NASCAR lineup at Talladega: Starting order, pole for Sunday’s playoff race without qualifying

The starting lineup for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway was set by applying the statistical formula NASCAR is using for the majority of Cup races in 2021.

Drivers’ starting positions for the YellaWood 500, the fifth race of the 2021 Cup Series playoffs and the second race in the Round of 12 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), were based on four factors:

NASCAR is conducting qualifying for just eight of the 36 Cup Series points-paying races in the 2021 season. Seven of those races have already been run; the one remaining race with qualifying is the season-ending Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7.

Below is the starting lineup, which was set without qualifying, for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Talladega Superspeedway’s 2.66-mile oval.

Who won the pole for the NASCAR race at Talladega?

Denny Hamlin, who has won in each of the first two rounds of the 2021 playoffs, will start on the pole Sunday. Hamlin is already locked into the Round of 8 by virtue of his win last weekend at Las Vegas.

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch will be next to him on the front row. Busch is coming off a third-place finish at Las Vegas. He is third in the playoffs points standings, behind Hamlin and points leader Kyle Larson, who will start fifth Sunday.

Per NASCAR’s playoff rules, the top 12 spots in Sunday’s field went to the 12 remaining playoff drivers, but the starting order was based on the mathematical formula NASCAR has used for the majority of its races this season.

NASCAR Cup playoff standings

NASCAR lists Denny Hamlin first in the playoff standings even though he trails Kyle Larson by 14 points heading into Talladega. Hamlin is on top because he already is through to the Round of 8 with his win at Las Vegas. A playoff driver who wins a race in the Round of 12 automatically advances to the Round of 8.

Six drivers — Larson, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano — can advance on points alone Sunday. According to NASCAR.com, they will need to be 56 points ahead of the sixth or seventh winless driver in the standings depending on who wins the race.

NASCAR will reduce the playoff field to eight drivers after the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 10.  

x-Clinched berth in the Round of 8.

NASCAR starting lineup at Talladega

NASCAR used a mathematical formula to set the starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway, the YellaWood 500. Forty cars were entered for the race, which means there will be a full field Sunday. Playoff drivers are denoted by “P-.”

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