The NASCAR Cup Series braces for its first trip to Talladega Superspeedway this season, marking the first superspeedway event since the coronavirus shutdown. The Alabama speed plant will play host to Monday’s GEICO 500 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), which was originally scheduled April 26 before pro sports’ pandemic hiatus.
As has been the case with other events since NASCAR’s return after the COVID-19 outbreak, Monday’s 500-mile race will be held without practice or qualifying. The track will open its doors to 5,000 fans, but the infield will be restricted to a limited group of essential personnel in accordance with public-health protocols.
The event will also mark the 13th Cup Series race of the year, after which the circuit will cross the halfway point of the 26-race regular season. With plenty of variables in play for always treacherous Talladega, here’s a primer with helpful information for Monday’s superspeedway clash.
Talladega Superspeedway is NASCAR’s largest oval, measuring 2.66 miles around. It held its first Cup Series event on Sept. 14, 1969 under the name Alabama International Motor Speedway. Richard Brickhouse was an underdog-turned-winner, subbing in and claiming his only major-league victory as a number of star drivers boycotted to protest what they felt were unsafe conditions. Brickhouse led 33 of 188 laps in Ray Nichels’ No. 99 Dodge.
The track’s asphalt surface spans 4,000 feet long on the backstretch with the frontstretch chutes between the turns and tri-oval measuring 2,150 feet. The racing surface is 48 feet wide with a 12-foot apron. The variable banking in the turns tops out at 33 degrees. The frontstretch tri-oval is banked at 18 degrees, and the backstraight is angled at a 2-degree tilt for drainage.
Sunday’s 500-miler will be the 102nd race for NASCAR’s top division at Talladega.
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 60, Stage 2 at Lap 120, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 188.
Monday’s GEICO 500 will be held without practice and qualifying as NASCAR tries to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control the spread of coronavirus. The starting lineup will be determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Pit-stall selection for the race will be based on the finishing order from last Sunday’s Cup Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For more information about starting-lineup procedures for national-series races scheduled without qualifying, click here.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for superspeedways will be in effect, with additional engine restrictions intended to drop the target horsepower to around 510 horsepower. The cars will use the superspeedway package, but aero ducts will be eliminated and a smaller throttle body will be used. Competition officials introduced the changes May 1 after Ryan Newman’s severe wreck in the season-opening Daytona 500. Learn more about the crash findings and the intent of the safety and competition changes here.
Goodyear officials expect tire strategy and not tire wear to be a focal point this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where traction fall-off is not as dramatic. Cup Series and Xfinity Series teams will run the same tire combination this weekend; it’s the same compound and code Cup Series teams ran last October, but it will mark a new combination for Xfinity Series cars for their 300-miler Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM).
“We have actually seen some tire wear at Talladega since it was repaved about a decade ago,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, making a nod toward Talladega’s 2010 repave. “Having said that, wear is really not an issue. Teams will have the opportunity to take two tires, or even no tires on occasion, to gain track position and line themselves up with the other teams they are working with in the draft.”
Cup Series teams will have an allotment of seven sets of tires for their event. Xfinity Series teams will have a maximum of four sets for their race.
STATS TO KNOW
— Ford has won eight of the last nine Cup Series races at Talladega, with Chevrolet’s lone tally to break up the streak coming last April with Chase Elliott’s victory in a Chevrolet. Toyota’s last Talladega win came in May 2014 with Denny Hamlin prevailing. Expect manufacturer alliances to run deep both in the aerodynamic draft and planning pit strategy.
— Six different drivers have won the last six Talladega races. Since Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s springtime win in 2017, the list of winners reads in chronological order: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.
— Brad Keselowski ranks as Talladega’s leader in career wins among active Cup Series drivers with five, but his recent run of luck at superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona) has been dreadful. Keselowski has finished outside the top 10 in his last nine superspeedway events, with six DNFs in that span.
— Martin Truex Jr. broke through in the 2020 win column on June 10, but he’s still waiting for his first Cup Series triumph on a superspeedway. He’s 0-for-60 for his career at those tracks, with 30 winless starts each at Talladega and Daytona and just four top-five finishes between the two tracks in his career.
— Hendrick Motorsports has the most Talladega wins of any organization with 13 victories, led by Jeff Gordon’s six triumphs. Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson has two Talladega wins for the team, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers netting one Talladega win each for HMS.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in to television coverage from Talladega Superspeedway on FOX (Monday, 3 p.m. ET) and the FOX Sports App. For full radio coverage, listen in to MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on-air.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner (which is FREE for both races), and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Chevrolet teams executed a winning strategy at Talladega Superspeedway as Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman went 1-2 to break up a seven-race streak at the track for Ford. Elliott led a race-best 45 laps in his fourth career Cup Series win as Chevy drivers swept five of the top six positions.
RELATED: 2019 GEICO 500 recap
ACTIVE TALLADEGA WINNERS
Brad Keselowski (five); Joey Logano (three); Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson (two each); Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan (not full time), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (one each).