NASCAR National Series News & Notes - Talladega

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: GEICO 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, April 29
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 55),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 110), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Sparks Energy 300
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, April 28
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300.58 miles (113 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: JEGS 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Friday, May 4
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Keselowski Returns For More Glory At 'Dega

More typically, the massive in size and excitement Talladega Superspeedway is a huge "have at it" as they say in big-time NASCAR racing. The unpredictability of the sport's largest track and its restrictor-plate racing have made many competitors consider it a high-speed wild card.

But for Team Penske's Brad Keselowski, this Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) has been a pattern of consistent glory and this season, presents a huge opportunity for him to score his first win.

A five-time winner at the 2.66-mile track - Keselowski is the winningest driver in this weekend's field. Four other drivers are next on the list - with only two wins. His Team Penske team - including teammate Joey Logano - has won five of the last seven races - a telling statistic that defies "luck." Count in last year's spring winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ford has won six of the last seven races.

All three of the Team Penske drivers - also including team newcomer Ryan Blaney, 24, who's led at least 100 laps in a race three times this year - have to be considered favorites when they roll into what's expected to be a sunny, gorgeous Alabama weekend at one of the sport's most exciting venues.

Keselowski, 34, has 11 top-10 finishes in 18 Talladega starts. He won in his very first start at the track in 2009. Logano, 28, has three top-fives in his last five starts - including the two wins - and he has seven top-10 finishes in his 18 starts. Blaney's only top-five - a fourth-place finish - came in 2015 in this spring-time race.

On A Run: Kyle Busch Looks For Fourth Straight Win

Last week's race winner Kyle Busch is on a three-race winning streak coming to one of the most challenging circuits on the schedule. Only eight other drivers in NASCAR's Modern Era (1972-present) have won four consecutive races. And none of those winning streaks included a Talladega trophy.

Busch has one victory at Talladega - in the spring of 2008 - and his recent record is consistently inconsistent. He finished runner-up in this race in 2016 and was third last year. But he has finishes of 30th and 23rd in the fall races of each year, respectively.

Busch has five top-three finishes in 25 starts here, including two runner-up finishes and the win.

Defending 'Dega Winner Returns Hoping To Turn Season Around

After an uncharacteristic tough luck start to his 2018 season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. arrives at Talladega as the defending winner of this race - and on a positive note, collected his first top 10 of the year - a fourth place - at Bristol two weeks ago.

Stenhouse scored his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Talladega from the pole position in 2017 and has five top-10 finishes in 10 starts at the big track - an impressive statistic. Three times he's finished among the top-10 in the last five races here. And his overall average finish of 12.111 is best in the field.

Darrell Wallace Jr. Is Feeling 'Sweet Home' Alabama

This year's Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. has become a fan favorite everywhere the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits, but this week's stop in Talladega is a favorite for the Mobile, Alabama, native.

It's home.

He comes to Talladega with two top-16 finishes in the last three weeks, including an eighth-place at Texas Motor Speedway three weeks ago. He's ranked 22nd in the driver championship standings.

This will be Wallace's series debut on his home state track. His best showings are a pair of 13th-place finishes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2016 and 2017. And he finished ninth after starting 27th in the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega.

William Byron Is On The Rise

Wallace's fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender William Byron broke into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top-16 standings this week thanks to a 12th-place finish at Richmond Raceway on Saturday. He is eight points behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson, in 15th position and 17 points behind another Hendrick teammate, Alex Bowman, in 13th.

Byron, 20, scored his first career Cup top-10 finish - 10th at Texas - three weeks ago and he has led twice, one lap at Auto Club Speedway and one lap at Texas. Much of last week, Byron ran among the top-10 at the Richmond short track.

This will be his Monster Energy Series debut at Talladega. In his only two previous starts at the big track, he was 36th in a NASCAR Xfinity Series race last year and 10th in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 2016.

Talladega Taskmaster

While a lot of attention is on younger brother Kyle Busch this week as he goes for his fourth straight win, his older brother and fellow former series champion Kurt Busch boasts a particularly impressive and often overlooked resume at Talladega because he still hasn't made it to Victory Lane there.

Busch leads all active drivers with 18 top-10 finishes and his seven top-fives ties only five-time winner Keselowski as best in the field. He has four third-place finishes. His 14.168 average finish is solid, and he has run the most laps in the top-15 (3,233 laps or 65.3 percent) of anyone racing Sunday. Plus, he has five top-10 finishes in the last seven races.

