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Racing at Talladega is deliciously unpredictable. Cars flash around NASCAR’s largest closed course at speeds that exceed 200 mph, drafting in tight packs through turbulent air. Inevitably—though no one knows when—comes “The Big One,” a massive wreck that wipes out a third of the field.
All three of NASCAR’s top national touring series are racing at Talladega this weekend. The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will compete in a Round of 10 elimination race on Saturday, followed by a doubleheader nightcap that features the second race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff.
On Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series stars will race in close quarters in the YellaWood 500, the second event in the top division’s Round of 12. The only Playoff driver who enters the race with any degree of comfort is Kurt Busch, who clinched a spot in the Round of 8 with his victory last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A gamble on pit strategy and a timely caution put Las Vegas native Kurt Busch out front in last Sunday’s South Point 400 at his home track. Busch did the rest, holding the lead through a series of late restarts and winning the Cup event in his home town for the first time.
The unexpected victory had one positive effect and one negative implication for the Busch family. Kurt earned a guaranteed ticket into the Round of 8 of the Cup Series Playoff. In doing so, however, Kurt pushed brother Kyle Busch, the reigning series champion, below the elimination cut line entering the second race in the three-event Round of 12.
Entering 2020, Kyle had won at least one race for 15 straight seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy this year. Winning at Talladega is a long shot for Kyle, who claimed his only victory at the 2.66-mile track 12 years ago. Perhaps his prediction of an early exit from the Playoff will become a self-fulfilling prophecy after the final Round of 12 race on Oct. 11 at the Charlotte Roval.
|YellaWood 500 Information|
|What||YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series race|
|When||Sunday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBC|
With his eighth victory of the season in last Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Chase Briscoe secured a spot in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff. That race, however, left five drivers at or near the bottom of the standings fighting to avoid elimination from the postseason after the next two races.
Harrison Burton, Ross Chastain, Michael Annett, Riley Herbst, and Brandon Brown are the bottom five in the Xfinity standings after the first Playoff race. Following Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega and the Oct. 10 Drive for the Cure 250 at the Charlotte Roval, the championship chances will end for four of the 12 Playoff drivers.
Talladega presents to the best opportunity for one of those five drivers to achieve a dramatic reversal of fortune with a victory that would guarantee advancement to the Round of 8. The aerodynamics of a superspeedway keep the cars close together and allow slower cars to maintain pace in the draft. For instance, Chastain, who has a victory at sister track Daytona, finished second to teammate Justin Haley in his last Talladega start.
|Ag-Pro 300 Information|
|What||Ag-Pro 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race|
|When||Saturday, Oct. 3, 4:30 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBCSN|
In relative terms, Austin Hill will be out for a Sunday drive in Saturday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. By virtue of last weekend’s victory at Las Vegas, Hill knows he’ll survive the Round of 10 in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoff.
The other nine drivers in the field don’t have that luxury. Just 65 points separate first-place Sheldon Creed from 10th-place Todd Gilliland, and even large margins can disappear instantly in one of the multicar wrecks that happen all too often at Talladega.
Grant Enfinger is the only one of this year’s Truck Series Playoff drivers who has won at Talladega, but on Saturday, it’s more about survival than about winning the race. After the event, the bottom two in the standings will be eliminated from the Playoff, so the primary objective is avoiding disaster and accumulating enough points to advance.
|Chevrolet Silverado 250 Information|
|What||Chevrolet Silverado 250 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race|
|When||Saturday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||FS1|
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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