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October 1, 2022

What to Watch: 2022 Talladega playoff race

Talladega general overview
James Gilbert
Getty Images

YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superpeedway
(⏰ 2 p.m. ET | 📺 NBC, NBC Sports App | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega, the fifth playoff event of the 2022 campaign.

Where: Talladega, Alabama
Approximate start time: 2 p.m. ET | Weekend schedule
TV/Radio: NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $8,338,881
Forecast: Sunny, with a high near 77 degrees, according to | Weather tracker
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:
Bell on the pole | Full recap
Cars to the rear: Three cars fail pre-race inspection
Pit stalls: See where your favorite driver will pit
Playoff grid: Print yours now

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Talladega is the wild card of all wild cards and a surprise winner always looms when NASCAR heads to the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The first four playoff races have been won by non-playoff drivers (Tyler Reddick was eliminated after Bristol when he won last week at Texas), so the trends certainly favor someone outside the Round of 12 striking paydirt Sunday afternoon. In the last eight fall races at Talladega, just three current playoff drivers have taken the checkered flag with Joey Logano taking two of them (2015, 2016). If a 20th winner this season is to emerge, it would set the modern single-season record for the series. Drivers still looking for their first win of 2022 include Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr, and superspeedway aficionados Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Justin Haley. Anything can happen at Talladega, and massive playoff implications are sure to emerge throughout the 500-mile event. | How 19 winners stacks up in history | Surprise Talladega winners

Who’s hot? Who’s not?

Speaking of Logano, he’s heading to Talladega with the most momentum of the current 12-driver playoff field after scoring a runner-up finish last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. The Team Penske driver is at the top of the board in the playoff standings and is currently 37 points clear of the Round of 8 elimination line. While collecting stage points is vital for playoff drivers, Logano will have the most leeway in strategy Sunday and has enough separation above the bubble to ride more cautiously around the high-banked superspeedway. Logano is also a three-time ‘Dega winner but his aggressiveness has led to a mixed bag of results with five finishes of 11th or worse in the last six races there.

It may be a bit of a surprise but Regular-Season Champion Chase Elliott hasn’t had the best of starts to his playoff run. He’s finished outside the top 30 in two of the first four races and enters Talladega just 11 points above the cutline. The 2020 champion will be in a bit of a bind Sunday as Elliott will have to balance risk vs. reward in order to stay above the elimination line before the Round of 12 elimination race at Charlotte (Oct. 9). The silver lining for Elliott is that he does have favorable results at Talladega with the second-best average finish of active Cup drivers with more than 10 starts at the 2.66-mile superspeedway (15.2).

Driving under the radar

Ross Chastain has quietly worked his way to second in the Cup Series playoff standings, 25 points above the elimination line. Outside of a mechanical setback at Darlington, Chastain’s postseason run has been relatively clean with a pair of top 10s at Kansas and Bristol, followed by a 13th-place run at Texas. The two-time winner in 2022 should have the a shot entering Sunday’s race as Chastain is the defending winner at Talladega, leading the one lap he needed in April en route to his second Cup Series victory.

Overview of Talladega frontstretch with cars on track
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Race-day staples ✅

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

– Playoffs standings: Where drivers stand before Talladega | Latest standings
– Paint Scheme Preview:
Great new looks for Talladega | See your favorite
– Power Rankings: Did Joey Logano take control of the playoff race? | Updated driver rankings
– NASCAR betting: Multiple co-favorites heading into Talladega | Underdogs, value bets
– Fantasy Fastlane: As playoff race tightens, who are the best plays? | Must starts, sleepers

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

– Bowman out: Alex Bowman to miss Talladega race because of concussion-like symptoms | Read more
– Busch improving:
Kurt Busch gives update on condition at charity event | Catch up
– Byron, Gibbs penalized:
NASCAR docks them for getting physical under caution/on pit road |Read more
– Reaction to penalties:
Stacking Pennies crew weighs in on Byron, Gibbs penalties |Watch the segment
– Bunched up playoff race:
Talladega offers opportunities to jump ahead | Read more
– Race for the Championship:
Episode 5 features Kyle Busch and Trackhouse Racing | Read more
– Heading in the right direction:
Cody Ware gives update after wreck at Texas | Catch up
– Jimmie’s bucket list:
Seven-time champ Johnson steps back from full-time racing |Read more
– Pulling back the appeal:
No. 12 Team Penske squad to start serving suspensions | Get the details

Get in on the action 💰

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

– BetMGM: Belief in non-playoff drivers continues to grow | Read full analysis
– The Action Network:
Why your eyes should be on Erik Jones | 30-1 pick to make
– Backseat Bets: Who wins head-to-head matchups at Talladega? | Watch the segment
– Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | New rules for playoffs
– Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Traveling back to Talladega 🇺🇸

Talladega may be the most unpredictable race in the entire playoffs – so, see what has happened here in the past.

– Surprise winners: These drivers shocked the world at Talladega | See them all
– Last year:
Bubba Wallace pulls off a historic win at Talladega | Full race recap
– This spring: Ross Chastain pulls off a last-lap pass for the upset win | Relive the moment
– Fall victories: Drivers who came to Alabama in autumn and conquered | List of winners

Fast facts ⏩

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

Non-playoff drivers have won the last four races, the longest stretch in series history.
Kyle Busch is the only driver to finish top 10 in all three superspeedway races in 2022.
The driver winning the Talladega playoff race has never gone on to win the championship (12 of the 18 were won by playoff drivers).
The driver leading at the white flag has finished fifth or worse in each of the last four Talladega races to go the full distance.
Rodney Childers is making his 600th career start as a crew chief this weekend; he will be the 15th crew chief with at least 600 starts. Kevin Harvick and Childers are the longest active driver/crew chief pairing making their 314th start together this weekend.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“No, I don’t feel confident just because I won the race there earlier this year (laughs). That was pure luck, it’s still hard for me to believe it happened.” — Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet

“Unfortunately we are going into Talladega buried under the (elimination) line, but we’re going to give it our all. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” — Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“When you first start in this sport and you’re trying to work your way up, you just never know where you’re going to end up and how it’s going to go and what opportunities you might get. To look back on it and say that you’ve crew chiefed 600 races in the Cup Series is kind of crazy. Everybody goes through ups and downs and you wonder how it’s all going to go, and I think everybody knows that my career definitely changed when Kevin wanted me to do this, and to be able to do it for a long time and win a lot of races and all that has been pretty special.” — Rodney Childers, crew chief of the No. 4 Ford driven by Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Studios’ George Winkler contributed to this report.