MENCS: Geico 500 Talladega Preview
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.
ARCA: General Tire 200 Talladega Preview
The ARCA Racing catapults to Talladega Superspeedway for the General Tire 200. This is the fourth race on the ARCA schedule. There have been three different winners in three different races for ARCA. This is the second and final restrictor plate event for ARCA of 2017.
37 drivers are slated to attempt to qualify into Friday’s race. With a full field being considered 40 in ARCA, all drivers will be able to compete in the race. Notable drivers in the field include Noah Gragson with Venturini Motorsports and Justin Haley with MDM Motorsports.
This is the final race using the steel-bodied cars in ARCA. ARCA is moving from steel bodies to composite bodies at Talladega and Daytona. These bodies will be mandatory in the 2018 season.
Hayley will be making his first career superspeedway start this weekend in Talladega. Hayley currently races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with GMS Racing.
"I am so excited to get behind the wheel of the MDM Motorsports ARCA Racing Series car this weekend," said Haley. "They always show phenomenal speed and contend for wins when they show up to the track. Restrictor plate racing is something I've always wanted to do and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so at Talladega. Having my truck series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt on the pit box this weekend will be an excellent resource.”
Gragson will be making his second start in the ARCA Racing Series in 2017. This is Gragson’s third start with Venturini Motorsports.
“I’m excited to make my first start at Talladega,” said Gragson. “These big tracks can be intimidating going into your first race. Thankfully I’ve got a couple restrictor plate starts under my belt now, giving me some personal experience to lean on going into this weekend. I think that’s a huge confidence booster. I’m excited to reunite with the Venturini bunch and race for win.”
The first ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway took place in 1969 making this the 52nd race run here. Bill Venturini set the qualifying record back in 1987 at 205.432 mph. Grant Adcox set the race record in 1986 at 173.947 mph. Only 20 Races have been won from the pole position. Adcox also holds the most wins at Talladega at five.
The ARCA Racing Series will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1 at 6:00 p.m. EST. Live timing and scoring can be seen at arcaracing.com.
ARCA Talladega Qualifying Cancelled
TALLADEGA, Al.-- ARCA officials have cancelled today's qualifying session for the General Tire 200. Early morning rains at Talladega Superspeedway have forced the cancellation of qualifying. The field will be set by the 2016 owners points.
With the chance of rain dwindling through the day, ARCA Officials hope to get in an abbreviated practice session.
Dalton Sargeant will start from the pole today. Noah Gragson, Tom Hessert, Austin Theriault, and Kyle Weathermen hold the top-five positions.
The General Tire 200 from Talladega Superspeedway will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1 shortly after 6:00 p.m. EST.
Engine Woes Dash Chase Hopes
Brad Keseloski and Martin Truex Jr. saw their championship hopes dashed during Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Truex Jr. was running in the top-10 for the first 40 laps. However, his engine expired shortly after green-flag pit-stops cycled through. The expiration of the engine was a surprise for Truex Jr.
“Just developed a vibration and started to lose a little bit of power. Originally I thought it could have been a tire because it was shaking worse and worse and worse until it was time to pit. I slowed down to hit pit road and felt the vibration still there and knew it was the engine,” said Truex.
After dominating the first round of the Chase, the second round started off on the wrong foot at Charlotte. Those struggles continued to struggle throughout the “Round of 12”. Truex described this round of the chase as a “rollercoaster”. He wishes he would have had better runs at Charlotte and Kansas in an effort to have a “free pass” this weekend at Talladega.
Despite his struggles in the second round, Truex is still confident and proud in his team. “They’ve worked so hard this year to put us in the position to battle for a championship and we felt like we could do it. This year and this sport is tough and we didn’t perform at Kansas and Charlotte the way we were capable and we had some issues there and that put us in the hole and if we could have went there and done better and maybe got a win then we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. We didn’t get the job done, but we’ve got a great team and we’ve got four more races to go out there and try to get a win and I know we can win all four of them and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
For Keselowski, his engine expired as he was running, but the problem could have been avoided. While leading the race, Keselowski had gained a piece of debris on his grille.
While leading the race, Paul Wolfe, crew chief, and Joey Mier, spotter, were arguing about what Keselowski should do to get the debris off. They finally reached a point of consensus to let Ryan Blaney get in front of Keselowski to get the debris off the grille. However, shortly after the move was made, the engine expired off the backstretch bringing out the caution.
“Something let go. I’m not sure exactly what, but it’s unfortunate. We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and that kind of ended our day. It was a lot of fun to be leading at Talladega. I really like this track. It’s been good to us and there are a lot of great fans here today. We were doing the best we could to make a show of it and have some fun and lead some laps and just happy and proud to have a fast car,” said Keselowski.
Due to the engine issues, Keselowski and Truex Jr. were eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The plan for both drivers is to win the remaining four races of the season.
Logano Leaves Talladega Unscathed
With the Hellmann’s 500 going into NASCAR Overtime, fuel becoming an issue in the closing laps, and receiving an early penalty for removing equipment, Joey Logano was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Logano is the lone driver from Team Penske to advance for a championship. This is Logano’s second victory of 2016.
