TALLADEGA, Ala – We’ll have to wait 24 hours to know how the conclusion of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Talladega Superspeedway ends. Rain halted action on Lap 57 of 188, as we still have two more stages left in the second playoff race of the Round of 12.
If Monday’s rain delayed action is anything like Sunday’s was, look for a wild race still. Also, look for the rest of the race to look a lot like the most recent superspeedway races that have been run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite so much on the line in terms of playoff implications, Monday’s race will be manufacturer driven.
Toyota finished 1-2-3 in this past year’s Daytona 500. We didn’t know it then, but that race forever changed the way the Cup Series would race on the four annual stops on superspeedways. Ford finished 1-2-3 in this race last year. Chevrolet went 1-2-3-5-6 on this track back in April. They backed that up with going 1-2-3-4 in the rain shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 back in July too.
Toyota started this new trend back in 2016. Ford perfected it after. Chevy used their strength in numbers to their advantage from the spring race at Talladega on.
Just look at the starting lineup for this weekend’s 188 Lap race. Hendrick Motorsports started 1-2-3-4. Team Penske started 6-9-10. Stewart-Hass Racing rolled off 5-8 meaning nine of the top 10 starting spots belonged to those three organizations.
The favorites all start up front and this has been a race that has seen nine of the last 10 winners all start in the first 6 Rows. With HMS, Penske and SHR being those cars in those starting spots, they’re certainly in store for a big day it seems.
So far, it looks that way.
A Penske car (Ryan Blaney) has led the most laps thus far (15). Four of the current top five cars in the running order are Hendrick and Penske drivers.
Look for the final 131 laps to be manufacturer driven still, so much so that Chevrolet held a mandatory meeting during the rain delay for all drivers and crew chiefs. While the only thing on record that any of the Chevy representatives would say was discussed was the new Corvette, we know what really took place.
It’s controversial as the strategy for the bowties is simple – only work with Chevy drivers. Period. The problem with that is, Chevy’s cars don’t line up with each other, or any car for that matter, evenly. Pushing is difficult for them to do.
The first 57 laps showed that tandem drafting is the fast way around again. While it’s slightly different than the tandem racing that we saw in the earlier portion of the decade, there’s still a way for us to see pack racing with some tandem action mixed in.
Chevy cars can’t do that as well as the Ford and Toyota’s and that won’t change overnight. So, for Chevy to have success on Monday, their plan is to lineup together and not help anyone.
In terms of the Toyota’s, they lack cars. That’s no secret. They’re willing to play with anyone though and look for them to help anyone no matter their manufacturer allegiance.
See, Brad Keselowski said it best in Daytona, while Ford’s lacked power to Chevy, they did work well together. But, the problem was that with all the manufacturers running in line, if a big one occurs, it can take out a lot of cars from the same make.
If Toyota’s stay together and remain clean, then they can let Ford and Chevy take each other out in the sure to be crashes on Monday afternoon. That helps their numbers come closer together in the end. That’s their best gameplan since Toyota hasn’t had much success at Talladega before.
They had just one car in the top 18 of the Spring race at Talladega back in April. They had just two cars (8th, 14th) in the top 21 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona back in July.
Toyota has just one Dega victory since 2009 and only three overall. That could be shocking to some seeing that they finished 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 back in February. But, the ‘500 was run with the old restrictor plate package.
That’s why the Ford and Chevy drivers need to work with their makes early on and often and take care of one another.
Despite that, making moves looks easy right now. Denny Hamlin literally went from last (40th) to a top five in just four laps. He did so with only six other Toyota’s at his disposal to work with.
Do the Toyota’s work an alliance with the Ford’s to counter the Chevrolet attack overnight? They showed that they do have speed but would need some help to stay up front.
Will we see a fluke winner?
6 of the last 10 superspeedway race winners in Cup competition have earned either their first or second career victories in them. But, 3 of the last 5 at Talladega and 5 of the last 6 at Daytona saw drivers won their first or second superspeedway race on them too.
Odds say that we very well could.
Here’s the career superspeedway wins for the drivers in the current top 10 –