Talladega Weekend Preview

Chase Elliott (Getty Images)
Chase Elliott (Getty Images)
Chase Elliott (Getty Images)

Rookie sensation Elliott needs win at Talladega

Positioned last on the Chase Grid, a hefty 25 points below the cutoff line in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Chase Elliott needs a win in the worst way.

The problem: He’s never visited Victory Lane in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

To advance in his quest for the championship, Elliott virtually must earn his first win in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner finished fifth from the pole at the 2.66-mile behemoth in his lone start there in May. Although Elliott hasn’t won a race, he’s shown he’s a contender every week and had near misses in both Michigan races and at Pocono in June.

“We will just need to go and race our hearts out and try to win,” Elliott said. “That’s about all we can do.”

In three career starts at restrictor-plate tracks, Elliott claims his fifth-place finish at Talladega, as well as results of 37th and 32nd at Daytona International Speedway. He did win the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener this season at Daytona.

Elliott does have a pedigree at Talladega. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, won there twice and holds the track records for poles (8) and qualifying speed (212.809 MPH).

“Talladega is always known for close finishes and I’m excited to get back,” Elliott said. “The racing there, you can’t really compare it to anything else. Talladega is a special place because it’s a historic race track for our sport. I remember watching a lot of races there. My dad still has that qualifying record and it’s obviously very impressive.”

Additionally, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports team is tied with Richard Childress Racing for the Talladega wins record with 12. He’ll likely get advice from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who leads active drivers with six wins at the South Alabama track.

“The best place to be at Talladega, as everybody knows, is to try to be out front,” Elliott said. “That is hard to sustain for a long period of time in those races, but we’ve seen guys who have gotten good at it over the past few years. They make it happen and are able to control a race really well. I do think there is an art to it. There are obviously a lot of things you can’t control and running as close as we do there, that is a big factor, but I do think there is something that you can do better than others rather than just riding around and hoping for the best.”

Hemric, Nemechek on verge of Chase elimination

Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek have plenty of work to do to advance in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase.

Daniel Hemric (Getty Images)
Daniel Hemric (Getty Images)

The two drivers are each 15 points below the cutoff line heading into the final race of the Chase’s Round of 8 – Saturday’s fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway (1 p.m. ET on FOX). If they cannot make up the ground at Talladega, they will be dropped from the championship hunt.

Hemric boasts five top-three finishes in his last six starts, including two runner-up showings, but lost ground in the Chase with his 28th-place performance at New Hampshire in that stretch. In his lone start at Talladega last season, he placed 28th.

“I’m looking forward to going to Talladega Superspeedway, and I know there’s a lot on the line for this No. 19 team,” Hemric said. “I think we learned a lot for our superspeedway package from the third truck we ran in Daytona with Austin Theriault, and hopefully that transfers over to myself, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric. Having an extra teammate to work with, especially given our current Chase points situation, definitely won’t hurt. We’ve got to utilize each other to maximize our day and show what we can do together.”

Nemechek races for his family-owned single-car team NEMCO Motorsports and does not have the same data advantage as Hemric. He has earned two wins this season, but has dug his deficit with Chase finishes of ninth at New Hampshire and 16th at Las Vegas. A post-race penalty at New Hampshire for failing to meet the minimum ride height docked him 10 points in the standings. Nemechek placed 11th at Talladega last year in his only start at the 2.66-mile track.

“I’m looking forward to going to Talladega, my third superspeedway race,” Nemechek said. “And in the current position we’re in for points, I’m actually glad we’re going to a superspeedway. Anything can happen. So we just have to go out, execute, not make mistakes, do the best that we can do, run up front and try to win the race. Just try not to get caught up in any of the wrecks and be able to be there at the end when it counts and have a shot at the win.”

Race Weekend Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Hellmann’s 500

Place: Talladega Superspeedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500.8 miles (188 laps)

What to Watch For: Heading into Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 cutoff race at Talladega Superspeedway, Austin Dillon (ninth, tiebreaker), Denny Hamlin (10th, -6 points below Joey Logano on the cutoff line), Brad Keselowski (11th, -7) and Chase Elliott (12th, -25) are on the outside looking in for advancement to the Round of 8. … Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski can break their tie for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins lead by getting a fifth victory. … Non-Chasers who have won at Talladega who can spoil an automatic Round of 8 qualifying spot with a victory are Clint Bowyer (twice), Jamie McMurray (twice), Tony Stewart and David Ragan. … Spring Talladega winner Brad Keselowski goes for the season sweep.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola

Place: Talladega Superspeedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250.04 miles (94 laps)

What to Watch For: Timothy Peters goes for his third straight win at Talladega. … Timothy Peters (2014, 2015), Johnny Sauter (2013) and Parker Kligerman (2012) are the only drivers in the field who have won at Talladega. … The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase field cuts down from eight to six following Saturday’s fred’s 250.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.