,” McDowell said of winning his second pole of the season. “For us at Front Row, when we went to Daytona and sat on the front row we’re like, ‘Hey we’ve got something here.’ I kind of backed that up at Atlanta with getting the pole and I think we all felt that pressure knowing that we were so strong at Atlanta and Daytona to come here to Talladega and try to repeat and have a really good starting spot. 

“The guys put a lot of energy and effort into all of the little extra details that it takes on these superspeedways to get that speed, so excited for tomorrow. I feel really good about what we’ve been able to do this year with our superspeedway program, not just with speed but racing well. I think Todd has led the most laps at the superspeedways this year and we’ve been up front a lot, so it was a great team effort and I’m excited to try to get a Dark Horse Mustang into Victory Lane.”

He will be joined on the front row by fellow Ford Mustang Dark Horse pilot Austin Cindric, with his Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland starting in third place. The Richard Childress Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in qualifying.

The remainder of the top-10 starters will be Martin Truex, Jr., Joey Logano, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, and Christopher Bell.

Larson Denied Qualifying Attempt as No. 5 Team Runs Afoul of NASCAR

Kyle Larson had been on a roll in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying heading into Talladega, having won the past three poles and should have had a good shot at making it four in a row this weekend, however he and the team found themselves at odds with NASCAR officials prior to qualifying.

While pushing the car out to the grid for qualifying, it was discovered the team had made unapproved adjustments to the roof rails. As a result, Larson will have to start at the tail end of the field.

Any further penalties to Larson and the No. 5 team will be announced later in the week.

We’re Talking About Pylons, Man.

In recent weeks, the removal of scoring pylons at race tracks has become a hot topic among drivers, fans, and others in the industry, with the fervor ramping up to a rapid pace leading into this weekend at Talladega.

Just a week after the scoring pylon was missing at Texas, it was discovered that the pylon that had been a fixture in the infield at Talladega had also been taken down and removed, leaving only the video boards that dot the track for everyone to use to keep up with the running order.

Perplexed by the move, many drivers, including Denny Hamlin, who helped spur on the conversation on social media Friday night, had plenty to say on the topic when on-track activity began on Saturday morning.

Hamlin noted that he talked to NASCAR officials about the issue, getting the same generic response as the rest of the industry regarding their removal due to their age and the reliance on video boards around the track instead.

“They did think it through, but you know, they figured the scoring pylons only service those in the infield,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t service those that are in the stands. I don’t know about that, but certainly we know it’s important to the race fan because they put it on TV for you, for the millions that do watch at home. So, you want to be able to see where your driver is at. And I think that that’s why it’s important.

“And not only that, it’s just that’s what a racetrack is. I think if you’re taking those down. It’s just not as good. Every time I go through a tunnel, and it might be just me, first thing I do is look at the scoring pylon to see, who’s where and what. I don’t know, maybe more of a sentimental thing from a purist like myself. But every track has its own ideas and we’ve just seen it over time.

“I think it started with Bristol taking some out and then it was, Watkins Glen I noticed. Then obviously last week and then now this week. So hopefully it’s not a trend.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.