TALLADEGA, Al.— Weather not only played a role in on-track activity on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, but it also played a role in many drivers arriving to the track on Friday.
In an effort to save on costs, many teams decide to stay in Charlotte, North Carolina an extra day due to on-track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series slated during the afternoon. However, rain in the Charlotte and Talladega area caused flight delays for many drivers.
Jamie McMurray had to hitch a ride with Kyle Busch to Talladega:
Kurt Busch was also one of the drivers delayed in Charlotte. Busch was slated to be in the deadline room at Talladega at 12:45 p.m. EST, but was pushed back to after 3:00 p.m. EST.
Although rain hampered on-track activity and team arrival on Friday, the rest of the weekend is scheduled to have sunshine and blue skies.
TALLADEGA, Al.— As the first quarter of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season came to a close last week at Richmond, drivers begin to assess their seasons and where they would like to improve on throughout the rest of the season.
The first nine races of the season have seen encumbered wins and side-by-side racing. Seven different drivers have made their way to victory lane this season, while Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson have made their way into victory lane twice. Three short track, one restrictor plate event, and five different tracks have encompassed the first quarter of the season.
Some teams have struggled while some teams have flourished with the new aero packages, while some teams have excelled in stage racing.
Kyle Larson leads the points standing by 40 points over Martin Truex Jr, 52 points over Chase Elliott, 71 points over Brad Keselowski (pending points penalty from Phoenix), and Joey Logano sits 90 points out of the lead following his encumbered win at Richmond.
In his first season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Erik Jones has made a name for himself in the top series. He currently has one top-10 finish this season.
“I wish through the first part of the season we would have just had more results. I think we've ran a lot better than what we've really finished, which is disappointing and unfortunate in a way. But knowing that we showed up at the race every week ‑‑ I can only point at a couple races where I didn't really feel like we should have ran in the top 10, just circumstances, and the way these races have kind of played out, at the end of the them, it just hasn't been in the cards for us,” said Jones.
When asked how he would like to improve on the season, Jones stated, “I think beyond that as the season goes on, we just want to keep working on executing better at the end of the races, getting these finishes and running up front and honestly feel like we keep bringing these fast race cars to the track, one of these weeks it's just going to kind of click for us, and we're just going to be running up front and have a good shot at the win. I thought Bristol was kind of going to be that day, but it seems as things have gone, we just haven't had the tides been falling in our favor."
Although he received an encumbered penalty after his win last weekend at Richmond, Logano is impressed with how his season as gone.
“For us as the 22 team, we were able to kick off the season great with the win at The Clash. That was nice, and since then we’ve had decent speed in our cars. At the beginning part of the year we didn’t execute perfectly during the race, so we didn’t get many stage points, but we were able to recover and get a lot of top 5s and top 10s so far this year. Our average finish is great. I think last week to get through and win the race is a nice thing,” said Logano, “Obviously, this is a little bit of a setback, so I think in general we’re doing a good job. I think we’ve cleaned up the mistakes that we had earlier in the year to where now we’re running as well as we should during the event, which is gonna help us score stage points because we all know how big that is right now and it will be forever. I think the fact that we cleaned up our races a little bit, that’s a big deal, and our speed is still really well. We have good speed in our cars, so those wins will start clicking off is good. I feel happy with where we’re at. I think we have an average finish of around sixth and seventh with the blown right-front at Phoenix and a thirtysomething finish there, so I’m proud of the way we’ve handled the situations this year and the finishes we’ve been getting and the way we’ve been recovering I think that’s an A-plus, and I think we’ve cleaned up to where we don’t have to recover as much, hopefully, here in the future.”
For Ryan Blaney, the season has been filled with ups and downs. He assessed his second season with the Wood Brothers:
“We started off the year really strong. I feel like we didn’t get good finishes the first six or seven races. We had really good cars where things happened and we didn’t get the finish we deserved. I’d say our season started off really strong. The past two weeks have been kind of rough on us. Bristol was a shame. We were really fast and had that power-steering issue and had to ride around there for 300 laps to the end of the race. Richmond, I actually salvaged a really good finish out of that after not being good all day…running 18th all day. I think we drove up to eighth and got the car better, and then Kurt (Busch) wrecked us. I feel like those are the things that we need to do if we don’t run well the first three-quarters of the race, keep working on our car and finish well,” said Blaney. “That’s what we did last week, and I feel like we didn’t have that last year. If we ran bad last year, the first portion of the race we stayed there all day, so this year I feel like we’ve gotten better with that. I’m pretty happy how the Woods Brothers team is running now and where our performance is. It’s just a matter of getting back on track and getting the finishes that we deserve. I feel like there are some really good race tracks that we can definitely capitalize on.”
