Built Ford Tough: Analyzing the manufacturer’s recent success at Talladega

If Talladega Superspeedway is considered a wild-card track, then Ford has figured out how to tame the 2.66-mile beast in recent years.

The blue-oval manufacturer has won 10 of the last 12 and 12 of the last 17 NASCAR Cup Series races in Alabama. That includes a streak of seven victories in a row from 2015-18 – remember, there are two stops per season.

Chevrolet, meanwhile, has won once in the last five events and three times in the last 16. Toyota won the fall race last year but otherwise hasn’t since the spring of 2014.

A little reading between the lines will infer Ford is the defending Talladega winner, having won there earlier this year. The Cup Series’ second visit is Sunday with the NASCAR Playoffs’ second race in the Round of 12 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

TALLADEGA: Weekend schedule | Betting odds | Paint schemes

Here’s a look at Talladega outcomes since fall 2012 – stopped then since Dodge was the previous winner and is no longer active in NASCAR.

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Nine current drivers have prior wins at Talladega. Of those, seven are still in the hunt for the 2021 title. Brad Keselowski (Ford) leads the way with six wins, including the spring 2021 event. Joey Logano (Ford) has claimed three. Denny Hamlin (Toyota; defending playoff race winner) and Ryan Blaney (Ford) both own two. Kyle Busch (Toyota), Chase Elliott (Chevrolet) and Kevin Harvick (Ford) have one apiece.

The four Ford drivers who double as former Talladega winners pilot the only Fords in the Round of 12.

All of the playoff Fords are set to line up within the top 10 Sunday — Blaney fourth, Keselowski seventh, Logano eighth and Harvick ninth — and 11 of the last 14 Talladega races were won from a top-10 starting position.

And yet, despite all of these Ford-focused facts, BetMGM has the Toyota of Denny Hamlin favored to win the YellaWood 500, listed at 8-1 odds. In BetMGM’s defense, Hamlin did win the Talladega playoff race last year and won last weekend’s playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — his second through four playoff races. He seems to be hitting his stride after not a single win in the regular season.

Logano was given the second-best mark, 9-1, as the highest favored Ford wheelman. Elliott and Blaney are then tied for third at 10-1. That leaves two Fords, two non-Fords with the top-three best odds.

Keselowski is 12-1 and Harvick (who is still winless this season) is 14-1 — just to check in on all the playoff Ford entries. They’re within the top five best odds, among others.

Other facts worth noting:

— Ford has actually won all superspeedway races this year, too. Can’t forget about Talladega’s superspeedway sister track, Daytona International Speedway, which bookends the regular season. Michael McDowell won the opener, and Ryan Blaney won the finale.

— Overall, Ford doesn’t hold the most Talladega wins out of the three active manufacturers. It has 31, with the first via Buddy Baker on May 4, 1975. Chevrolet boasts 41 victories; its breakthrough coming from Darrell Waltrip on May 1, 1977. Toyota tallies four since Kyle Busch on April 27, 2008.

— Of the 30 races so far this 2021 season, Ford has won seven. Ryan Blaney (playoffs) has three wins. Joey Logano (playoffs), Brad Keselowski (playoffs), Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell each have one. Chevrolet tops all with 14 victories. Toyota has nine.