Podium Preview: YellaWood 500 at Talladega

All aboard, it's the YellaWood 500 at Talladega train! (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

All aboard, it’s the YellaWood 500 at Talladega train! (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By and large, today’s YellaStone 500 at Talladega proves quite tricky for anyone going for the win in Round 31 of the NASCAR Cup Series season. Certainly, this 2.66-mile superspeedway treats drivers quite nicely as she does quite coldly without a moment’s notice.

If there’s a race where nobody’s exempt from danger, minus Kurt Busch, then this 188-lap event is truly the ticket. Without a doubt, trouble ensues virtually anywhere in this fall-time staple.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis Torres, Matt Sisoler, Matteo MarcheschiMichelle Raynor, and yours truly consider the potential of a surprise race winner and the wild card race of the Round of 12.

Podium Preview: YellaWood 500 at Talladega

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Question 1
First, could it be Sweet Home(coming) Alabama for Bubba Wallace? (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

First, could it be Sweet Home(coming) Alabama for Bubba Wallace? (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Given the action that unfolded in the summer race earlier this year at Talladega, name a driver who could shock race fans and NASCAR scribes with a win this Sunday in the YellaWood 500.

Sisoler :  It’s really a matter of who would count as a shocking driver to win. This year, Kyle Busch could be counted because he’s not won a race yet, which is a shock in and of itself. Buescher and JHN have a chance.

But, you can’t forget the last Roush Fenway driver to win at Talladega, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., even if he’s not with them anymore. JTG always seems to bring fast Camaros to the spacer tracks and yes, while he’s overly aggressive, he has won at Talladega.

As for a driver who I’d like to see pull off a shocker, I’d say Brendan Gaughan due to Beard’s partnership with RCR. Or maybe the oldest driver in the field, Matt Kenseth, will put his decades of experience to good effect, stay out of trouble and win one final race in his career.

Hobbs :  “Shock” can mean so many things at Talladega. We’ve seen first-time winners, we’ve seen small teams make a stand, and we’ve seen intense finishes from those you may not expect. Just looking at the numbers for this year, David Ragan, Chris Buescher, and John Hunter Nemechek all have a top-10 average finish.

And they are in the top-five for the best superspeedway average finish of all the drivers this season. Talladega can be a story of underdogs, and that would be fitting for this group (except for Ragan as he will not be racing).

Marcheschi :  Anyone could do it, but my heart says Brendan Gaughan. Sunday’s race will be Gaughan’s final NASCAR event, and he’ll go out with a bang. He’s shown flashes of impressive speed, taking the lead in last year’s race before a wreck sent him for a flip. In last year’s spring race at ‘Dega, he led six laps and finished eighth. While his record there isn’t anything for the Hall of Fame, something just feels so 2020 about a Gaughan swan song victory at Talladega.

Lambeth :  I think Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports going to Victory Lane at Talladega would certainly send shockwaves throughout the industry. It seems like Bubba’s new mindset when it comes to superspeedway racing is paying off big time. He ran well in the first Talladega race earlier this year. If he follows the same plan and avoids the Big One, I think he could have a chance at taking home the checkered flag.

Raynor :  This is Talladega so anything can happen and anyone can win. But maybe we will see Matty D finally get the win or Christopher Bell or Erik Jones. It would be cool to see someone new and not in the playoffs win. Talladega has shown that the underdogs have a better chance than the more experienced drivers do.

Question 2
In all seriousness, doesn't this remind you of a Monday morning commute? (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

In all seriousness, doesn’t this remind you of a Monday morning commute? (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

With the Las Vegas race behind us in the Round of 12, which of the races ahead do you see being the most unpredictable? 

Tiongson :  While the easiest answer would be Talladega, I actually think the Charlotte ROVAL could prove most challenging for the Round of 12. At Talladega, drivers don’t have a lot of margin for error. However, smart driving coupled with the right balance of patience serves a driver and team well.

Next Sunday will be quite unpredictable and perhaps resemble more of the race we saw in 2018. When last year’s ROVAL race wasn’t the cutoff decider, it lacked some of the pizazz and hype that was prevalent in the 2018 race. Goodness knows how things will turn out, especially in that first corner on the last restart!

