Saturday, Sep 25

After getting parts seized before qualifying began, Martin Truex Jr. has captured the pole in Sunday’s Hellman’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. This is his fourth pole of 2016. This is his first career pole at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

“It’s definitely the place to be to start the race. I think the key is to stay there as long as you can. We will see what happens. This is obviously a big race, we will see what will happen,” said Truex Jr. in a post-qualifying interview.

 

The first round went without incident on the track, but pit road had incident. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Denny Hamlin were sent back to inspection by NASCAR just before they were to go on track to qualify.  Hamlin, Busch, and was able to get back out in line before their respective five minute clock expired. However, Reed Sorenson was the fastest in this round at a speed of 194.145 mph, Truex Jr. was second at a speed of 192.870 mph, Brad Keselowski was third at 192.800 mph, Matt Kenseth was fourth at a speed of 192.754 mph, and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five with a speed of 192.556 mph. David Gilliland is the lone driver who will not race in the Hellman’s 500.  Chase drivers who did not advance to the second round were Carl Edwards who will start 13th, Kyle Busch who will start 14th, Joey Logano who will start 16th, Jimmie Johnson who will start 17th, and Kevin Harvick who will start 22nd.

 

The second round of qualifying went without accident. Truex Jr. was able to gain the pole with a speed of 193.423 mph, Keselowski qualified second at a speed of 193.365 mph, Kenseth qualified third at 193.189 mph, Chase Elliott qualified fourth at 193.166 mph, and Biffle rounded out the top-five with a speed of 193.123 mph.

 

Sunday’s Hellman’s 500 from Talladega Superspeedway will be on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network. Coverage from Talladega will start at 1:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN and 1:00 p.m. EST on Motor Racing Network.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits wind and arrives at Talladega Superspeedway for the final race in the “Round of 12” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans from all 50 states and 22 countries around the world will embark on Alabama for the Hellman’s 500. This race kicks off the second half  of the Chase.

 

42 drivers are currently slated to qualify for the race, but only 40 drivers will start on Sunday. Ryan Reed will be entering a fourth Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

 

“I can’t wait to get to Talladega.  To be this close to achieving a goal of mine is huge.  I know our Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association team has been working really hard to bring a stout piece to the track.  Our goal is to go out there and keep our nose clean, run all of the laps, earn some respect and hopefully be in contention for a solid finish at the end,” said Reed.

 

Talladega Superspeedway is the largest and steepest track on the NASCAR circuit at 2.66-miles in length and is banked at 33 degrees. After Daytona was built in 1959, Bill France Sr. wanted to build something bigger and better for the stars of NASCAR to race on. The speedway hosted its first event in 1969.

 

There have been 94 races ran at Talladega. 39 drivers have won a pole at the famed speedway. Earlier this year, Chase Elliott became the youngest driver to win a pole, while Mark Martin was the oldest driver to win a pole set back in 2011. 45 drivers have claimed victory with Bobby Hillin Jr being the youngest winner and Harry Gant being the oldest. 13 drivers have won the race from the pole; Jeff Gordon was the last driver to do in 2007. in 1997, Mark Martin set the race record at 188.354 mph. The qualifying record, which will never be broken due to the restrictor plate, is owned by Bill Elliott, who set the speed in 1987, at 212.809 mph.

 

Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are the only Chase drivers that have immunity this weekend. The four driver currently out of advancement include Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott. Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Joey Logano are the bottom three drivers in jeopardy of elimination.

 

Drivers are frightened yet excited to be returning to Talladega.

 

“The thing about going to a superspeedway like Daytona or Talladega is obviously not getting involved in a wreck since the chances of being caught up in one is so much higher at those tracks. You also need to have a fast race car in order to have a successful day there. There have been many times lately that we’ve had fast Toyotas that were able to keep their position towards the front and sometimes it works out and other times it just doesn’t. At Talladega, you need a car that’s fast enough to pull the pack and stay out front in order to have a greater chance of success. It’s just too easy for people to get shuffled out and back into the pack where then you’re fighting to get back up to the front. You can’t ever really predict when or where a wreck if going to happen, so to me the best strategy is to go there with the fastest car that you can possibly build and hopefully get to the front and stay out there,” said Matt Kenseth, driver of the no. 20, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

 

“I have yet to win one of the points-paying races at a restrictor-plate racetrack. This one is tough because it’s a Chase race. Winning versus finding a consistent finish is such a razor-blade edge versus wrecking. We can’t have a wreck take us out of advancing through the Chase. One year in the Chase, I tried going for a win, got spun at the end and I kicked myself for years afterward. In 2009, I was going for a win instead of just trying to ride it out for a better finish and it took me from second in points back to fourth in points. Over the years, Talladega has just turned into a points-gathering race in the fall,” said Ku. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

 

Friday at Talladega is practice day. All practices, qualifying, and the race will be live on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network. The first practice will be at 2:00 p.m. EST and the final practice session will be at 4:30 p.m EST. Qualifying will be held after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at approximately 4:00 p.m. The Hellman’s 500 will hit airwaves at 2:00 p.m EST.