“It’s never a layup here at Talladega. It’s always close. You never get a big lead. A good Shell/Pennzoil Ford. Todd made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that. We got that track position and just hung onto it. I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well. Kevin did a good job with that, which ultimately got us all a great finish. It was fun racing there at the end. I was really confused. I didn’t know what lane to pick coming to the last restart, but I knew Kevin had a lot of experience in these situations and is great at speedway racing, so he did a good job of pushing me out and then had to defend the top lane with Brian Scott, so a couple of Fords out front here at Talladega is pretty cool,” said Logano in a post race interview.
The first half saw the level of attrition at an all time high. Second-place qualifier, Brad Keselowski, took an early lead fending off three-wide racing behind him. However, Martin Truex Jr. was able to find a hole to challenge Keselowski to the lead, but was unable to gain to the lead. Chase Elliott tried to make his move on Keselowski for numerous laps to capture the lead with help from Greg Biffle and was successful. After leading a couple laps, Keselowski was able to side-draft off Elliott to regain the lead. As the first round of green flag pit stops began, the main draft split in half to go down pit road. Logano was penalized for removing his jack from pit road as Denny Hamlin was penalized for speeding. Truex Jr. had a catastrophic engine failure to bring out the first caution of the day shortly after green-flag stops. When the race went back green, Keselowski regained the lead to block the momentum from the drivers behind him. Keselowski attempted to block Elliott, but Elliott was able to gain the lead. Elliott’s lead lasted shortly as Greg Biffle challanged and gained the lead. Keselowski lost drafting help and dropped back. The field began to settle down and went single file on the high-line. As the field went single-file, Biffle reported a piece of debris on his grill. However, the conga line on the high lane broke as Keselowski dropped out of the line to make a valiant charge to the front. Elliott made a move on the inside of Biffle to regain the lead, and to knock the debris off the grille of Biffle. As green flag pit stops cycled through, Keselowski regained the lead. At the halfway point, Keselowski was the race leader, Ryan Blaney was in second, Kurt Busch was third, Hamlin was fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
As the race entered the halfway point, Elliott tried to reform the bottom line from the Talladega Conga Line, but failed to have more drivers join him. The main draft began to spread out some instead of being bumper-to-bumper. As Keselowski was dealing with overheating, Hamlin and Blaney split Keselowski giving Hamlin the lead. However, the caution flew for a wreck involving Biffle, Casey Mears, and Jeffrey Earnhardt entering into the tri-oval. On the restart, Hamlin was able to get lead and block his lead. However, Keselowski was able to regain the lead. The race returned to the conga line at the top of the racetrack. After a few laps in a single file line, Elliott began to lead a group to form a bottom lane, but the lane never came into fruition. However, Keselowski had another piece of debris on his grille, but used Ryan Blaney to clean that debris off; however, it was too late as Keselowski slowed onto the apron as his engine expired. Logano gained the lead on the restart, but the caution shortly fell for debris on the backstretch. As the race restarted, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who were waiting in the back, began to lose the draft. Landon Cassill saved the field from wrecking in the tri-oval as he got loose. However, Logano was reporting debris on his grille, but that caused no harm. The caution flag flew for an accident in turn three for a spin by Kasey Kahne involving Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray. On the restart, Logano and Harvick were head-to-head, but the caution flew for a spin by Alex Bowman. Under the caution flag, many drivers were concerned about fuel, but fuel was no issue, resulting in a victory for Logano. Brian Scott finished second, Hamlin finished third, Ku. Busch finished fourth, and Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series saw four drivers having to wait another year. Keselowski was knocked out after his engine blew on lap for waiting too long to get debris off his grille. Truex Jr. also saw his chances for a championship diminish after his engine went sour on lap 43 shortly after the completion of green-flag pit stops. Austin Dillon’s championship hopes were dashed as the checkered flag flew. Dillon lost in a tiebreaker with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was able to beat Kurt Busch by .006 seconds after Harvick let off the gas to avoid wrecking Hamlin. Despite having a 12th place finish, Elliott needed a win to advance, but could not get the drafting help to make a charge to the front.
The drivers who advanced will have their points reset to 4000. Logano will be the top seed, followed by, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Kenseth, Edwards, Hamlin, Ku. Busch, and Ky. Busch. The eliminated Chase drivers show Truex Jr. in the top-position. Keselowski is 23 points back from Truex, A. Dillon is 28 points behind, Elliott is 35 points behind, Kyle Larson is 36 points behind, Tony Stewart is 50 points behind, McMurray is 81 points behind, and Chris Buescher is 82 points behind.
The race saw an average speed of 159.905 mph. The time of race was 3 hours, 11 minutes, and 38 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.124 mph. There were 31 lead changes among 14 drivers. The caution flew six times for 25 laps. Only three drivers were listed as out of the race. Only 14 penalties were assessed on pit road. 34 cars were able to finish on the lead lap.
All cars passed post-race inspection. 10 of the 12 Chase drivers were inspected as the cars of Keselowski and Truex were not fit to be inspected. Logano, Scott, Hamlin, A. Dillon, and Stenhouse Jr. are being taken back the R&D center for further inspection.
Despite having engine issues, Keselowski was able to lead the most laps at 90. Logano was able to lead 45 laps, Biffle led 13 laps, Hamlin led 12 laps, Elliott led nine laps, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael Annett were able to lead six laps, Blaney was able to lead three laps, Ky. Busch and Truex Jr. led two laps, and A. Dillon, Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart all led one lap.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be at trip to Martinsville Speedway for the Goodys Fast Relief 500. Coverage from Martinsville will begin on Friday with first practice at 11:00 a.m. EST on NBCSN.