By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. — A year after debuting to a sold-out crowd, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Nashville Superspeedway this weekend for the second running of the Ally 400 on Sunday.
Prior to its Cup debut in 2021, the track located on the outskirts of Nashville in Lebanon, Tennessee, was no stranger to hosting NASCAR events with both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR camping World Truck Series running there from 2001 to 2011 before the track was shuttered.
The Nashville tracks serves as an oddity on the Cup Series schedule, a 1.33-mile D-shaped concrete oval, that is unlike any other track the series visits as its traverses the country throughout the season.
While teams have some baseline from last season, the Next Gen car and how it will run at the track still lies as a big unknown, with just one 50-minute practice session to get the cars dialed in for Sunday’s main event.
With just 10 races remaining before the Playoffs, a number of drivers have yet to capture their first win of the season, including Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex, Jr., Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, and others. Throw in the fact that 12 Playoff spots have already been claimed by race winners and it will be a dogfight from now to Daytona to see which drivers will ultimately make the cut.
Will one of the winless drivers punch their ticket to the postseason or will the rich just keep getting richer? We’ll find out on Sunday afternoon.
By the Numbers
What: Ally 400, NASCAR Cup Series race No. 17 of 36
Where: Nashville Superspeedway – Lebanon Tennessee (Opened: 2001)
TV/Radio: NBC, 5:00 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.333-mile D-shaped concrete oval
Banking: 14 degrees in Turns, 9 degrees on front straightaway, 6 degrees on back straightaway
Race Length: 300 laps (399.9 miles)
Stage Lengths: 90 laps (Stage 1), 95 laps (Stage 2), 115 laps (Final stage)
2021 Race Winner: Kyle Larson – No. 5 Chevrolet (Started sixth, 264 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Aric Almirola – 29.557 seconds, 161.992 mph
Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Nashville:
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 149.7
- Aric Almirola – No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 116.7
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet – 114.7
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 108.1
- Ross Chastain – No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet – 106.0
- William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 98.5
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 98.1
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 98.0
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 97.3
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 90.7
From the Driver’s Seat
“I think last year’s race at Nashville (Superspeedway) was a ‘learn as you go’ type of situation,” said William Byron. “With so few people having experience there, and even my short stint in the (Camping World) Truck Series race that weekend, we still didn’t know a lot of what to expect. We ended up having a really solid run though and that does offer some extra confidence for this weekend. You don’t want to be overly confident, though.
“Just because you had a good finish, that was last year’s car, and the Next Gen car handles differently. We have a starting point, and we’ll use practice on Friday to really dial the race setup in. Nashville presents its own challenges though as it looks like a superspeedway but it’s more similar to a short track in how tight the corners are.”
From the Broadcast Booth
“If you quite simply think about NBC this weekend, we’re going to immediately start talking about the playoffs because it’s real.
“If you look — Blaney, Truex, Almirola, Harvick, Reddick — it is a heavyweight fight to see who can make these playoffs.
“Every stage matters, every race finish matters, and it’s all happening at the same time you have this incredible change in the sport with this new car and the quality of racing through the roof.
“The intensity and aggressiveness that Junior just talked about is through the roof, and it just makes everything that much more important. So I can’t wait to get there.
“We went to Nashville last year. There were a ton of questions. This is going to be a single-groove track. There’s not going to be any passing. That’s all we heard, and we had an unbelievable race.
“NASCAR this year is doing the same thing to the track. They’re even actually widening it out a little bit with the resin, so that’s encouraging to see even better races.”
Last Time at Nashville
When Kyle Larson rolled into Nashville last season, he was on a roll having not finished lower than second in the five races preceding the Ally 400, including two-straight wins, so it was only natural that the No. 5 Chevrolet would end the day in Victory Lane.
After rolling off from fifth-place, Larson ascended to the lead just six laps into the 300-lap race, where he would remain a fixture for most of the event.
Crossing the line 4.355-seconds ahead of Ross Chastain, Larson dominated the race, leading 264 laps to bank his then fourth win of the season.
To illustrate how dominant Larson was that day, only two other drivers led double digit laps, with Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch leading 13 and 10 laps, respectively.
“It was another good one,” Larson said. “We’ve had probably the best race car on the racetrack for at least a month and a half. Good to take advantage of it, get another win. Able to jump out to a lead right from the get-go, basically lead the rest of the race. If it wasn’t for the cautions at the ends of the stages, we had a near perfect day.
“Just happy with it, happy to get another win. The crowd was awesome, too. Kind of I think the atmosphere felt really high before the race. It was just cool to be here, cool to be in Nashville all week. Always great to get a win.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, June 24
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (6:30 pm – USA Network)
Saturday, June 25
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (1:00 pm – USA Network)
Sunday, June 26
- Ally 400 at Nashville (5:00 pm – 300 laps, 399.9 miles – NBC)