Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Takes GEICO 500 Pole, Haley Wins General Tire 200

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the Coors Light Pole Award for the GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, as Dale Earnhardt Jr., making his final start in the spring event at NASCAR’s Biggest and Baddest track, captured his first front row starting spot ever at the 2.66-mile venue. Following qualifying, the General Tire 200 ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards event took place, with 18-year old Justin Haley taking the victory.

In Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series time trials, Stenhouse Jr. placed his team, Roush Fenway Racing, on the front row for the first time this season with a speed of 191.547 mph. It was also Stenhouse Jr’s first career pole at Talladega and his first since 2013 at Atlanta. Earnhardt Jr., a six-time Talladega winner, was clocked in at 190.780 mph, earning him the runner-up spot. Previously, his best starting spot was third on three different occasions.

Stenhouse Jr. has struggled in the No. 17 Fifth-Third Bank Ford over the past couple of seasons, but is coming off a fourth-place finish at Richmond International Raceway last weekend. The 29-year old hopes that leading the field to the green in Sunday’s GEICO 500 will help continue the momentum.

“It’ll be nice to lead the field to green here,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “There’s a lot of difference. The culture at our shop is just different. The guys want to work there. They want to show up to work and work harder. They’re seeing that working harder is making different results for us, so it’s been a blast for Trevor and myself to drive these race cars each week.”

“We would have loved to have gotten the pole,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “(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. 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.”

Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Stenhouse’s teammate Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five in qualifying.

After MENCS qualifying, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards hit the track for the General Tire 200. In the 200-mile event, the caution came out with a half lap remaining, and Brandon Lynn was out front and the car to beat. Then his gas tank ran dry.

With Lynn’s misfortune, Justin Haley in the No. 28 MDM Motorsports Toyota, took the checkered flag on the final restart to claim his second career ARCA Racing Series victory. The 18-year-old was making his superspeedway debut at the mammoth 2.66-mile venue that is Talladega Superspeedway.

“We worked our way from the back, but got a great win,” Haley said. “It was our first superspeedway start and I can’t thank everyone on our team enough for this win.”

Lynn was the dominate car, leading the final laps of the race before running out of fuel. He finished 18th. Andy Suess came home second, followed by Spencer Davis in third.

Bret Holmes, a local favorite from nearby Munford, Ala., was racing in the top-10 most of the day before suffering an incident on the final lap, which brought out the last caution. He finished 22nd.

The race weekend commences on tomorrow with the GEICO 500 MENCS event, scheduled to start at 1 p.m. CDT (live on FOX and MRN). Fans can still purchase tickets to watch the excitement unfold at NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track by visiting www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or calling 855-518-RACE (7223).