TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 25: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series  GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

What to Watch: Full guide for the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
(⏰ 1 p.m. ET | 📺 NBCSN, TSN | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Monday’s rescheduled Round of 12 middle race and 31st points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season.

Where: Talladega, Alabama
Green flag: 1 p.m. ET on Monday, October 4th
Grand Marshal: Jimmy Rane, Founder, president and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving
TV/Radio: NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before 10 a.m. CT, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 1 p.m. CT. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 78. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 70%, according to NOAA.gov.
Race Distance: 188 laps, 500 miles
Stages: 60 | 120 | 188
Pit-road speed: 55 mph
Caution car speed: 70 mph
Talladega 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: See the full lineup
Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 25: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 MoneyLion Ford, leads Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, on the final lao of the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Five to watch

Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at Talladega Superspeedway.

1. Denny Hamlin is the only NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs driver that has clinched a spot in the Round of 8 after his win at Las Vegas. The only driver who could clinch on points at Talladega without any help is Kyle Larson, who would get an automatic bid to the next round with 54 points, or 55 points if Joey Logano wins.

2. On the other side of the spectrum, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell enter Talladega below the Round of 8 elimination line. Byron is four points below eighth-place driver Brad Keselowski, while Bell finds himself 25 points back. Harvick holds the best average finish at Talladega among drivers below the elimination line with a 15.8 in 41 starts. But what have you done for me lately? While Harvick finished fourth in the spring race at Talladega earlier this year, Byron finished second and also recorded a fourth-place result in the fall race one year ago.

3. It’s hard to ignore the strength of Team Penske on superspeedway races and that especially holds true at Talladega. Penske drivers Ryan Blaney, Keselowski and Logano hold 11 victories at the 2.66-mile Alabama track, while the rest of the current field has seven race wins. Blaney has won two of the last four races at Talladega and also picked up another superspeedway win at Daytona in August.

4. Aside from Blaney, the other superspeedway king recently has been Hamlin. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has finished sixth or better in five of the last eight races at Talladega and is the defending winner of Monday’s race. He’s also won two of the last seven superspeedway races. Hamlin could steal another win away from other playoff drivers who desperately need one and should be a favorite to do so.

5. Hamlin’s JGR teammate, Martin Truex Jr., currently sits fourth in the playoff standings. He’s in a good spot, 31 points above the elimination line, but that’s before you look at his Talladega stats. Truex only has two top-five finishes in 33 starts and is on a string of 10 straight finishes of 20th or worse. While Truex remains a Championship 4 favorite, Talladega could very well make or break his run for a second Cup title.

Race-day staplesAds Fantasyfastlane Hero

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Power Rankings: Plenty of title fight left in dark horse Brad Keselowski | Latest rankings
• Paint Scheme Preview:
Slick schemes for Talladega | See them here
• Playoff Pulse: Who’s hot, who’s not after Las Vegas | Full breakdown
• Debate:
Are Denny Hamlin and No. 11 crew peaking at perfect time? | Backseat Drivers
• Bubble Watch:
William Byron next to make Round of 8? | See the bubble breakdown
• Fantasy Fastlane:
Penske power at the fantasy forefront | Top plays, sleepers
• Analysis: 
Round of 12 track-by-track breakdown | See it here

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• What are the odds?: Betting odds for Talladega | See them here
• NASCAR betting:
How Penske rises about superspeedway randomness | Read more
• The Action Network:
Who to pick — Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski? |Read more
• Talking playoffs: How Fantasy Live game works for the postseason | Read more
• No risk, big reward: Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot

Memories from TalladegaTbt2011dega 922 Crop

Before the Cup Series races at Talladega for the second time this season, take a look back at some important track history.

• All-time winners: Second race at Talladega Superspeedway | See the list
• Top 10:
Laps led at Talladega Superspeedway | Who has led the most?
• Shocking finishes:
Surprise winners at Talladega See the list
• Remember when:
Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton put on a show at ‘Dega | Watch the 2011 Good Sam Club 500 replay
• Last year:
Denny Hamlin prevails in overtime finish | Full race recap
• Put it out:
Most memorable crashes at Talladega | Relive the moments

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

• Four drivers have finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races to this point: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.
Three drivers — Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott — have led a combined 76% of the laps raced in the 2021 Playoffs.
• Ryan Blaney has won two of the last four races at Talladega and three of the last eight superspeedway races.
• Martin Truex Jr. only has two top-five finishes in 33 starts at Talladega.
• Team Penske has 10 Talladega wins and all 10 came in the last 19 races there.

Catch the pack

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to the race.

• Pack the protein: Built Bar becomes Official Protein Bar of NASCAR | Read more
• Baby Briscoe:
Chase Briscoe, wife Marissa welcome first child | Read more
• Moving on:
Round of 8 clinch scenarios for Talladega | Read more
• What pressure?:
Chase Elliott feels No. 9 team can ‘enjoy, thrive’ in pressure | Read more
• Don’t be that guy:
Joey Logano says Kevin Harvick is ‘known to be that guy’  | Here’s why
• Back in the No 47:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will return to JTG Daugherty Racing in 2022 | Read more
• Penske power:
Team Penske sets driver-crew chief lineup for 2022 | Learn about the changes
• Good news:
Joey Gase cleared to run Talladega after scary Las Vegas crash | Read more
• Let’s get silly:
Keep up with latest Silly Season news for the 2022 season | Read more

Say what?

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into the race.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 26: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, waves to fans during pre-race ceremonies prior to the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

“It’s not been very good lately. We’ve kind of been in bad relationship these last couple of years. I don’t know. I enjoy going there. I enjoy racing there. It just been a real challenge to get to the finish, so hopefully, this time around we will have a little bit better luck. Just been caught up in a lot of accidents. Nowhere to hide there. It’s just not been that good to us. We haven’t finished a speedway race this year, so I guess the odds are in our favor to finish this one, hopefully. We need it. We need a good finish, so hopefully we will get it done.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“I feel like you have to just go as hard as you can. I’ve tried to play the laying back and getting to the front and all that. There’s times where you can chill out because the momentum in the race maybe isn’t as important in that time. But, you’ve got to go for those stage points and put yourself in a good spot. For me, personally, I try to go for the points and see what can happen.” — William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

“The biggest stress point for me is trying to make it to the end of that race. It’s really difficult to do no matter how good at superspeedway racing you are or you aren’t. Just trying to make the right decisions there and the right calls. Hopefully end up toward the front there at the end of the day. It’s definitely pretty tough.  — Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet