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Statistically Speaking

Update: Talladega (Fall)

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

During inspection for qualification, NASCAR confiscated parts relating to the front jack screw on the No. 78. According to the driver, it was improperly mounted with too deep of a well; speculation surrounds the intent of the infraction and NASCAR will eventually have the final word about whether any penalties will be handed down. This adds more drama to a race already overfilled with potential angst.

In all likelihood any possible penalty would be points only and in the 10-15 range. The best way to negate the impact of a penalty is to win and earn maximum points. Truex took one step in that direction Saturday. He posted a lap of 193.423 mph in the third round of time trials to win the pole for the Hellmann's 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway. Starting on the pole gives Truex the best opportunity to get in front of the pack in case there is an early "Big One" crash. The only thing the driver can control is what happens to his car—and on a restrictor-plate, superspeedway, even that is not always true.

Brad Keselowski rolls to the outside pole with a lap of 193.365. He is one of the few drivers in the field who might not absolutely dread Talladega in a situation that suggests the best thing for him is to win in order to advance. He accomplished that feat in 2014. He also has his first career victory on this track, which means he is comfortable in the draft with this kind of stress.

Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott round out the second line of cars and give Chase contenders a sweep of the first two rows. As with Truex and Keselowski, they look to get ahead of any early race trouble. Both will be followed across the start line by capable Roushketeers with Greg Biffle lining up behind Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. behind Elliott. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Austin Dillon add the conservative nature of Chase contention to the mix with Paul Menard rounding out the top 10. The first five rows should be more or less sedate.

The biggest concern at the front of the pack might be the determination of Biffle, Stenhouse, and Menard. Each of these drivers is winless in 2016. Talladega marks the best opportunity to win. All of them know that elusive victory will not come in the opening laps, but then again it can be difficult to curb enthusiasm.

Kevin Harvick qualified 23rd to make him the lowest starting Chaser. Jimmie Johnson is next among the playoff contenders with 17th, but they have nothing to lose by starting in the middle of the pack. If a "Big One" erupts and claims them, their advancement to the next round is assured by victories in the past two races.

Joey Logano is in greater danger. He qualified 16th and should be a little nervous until the race finds its rhythm.

Ryan Reed posted a lap of 191.700 and will get his first NASCAR Cup start in a fourth Roush-Fenway Racing ride. He is one of the great unknowns this week. The team is good enough to finish in the top 15. The question remains as to whether he will be able to accomplish the feat.

David Gilliland was a highly touted dark horse in pre-weekend coverage, but he did not find the speed needed to make the show. Make certain he is not on any rosters.

On the other hand, another solid dark horse Clint Bowyer qualified 36th. He is practically guaranteed to earn positive place-differential points that will add nicely to a likely top-15—if, of course, nothing goes wrong.

And, of course, at Talladega something can always go wrong. 

 

Start

Driver

Qual Speed

P1 Rank

Final P Rank

Avg. Rank

           

1

Martin Truex Jr.

         193.423

13

10

8.0

2

Brad Keselowski

         193.365

23

 

12.5

3

Matt Kenseth

         193.189

16

2

7.0

4

Chase Elliott

         193.166

21

3

9.3

5

Greg Biffle

         193.123

1

 

3.0

6

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

         192.975

4

 

5.0

7

Kurt Busch

         192.746

29

14

16.7

8

Denny Hamlin

         192.610

14

11

11.0

9

Austin Dillon

         192.177

27

15

17.0

10

Paul Menard

         192.123

11

7

9.3

11

Trevor Bayne

         192.039

5

 

8.0

12

Reed Sorenson

         188.300

37

23

24.0

13

Carl Edwards

         192.131

31

4

16.0

14

Kyle Busch

         192.039

17

9

13.3

15

Ryan Blaney

         192.039

25

 

20.0

16

Joey Logano

         192.012

26

13

18.3

17

Jimmie Johnson

         191.704

15

1

11.0

18

Ryan Reed

         191.700

34

8

20.0

19

Alex Bowman

         191.627

18

4

13.7

20

Ryan Newman

         191.466

28

 

24.0

21

Tony Stewart

         190.962

20

 

20.5

22

Kevin Harvick

         190.768

9

 

15.5

23

Jamie McMurray

         190.393

35

17

25.0

24

Kyle Larson

         190.162

10

 

17.0

25

Brian Scott

         190.026

7

 

16.0

26

Aric Almirola

         190.004

24

19

23.0

27

Kasey Kahne

         189.891

22

4

17.7

28

Casey Mears

         189.755

11

 

19.5

29

Regan Smith

         189.688

39

 

34.0

30

Danica Patrick

         189.643

19

 

24.5

31

Landon Cassill

         189.612

8

21

20.0

32

AJ Allmendinger

         189.515

2

20

18.0

33

Chris Buescher

         189.242

3

 

18.0

34

Michael McDowell

         188.775

6

 

20.0

35

Matt DiBenedetto

         188.419

40

18

31.0

36

Clint Bowyer

         188.086

30

12

26.0

37

Michael Annett

         187.993

38

22

32.3

38

Bobby Labonte

         187.368

41

 

39.5

39

Jeffrey Earnhardt

         186.765

33

25

32.3

40

David Ragan

         186.358

32

24

32.0

41

David Gilliland

 

36

16

31.0

 

10-Lap Averages

 

10-Lap Averages

 

Avg

Practice 2

 

Final Practice

 

Rank

                 

 

Kyle Busch

 

 

1

Kyle Busch

    195.398

 

1.0

1

Greg Biffle

         195.657

 

 

Greg Biffle

 

 

1.0

 

Matt Kenseth

 

 

2

Matt Kenseth

    195.348

 

2.0

2

Brian Scott

         194.855

 

 

Brian Scott

 

 

2.0

 

Denny Hamlin

 

 

3

Denny Hamlin

    195.314

 

3.0

 

Martin Truex Jr.

 

 

3

Martin Truex Jr.

    195.314

 

3.0

3

Michael McDowell

         194.531

 

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

3.0

4

Kevin Harvick

         194.201

 

 

Kevin Harvick

 

 

4.0

5

Aric Almirola

         194.173

 

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

5.0

 

Ryan Reed

 

 

6

Ryan Reed

    193.394

 

6.0

6

Alex Bowman

         193.979

 

7

Alex Bowman

    193.376

 

6.5

7

Joey Logano

         193.941

 

 

Joey Logano

 

 

7.0

8

Chase Elliott

         193.927

 

9

Chase Elliott

    193.133

 

8.5

13

Kasey Kahne

         193.849

 

5

Kasey Kahne

    193.453

 

9.0

10

Jimmie Johnson

         193.895

 

8

Jimmie Johnson

    193.348

 

9.0

9

Danica Patrick

         193.909

 

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

9.0

11

Ryan Blaney

         193.886

 

 

Ryan Blaney

 

 

11.0

12

AJ Allmendinger

         193.883

 

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

12.0

14

Kyle Larson

         191.233

 

 

Kyle Larson

 

 

14.0

15

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

         191.115

 

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

 

15.0

16

Trevor Bayne

         191.073

 

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

16.0

17

Austin Dillon

         189.066

 

 

Austin Dillon

 

 

17.0

18

Brad Keselowski

         188.422

 

 

Brad Keselowski

 

 

18.0

19

Jamie McMurray

         187.786

 

 

Jamie McMurray

 

 

19.0

20

Chris Buescher

         185.131

 

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

20.0

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.