NASCAR at Talladega: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch Geico 500 (2024)

NASCAR at Talladega: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch Geico 500 (1)

NASCAR makes its first visit of 2024 to the biggest and fastest speedway on Earth

By Steven Taranto

5 min read

NASCAR at Talladega: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch Geico 500 (3)

There are countless racetracks across the Earth and its continents to be seen and raced on, all of which at some level serve to exhibit the power of the automobile and the nerve of its driver. And if someday you should search the world for the biggest, fastest, and most nerve-wracking racetrack on Earth, you will eventually come to a large swath of forest, just east of Birmingham, where the Talladega Superspeedway lies.

Built by Bill France to be even bigger and faster than his original magnum opus at Daytona, the Talladega Superspeedway remains the ultimate showcase of NASCAR racing, with snarling, condensed, and highly combustible packs of cars all racing inches from each other at 200 MPH. And just as it did when the track opened in 1969, the call of the challenge of Talladega has sounded yet again with the annual running of the GEICO 500.

No track in NASCAR is faster, carries more risk or is more thrilling to race and win at. And the nature of Talladega and the glory it offers was put on full display last fall, when Ryan Blaney won in a photo finish to earn the third Talladega victory of his career, one which helped propel him to the Cup Series title.

How to Watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega

Date: Sun., Apr. 21
Location: Talladega Superspeedway -- Lincoln, Ala.
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: Fox
Stream: fubo (try for free)

What to Watch

Nine races into the 2024 season, it's become quite clear that this season lacks the parity that had been seen in the first two years of NASCAR's Next Gen car. Hendrick Motorsports has monopolized the winner's circle with five victories between three different drivers, and three wins by Joe Gibbs Racing have left little room for any other teams to win races. Trackhouse Racing is the only other team to win a race this season, getting theirs in Daniel Suarez's photo-finish victory at Atlanta.

Given that, this weekend's level playing field of Talladega should provide the rest of the field with perhaps their best opportunity yet to win, which is especially important given that there will be only one other superspeedway race -- Daytona in August -- before the playoffs begin in September. This is a good opportunity in particular for the Ford teams, who have yet to win a race in 2024 but are known to have a very strong superspeedway program: The last two superspeedway races of last year were won by Fords (Chris Buescher at Daytona and Ryan Blaney at Talladega), and the Ford teams were among the class of the field in the Daytona 500 as well as in the other drafting race this season at Atlanta.

Granted, while it's less likely that a Hendrick or Gibbs car will win this weekend, it's far from an impossibility either. Hendrick Chevrolets have won five times on drafting tracks since the Next Gen car was introduced in 2022, including the fall of that year at Talladega when Chase Elliott took the checkered flag. A Gibbs Toyota, however, hasn't won on a superspeedway since Denny Hamlin won the fall race at Talladega in 2020.

Speaking of the Hendrick cars, here's something to consider: This week, William Byron has a chance to become the eighth different driver to follow up his Daytona 500 victory with a win in Talladega's spring race. That hasn't happened in 18 years, but the last two drivers to accomplish that feat both drove for Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon in 2005 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006.

News of the Week

NASCAR issues safety penalties to multiple crew members following @TXMotorSpeedway.

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 16, 2024
  • Cody Ware will make his season debut this week behind the wheel of the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford, which will mark his first Cup start since he spent much of the 2023 season suspended by NASCAR. Ware was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR last April following an arrest stemming from an incident and accusations of domestic assault involving his ex-girlfriend, but he was reinstated by the sanctioning body after the charges against him were dropped last December. Ware is expected to run a limited Cup schedule this year.
  • Tuesday's penalty report was a long one, with NASCAR cracking down on violations of its policies on crew protective clothing/equipment in particular. Three different crewmembers -- Zachary Yager on Chris Buescher's team, Jacob Holmes on Christopher Bell's team, and Doug Warrick on Austin Hill's team -- have been suspended for one race for using equipment that did not conform to NASCAR safety protocols. In addition, two crewmembers from Kyle Larson's team, Calvin Teague and Brandon Johnson, have been suspended for the next two weeks for the loss of an improperly installed wheel on Larson's car. Nicholas Covey, the jack man for Austin Dillon's No. 3 team, has been indefinitely suspended for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy.
  • Depending on which side you ask, there are two different answers as to how close NASCAR and its race teams are to reaching an agreement to renew the charter system for 2025 and beyond. According to Sports Business Journal, NASCAR COO Steve O'Donnell stated during the CAA World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles that the sanctioning body was "very close" to reaching an agreement on charter renewals and how much of the sport's revenue the race teams will subsequently receive. However, a follow-up report by SBJ contradicted that assertion, with three different people familiar with the Race Team Alliance's thinking disagreeing with O'Donnell's assertion that the parties involved are close to a deal. Last week at Texas, Legacy Motor Club co-owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson had stated that he believed negotiations would come down to "deep in the year" and that the sport's team owners remained unified in seeking a new financial plan.
  • NASCAR announced Thursday the formation of its own Alumni Network, which will aim to help former competitors reconnect with both the sport and its fans. The program will be open to past NASCAR competitors ranging from drivers to team members, with a focus on those who competed in more than 100 races during their careers. The NASCAR Alumni Network will hold an annual at-track reunion, with the very first taking place during the Goodyear 400 on May 12 at Darlington.

Pick to Win

Todd Gilliland (+4500) – I'm going to get really adventurous this week: The Front Row Motorsports cars showed in the first two races of the year that their superspeedway program is as good as anyone's right now, and Todd Gilliland is at the forefront of that. He led 16 laps in the Daytona 500, and then had arguably the best car in the field at Atlanta the next week and led the most laps at 58. Gilliland didn't get the finish he deserved in either race, but he's proven to have a feel for Talladega with two top 10s and three finishes better than 12th in just four starts here.

Talladega has an extensive history of first-time winners, with 12 Cup drivers in total earning their maiden victory at this track. I think Todd Gilliland should be at the top of the list of candidates for their first win this weekend, and I will take him at +4500 odds no questions asked.

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NASCAR at Talladega: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch Geico 500 (2024)
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