It’s do-or-die time for playoff contenders. Talladega Superspeedway—the big, bad, high-speed, draft-heavy, unpredictable monster—marks the final race of the season before the $100,000 championship race at Texas Motor Speedway. Two of the Championship 4 spots remain up for grabs among eight playoff drivers.
Sep. 28, 2021
Race 17 of 18
Previous winners at Talladega
In five Talladega races, five different drivers have visited Victory Lane—two of whom are racing Tuesday (Nick Ottinger and Brad Davies). None of this year’s playoff drivers have won at ‘Dega.
2020: Brandon Hayse Kettelle
2019: Nick Ottinger
2013: Joshua Laughton
2011: Jeremy R. Allen
2010: Brad Davies
Last year at Talladega: Kettelle grabs first win as 2020 playoff field set
Talladega marked last year’s regular-season finale, and Brandon Hayse Kettelle grabbed the win in his 63rd-career start as a massive crash unfolded behind him. Jimmy Mullis supplanted Logan Clampitt as the final playoff driver after tough luck for Clampitt in the second half of the race.
The Coca-Cola @iRacing Series delivers again!
Watch as tonight's regular season finale ends in dramatic fashion. pic.twitter.com/6ysD4WD0cE
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 30, 2020
Last race: Leahy locks into the Championship 4 at Bristol
Entering Bristol, Keegan Leahy found himself in a 27-point deficit from the top four, last place by far in the playoffs. He responded with an astounding victory at Bristol, leading every single lap after qualifying on pole, clinching his spot alongside Bobby Zalenski in the Championship 4.
.@KeeganLeahy ➡️ The Championship 4
Punches his ticket with a big-time W tonight. pic.twitter.com/T3OM0Hm8BR
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) September 15, 2021
Playoff picture after Bristol
Bobby Zalenski (advanced to Championship 4)
Keegan Leahy (advanced to Championship 4)
Mitchell deJong, +15 points
Logan Clampitt, +8 points
— — — CUT-OFF LINE — — —
Matt Bussa, -8 points
Graham Bowlin, -11 points
Vicente Salas, -15 points
Jimmy Mullis, -20 points
Bob Bryant, -27 points
Michael Conti, -37 points
The playoffs consist of four races: Aug. 31 at Darlington Raceway, Sept. 14 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Sept. 28 at Talladega Superspeedway and the $100,000-to-win championship race Oct. 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. Four playoff drivers will compete for the title at Texas; a win in the playoffs will automatically advance a playoff driver.
What to expect at Talladega
What to expect at Talladega is an absurd idea, a fruitless effort in one of the most unpredictable tracks, with a shot at racing for $100,000 on the line.
Eight drivers are racing for two Championship 4 spots. Numerous drivers deeper in the field are fighting to remain in the top 20 in points to keep their spot in the series next year. The only two drivers who can take it easy are Bobby Zalenski and Keegan Leahy.
As far as the makeup of the race itself goes, it seems the drafting package has made passing quite a bit unlike past Talladega races. Qualifying results, track position and pit strategy may prove more important than ever—but, despite car handling, Talladega’s still Talladega. Survival will be the name of the story in a field of 40 hungry drivers.
Keep track of who we’re watching in our Power Rankings.
How to watch
Round 17 of the season (the third round of the playoffs) airs live at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sep. 28.