Chase-ing It

Chase Elliott picked up the eighth runner-up finish of his young three-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career at Richmond Raceway over the weekend. And while the near-miss - again - may have stung a bit, he does have legitimate momentum when he arrives in Talladega this weekend.

The 22-year old has two top-three finishes and the Richmond result was his best of the season - equaling the best of his career. Talladega Superspeedway may be a challenging place to expect a win, but Elliott - from nearby Dawsonville, Georgia - has proven to be exceptional on restrictor-plate tracks like Talladega. He's done everything but win.

He's won the pole twice for the Daytona 500 and started among the top-four in four of his five starts at Daytona International Speedway - the sport's other "big" track. His 14th-place finish in the 2017 Daytona 500 is his best showing - and that came after he ran out of gas while leading late in the race.

Elliott also has great qualifying statistics at Talladega, including a pole position in his rookie season (2016) and three other top-eight starts. He finished fifth in his series track debut at the superspeedway in 2016 and has led 61 laps but crashed out of the past two races there.

His average running position statistic (10.122) and driver rating (93.4) are a series-best. He's led 99 laps combined at Daytona and Talladega - pacing the field three of the four races he's competed in at Talladega and four of the five he's run at Daytona.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

FOX Brings Back Drivers-Only Broadcast Lineup For Talladega Superspeedway

Innovating the media landscape once again, FOX will use a group of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to provide race commentary and analysis during the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, the Sparks Energy 300 on Saturday, April 28 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The lineup includes: Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Brad Keselowski and Darrell Wallace Jr.

FOX originally introduced the all driver broadcast lineup at the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway last season. The debut was a smash hit, so much so, FOX is bringing it back this season.

"I had a ton of fun last year," said Ryan Blaney. "It was good to step out of my comfort zone and see how the broadcast team does it on the road each week. I think doing it at Talladega will be make it even more exciting."

Kevin Harvick will be calling the play-by-play alongside Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano in the booth. Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will host coverage from the Hollywood Hotel as Darrell Wallace Jr., Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney cover pit road.

"I think we've all got confidence going into this year's broadcast, but we all know the type of racing that restrictor plates create," Joey Logano added. "We'll all be on the edge of our seats with everyone at home, trying to keep up with the three and four-wide racing."

One could argue these analysts might be over-qualified as five of the eight drivers participating in the broadcast - Harvick, Logano, Bowyer, Stenhouse and Keselowski - have all won at Talladega in the Monster Energy Series. Logano and Keselowski have also won this exact event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as well.

Dash 4 Cash Hits The Unpredictable High Banks Of Talladega

For the first time in the program's history, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash is going to Talladega Superspeedway.

Last week's winner, Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell, along with Elliott Sadler, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric qualified for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program this weekend at Talladega and will compete in the Sparks Energy 300 on Saturday April 28 (at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the $100,000 bonus.

Ryan Preece took home the first $100,000 bonus this season at Bristol Motor Speedway and then Elliott Sadler grabbed the second monster check at Richmond last weekend.

Now Sadler has a chance to make it two Dash 4 Cash bonuses in a row if he can win it again this weekend at Talladega. Sadler has made nine series starts at Talladega, posting two wins (2014, 2016), four top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 10.4.

Sadler's experience gives him a slight advantage over Christopher Bell, who will be making his series track debut at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Though it will be his first series start, Bell does have some experience at Talladega. He has made three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the 2.66-mile facility posting one pole and an average finish of 7.0; including a runner-up finish last season.

Another driver looking for his own big check is Richard Childress Racing's Matt Tifft. The Hinckley, Ohio, native has made two series starts at Talladega, posting an average finish of 7.0 - his best average finish on a track where he has made multiple starts.

And last but not least, is Team Penske's Austin Cindric. Like Bell, Cindric will also be making his series track debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, but has also made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the historic facility, posting a best finish of fifth last season.

Streaking! Talladega Could Bring Ninth Different NASCAR Xfinity Series Winner To Start The Season

Through the first eight races of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season there have been eight different winners, which has the spotlight turned to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend to see if the streak can stay alive and give the series its ninth different winner in as many races. If a ninth different winner should occur this weekend, the 2018 season will solely have the third longest different winner streak to start the season in series history. Currently at eight different winners, the 2018 season is tied with the 1998 and 2006 seasons for the third longest different winners streak to start the season.

Since the series inception in 1982, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has had eight different winners in the first eight races just five times; including 2018.

The record for the highest number of different winners to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season is 13 back in 1988; followed by 1987 with 10 different winners, then 1998, 2006 and 2018 with eight.

The 1988 and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the series-most different winners for the entire season with 18 each.

