Is Talladega really that random?

Not-so-random Chase Elliott & Ryan Blaney have each won multiple times at Talladega

Whenever Talladega Super Speedway comes up in some NASCAR-related conversation, the notion that the winners there are totally random is usually brought up. “You could draw the winner’s name out of a hat” is something people will often say when asked to make a prediction.

But are the races on the 2.66-mile high-banked track really that random?

Yes, there are almost always big wrecks there that claim multiple cars at a time. Still, someone will survive those crashes and will go on to take the checkered flag at the front of the field. But do you really think one of the Rick Ware Racing or Live Fast Motorsports cars has a chance on Sunday in Alabama?

The winner of the YellaWood 500 is going to come from one of the power organizations that always win NASCAR Cup Series races. Since 2018, the victors at Talladega Super Speedway have represented Team Penske(4), Hendrick Motorsports(2), Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing, Richard Childress Racing and 23XI Racing.

Perhaps the biggest surprise winner among the last 11 races held there was Bubba Wallace grabbing his first career Cup Series trophy for 23XI Racing in 2021 but that driver had shown previously in his career that he could run up front on the big drafting tracks. And besides, that race was cut short by rain which makes it a bit of an anomaly.

Some might call Aric Almirola’s 2018 victory for Stewart-Haas a surprise but the Ford teams have always been strong at Talladega and Daytona and he had run well on those tracks in the past.

Other than those two possible “random” winners the list includes Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. No one would have labeled their triumphs as shocking or unbelievable had they been predicted prior to the start of the race. Besides, two of those winners over the past five years(Blaney and Elliott) have rolled into victory lane on two different occasions each which also indicates a lack of randomness.

If either of the two big speedways is truly random, Daytona International Speedway seems to deserve that designation more due to the recent wins by Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The power teams have the best engineers who can design the slickest possible cars to stay out front and avoid many of the crashes. They have the best pit crews to beat the lesser teams off of pit road on a regular basis and they have the best crew chiefs to devise strategies that will put their drivers in the right place at the right time.

The races at Talladega aren’t really as random as they might seem. A smaller team might have a slightly better chance of winning there than say at Charlotte or Bristol or Phoenix, but it’s only a slightly better chance.

I don’t wager on racing, but if I did, I would pick a driver from a top tier team to win on Sunday. The winner of that race will be someone who would not be a surprise to win anywhere else.

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