The Xfinity Series and Cup Series are back in action on Saturday and Sunday with races at the iconic Talladega Superspeedway. There will be several NASCAR drivers trying to win their first race of the season, but the current points leaders will have an early advantage. Denny Hamlin will start on the pole for Geico 500 while Austin Cindric will do so for the AG-Pro 300.
NASCAR released a breakdown of the starting lineups on Wednesday morning, along with the breakdowns showing why Hamlin and Cindric won their respective pole positions. The formula takes into account four factors from the previous race: the fastest lap (15%), the driver’s finishing position (25%), the team owner’s finishing position (25%), and the team owner’s points ranking (35%).
Hamlin has been the most consistent driver in the Cup Series despite failing to win a race in 2021, posting eight top-five finishes in nine races. Cindric, on the other hand, has two Xfinity Series wins and five total top-five finishes in seven races.
Hamlin and Joey Logano will renew their battle from Richmond
When Hamlin leads the field to the green flag on Sunday, he will do so with a familiar face next to him. Joey Logano will start the race on the front row, providing another opportunity for the two drivers to continue their duel that started in Richmond.
Prior to Alex Bowman passing Hamlin and winning the Toyota Owners 400, a different battle on the track sparked comments. Hamlin and Logano jockeyed for position while driving the two best cars, resulting in a wild back-and-forth in the final stage of the race. Hamlin led the most laps during the race (207), but Logano passed him for the lead in Stage 3.
The Team Penske driver continued to sit at the front of the pack, leading a total of 49 laps. Hamlin and Logano started side by side after the final caution with the goal of outracing each other to the checkered flag. However, Bowman came racing up behind them, passing Logano first before taking the lead from Hamlin.
With Richmond now in the rearview, Logano and Hamlin will once again lead the field to green. This battle will unfold differently considering that it will take place on a superspeedway while the last iteration was on a short track. Will Bowman pass them again, or will Logano’s expertise at Talladega lead him to the checkered flag?
The Dash 4 Cash drivers highlight the Xfinity Series starting order
While Cindric will lead the field to the green flag and attempt to win his third race of the season, four other drivers will pursue a secondary goal. Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, Daniel Hemric, and Brandon Jones are the drivers eligible for the Dash 4 Cash. This $100,000 bonus goes to the driver with the best finishing position at the end of the race. Gragson finished second at Martinsville on Apr. 11, winning his first bonus of the year.
According to the starting lineup for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, all four Dash 4 Cash drivers will start near the front of the pack. Hemric will join Cindric on the front row while Gragson will start just behind him on the second row. Berry, the winner of the Martinsville race, will start the day on the third row. Jones will round out the group as he starts on the fourth row.
Gragson posted two top-10 finishes at Talladega Superspeedway in 2020. He finished 10th in the June race and third in October’s playoff race. Jones finished fourth in the playoff race while Hemric finished fifth. All three drivers have recent success at Talladega and will try to use their experience to secure both a win and a $100,000 bonus.