Despite being behind in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win column, Chevrolets face the likeliest chance to succeed at Talladega for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 Playoff event. The 2.66-mile superspeedway is no stranger to upset winners, but if the April event is any indicator then not only do the Hendrick Chevrolets face the likeliest chance of winning, they’re also the likeliest to carry on the recent Bowtie winning streak but also advance to the Playoff Round of Eight.
Chase Elliott – His Daytona results notwithstanding, Elliott is showing to be a steady performer on the superspeedways. Along with his April victory in Alabama, he holds three top-fives and three top-10s. It may not seem like much in seven starts, but in the races where he held a dismal finish including his two DNFs in 2017, he has always run near the front including leading 26 laps before a hard crash in the Fall 2017 event.
Still, with two of his three teammates also in the Playoffs as well as the performance of teammate Alex Bowman in the Spring, Elliott could be leading the charge to get out of the Playoff rut his last-place finish at Dover has left him in.
Alex Bowman – 2019 has become the defining year of Bowman’s Cup Series career. It has been a breakout in every sense of the word – one win, six top-fives, 10 top-10s, and a comfortable spot in the seventh slot in the standings. Bowman isn’t satisfied, however, and with Talladega around the corner, a track where he finished second to teammate Elliott in April, he could be kicking his Playoff campaign into high gear and showing the rest of the field that the No. 88 Greg Ives-led crew could be the team to beat in the Playoffs.
Bowman and Elliott proved themselves to be a formidable duo in the Spring, not unlike the early 00s’ when Dale Earnhardt Incorporated drivers Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were winning every other race at Talladega. Should Bowman or Elliott win at Talladega, then it could be the dawn of a new era in NASCAR.
William Byron – Byron’s 2019 Playoff campaign is showing zero signs of a sophomore slump. If anything, it shows that Hendrick Motorsports is catching up in leaps and bounds with the rest of the field, currently led by the Team Penske Fords and the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. He’s scored five poles already, with three top-fives (including a second at Daytona in July) and 11 top-10s to boot.
He’s only in his second full-time Cup Series campaign, so his previous Talladega results can be chalked up as educational experiences. Same thing goes with his Daytona results, although he has led 56 laps at the 2.5-mile Superspeedway. But one thing to take into account for the Chad Knaus-led No. 24 team is momentum. Byron has been quietly consistent, having finished in the top-25 in every race this season. Granted, that doesn’t equate to wins, but still, quiet consistency is better than no consistency. He could be a sleeper at Talladega, if not in the Playoffs overall. He could have a run equivalent to Ryan Newman’s in 2014 if the could just keep up with the consistency.
Although those drivers are the only Hendrick Chevrolets in the Playoffs at this moment, there are other drivers to consider for the win in Sunday’s race. Talladega is well-known for upset winners, and although rookie Ryan Preece is not a Playoff driver, he’s been stout on the superspeedways in 2019. He was in contention to win the Daytona 500 late in the going before being shuffled back to eighth, for one.
But it was his Talladega performance in April which could translate to a win on Sunday, as the No. 47 was able to latch onto the Hendrick Motorsports train of Elliott and Bowman en route to a third-place finish in the final order. His JTG-Daugherty Racing No. 47 is also powered by Hendrick engines, and given their proclivity for running up front on the superspeedways, he could very well put his car at the front in Sunday’s event. Preece is definitely the dark horse pick for the 1000Bulbs.com 500.
The 1000Bulbs.com 500 will be on NBC on Sunday, October 13, at 2 p.m.