Consistency in second place, a win at Auto Club, and during the stages was key. Here is how Larson rated his first quarter:
“It’s been good. We had three consecutive second place finishes that led to the win and then we got another second-place finish after that. Four second place finishes and a win to start, I think our average finish is like basically sixth. It’s been a solid start to the year we’ve just got to keep working hard. It’s a really long season. Teams get better and worse throughout the year, so we’ve just got to continue to dig deep and build on what we have right now to get better and hopefully challenge for some more wins,” said Larson.
Chase Elliott has not had the first quarter he would like, it has been full of ups and downs.
“I think we’ve had some ups and downs. I feel like we fired off really well with the way we ran at Daytona and Atlanta. I thought our West Coast swing was pretty strong. I feel like over the past few weeks we really haven’t performed up to our potential. As a group, I think anybody in our group would feel the same way. We’ve had some fast cars at times. We’ve had our driving good and then other weeks, not so much,” said Elliott. “But, we definitely need to execute races; even on the days that your car is not driving like you want it to. That execution and doing everything correctly on pit road, restarts, giving the right information, can turn a bad day into a pretty good day, really. Like last week, for instance, we ran not very good and just inside the 15th; not quite inside the top 10 the majority of the day. We got towards the end of the day and had an opportunity to finish up well inside the top 10 if we had just executed a little bit better. So, that’s what we need to do. And we know we need to do that. And, we’ll try to make that happen.”
Although he won the Daytona 500 this year, Kurt Busch has had a season of ups and downs highlighted by alternator issues.
“For us on the 41 car, we’ve almost gotten a top 10 at half the races so far. This will be our 10th race, so if we get a top 10 this weekend that means we’ve been in the top 10 half the time. We had a couple alternator bugs and issues that we had to work through on the west coast trip. We missed the setup at Fontana. Martinsville was better this time around, we just didn’t seal the deal. We got caught up in a wreck there,” said Busch. “Overall, when you win the Daytona 500 it can carry you for a lifetime. It can carry you for a season and so for the first 10 races, we’ve had a great deal of success and we’re very happy about that with our Ford, with Haas, with Monster and for everybody on the team. Ring-sizing was this week at Stewart-Haas Racing for everybody to get their ring sizes measured up to get a Daytona 500 championship ring, so it’s been pretty special so far to start the year.”
Although the first quarter is a basis for many teams, there are still many more opportunities in 2017 to improve and stay consistent.
TALLADEGA, Al.— Due to an afternoon shower, all on-track activity at Talladega Superspeedway is done for the day. Saturday’s schedule for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series has been unchanged.
However, today’s General Tire 200 for the ARCA Racing Series has been postponed until after Cup qualifying on Saturday. The green flag is slated to fall at 6:13 p.m. EST.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway for the Sparks Energy 300. This weekend is the only stop at Talladega Superspeedway for the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017.
There have been 25 Xfinity Series events from Talladega. During that time, there has been 18 different pole winners and 20 different race winners. Only two races have been won from the pole position. Mark Martin set the race record in 1997 at 168.937 mph. Joe Nemechek set the qualifying record in 1997 at 193.517 mph.
42 drivers will try to compete for 40 spots on Saturday morning in qualifying. Six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup full-time drivers are slated to compete in the Saturday afternoon spectacular. Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, and Aric Almirola are scheduled to run on Saturday.
Daniel Hemric will be without his crew chief, Danny Stockman Jr, this weekend at Talladega. Stockman was suspended for one race due to having two lugnuts not installed properly at Richmond.
Although he is without his crew chief, Hemric talks about the differences between Daytona and Talladega. "The one thing that sticks out to me is the amount of grip that Talladega seems to have in the racetrack compared to Daytona. The racetrack is so much wider than Daytona, too. Anything you do to help your car handling-wise at Daytona, you take some of that out at Talladega. With all the action we saw at Daytona with the cars moving around in the draft and suddenly losing the aero-grip while in the pack, it is easy to get yourself in trouble like I did at Daytona. You have got to make sure we creep back toward the direction of having our cars handle like they did at Daytona to be good and be able to make moves at Talladega. You've got to make sure you can maneuver your car and you can drive the thing. That's going to be the biggest thing. If we can do that with our No. 21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet, we'll have a good day,” said Hemric.
