Loading scores...
Statistically Speaking

Update: Talladega (Spring)

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

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. set a lap of 191.547 mph in the final round of qualification for the Geico 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway and will lead the field to green on Sunday. This is his second pole of his career and his first on a plate track. Previously, his best Talladega starts came last year when he rolled off the grid sixth for both events—finishing 16th in the spring and sixth in the fall.

His pole-winning run was not particularly well-received, however, since he bounced Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the top spot. It wasn’t close as Stenhouse went two-10ths of a second faster. The most interesting thing about Junior’s time is that he alluded to wanting to run the Busch Clash exhibition race for pole winners next year after he officially retires.

Practice this week did not reveal much.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series got on track for about 15 minutes on Friday—just long enough to get 31 of the 41 entrants a handful of laps. The teams that managed to get fully up to speed could do little more than check ride heights and balance, but then again this is Talladega where very little is predictive of who will or won’t run well.

Clint Bowyer posted the fastest single lap in that session with a speed of 192.822 mph, which means he had the best surge in a nine-car Ford draft. While the speed chart is often meaningless, occasionally it shows a player some little thing. In this instance, it is notable that one of the top drivers in recent years on this track managed to take command of the top spot. Bowyer entered this week’s race with two victories, five top-fives, and only finished worse than 18th two times in his last 15 ‘Dega races.

The other notable thing about practice was the nine-car Ford draft. At Daytona International Speedway for this year’s 500, the manufacturers—particularly Ford and Toyota—tried to work together during the race. That strategy was a qualified success because both nameplates worked well during the race, but a massive accident at the tail-end of the lead lap claimed most of the notable Toyotas.

This week, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five on the speed chart. That encompasses all but one of the Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske pilots. Danica Patrick never got a chance to put a wheel on the track as she was hit with a penalty for taking too many trips through the inspection line at Richmond International Raceway last week.

Bowyer is also an illustration of the difference between the draft and single lap speed at Talladega. After setting the mark to beat on Friday, he managed to go only 189.036 mph and landed 17th on the grid. It will take a few laps, but if the Fords manage to find one another during the race and if the Geico 500 develops some long green flag segments, the blue oval could be in good shape.

For the first time since Daytona, a driver failed to qualify for a Cup race. DJ Kennington posted a speed of 183.892 mph, which was almost seven miles off the pace set by Stenhouse—who also had the fastest single lap in the first round of qualification. Make certain he is not on any rosters as a dark horse contender. 

 

Start

Driver

Qual Speed

Practice 1
Rank

Avg. Rank

         

3

Brad Keselowski

      190.427

3

3.0

6

Kevin Harvick

      190.023

2

4.0

1

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

      191.547

8

4.5

5

Trevor Bayne

      190.155

5

5.0

12

Joey Logano

      189.077

5

8.5

7

Daniel Suarez

      190.011

10

8.5

4

Matt Kenseth

      190.177

13

8.5

17

Clint Bowyer

      189.036

1

9.0

15

Kurt Busch

      189.286

4

9.5

2

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      190.780

17

9.5

16

Ryan Blaney

      189.256

7

11.5

11

Denny Hamlin

      189.470

12

11.5

10

Kyle Busch

      189.582

14

12.0

8

Chase Elliott

      189.921

16

12.0

14

Erik Jones

      189.313

11

12.5

9

Paul Menard

      189.643

19

14.0

22

Aric Almirola

      188.345

9

15.5

19

Kasey Kahne

      189.021

15

17.0

18

Austin Dillon

      189.036

 

18.0

13

Martin Truex Jr.

      189.350

23

18.0

20

Ryan Newman

      188.961

20

20.0

21

Kyle Larson

      188.488

 

21.0

24

Michael McDowell

      187.901

18

21.0

25

Landon Cassill

      187.883

22

23.5

28

Ty Dillon

      187.416

21

24.5

23

Jamie McMurray

      188.219

26

24.5

27

AJ Allmendinger

      187.776

24

25.5

26

Matt DiBenedetto

      187.794

 

26.0

30

Jimmie Johnson

      187.361

25

27.5

29

David Ragan

      187.405

30

29.5

31

Danica Patrick

      186.995

 

31.0

34

Chris Buescher

      186.047

28

31.0

32

Brendan Gaughan

      186.155

 

32.0

37

Gray Gaulding

      184.172

27

32.0

33

Reed Sorenson

      186.119

 

33.0

36

Corey LaJoie

      185.144

31

33.5

40

Jeffrey Earnhardt

      182.699

29

34.5

35

Elliott Sadler

      185.895

 

35.0

38

Cole Whitt

      183.807

 

38.0

39

Joey Gase

      183.353

 

39.0

 

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.