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September 28, 2023

Talladega playoff race 101: Round of 12 update, trends to watch, how to follow

Cup cars drive at Talladega
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

If Texas was any sign, the Round of 12 is going to be full of twists and turns. No better track to heighten playoff drama as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway for 500 miles of close-quarters racing (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).

Before the action begins this weekend from the 2.66-mile Alabama oval, see how the Round of 12 drivers could fare on Sunday, trends to watch for the race and interactive ways to follow every on-track moment.

RELATED: See paint schemes for Talladega | Betting favorites for Sunday’s Cup race


Two drivers who led over 200 laps at Texas find themselves the last in and first out on the elimination line as Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace are separated by just two points. Going into Talladega, Wallace appears to have a significant edge over his playoff competitor given his superspeedway prowess, but the No. 23 Toyota driver only owns one top-10 finish at the track, which was his breakthrough Cup win in the fall of 2021.

Three past ‘Dega winners currently sit below the elimination line with Wallace, Ryan Blaney (minus-11) and defending track winner Kyle Busch (minus-17).

Those three could look to surpass Larson, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr., who have scored just one top-five finish each at Talladega since 2015.

RFK Racing teammates Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski put on a drafting masterclass in the most recent superspeedway event at Daytona, finishing 1-2. Since becoming a pair last season, the two have combined to lead 153 laps at superspeedways.

MORE: Racing Insights’ projections for Sunday


— The last four winners at Talladega all started 16th or worse.

— Since the current format was introduced in 2014, a non-playoff driver won the Talladega playoff race only once (Wallace, 2021).

— Toyota has yet to win a superspeedway race in the Next Gen era.

— Seven different drivers won the last seven races at Talladega.

(Via Racing Insights)


1993: Dale Earnhardt outduels Ernie Irvan by 0.005 seconds | WATCH

2000: Dale Earnhardt wins 76th and final Cup race | WATCH

2019: Ryan Blaney reaches Round of 8 in photo finish | WATCH

2022: Chase Elliott beats Blaney to the finish line | WATCH


Saturday, Sept. 30

— 4:30 p.m. ET: Qualifying (USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

Sunday, Oct. 1

— 2 p.m. ET: YellaWood 500 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

MORE: Full weekend schedule at Talladega


The GEICO Restart Zone returned to its 2022 dimensions after being extended for this season’s first five races.

Goodyear brings the same tire used at all superspeedway races in the Next Gen era. Cup teams will be issued one set for qualifying and an additional six sets of tires for Sunday’s race.

NASCAR implemented safety updates to the Next Gen car.

Along the right-side door bars and extending toward the rear clip, teams are mandated to run a steel plate in addition to the chassis adjustments made for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The right-side door bar gussets and the removal of the front clip V-brace are changes that remain, in addition to the removal of other front-clip components, to create a softer and larger crush zone for frontal impacts.

Also included in the updates are front-bumper strut softening (modifications to existing parts), the requirement of an empty front ballast box and a modified cross brace. NASCAR incurs the cost of all these updates.

In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.

If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members’ eligibility to participate in other series.

RELATED: See rules changes for 2023


Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.

There’s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.

Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.



NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn’t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.

How to access Live Activities on iPhones:

  1. Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
  2. Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
  3. Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of screen.
  4. Select “Follow the Race.”
  5. Swipe up to access the home screen and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
  6. Lock the device and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
  7. To turn off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu and “Unfollow the Race.”


Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which resets for the playoffs. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $10,000 prize for the winner.

How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!


During the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, fans have the opportunity to compete in The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge presented by Ruoff Mortage. Fans can enter by visiting The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge page and registering for a free account before filling out a bracket. From there, choose from a list of playoff-eligible drivers round by round, and you’re on your way to compete for prizes!

How to play: Playoffs Grid Challenge


Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.