NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega: How to watch, stream, preview, picks for the GEICO 500

Shirley Beal
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As auto racing grew in scale and popularity in the mid-20th century, there were seemingly no boundaries on the imaginations of those who gave racing its tracks and its platform: All across the U.S., and especially the southeast, speedways were built to be bigger, faster, and an even greater test of both the capabilities of a car and the nerve of the man behind the wheel.

That kind of vision is what compelled Bill France to build the Talladega Supespeedway, creating a track that was longer, had steeper banking, and was an even greater challenge than his original masterwork in Daytona. And this weekend, France’s ambition will once again be put on display when the NASCAR Cup Series makes its first of two visits to Talladega this season for the GEICO 500.

11 drivers in the Cup Series field have scored at least one Talladega victory, with Ross Chastain joining that group last year with his win in the spring race. That’s no small accomplishment, as Talladega races are especially difficult to win thanks to how much a driver needs to do right, how much can go wrong, and just how many potential winners that superspeedway racing brings into the picture.

How to watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega

Date: Sun., Apr. 23
Location: Talladega Superspeedway — Lincoln, Ala.
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: Fox
Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

What to watch

  • More than any other track in NASCAR, what happens in the first 187 laps of a race at Talladega usually only serves as a mere pretext to what will happen on the final lap. Races at Talladega have been settled by a last lap pass for the win time and again, including in both races at this track last year.

    In the spring, Ross Chastain found that the winning move was to do nothing at all, holding his line on the bottom and sneaking through on the inside as Erik Jones swung unnecessarily wide to try and block Kyle Larson. In the fall, Chase Elliott prevailed in a duel to the finish with Ryan Blaney. And overall, five of the last six Talladega races have been settled by a last lap pass.

    Being able to execute a last lap pass, however, is a matter of proper positioning. And in the Next Gen car, it’s proven tricky for drivers to be able to quickly make their way to the front of the pack: As a third lane on the top has generally not developed, Next Gen superspeedway races have often featured double-wide packs with little gaps between cars, making it difficult for drivers to switch lanes or make passes in any way that doesn’t involve staying in whichever line they’re running.

    Unless someone in the field hits on something that will allow a third lane to carry momentum and create the opportunity for three-wide pack racing throughtout the day, expect the eventual winner to be someone who’s already at the front in the final 10 laps — That is, barring the sort of overtime developments that brought someone unexpected to the front in the last superspeedway race at Daytona.

  • Whenever NASCAR heads to Talladega for the first time, there is always an extra set of eyes on the Daytona 500 winner’s return to a superspeedway. That spotlight falls on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. this time around, and there’s a focus on him for more than just his Daytona 500 win in February.

    Stenhouse is off to as good a start to the season as he’s had in many years, as he currently has two top fives and four top 10s in nine races, including two top 10s in a row. Then, there’s the matter of his record at Talladega: He got his first career win here in 2017, and he came just inches away from scoring another win at this track in 2020.

    But in order to pick up his second Talladega win this weekend, Stenhouse is going to have to buck a trend that is working against him: The winner of the Daytona 500 has not gone on the win the spring race at Talladega since 2006, when Jimmie Johnson became the last to do so. Overall, the Daytona 500 winner has only opened the season with two-straight superspeedway wins six times: Pete Hamilton (1970), Buddy Baker (1980), Cale Yarborough (1984), Bill Elliott (1985), Davey Allison (1992), and Johnson in ’06.

  • Through nine races so far, one of the defining characteristics of the early 2022 season has been absent from 2023: By this time last year, three different drivers had earned their first career Cup victory. This year there have been no first-time winners at all, thanks in part to last year whittling down the amount of drivers who had never won a Cup race.

    But there are still several drivers seeking their first Cup win, and Talladega has shown to be the place to get it: Twelve drivers have earned their first career victory at Talladega, a group that drivers like Corey LaJoie, Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland, Ryan Preece, Noah Gragson, Ty GIbbs, Ty Dillon and others will surely hope to join.

    Preece has come the closest of that group, as he earned a career-best third place finish at Talladega in the spring of 2019. But keep a close eye on Noah Gragson: Although he and Legacy Motor Club as a whole have had an awful start to the year, the team had a strong speedway program in 2022, and Gragson proved his superspeedway mettle by winning at Talladega last spring in the Xfinity Series.

Pick to win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Brad Keselowski (+1400): The last time the Cup Series did any kind of drafting at Atlanta, Brad Keselowski came within one lap of breaking a two-year long winless streak that dates back to his most recent win at Talladega in the spring of 2021. To end that streak at Talladega would be significant for Keselowski in more ways than one: Not only would his winless drought end and his spot in the NASCAR playoffs be secured, but it would also mark his seventh career victory at Talladega: A mark which would put him second in track history only to Dale Earnhardt’s 10 Talladega wins.

Since moving to RFK Racing in 2022, Keselowski has shown that his knack for superspeedway racing has indeed followed him over from Team Penske. If Keselowski can put a clean race together and be anywhere at the front near the finish, it may very well mark him writing the newest chapter in his Talladega legacy.

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