Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway
23 June 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
LEBANON, TN — In 2021, Nashville Superspeedway hosted the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at the 1.33-mile track, and the event was won by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver and 2021 series champion Kyle Larson. The California native took the win with a Margin of Victory of 4.335 seconds over Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain in second. The race produced 14 lead changes among seven different drivers. Larson led the most laps of the race, spending 264 of the scheduled 300 laps out front (88%).
Then last season, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott took home the checkered flag at Nashville Superspeedway. The Dawsonville, Georgia native and 2020 series champion, held off 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch by a scant .551-second to win. The 2022 Nashville Cup race saw 18 lead changes among seven different leaders. Polesitter Denny Hamlin led the most laps of the 2022 Nashville race with 114 circuits out front.
Track Length: 1.33-Mile
Race Length: 400 miles (300 laps)
Banking: Turns 14 degrees; Frontstretch — 9 degrees; Backstretch — 6 degrees
All the on-track action for the Cup Series begins with Practice at Nashville Superspeedway from 6:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, June 23 on the USA Network. Then Busch Light Pole Qualifying for the Ally 400 is on Saturday, June 24 at 1 p.m. — 2:30 p.m. ET also on the USA Network.
Hendrick Motorsports looks for their third straight trip to Victory Lane at Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee must be a special place for the folks that work at Hendrick Motorsports, because all they do is win when come to Nashville Superspeedway. In the first two NASCAR Cup Series races held at Nashville Superspeedway, Rick Hendrick’s organization and Chevrolet has sent to different drivers to Victory Lane (Kyle Larson, 2021 and Chase Elliott, 2022), and this weekend will look for their third consecutive victory at the famous concrete 1.33-mile track.
Kyle Larson kicked off the Hendrick Motorsport’s fun at Nashville by not only winning the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway (2021), but he also celebrated winning the 2021 series championship in downtown Nashville as well.
Then last season, Chase Elliott followed up Larson’s victory with a win of his own at Nashville. Now the 27-year-old returns to the 1.33-mile track this weekend looking to go back-to-back and get his first win of the 2023 season. Defending a race win at a track is something Elliott has done twice among his 18 series career victories — at Watkins Glen International in 2018–2019 and Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (2019–2020).
Race To The Playoffs: 10 races left in the regular season; Nashville up next
Coming from an off-weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series teams are refreshed and focused on the different tasks each has in front of them with just 10 races left in the regular season. For the drivers and teams locked into the Playoffs already, these next 10 races are a great time to prepare for the postseason, pad Playoff points and set themselves up for the best possible position to finish the regular season. For the drivers and teams not locked into the Playoffs, these next 10 races are the final 10 chances they have to earn a spot in the coveted postseason. With 10 drivers in 2023 with wins, only six spot are still up for grabs in the 16-driver Playoff field as the series heads to Nashville Superspeedway this weekend for the Ally 400 (June 25 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. catapulted himself to the top of the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings following his second win of the season at Sonoma two weeks ago. The 42-year-old from New Jersey, is racing with a vengeance this season for having gone winless last year after stringing together a streak of seven consecutive seasons with wins in the series (2016–2021). Truex is one of 10 drivers this season currently holding a spot in the Playoffs by virtue of their regular season wins, he is joined by William Byron, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The six drivers currently in Playoff transfer spot on points are Ross Chastain (+173 points up on postseason cutoff), Kevin Harvick (+172), Chris Buescher (+102), Brad Keselowski (+96), Bubba Wallace (+26) and Alex Bowman (+3).
Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman is currently in the most precarious position of the six drivers inside the Playoff cutoff heading into Nashville this weekend, because he is in the 16th and final transfer position on points. If a driver below him in the standings wins over the next 10 races, he could find himself bounced out of the Playoffs. Bowman currently has just a three-point advantage on Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez who is in 17th — the first spot outside the Playoffs’ cutoff. Suarez is one of five drivers currently below the Playoffs cutline that made the Playoffs last season, he is joined by Austin Cindric (-39 points from the cutoff), Chase Elliott (-84), Austin Dillon (-108) and Chase Briscoe (-148).
For many drivers, this part of the season can be a turning point in the direction their year will take. Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers were one of those teams last season.
“The beginning of the year was rough — just a lot of concepts and things that didn’t really pay off or work out,” said Harvick of the 2022 season. “But when we went to Nashville, we had a practice session, we tried some things, and we ran really well in the race. That’s really when our season took a turn in the right direction, and we had a lot more confidence in the things that we were doing. So, as we went week-to-week, we kept getting a little bit better because our concepts and things were really in the direction that we needed to be headed.”
Of the drivers looking for their first NASCAR Cup Series win of the season, five have won previously at Nashville Superspeedway — Chase Elliott won last season’s Nashville Superspeedway Cup race, the four other drivers won in either the NASCAR Xfinity Series or the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series — Ryan Preece (2021, 2022 NCTS), Kevin Harvick (2006, 2010 NXS), Austin Dillon (2011 NCTS) and Brad Keselowski (2008, 2010 NXS).
Cup Playoff Outlook: Drivers Without Wins
Just outside the Playoffs cutoff (-3 points) is Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez, who made the postseason last year on his Sonoma win, still know there is time to earn a spot in Playoffs over these next 10 weeks.
“There are a lot of things still to happen,” said Suarez. “We have a lot of wildcard races coming up like the Chicago Street Circuit, road courses, things like that. I think we will be OK. We are getting better and better. Points wise we are about the same as we were last year, but speed wise we are probably a bit better. Our challenge has been execution this year. We have been fast at 90-percent of the tracks.”
In two starts at Nashville, Suarez has finished seventh (2021) and 15th (2022).
Top performers in last 10 races of the regular season (2020–2022)
The Summer stretch of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season can be a grueling one, but some of the drivers really excel when it gets down to crunch time in the regular season. Below is a look at the top performers over the last three seasons in the last 10 races of each regular season (2020–2022).
Winners: Chase Elliott (three), Kevin Harvick (two), Tyler Reddick (two), Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson (each had one).
Top Fives Leader: Chase Elliott (seven)
Top 10s Leader: Chase Elliott (seven)
Average Finishes (Top 3): Chase Elliott (7.2), Martin Truex Jr. (12.2), Austin Cindric (12.8)
Lap Leaders (Top 3): Martin Truex Jr. (284), Joey Logano (280), Chase Elliott (248)
Winners: Kyle Larson (two), Ryan Blaney (two), AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch (each had one).
Top Fives Leader: Ryan Blaney (six)
Top 10s Leader: Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson (seven each)
Average Finishes (Top 3): Kyle Larson (8.0), Kurt Busch (9.0), Ryan Blaney (9.6)
Lap Leaders (Top 3): Kyle Larson (404), Chase Elliott (221), Kyle Busch (189)
Winners: Kevin Harvick (three), Denny Hamlin (two), Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Cole Custer and William Byron (each had one).
Top Fives Leader: Martin Truex Jr. (nine)
Top 10s Leader: Martin Truex Jr. (nine)
Average Finishes (Top 3): Martin Truex Jr. (5.4), Kevin Harvick (6.2), Denny Hamlin (6.8)
Lap Leaders (Top 3): Kevin Harvick (477), Denny Hamlin (316), Brad Keselowski (273)
Looking at the above stats of the last 10 races of the regular season over the last three years, only one driver has pulled off wins during that timeframe all three seasons — Chase Elliott. Which bodes well for the Georgia native, as he is currently mired in the points (27th) and looking for his first win of 2023.