Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: GEICO 500 at Talladega Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. — From the smallest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule to the largest.

Following last weekend’s race on the flat half-mile of Martinsville, it’s on to the biggest and baddest track on the circuit – the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and Sunday’s running of the GEICO 500.

Since opening its doors in 1969, the track just off Interstate 20 in Eastern Alabama has been a wild card on the schedule with the unpredictable nature of superspeedway racing on full display over the past half-century, leading to some of the most memorable moments in NASCAR history.

Anyone in the field has a chance at the win as long as they can be in the right place at the right time. Sunday’s race should be no different. While there will be favorites, any of the cars still running in the closing laps could pull off the win. There is a reason fans come from far and wide to witness racing at Talladega and that unpredictability is a big part of it.

Who will come out on top this go around? 188 laps of white-knuckle racing will tell the tale.

By the Numbers

What: GEICO 500, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 10 of 36

Where: Talladega Superspeedway – Talladega, Alabama (Opened: 1969)

TV/Radio: FOX, 3:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 2.66-mile tri-oval (Turns banked 33 degrees, Tri-oval banked 16.5 degrees)

Race Length: 188 laps, 500.08 miles

Stage Lengths: 60 laps each (First two stages); 68 laps (Final stage)

April 2022 Race Winner: Ross Chastain – No. 1 Chevrolet (Started 19th, one lap led)

October 2022 Race Winner: Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet (Started 16th, 10 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Bill Elliott – 44.998 seconds, 212.809 mph – April 30, 1987

Top-10 Highest Driver Rating at Talladega:

  1. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 91.7
  2. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 91.3
  3. Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 89.5
  4. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 89.2
  5. William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 86.2
  6. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 83.6
  7. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 81.5
  8. Kyle Busch – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – 81.5
  9. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet – 79.8
  10. Erik Jones – No. 43 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet – 78.9

From the Driver’s Seat

“Superspeedways are such wild cards and we see that time and time again,” said Ross Chastain. “In the April race last year, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I held the wheel straight and people wrecked around me and we won the race. That doesn’t always happen at superspeedway tracks though. You have so many things out of your control that you have to have a little bit of luck at them.”

Last Time at Talladega

It came down to a battle between best friends last Fall at Talladega, with Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney duking it out for a spot in the next round of the Playoffs.

Blaney led the low line with Michael McDowell in tow, but Elliott pulled even with him on the last lap thanks to a push from Erik Jones.

It would come down to who had the better drafting partner by the time the made it back around the checkered flag.

Elliott surged ahead in the tri-oval as the pack behind him juked and jived trying to find a way around. Though Blaney made a run at Elliott’s Chevrolet heading toward the finish line, Elliott threw a timely block to stay out in front and bank another Talladega win.

“It was a wild last couple laps,” Elliott said. “I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom. Fortunately, I got just clear enough off of two to slide up in front of Erik. He gave me some great shoves. Obviously, a Team Chevy partner there.

“Yeah, just had a good enough run to get out front, then I was able to stay far enough in front of Ryan here at the line to get it done.

“These things are so, so hard to win. You got to enjoy ’em. Just appreciate everybody’s effort today. NAPA, Chevrolet, all of our partners that make this happen. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, the engine shop. The boss is here, so excited to celebrate with him. Get ready to go to the Roval and try to grab another one.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

  • Saturday, April 22
    • NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (10:30 am – FOX Sports 1)
  • Sunday, April 23
    • GEICO 500 at Talladega (3:00 pm – 188 laps, 500.08 miles – FOX)

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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.