The sample size of who typically runs well at Nashville Superspeedway is rather small. After all, the Cup Series has run just one race on the 1.333-mile layout. After an extended 50-minute practice session and qualifying on Saturday, not much has changed on who was expected to be quick and the teams that had work to do.
Dustin Albino’s race-day lineup:
Starter 1: Ross Chastain
Starter 2: Kyle Larson
Starter 3: Joey Logano
Starter 4: Denny Hamlin
Starter 5: Martin Truex Jr.
Garage pick: Daniel Suarez
NEXT IN LINE: Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell.
RISING: Martin Truex Jr. announced this weekend he will return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023, so now he can focus solely on the competition. So far, so good at Nashville, as the No. 19 car will take the green flag from 10th, a big improvement from beginning the 400-mile event in 35th last year.
Starting 30th wouldn’t seem like much of an improvement, but Bubba Wallace had a massive catch on his qualifying run. In Friday’s practice session, it was the No. 23 team that topped the chart on the short and long run. That was a boost of confidence for Wallace, and he’s not foreign to coming from the back, having multiple pit-road woes in 2022. After winning the pole, Denny Hamlin, co-owner of 23XI Racing, said Wallace should be confident entering the race because he has a fast car.
FALLING: Kyle Busch was the lone car to have an issue in qualifying when the No. 18 Toyota backed into the wall. Busch had an ill-handling car at Nashville last year, and it doesn’t look as though much has changed this time around. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see him do KFB things and get a good finish.
Just about every week this season, Tyler Reddick has had speed that is capable of being in contention of winning a race. Meanwhile, the No. 8 team is still looking for its first checkered flag 16 races into the year. His 16th-place qualifying run is among the worst of the year for the two-time Xfinity Series champion.
Tyler Reddick vs. Austin Dillon:
Remember what I just said above? Yeah, about that. Compared to Dillon, Reddick has shown more outright speed this season and did rank in the top 10 on 10-lap averages in practice. If an outside racing groove gets worked in, the No. 8 car could come to life.
Ross Chastain vs. Daniel Suárez:
This is the toughest matchup of the week. Both Trackhouse drivers have a bunch of momentum and made the final round of qualifying on Saturday. However, Chastain is my pick to win the race, so it’s tough betting against the No. 1 team.
Aric Almirola vs. Kevin Harvick
Harvick’s team made a vast improvement from practice to qualifying, and Sunday will be the first race since Martinsville Speedway that the No. 4 car has qualified inside the top 10. This matchup is near equal on all fronts –- the two are separated by seven points through 16 races –- but the No. 10 car has shown more speed on tracks similar to Nashville this season, so Almirola is the surprising choice.
Kyle Larson vs. William Byron
Earlier in the week, this might have been a tougher choice. But with Larson being fourth in practice on single-lap speed (granted, Byron was fifth) and second on the best 10-lap average, the No. 5 car gets the vote. Larson also starts third and dominated the inaugural Cup race at Nashville, leading 264 of 300 laps.