TALLADEGA, Al.— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start from the pole in Sunday’s Geico 500 from Talladega Superspeedway. Stenhouse Jr. was able to pick up two tenths of a second over his first round speed. Stenhouse Jr. posted the winning speed at 191.547 mph.
“It’ll be nice to lead the field to green here. The Fifth Third guys worked really, really hard on these cars. Like I said earlier, Jimmy Fennig has done a great job on these speedway cars. This is cool. Doug Yates builds awesome horsepower,” said Stenhouse Jr. “With his dad, Robert, not doing as well as we would like, it would be cool to dedicate this one to him and all the hard work that the engine shop does. Man, it’s a cool way to start the weekend. I’m ready to get to Sunday.:
This is his first pole of 2017. Stenhouse Jr. scored his last pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2013.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the second place position on Sunday. Earnhardt Jr. picked up one tenth of a second over his first round speed. This is also his first front row start at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt, Jr. posted a speed of 190.780 mph to score the second place starting position.
"We would have loved to have got the pole. (Ricky) Stenhouse and those guys had a really fast car, so congratulations to them and Roush/Yates Engines and all those guys had great power. Pretty happy with our car. The Hendrick guys have been doing a great job. We always kind of come down here and find ourselves with an opportunity for the pole. Hopefully, we will get one before the year is out at one of these plate tracks. I know the guys have been so close at Daytona and Talladega for so many years, so it would be great to do it this last season together. Just came up a little short today, but the car is fast and it will be good for Sunday," said Earnhardt Jr.
Brad Keselowski qualified third at 190.427 mph, Matt Kenseth qualified fourth at 190.177 mph, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five at 190.155 mph.
DJ Kennington was the sole driver to not make it into the field on Sunday.
The GEICO 500 will be broadcasted on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Earlier today, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced that 2017 would be his final year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The decision was made on March 29th.
When I think of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I think of the words bold and courageous. Earnhardt Jr. has went through trial and tribulation throughout his illustrious career.
Why does bold and courageous come into my mind when I think of Earnhardt Jr.? Here’s why:
The weight of the NASCAR world was thrown onto the young driver in 2001 when his father was tragically killed in the Daytona 500. As a young driver in NASCAR at the age of 26, it was more to handle. However, he handled it well. The NASCAR world looked for Jr. to carry the torch and live up to the legacy his father left. The weight of living up to that legacy left Earnhardt, Jr. burdened.
In 2007, he announced that he would leave the organization his father started, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, to go race for Rick Hendrick at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. That was a bold move leaving an organization that he was slated to run in the future for a ride at Hendrick. He ultimately left that organization because Theresa Earnhardt, his stepmother, would not give him controlling interest in the organization. Earnhardt Jr.
Later that season, he announced that he would be joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, where he is set to end his career.
In the midst of a career shakeup in the Cup Series, Jr also started a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, JR Motorsports, in 2006 just before the economic struggles began in the United States. In an effort to survive, JR Motorsports joined an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 that would provide engineering, chassis, and engine support. Without the bold and courageous move to join an alliance with Hendrick, JR Motorsports would probably not be able to field five cars in 2017.
More recently, Jr. made a bold and courageous move to step out of the car in 2016 after suffering a concussion. He also made the decision to be open and candid about the struggles and experience of rehabilitation from concussions.
The decision to be candid with media and fans showed athletes that they do not have to be silent about the issues they face due to participating in the sports they love. This decision also opened the door for Earnhardt Jr. to help others find ways to get treated for concussions they have suffered.
Although he may retiring for Cup action in 2017, Earnhardt Jr is still set to be around the NASCAR realm as a team owner in the Xfinity Series and potentially on TV.
As Dr. Suess once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” To Dale Earnhardt Jr., thank you for your impact on our sport and the best is yet to come.
Chase Elliott scored the pole position in the 59th Daytona 500 for the second year in a row. Teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr, will start alongside Elliott leading the field to the green. This is Alan Gufstason’s third straight Daytona 500 pole as crew chief of the No. 24. Elliott had a speed of 192.872 mph. Earnhardt had a speed of 192.864 mph.
“Yeah, this is really cool. I’m just happy for our NAPA team and it’s great to have Napa on board this weekend; and a big thanks to the Hendrick engine shop and Chevrolet. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has done a lot of work this off-season. This team definitely has a knack for these plate tracks,” said Elliott
“It feels good. I think the guys are a little bit disappointed. They really wanted to get the pole. I’m disappointed too, but am absolutely thrilled to have an all-Hendrick Motorsports front row. And we’ll work on the balance practice a lot this week and make sure it’s a good handling car for the race. But, it’s a good way to start the week,” said Earnhardt Jr.
