The 2021 Fall Talladega race report features a sixteenth distinct winner of the season, lots of lead changes, rain and darkness. Let’s dive right in.
Caution- and Lead-O-Gram
We only ran 117 laps, but got 35 lead changes in that time. Most of those lead changes were under the green flag.
The race featured 5 cautions for 27 laps, or 23.1% of the race run under caution. This is the second race this year to have no stage-end cautions. The first stage ended during the caution for an accident on lap 57, and we never reached the second stage.
Almost No Penalties
The 2021 Fall Talladega race featured only one penalty. That’s pretty strange for Talladega, where there are usually many more penalties.
It’s also a low for the season, beating the previous record shared by Michigan, Las Vegas and Fall Darlington. The sole penalty of the race was incurred on lap 98 by the #42 team for having crew member(s) over the wall too soon.
The story of the race was obviously Bubba Wallace’s first win. I’m not going to argue about whether it’s less of a win because it happened under cautioned, or in a rain-shortened race or anything else. These are the rules we play by and they all count the same.
As I mentioned in my pre-race blog, Talladega is the track out of all the tracks we run where a lower-ranked driver is most likely to to get a good finish. The 2021 Fall Talladega race bore that out. Chris Buescher won stage 1 and finished 5th. Erik Jones finished ninth and Anthony Alfredo finished 10th.
You can see from the graph below of the laptimes and running position that Bubba was up and down all race. He fought his way to the front twice, but the last drive shows that nothing was given to him.
At superspeedways, fastest laps have the least correlation with finishing position.
What’s almost as interesting, though, is where each driver was running during his fastest lap of the race. They were almost all 15th position or back. Stenhouse, Jr. ran his fastest lap of the race while running P23. That’s plate racing for you.
Margin of Victory
Talladega races often end under caution and 2021 Fall Talladega was no different. On most of my MOV graphs, the scale typically goes up to 3-4 seconds. Not at superspeedways. The biggest margin of victory since 2000 in fall races was in 2001, when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won by 0.388 seconds.
2021 Fall Talladega is the only race in the last 22 fall races that hasn’t gone the full distance.