Thanks to the close-quarters, unpredictable nature of superspeedway racing, there’s no telling who might end up in Victory Lane at day’s end on Sunday at Talladega. Earlier this year, at the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway — the track bearing a striking resemblance to Talladega, which was the second superspeedway birthed by the vision of NASCAR founder William H.G. “Big Bill” France — Cup Series rookie Austin Cindric earned a surprise victory in just his eighth career Cup start. A year earlier, it was veteran driver Michael McDowell capturing career Win No. 1 in the sport’s biggest race.
Talladega, likewise, has produced its share of surprise winners over the years. The most recent was last fall when Bubba Wallace went to Victory Lane for the first time as a Cup Series driver, earning the first ever win for the newly formed 23XI Racing co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan. This weekend, look for Wallace, McDowell and 2012 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski — three drivers who’ve all struggled this season — to go for broke in pursuit of a victory that will punch their ticket into the playoffs. All three drivers are outside the top 20 in points, but all three have a history of success on the superspeedways, and that’s especially true for Keselowski at Talladega, where he’s a six-time winner.
It’s worth noting, however, that five of Keselowski’s six ‘Dega wins came with Team Penske — the organization he left at the end of 2021 to become a co-owner and driver for the newly rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. So far, though, it’s been tough sledding for Keselowski in his new digs, as he not only has failed to win but sits a woeful 30th in the standings and has just one top-10 finish.