In the first round of qualifying, Elliott was fastest at 192.308 mph. Earnhardt Jr. was second fastest at 192.267 mph, Brad Keselowski was third fastest at 192.226 mph, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth fastest at 192.201 mph, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five at 192.143 mph.
In the second round of qualifying, Keselowski was third fastest at 192.691 mph, Clint Bowyer was fourth fastest at 192.571 mph, and Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five at 192.308 mph.
Only four “open” cars will make the Daytona 500. Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan will make the Daytona 500 based not their times in qualifying. Timmy Hill, Corey LaJoie, DJ Kennington, and Reed Sorenson must race their way into the field in Thursday’s Can-Am Duel.
Drivers who qualified in odd positions will race in the first duel, while drivers who qualified in even positions will be in the second duel scheduled for Thursday.
The Can-Am Duels will be broadcasted at 7:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network on Thursday, February 23rd.
Much like all season long, Joe Gibbs Racing was quick on track in preparation for the main event. In the first session it was Kyle Busch who was quickest.
Busch was the fast car out on track in the opening practice Saturday morning. The No. 18 laid down an early lap of 157.839 mph, which is just less than eight mph slower than the quick time on Friday.
Two of his JGR teammates were right behind him on speed. Denny Hamlin posted an early lap of 157.356 mph. Carl Edwards was third at 157.006 mph, just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
Ryan Newman was fourth in the session at 156.770 mph and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five 156.590 mph.
Pole-sitter, Kevin Harvick was 10th fastest in the session at 156.413 mph. The No. 4 team dominated the race in the fall leading 355 of the 400 laps.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson was 12th on the board, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott was eighth, quickest of all the rookie drivers.
The fourth JGR driver, Matt Kenseth recorded the 19th best time. He was just over three-tenths of a second off the top time. After being involved in a big practice crash on Friday, Danica Patrick led the way of drivers in backup cars with the 25th quickest time. Jamie McMurray was just behind in 26th and Tony Stewart was mired down in 34th.
Hamlin led the way at a lap of 157.329 mph. In the past Dover has been the Achilles heel for the No. 11 team, but he has been fast all weekend long.
Harvick rebounded from the first practice to lay down the second quickest lap in the second session. He ran a speed of 156.447 mph which was over a tenth of a second behind the hot lap that Hamlin put down.
The younger Busch brother was third fast at 156.365 mph, with his older brother in fourth at 155.777 mph. Elliott rounded out the top five on the board at 155.696 mph.
Kenseth improved on the morning session and went to eighth in race conditions.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was down to 25th on the leader board. The No. 88 car will start on the outside of the front row when the green flag waves, but struggled Saturday in race conditions.
McMurray ran 62 laps in the session, most out of the 39 drivers that completed a lap. The No. 1 machine struggled in his backup car prior to this practice that he ended in 17th.
The last time NASCAR was at the Monster Mile, McMurray finished fourth at Dover and finished one position shy of making it into the next round of the Chase.
The green flag will wave shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.
The last time the Cup Series ran at Dover, Harvick led 355 laps en route to securing a Chase birth into the second round of the Chase. On Friday, it was a lap of 165.145 mph that secured the pole for the No. 4 car. Had that lap been ran in qualifying it would have set a new track record.
"That definitely changes your approach," Harvick said of the possibility of rain. "That's what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come with qualifying trim."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will line up second after having one of his better practices of the year. At a lap of 164.707 mph it will be his best start since he was awarded the pole at Daytona last summer. The qualifying for that event was also postponed due to rain.
"Hopefully we can get some practice in tomorrow and work on the race setup a bit," said Earnhardt.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will start alongside in Row 2. Each driver has a victory on the concrete at Dover and both have already clinched a spot in the Chase this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will round out the top five, running a lap in practice at 163.815 mph.
The other two JGR cars will lineup inside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin in sixth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th. While fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Brian Scott was the only driver to make a race run in practice. He will start 17th on Sunday.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson will start from 21st, with Joey Logano alongside in 22nd. Other notable drivers starting toward the rear are Jamie McMurray 24th, Danica Patrick 31st and Tony Stewart 34th.
There are two practice sessions on Saturday to prepare for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.