Advance Through the Playoffs: Blaney, Busch look to bounce back at Talladega

Ryan Blaney
Sean Gardner
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Anything can happen at Talladega. It’s easy to say that, but we also have the numbers to prove it.

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— Seven different drivers have won the last seven Cup races at Talladega, with six different teams accounting for those victories.

— Six of the last seven races at Talladega have ended with a last-lap pass for the win.

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

— The final green-flag stretch was two laps or less in nine of the last 10 Talladega races.

These are all encouraging signs for drivers who suffered a slow start in the Round of 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. It means if they can be around at the end of Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriuxXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), then they’ll have a chance to go for a season-altering victory in the NASCAR Playoffs.

At least two big-name drivers could certainly use a pick-me-up after Texas — Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney both stumbled out of the gate and sit 17 points and 11 points beneath the elimination line, respectively. And although Busch was the winner here in the spring, the stats tend to favor Blaney for this one.

Since 2017, Blaney has scored an average of 32 points per race at Talladega, and that’s tops among active drivers. He has also led laps in nine of the last 10 Talladega races, a stretch that has included two victories.

However, just as Talladega could mean a golden opportunity for drivers like Blaney and Busch, there are others who will need to buck the statistical trends if they hope to have a good result on Sunday.


KYLE LARSON: Larson was running so well at Texas until disaster struck late when he lost aero grip racing close to Bubba Wallace and crashed en route to a 31st-place finish. Now Larson comes to a track where his fortunes haven’t been good (only three top-10 finishes in 17 starts) and with only a two-point cushion on the elimination line. | Breaking down Larson’s wreck

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Truex comes to Talladega with a 19-point cushion to the elimination line, but he can’t get too comfortable, considering he has bettered his positioning only once at Talladega under the current playoff format. Plus, he hasn’t had a strong playoff run to this point and finished 17th last week at Texas.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Keselowski is only eight points above the elimination line, but his history at Talladega is the exact opposite of Truex’s as he leads active drivers with six victories at the 2.66-mile track. Keselowski hasn’t won in Cup since April 2021 at Talladega, but his two runner-up finishes in 2023 came at drafting-style tracks (Atlanta, Daytona).

CHRIS BUESCHER: Keselowski’s RFK Racing teammate won the last drafting race in August at Daytona and has an average finish of 2.67 on superspeedways this season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he improved upon his 22-point cushion above the elimination line.

BUBBA WALLACE: Wallace is coming off a strong showing at Texas, where he led a race-high 111 laps and finished third. Plus, he has typically run strong at drafting tracks, including a fall win at Talladega in 2021.

Projections as of Sunday, Oct. 1:


Racing Insights’ advanced statistical formula includes current track, current track type, recent performance, team data and pit-crew data to arrive at a projected winner and full race results.

FinishCar NumberDriver
16Brad Keselowski
211Denny Hamlin
324William Byron
49Chase Elliott
517Chris Buescher
620Christopher Bell
712Ryan Blaney
84Kevin Harvick
91Ross Chastain
1043Erik Jones
1119Martin Truex Jr.
1223Bubba Wallace
135Kyle Larson
1410Aric Almirola
1548Alex Bowman
1699Daniel Suárez
1745Tyler Reddick
188Kyle Busch
1922Joey Logano
2014Chase Briscoe
2154Ty Gibbs
2247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2334Michael McDowell
242Austin Cindric
257Corey LaJoie
263Austin Dillon
2738Todd Gilliland
2831Justin Haley
2916AJ Allmendinger
3041Ryan Preece
3177Ty Dillon
3221Harrison Burton
3351J.J. Yeley
3413Chandler Smith
3578BJ McLeod
3636Riley Herbst
3742Carson Hocevar
3815Brennan Poole