For Darrell Wallace Jr., the 2017 season has been filled with sixth and 33rd place finishes. Wallace Jr. is ready for Talladega:
“I’m ready to hit the track this weekend in Talladega. It’s a place where anything can happen. We had a really fast car in February at Daytona and I know that Roush Fenway always brings a strong superspeedway car to the track. I’m also pumped to have the Globe Life colors on our Ford Mustang this weekend. Hopefully we can keep it clean all day long and run up front and give the Globe Life folks a great show on Saturday.”
Ben Kennedy returns to competition this weekend at Talladega with Richard Childress Racing for eight races. He will also being racing with GMS Racing as well beginning in Charlotte.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to the track and in the car in Talladega. It's been a long offseason for me, and there's a lot of anticipation going into the weekend. I think we'll have a good shot with the No. 2 Rheem team and Justin Alexander calling the shots atop the pit box. Hopefully we'll get up to speed quick and be in contention to win, but my goal is to learn a lot this year behind the wheel,” said Kennedy.
Xfinity drivers will hit the track on Friday for two practice sessions, which will be live on Fox Sports 1. Qualifying will be at 10:30 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. The Sparks Energy 300 will be broken into two 25-lap stages and a final stage of 63 laps. The race will be broadcasted on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 1:00 p.m. EST.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. Fans from all 50 states, five continents, and 21 countries will get to see the world’s best drivers embark on the second restrictor plate race of the 2017 season.
42 drivers will attempt to qualify for 40 spots in Sunday’s Geico 500. Two open drivers will go home after Cup qualifying Saturday afternoon after the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Sparks Energy 300.
There have been 95 races from Talladega. 40 different drivers have won the pole position. There have been 45 different race winners. Only 13 races have been won from the pole with Jeff Gordon being the last driver to do in in 2007. Mark Martin set the race record in 1997 at 188.354 mph. Bill Elliott set the qualifying record in 1987 at 212.809 mph.
Teams will have two sets of Goodyears to practice on, one set for qualifying, and six sets for the race. Teams will be using the same tire setup going back to October of 2014.
From the Team Penske camp, Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano, and Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski, will not be at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. For Wolfe, the team decided to use this weekend to defer the three-race suspension received from Phoenix in case their final appeal does not go in their favor this weekend. Gordon will not be at the racetrack due to an encumbered win from Richmond International Raceway. When NASCAR took the 22 car back to the Research and Development Center, they found an illegal truck trailing arm spacer in the rear suspension. Logano will not be able to use the victory and five playoff points later on in the year. Team Penske will not appeal the ruling.
At Talladega, everyone has a chance to win. Drivers are excited about this race because it is a great equalizer for the field.
"I’m really looking forward to Talladega and making my first start in our PEAK Antifreeze Camry this weekend. There is a lot of luck involved in restrictor-plate racing, but also a lot of strategy which I really enjoy. I think we learned a lot in Daytona back in February that we can carry over to this weekend. Anything can happen when we race at Talladega, but I’m really looking forward to the race on Saturday and hopefully coming away with a good finish for everyone involved with PEAK and this No. 18 team.,” said Daniel Suarez.
“Talladega is going to be intense, especially when you incorporate stage racing. I know that there’s a great opportunity to gain points this weekend by finishing in the top 10 of those stages, but I’m sure that the pack racing will be crazy. I’m really looking forward to getting there with our AdvoCare Ford. Hopefully we can keep it clean all day long and be out in front of the three and four-wide craziness, and be contending for the win come days end. We had a great Ford here last year and I’m confident we will be just as strong this weekend,” said Trevor Bayne.
"It's all about having a fast racecar and be lucky enough to stay out front and not getting in somebody else's mess. You also have to have a good day on pit road because it seems like we have a lot of green-flag runs. If you have a bad stop, it is really easy to lose a lap. It's all about keeping yourself in the game,” said Ryan Newman.
The Greco 500 will feature two 55-lap stages, and a final stage of 78 laps. On Friday, teams will have two practice sessions due to this weekend being an impound weekend. Those practice sessions are slated to begin at 2:30 p.m. EST and 4:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network. Qualifying will be held at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday on FOX and Motor Racing Network. Sunday’s Running of the Geico 500 will be on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 2:00 p.m. EST.