By Walker Polivka
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue today with the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Read on below to see our prediction for who will win the race, as well as our top 10, dark horse, and driver to fade predictions.
Driver to Fade: Denny Hamlin- Hamlin is one of the better superspeedway drivers in the sport today and Talladega has suited him well through the years, with 2 wins, 9 top 5’s, and 14 top 10’s in 33 starts. However, superspeedway racing has been one of Hamlin’s enemies this season, with no finish better than 18th in the 5 previous superspeedway races (Daytona (37th and 25th), Atlanta (29th and 25th), and Talladega (18th)) held earlier in the season. Hamlin has also been very outspoken of late on the safety of the next gen car, which will be put to the ultimate test with the high speeds of Talladega. Hamlin’s reservations about the safety of the car will be seen first hand, as he will be caught up in a wreck today and finish outside the top 20.
Dark Horse: Corey LaJoie- 2022 has mostly been a year to forget for LaJoie, with 2 top 5’s and 15 finishes of 25th or worse. LaJoie has had success at the superspeedways though, finishing 5th at Atlanta and 14th at Talladega earlier in the season. LaJoie has 1 top 10 and 4 top 16’s in 9 previous Talladega starts, so he has shown that he can contend on the big tracks. We expect that there will be a lot of attrition in today’s race and that many of the A-Listers will be done long before the checkered flag flies. If LaJoie can find a way to make it to the end, we predict that he will bring home a solid top 12 finish.
Top 10: Austin Dillon- Winner of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona this past August, Dillon has put together a solid campaign this season, with 1 win, 5 top 5’s, 9 top 10’s, and 20 top 20 finishes. Like Daytona, Talladega is another track that has been a successful place for Dillon, with 2 top 5’s, 5 top 10’s, and 12 top 20’s in 18 career starts, including a runner up finish here back in the spring. Dillon has been a patient driver on superspeedways and does a solid job of finding a way to get to the end of these types of races. A lot of drivers will cycle their way to the front of the field today and Dillon will find his way up front when it matters most and bring home a top 10 finish today.
Winner: Ross Chastain- Chastain is in the midst of a career year, with 2 wins, 10 top 5’s, and 16 top 10 finishes. Winner of the spring race at Talladega, Chastain has shown great pace on the high banking this season, with a win here and runner up finishes in both Atlanta races this year as well. Chastain is a very aggressive driver and will undoubtedly find his way to the front of the field today. Every driver in today’s field will have a chance to win, but we predict that Ross Chastain will find himself in the right place at the right time and pull off the season sweep at Talladega today!