This season's winners include Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (California), Ryan Blaney (Texas), Ryan Preece (Bristol) and Christopher Bell (Richmond).

Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell are the only two winners this season entered this weekend. Bell will be making his series track debut at Talladega this weekend. Reddick made his series debut at Talladega last season; starting 16th and finishing 20th.

Postseason OutLook: Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick Are Sitting Playoff Pretty

Even though the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs don't start till September, its always neat to see how the seedings are starting to take shape.

If the Playoffs were to start today, the top two seeds would be held by Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders. Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell currently holds the No. 1 seed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs due to his big win last weekend at Richmond and the seven Playoff points he has accumulated this season.

Right behind Bell in the No. 2 seed is JR Motorsport's Tyler Reddick due to his season-opening win at Daytona and his five Playoff points.

Bell and Reddick are the only two championship contenders with wins virtually locking themselves into the postseason. The other 10 drivers are currently forecasted to make the Playoffs by points.

Four of the 10 drivers depending on points have accumulated at least one Playoff point by winning a stage this season - Elliott Sadler, Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones.

Ross Chastain currently holds the 12th and final spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs seedings. But Chastain only holds an 11-point cushion over Austin Cindric in the 13th position in the championship standings - the first spot outside of the Playoffs.

Reliable Hemric Stumbles, Bell Takes Advantage In The Standings

After five straight top-10 finishes dating back to Las Vegas, Daniel Hemric slipped and finished 29th last weekend at Richmond Raceway, dropping him from second to fourth in the points. The blunder opened the door for a burgeoning Christopher Bell, who leapfrogged Hemric in the championship standings and took second in the standings points as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing's Bell not only won the race last weekend at Richmond Raceway, he also virtually locked himself into the Playoffs and moved into second in the driver championship standings just 29 points behind the standings leader, Elliott Sadler. Bell is now two points ahead of third place Tyler Reddick and nine points ahead of fourth place Daniel Hemric.

Bell has been in rebound mode since the season opener at Daytona, where he finished 39th after being caught in an incident on Lap 11. Since then, Bell has been climbing from the hole in the standings he fell into and has been doing so in impressive fashion, posting three poles, one win (Richmond), five top fives and an average finish of 8.9 over the last seven races.

Now the Norman, Oklahoma, native Bell sits second in the standings poised to make his series track debut at Talladega this weekend. Hemric made his series debut at Talladega last season, starting third and finishing 38th.

Xfinity Series Fantasy: A Recent Statistical Look At Talladega

With the NASCAR Xfinity Series now available to play on DraftKings, here are some Fantasy-centered stats that can help players make the best decisions when creating their lineups for Talladega this weekend. The stats below take into account the performances of drivers over the last three seasons (2015-2017) at Talladega Superspeedway:

· Wins: 1 each - Joey Logano (2015), Elliott Sadler (2016) and Aric Almirola (2017).

· Runner-Ups: 1 each - Brian Scott (2015), Justin Allgaier (2016) and Elliott Sadler (2017).

· Top Fives: 13 drivers have posted top fives - Elliott Sadler (2), Joey Logano (2), Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Ben Kennedy, Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Brian Scott, Erik Jones, Jeremy Clements, JJ Yeley, Joey Gase and Justin Allgaier each have one.

· Top 10s: 21 drivers have posted top 10s - Aric Almirola (3), Elliott Sadler (3), Austin Dillon (2), Daniel Suarez (2), Joey Logano (2), Justin Allgaier (2), Matt Tifft (2), Ben Kennedy, Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Jeff Green, Jeremy Clements, JJ Yeley, Joey Gase, Michael Annett, Regan Smith, Ty Dillon each have one.

The following Loop Data statistics from 2015-2017 include only active drivers entered this weekend at Talladega:

· Driver Rating: (Top Five) - Elliott Sadler (110.0), Justin Allgaier (109.8), Matt Tifft (103.0), Michael Annett (99.5), Tyler Reddick (78.4).

· Average Running Position: (Top Five) - Justin Allgaier (8.2), Elliott Sadler (9.9), Michael Annett (10.2), Matt Tifft (11.6), JJ Yeley (16.8).

· Fastest Laps Run: (Top Five) - Elliott Sadler (12), Justin Allgaier (12), Ty Dillon (11), Ross Chastain (11), Ryan Sieg (9).

· Percentage of Laps in the Top 15: (Top Five) - Justin Allgaier (89.5%), Elliott Sadler (75.4%), Michael Annett (73.5%), Matt Tifft (70.3%), Ryan Reed (47.4%).

