Entering Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Christopher Bell finds himself in a precarious position, sitting 11th in NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings, 25 points below the cutline.
Despite being the only driver to score three top-five finishes in the first round of the Playoffs, a day-ending crash at Texas Motor Speedway has thrown a wrench into the third-year driver’s hopes at a championship.
But, at least the speed hasn’t disappeared for Bell, who rocketed the No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD to its fourth pole position of the season in Saturday’s single-car qualifying session at Talladega, posting a time of 53.026 seconds (180.591mph).
The bad news for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver? In 106 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, only 15 times has the polesitter gone on to celebrate the victory at the end of the 500-mile contest.
Kyle Larson, who enters the event 23 points above the cutline, will start alongside Bell for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Talladega, driving the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports.
Denny Hamlin will start Sunday’s race from the second row, while Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe completed the fastest five drivers in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Ross Chastain, who captured the victory in the Spring event at Talladega, will start from sixth-place in his Trackhouse Racing entry. Noah Gragson, subbing for Alex Bowman this weekend, will start the race from seventh, with Tyler Reddick qualifying ninth.
After being assessed mid-week penalties for retaliatory actions at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron and Ty Gibbs will round out the top-10 starting spots.
Joey Logano (11th), Daniel Suarez (14th), Chase Elliott (16th), Austin Cindric (17th), and Ryan Blaney (19th) were the five championship-eligible drivers that failed to advance to the second round of qualifying.
With only 37 cars entered for Sunday’s race at Talladega, all drivers that made a qualifying attempt will take the green flag for the YellaWood 500 at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.