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What to Watch for: Talladega Superspeedway

ESPN Stats & Info

Things Get Wild at Talladega

This is the 2nd race of the 3-race Round of 12, so it's not make-or-break territory yet. Still, the Talladega playoff race is one of the most volatile on the schedule. Just look at least year, when only 14 of the 40 cars that started the race finished, including just 4 of the 12 remaining playoff drivers. And only 3 drivers, race winner Brad Keselowski along with Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, weren't involved in a wreck at some point.

By the Numbers - 2017 Talladega Playoff Race

• 14: Out of 40 cars finished the race
• 67%: Playoff drivers wrecked out
• 37: Out of 40 cars involved in at least 1 wreck
• 0.21: Margin of victory (in seconds) by Brad Keselowski

It just added to the list of wild playoff races at Talladega.

Notable Playoff Races - At Talladega

• 2017: Only 14 out of 40 cars finished, and only 2 of the remaining 12 playoff drivers finished in the top 10, including race winner Brad Keselowski.
• 2015: The final caution comes out after Kevin Harvick allegedly intentionally caused a wreck to protect his playoff position. Upon video review, Joey Logano was ruled to finish just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was eliminated.
• 2014: Brad Keselowski had to get a win to move on in the playoffs, and that's precisely what he did, passing Ryan Newman on the final lap to win.
• 2012: Matt Kenseth passed Tony Stewart on the final lap. Stewart's block to protect more positions triggered a 25-car wreck, with Stewart's car getting airborne.
• 2008: In a controversial finish, Regan Smith passes Tony Stewart and looks like he picks up his first career win, but is ruled to have illegally passed Stewart under the yellow line, giving Stewart the victory.

The 16-car wreck in this race last year is the 2nd-biggest wreck in a playoff race, trailing only the 25-car wreck at Talladega in 2012.

It's also a guess if the carnage will strike playoff drivers at all. Ten playoff drivers were involved in Talladega wrecks in the 2012 and 2017 races. But none were in wrecks in 2013 or 2016.

Chase Elliott Joins Select Company With 2nd Win

Last week at Dover, Chase Elliott picked up the victory in a race that Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola both looked like they had in the bag. Harvick led 286 of the first 320 laps, and Almirola was way out front before teammate Clint Bowyer wrecked inside the final 10 laps.

The victory was Elliott's 2nd, both coming this season. At just 22 years old, Elliott is the 4th-youngest driver in series history at the time of his 2nd career win, putting him right between Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon on the all-time list.

Elliott has 6 more chances to win this season. No driver has picked up his first 3 career wins in the same season since Carl Edwards in 2005. The 3 drivers to do it before Edwards all went on to win Cup Series championships.

Team Penske Looks to Add Another Talladega Win

Last year, Brad Keselowski won this race by 0.021 seconds over Ryan Newman, it was the 4th consecutive year that Team Penske has won the Talladega playoff race, with each of those wins coming from Keselowski or Joey Logano.

Keselowski has 6 career restrictor-plate race wins, tied with Dale Jarrett for the 4th-most all-time. He trails Jeff Gordon, Dale Senior and Dale Junior. He's won 16 percent of his restrictor-plate race starts, also putting him in elite status.

Jimmie & Chad Parting Ways After 2018

On Wednesday, news came out that Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will part ways at the end of the season. Knaus has been the crew chief for Johnson's entire career, winning 81 races and 7 championships together (Knaus was suspended for 2 of Johnson's wins).

With 7 championships, Johnson is tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most by a driver all-time. But Knaus is 1 behind Dale Inman for the most by a crew chief. Inman won 7 with Petty and another title with Terry Labonte.

Knaus will take over crew chief duties for rookie driver William Byron this season. Byron, who will turn 21 on November 29, is in his rookie season and is the defending XFINITY Series champion. Still, his resume in the Cup Series doesn't quite measure up to Johnson's.

Who's Hot and Who's Not - Talladega

HOT

Team Penske: won 5 of last 6 Talladega races (3 by Logano, 2 by Keselowski)
Joey Logano (Penske): won at Talladega earlier this year; 3rd win in last 6 Talladega races
Brad Keselowski (Penske): 3 wins in last 8 Talladega races (won 3 of last 6 Talladega races he's finished)
Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas): 4 straight top-10 finishes at Talladega, longest active streak in Cup Series
Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas): 6 top-10 finishes in last 8 Talladega races; 9.3 Avg finish in last 8 races is best among drivers with multiple starts in span

NOT

Kyle Busch (Gibbs): 23.6 Avg finish in last 8 restrictor-plate races
Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row): failed to finish last 4 Talladega races (last 3 due to wrecks)
Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas): wrecked out of 4 of last 5 restrictor plate races (spring race at Talladega is only one he finished, was 4th)
Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas): wrecked out of last 2 and 3 of last 4 restrictor-plate races
Kyle Larson: no finish better than 12th in last 7 restrictor-plate races (wrecked out of last 2)

--- ESPN Stats & Info ---