Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
21 April 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
TALLADEGA, AL — Known as one of the most competitive tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway is the perfect stage for the wild side-by-side action NASCAR fans love and this weekend’s GEICO 500 (Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is expected to produce just that.
Talladega Superspeedway holds the all-time record in Green Flag Passes for the Lead in a single NASCAR Cup Series event with 219 green flag passes for the lead set on October 20, 2013.
Talladega Superspeedway also holds the all-time record in total Green Flag Passes in a single NASCAR Cup Series event with 23,765 total green flag passes throughout the field set on October 20, 2013.
Last season, Talladega Superspeedway was the class of the field in passing. The Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (October) produced 190 Green Flag Passes for the Lead — the most in a single event during the 2022 season. The April Talladega NASCAR Cup Series race last season produced the second-most Green Flag Passes for the Lead in a single event during 2022 with 125.
The 2022 Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series races produced the two highest single event totals in Green Flag Passes throughout the field in 2022; the April race put up 8,025 total Green Flag Passes and the October Playoff race had 10,035.
Big opportunity for Playoff seeking competitors at Talladega
With seven different winners in the first nine races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, this weekend’s GEICO 500 (Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) offers a plethora of opportunity for an eighth different winner to pull into Victory Lane and secure their spot in the Playoffs. Talladega Superspeedway has seen six different winners in the last six races; including this Sunday’s defending winner, Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, who is still looking for his first win of 2023.
Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was held on September 14, 1969, and the event was won by Richard Brickhouse, from Rocky Point, North Carolina, driving a Dodge for car owner Ray Nichels. The average speed of the first race at the 2.66-mile track was 153.778 mph.
The name of the facility changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989, and the surface underwent its fourth repaving on September 19, 2006. In total, there have been 107 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway; one series event in 1969, and two races per year since 1970.
NASCAR Hall of Famers hold the qualifying and race records at Talladega Superspeedway. Bill Elliott holds the qualifying record, which he set on April 30, 1987 with a lap at 212,809 mph (44.998 secs.) and Mark Martin holds the race record with his win on May 10, 1997 at an average speed of 188.354 mph (2 hours, 39 mins., 18 secs.).
A total of 45 different drivers have won at least one pole at Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Cup Series; 24 of the pole winners have won more than one. Six of the 45 Talladega NASCAR Cup Series pole winners are active this weekend. Busch Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday, April 22 at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1.
Active NASCAR Cup Series Pole Winners at Talladega Superspeedway
The 107 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway have also produced a total of 51 different race winners; 26 of the 51 have won multiple times at the 2.66-mile track. This weekend 11 of the 51 NASCAR Cup Series Talladega race winners are entered into the event.
Active NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners at Talladega Superspeedway
Kings of ‘Dega
The art of ‘Drafting’ on tracks like Talladega Superspeedway is a skill not every driver can master, but for the ones that learn to manipulate the air to their benefit at nearly 200 mph have found the spoils of Victory Lane in some of the NASCAR Cup Series’ biggest races.
No driver has been more successful in points-paying races at Talladega Superspeedway than NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with 10 wins (1983, 1984, 1990 sweep, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999 sweep, 2000).
In total, 11 active drivers have won at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski with six victories (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2021) leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Talladega wins. Keselowski will look rebound from his last season’s Talladega finishes where he posted a 23rd-place finish in April and a 24th-place finish in October. Keselowski should feel optimistic heading into this weekend, he finished runner-up in the NASCAR Cup Series’ last race run with the superspeedway package at Atlanta.
The next active driver with the most wins at Talladega, is Team Penske’s Joey Logano with three victories (2015, 2016, 2018). Logano finished 27th or worse in both Talladega races last season but comes in this weekend with some confidence after opening the 2023 season with a runner-up finish in the DAYTONA 500. Plus, Joey Logano’s lone win this season came at the newly adapted Atlanta Motor Speedway that is run with a similar superspeedway package as Daytona and Talladega.
The most recent winner at Talladega is Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott, who returned to competition last weekend at Martinsville after being sidelined with a broken leg from a snowboarding accident. Elliott has two wins at the 2.66-mile track (2019, 2022). And this weekend will look to become the ninth different driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway; joining Pete Hamilton (1970 sweep), Buddy Baker (1975 sweep, 1976), Darrell Waltrip (1982 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1990, 1993–94, 1999 sweep), Sterling Marlin (1995–96), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2001–2003), Jeff Gordon (2007 sweep) and Ryan Blaney (2019–2020). Expect Elliott to run well this weekend, as he leads the NASCAR Cup Series among active drivers in average finish (14.2) at Talladega.
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is the only active driver to win consecutive races at Talladega Superspeedway (2019, 2020) and this weekend the North Carolina native would like to add another ‘Dega trophy to his case. Last season, Blaney finished 11th in the April Talladega race and runner-up to Chase Elliott in October. In 17 starts at Talladega Blaney holds the ninth best average finish (16.0) among active drivers.
The fifth and final driver with multiple wins that is competing at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin with two victories (2014, 2020). As a three-time DAYTONA 500 champion, Hamlin is known for being one of the best on superspeedways. Last season at Talladega, he finished 18th in the April race and fifth in the Playoff race in October. Then was sixth at Atlanta back in March of 2023. Hamlin has the 10th best average finish among active drivers at Talladega with a 16.5.
First-Time Winners happen at Talladega Superspeedway
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace scored his and the organization’s first NASCAR Cup Series career win in the October Talladega Superspeedway race of 2021. In the process, Wallace became the 12th different driver to get his first career win at the behemoth 2.66-mile superspeedway; joining active drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2017) and Brad Keselowski (2009).
Wallace is still looking for his first win of 2023. In 10 starts at Talladega he has an average finish of 18.9.
JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is one to watch this weekend
After winning the biggest race in NASCAR, the DAYTONA 500, to open the 2023 season, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is definitely one to watch this weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Talladega Superspeedway holds a special place in Stenhouse’s heart, as it was the track he scored his first NASCAR Cup Series career win at in 2017. In total, Stenhouse has made 19 starts at Talladega posting one pole, one win, six top fives and nine top 10s.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick to make milestone 800th career start at Talladega
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will become the 10th driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to make 800 or more starts in his career this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
“We’ve been competitive, racing at the front of the pack, leading laps and having the chance to win races,” said Harvick. “For me, that’s the thing that I’m most proud of, and I think from your colleagues and people from other race teams, they see that body of work and being competitive across that long period of time. You hear it all the time, ‘I can’t believe they’ve been that competitive for that long.’ And to me, that’s the part I’m most proud of, being able to do this at a high level for such a long time. But wrapping your arms around 800 of them is, for me, quite an honor, just because of the fact that you’ve been able to adapt and adjust to so many things and stick around so long. But being competitive is still the thing that I enjoy the most. Getting to that number is great, but getting there and being competitive is better.”
After this weekend, Harvick will be just five starts shy of ninth place Jeff Gordon and the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s 805 Cup Series starts. Harvick also leads all drivers in NASCAR national series starts entering this weekend with 1,272 career starts; 75 more starts than the second place driver, Joe Nemechek, with 1,197.
Harvick has made 44 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega posting two poles, one win, eight top fives and 19 top 10s.
NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, April 23
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,857,314
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)