CONCORD, North Carolina – 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 run of the round of 16 for the Cup Series playoffs.
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Opening in 1969, Talladega’s design goal was to be a longer version of the Daytona International Speedway with additional banks. Since then, the circuit layout of approximately 33 degrees of bank in all four corners has resulted in close racing throughout the field. This style of competition also led to several dramatic and close finishes on the track. In fact, Talladega’s 2011 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 0.002 seconds.
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On their last trip to Alabama, Hendrick Motorsports fought at the front of the pack for the majority of the race. Kyle Larson was the quartet’s top finisher with a fourth-place finish, pacing the field for 32 laps along the way. Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both finished in the top 10 seventh and ninth respectively. William Byron completed the organization with a 15th place finish. He won stage two and led the most laps of the day with 38 home runs ahead of the field.
Despite not winning a checkered flag, the team left the track with several impressive stats from the race. Hendrick Motorsports drivers led 37% of laps covered, spent 44% of their laps in the top five and 72% of their laps in the top 10. Larson (4.77), Byron (4.87) and Elliott (7.84) had three of the top four average running positions in the race. The top-10 finishes for Larson, Elliott and Bowman marked the fourth time the organization had at least three top-10 drivers on the site.
RELATED: Top 10 trio for Hendrick Motorsports at Talladega
In addition to the strong performance at the Alabama site, Hendrick Motorsports has been strong in all five “drafting races” this year. In the season-opening race at Daytona, Larson and Bowman qualified first. The team swept both races at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Byron taking the win in March and Elliott winning the July race. The Dawsonville, Georgia native has finished in the top 10 in four of five “drafting races” this season – the only driver to do so this year.
After last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Larson now leads the foursome with a 23-point cushion at the cutoff line. Elliott also enters this weekend above the +11 cutoff line. A post-Texas penalty (which is under appeal) leaves Byron eight points behind the cut 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 a crash during 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 wins at Talladega are the most of any team in the sport. Jeff Gordon (six) and Jimmie Johnson (two) are 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 represent a single win in the organization’s current total.
Here’s what you need to know to follow this weekend’s action.
WHAT TIME ARE PRACTICES AND QUALIFICATIONS?
There will be no collective training this weekend. Single-car qualifying begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday October 1and will be broadcast on the NBC Sports app.
Single-car qualifying will consist of two rounds, with the top 10 moving to the final round to battle for pole.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The main event of the 500-mile Cup series is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Sunday October 2and will be broadcast on NBC.
CAN I LISTEN TO THE RADIO?
The race will take place DNR Radio and NASCAR SiriusXM Radio (Channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
Yes. Download the NBC Sports app for online coverage. Fans can also follow the action on Twitter by following @TeamHendrick.
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING TO TALLADEGA
Data provided by Racing Insights
4: Active series of top-10 finishes for Byron (all four playoff races so far, from Darlington Raceway to Texas Motor Speedway). It is the second longest streak of consecutive top-10 finishes in his career.
5: Since the start of 2021, Bowman has won five Cup Series victories. This is the third highest number of pilots in the field.
6: Elliott finishes in the top 10 in the last nine superspeedway races. The 26-year-old driver leads the Cup Series in this category.
8.50: Larson’s ending average in the 2022 playoffs. This mark gives the native of Elk Grove, Calif., the third-best average in the playoffs.
1988: The year Hendrick Motorsports became the first organization to record a one-two finish at Talladega. Ken Schrader crossed the line first, closely followed by teammate Geoff Bodine in second to secure the feat.
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