Here are five NASCAR drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the 1000Bulbs.com 500.
The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Talladega Superspeedway for the final superspeedway race in the 2019 NASCAR season and the second race in the Round of 12.
Heading into Talladega Superspeedway, will we see a Chase Elliott sweep both races at Talladega? Can a driver currently outside the top-8 win? Will someone snap their winless streak? Which driver will punch their ticket to the next round?
Here are five drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at Talladega Superspeedway.
The last time the NASCAR Cup Series visited Talladega Superspeedway, Chase Elliott was in victory lane at the end of it. Elliott has one win, two top-5 finishes and an average finish of 11.3 in his last three races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
Elliott has already won once during the NASCAR Playoffs, picking up the victory two weeks ago at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. Last weekend however, Elliott finished last place after losing an engine only a handful of laps in.
Elliott enters Talladega Superspeedway 11th in the standings and sits seven points behind the cutoff for the next round.
Logano has the best average finish among all drivers entering the weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. In his last three races, he has an average finish of 3.3. At Talladega, that is quite hard to do.
During that time Logano has led 107 laps and is the only driver to finish inside the top-5 in all three races.
Now, Logano did race some drivers a little hard last weekend at Dover International Speedway when he was multiple laps down. That may mean he won’t have as many drafting partners this weekend but Logano has proven before that his car is strong enough to do it alone.
Logano enters Talladega Superspeedway tied with Alex Bowman for the eighth position in the playoff standings.
Harvick hasn’t had much luck in his last three races at Talladega Superspeedway despite leading a third best 58 laps during that stretch.
Harvick has an average finish of 23.3 and just one top-5 finish. So why is he on the list? Well, within the top-5 lap leaders in the last three races, Harvick and Brad Keselowski’s average finish are outliers compared to the drivers around them.
Harvick knows how important it is to stay out of trouble and be towards the front at the end of the race.
“I would still rather be leading and in control,” said Harvick in his pre-race team release.
“If I’ve made it to the white flag, then I’ve made it a lot farther than I’ve made it lately, so it’s a chess match all day. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but you can also put yourself in a good position by making the right moves, having a good day on pit road and not making any mistakes.”
There are only three playoff drivers who have two or more top-10 finishes in their last three races at Talladega Superspeedway. Alex Bowman is one of them.
With an average finish of 14.3 in the last three races, Bowman has combined to lead a total of 33 laps in two of them. Bowman finished second to teammate Chase Elliott in the spring race at Talladega and eighth during the 2018 spring race.
Bowman currently sits eighth in the points standings, tied with Joey Logano, the final position that would advance to the next round.
Bowyer enters the race 10th in the standings but only four points behind Alex Bowman who is in eighth, the final transfer spot for the next round.
Bowyer knows the strategy at Talladega Superspeedway can change at any moment but the key is to be around at the end.
“You get a little bit excited and antsy to get up into the pack and, even with 50, 60 laps to go, you’re like, ‘How am I going to get up there?,'” said Bowyer in his pre-race team release.
“They get three-wide and there’s just literally no place to go. At Talladega, you can go four-wide, and I’ve seen when it goes five-wide you get into a wreck. We see that quite a bit there – somebody attempting it – and that’s when it gets that place exciting.
“Looking forward to hopefully getting to the end and, more importantly, getting a win.”
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.