Shoppe :  While you have to say that you’d be able to control your own destiny at the Charlotte Roval more than Talladega, I would still say the Roval has the potential to be the Achilles heel for some of our playoff drivers! Without much doubt, we will see at least a couple of Playoffs drivers get caught up in an accident today in Dega.

Those guys will be slingin’ their cars over curbs like crazy at the roval to make up the deficit. Add that drama on to the already crazy action in those tight braking zones, and this year’s ROVAL race could give 2018 a run for its money as far as unpredictable moments go! 

All in all, two laps around Talladega without a scratch feels like a victory for TPF. Now, let’s review Round 30 of the season with our Las Vegas race and points reports.
Surely, it was a good South Point 400 for a pair of New Englanders.

Surely, it was a good South Point 400 for a pair of New Englanders.

However, we're still being owned by a machine.

However, we’re still being owned by a machine.

Next, Ashley Hobbs simplifies numbers for the YellaWood 500 so that you don’t have to!
First, let's consider how your favorite team fares in the YellaWood 500.

First, let’s consider how your favorite team fares in the YellaWood 500.

Nothing like having a Roush-Yates Engine at Talladega.

Nothing like having a Roush-Yates Engine at Talladega.

Since 2004, the YellaWood 500 winner has an average starting spot of 11.9, led an average of 22.9 laps, started within the top-five 31.25 percent of the time, while starting within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the YellaWood 500 winner has an average starting spot of 11.9, led an average of 22.9 laps, started within the top-five 31.25 percent of the time, while starting within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

Should it shock you that Joey Logano's quite good at Talladega?

Should it shock you that Joey Logano’s quite good at Talladega?

Now, here's the trends in the past 10 YellaWood 500 races since 2010.

Now, here’s the trends in the past 10 YellaWood 500 races since 2010.

Next, consider the past five YellaWood 500 races.

Next, consider the past five YellaWood 500 races.

Shock. Pain.

Shock. Pain.

Lastly, here’s our picks for today’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega.
In any event, it's a wide open YellaWood 500!

In any event, it’s a wide-open YellaWood 500!

Tiongson :  Steady and strong at the superspeedways, Ryan Blaney will score his second win of 2020 by sweeping the Cup races at Talladega.

Sisoler :  He’s proven to be capable of being at the front and surviving at Talladega, plus, it’s been a while since someone swept the races at the biggest oval track in NASCAR. I think YRB gets it done at Talladega.

Torres :   Talladega is the ultimate crapshoot and if there’s a driver that could come out there and steal a victory, it’s Alex Bowman. With Kurt Busch, who I had out this round, already in the Round of 8, seems fair to choose him. He’s been on a consistent stride as of late and with momentum on his side, there’s no reason why he doesn’t escape without a win.

Marcheschi :  My brain hasn’t been very good at this, but my heart? My heart says Brendan Gaughan. Why? Why not? It’s his last NASCAR race. Go big or go home. He clearly loves this type of racing.

And he’s shown speed at ‘Dega with the Beard Motorsports team. Let’s make this year just a little crazier and put Gaughan in Talladega’s Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon.

TPF Stats :  Denny Hamlin is the best driver on superspeedway races this season never finishing out the top-four. And yes, he did win the Daytona 500 this year. With this round being hot and a lot of the line, the numbers look to Hamlin keeping his success at the plate tracks alive this weekend.

Hobbs :  In his races at Talladega in October, Aric Almirola has had ups and down – but find a driver who has not. His past four finishes have been top 10s. And he has a respectable average finish on superspeedway tracks this year.

Being in the Playoffs and being good at Talladega, I hope to see Almirola have a solid day and keep his Playoff hopes alive.

Shoppe :  With nothing to lose and everything on the line, Erik Jones, a quietly potent super-speedway racer, will survive the carnage much like the Busch Clash to win and secure a potential seat for 2021!

Raynor :  Anyone can win here and it’s unpredictable.

Lambeth :  Before joining a new team owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Cup driver Denny Hamlin in 2021, Bubba Wallace will give Richard Petty Motorsports a nice gift by winning at Talladega!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, a birthday special for our Editor-in-chief Rob Tiongson!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this today’s race? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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