· Average Finish: (Top Five) - Elliott Sadler (3.3), Justin Allgaier (5.0), Matt Tifft (7.0), Michael Annett (7.0), JJ Yeley (12.3).

· Laps Led: (Top Five) - Brandon Jones (36), Justin Allgaier (24), Matt Tifft (21), Elliott Sadler (20), Jeff Green (18).

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Impressive Debuts This Season: Noah Gragson became the 12th different driver to finish first or second in their NASCAR Xfinity Series debut when he finished runner-up this past weekend at Richmond Raceway. The impressive finish makes him the third driver this season to post a top-five finish in their season debut joining Kaz Grala (fourth at Daytona) and John Hunter Nemechek (fourth at Atlanta).

Sunoco Rookie Of The Year Update: Christopher Bell takes the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead from Tyler Reddick by two points following his win at Richmond Raceway this past weekend. Though there are 10 rookies in this season's class, through the first eight races it's a two-man show, with Bell and Reddick stealing the spotlight. Austin Cindric posted his series career-best finish of fifth at Richmond and now sits third in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 109 points behind second-place Tyler Reddick. Here are the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following Richmond: Bell (282), Reddick (280), Cindric (171), Kaz Grala (138), Alex Labbe (137), Spencer Boyd (68), Vinnie Miller (61), Josh Bilicki (41), Chad Finchum (25), Matt Mills (13).

Joe Nemechek One Start Closer To Milestone Start: Florida native Joe Nemechek, father of John Hunter Nemechek, will attempt to make his 1,142nd NASCAR national series start (667 MENCS, 433 NXS and 42 NCWTS), one start shy of NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin (882 MENCS, 236 NXS and 25 NCWTS) for second on the all-time NASCAR national series starts list. Nemechek made his first start in the series at Rockingham back in 1989.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Back, Back Again

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action next weekend at Dover International Speedway after a five-week long hiatus, including the spring off-weekend for all national series, on Friday, May 4 in the JEGS 200 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Only four races have taken place so far this season, all of which were won by different drivers. Johnny Sauter won at Daytona to start out the season, Brett Moffitt won in Atlanta, Kyle Busch took the victory in Las Vegas and John Hunter Nemechek won the last race in Martinsville on March 26.

Standings leader Johnny Sauter was able to retain the points lead following Martinsville despite losing two laps due to having to change a battery after he lost power on Lap 224 and got rear-ended by Matt Crafton. Sauter ultimately finished 19th and holds a 29-point lead in the standings over second-place Grant Enfinger, who finished fourth.

Next week at Dover, Sauter will look to extend his series standings lead as he is the defending winner of the event.

Crew Chief Spotlight: Carl Joiner

Carl Joiner has been a crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for seven years, all of which have been with the driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota, Matt Crafton.

Together, Joiner and Crafton won back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014. They are the only team in the series to win consecutive titles.

Joiner has 139 races under his belt with 12 wins, 55 top fives, 101 top 10s and seven poles.

Looking ahead to Dover, Joiner and Crafton have made six starts at the Monster Mile togegther, posting one win, five top fives and ten top 10s. Crafton has completed 1,102 of a possible 1,147 laps.

Crafton is in seventh in the standings right now, 59 points back from the standings lead. This season he has posted one top-five and one top-10 finish in four starts.

Will Dover be where Crafton gets his first win of the season? Could be, it was where he got his first win in the 2016 season, leading 76 laps.

Dover International Speedway Quick Facts

With the first race of the season at Dover quickly approaching, here are some quick facts you should know about the speedway.

Length: One mile
Track Surface: Concrete
Safety Apron and Pit Road Surface: Asphalt with concrete pit boxes
Banking: Straightaways, 9 degrees; turns, 24 degrees
Width: Straightaways, 48 feet; turns, 58 feet
Safety Apron: Encircles the inside of the track, 10 feet wide on straightaways and 21 feet wide in the turns.
Capacity: Approximately 85,000 race fans
Number of Pit Positions: 40, with water and electric
Length of Straightaways: 1,076 feet
Length of Pit Road: 1,580 feet long, 47 feet wide
Races: 18
Pole Winners: 14
Youngest Pole Winner: Darrell Wallace Jr (05/31/2013 - 19 years, 7 months, 23 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr (05/30/2009 - 50 years, 11 months, 10 days)
Race Winners: 15
Youngest Winner: Tyler Reddick (05/29/2015 - 19 years, 4 months, 18 days)
Oldest Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr (06/01/2007 - 48 years, 11 months, 12 days)

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