Fire up the scanners, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Talladega with the question, “With the Chase for the Sprint Cup reaching its halfway point, who is hot and who is not going into the second half?”

 

Brett Winningham

The two drivers I'm really surprised by is Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. I thought those two drivers were gonna be on fire in this years Chase. I think you could also say the same about Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. I felt going into this thing that they would be atop the standings throughout the entirety as well. 

Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, who already have their tickets punched into the next round of the Chase, were definitely expected. As well as Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. One driver I thought would be higher up a little bit in this round is Martin Truex Jr. 

It'll be interesting to see if a driver facing elimination can add their name to the win column this weekend. With it being Talladega, and that anything can happen, it probably won't surprise us if a driver facing elimination does win. 

 

Katie Williams

If I had to pick someone who's hot right now, it's Jimmie Johnson. He won races earlier in the regular season, then he was quiet all summer. Fans were asking 'what's wrong with Jimmie?' Absolutely nothing. I think some drivers have their peak times during the year, just as I seem to on the back of a horse. 

Once Johnson got to the Chase, there were some pit road problems that probably cost him winning a race in the 'Round of 16' but he won Charlotte to move into the 'eight'. He finished fourth at Kansas, not a trip to Victory Lane, but enough to keep him at the top of the playoff standings with 3048 points. Who knows what will happen at Talladega but he's safe.

I'm staying in the Hendrick camp for my driver 'who's not' hot, Chase Elliott. It seems like he's hot and then he's cold during every race. Has been in the hunt for a win but it always seems to escape him. For instance, last week, he ran in the top five and led laps but a smoking left rear tire dampened his chances again. I think he needs to capitalize on a win to stay in the Chase. Even if he doesn't get caught in the 'big one', he's still in 'Elimination Station'.

 

Davey Segal

Who's hot: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick (obviously). The only two drivers with bids into the Round of 8 can rest easy heading into Talladega. For the other 10 drivers, that's not the case. However, there are a couple more drivers who are hot.

They include a couple Toyota's in Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. The defending champion is in solid shape heading into the final race of this round and has been the brightest spot for JGR throughout the season.

As for the No. 78, despite his struggles this round, when you look at his round one and the fact that he's to the good as of now, he has been one of the dominant cars throughout the Chase.

Who's not: Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott. Dillon was an unpopular pick to advance to the Round of 12. Yet, here he is: tied with the man who swept this round one year ago, Joey Logano, for the final transfer spot. He has been okay, but not dazzling. He has to dazzle on Sunday at 'Dega (his favorite and statistically best track) if he wants to advance.

Elliott has shown speed throughout the Chase, but hasn't had the luck and circumstances fall his way. From getting hit from behind at Charlotte to tire issues at Kansas, the No. 24's results haven't been indicative of how he's ran so far. Nevertheless, he's in a must-win situation -- for all intents and purposes -- this weekend.

Denny Hamlin also is cooling off. He's experiencing more "Denny Hamlin Luck" in the Chase with blown engines, delaminated splitters and more. Being JGR car, he has the speed, but the luck might bite Hamlin once again in 2016.Who's hot: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick (obviously). The only two drivers with bids into the Round of 8 can rest easy heading into Talladega. For the other 10 drivers, that's not the case. However, there are a couple more drivers who are hot.

They include a couple Toyota's in Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. The defending champion is in solid shape heading into the final race of this round and has been the brightest spot for JGR throughout the season.

As for the No. 78, despite his struggles this round, when you look at his round one and the fact that he's to the good as of now, he has been one of the dominant cars throughout the Chase.

Who's not: Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott. Dillon was an unpopular pick to advance to the Round of 12. Yet, here he is: tied with the man who swept this round one year ago, Joey Logano, for the final transfer spot. He has been okay, but not dazzling. He has to dazzle on Sunday at 'Dega (his favorite and statistically best track) if he wants to advance.

Elliott has shown speed throughout the Chase, but hasn't had the luck and circumstances fall his way. From getting hit from behind at Charlotte to tire issues at Kansas, the No. 24's results haven't been indicative of how he's ran so far. Nevertheless, he's in a must-win situation -- for all intents and purposes -- this weekend.

Denny Hamlin also is cooling off. He's experiencing more "Denny Hamlin Luck" in the Chase with blown engines, delaminated splitters and more. Being JGR car, he has the speed, but the luck might bite Hamlin once again in 2016.


Caleb Whisler

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase has seen dominate cars during the regular season seem to fade away. Toyota has been matched by Hendrick Motorsports as the Chase for the Sprint Cup began. The hottest drivers right now have to be Jimmie Johnson and Harvick. The lukewarm drivers would have to be the Joe Gibbs Racing camp including the satellite of Marin Truex Jr. The cold drivers would have to be Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, and Kurt Busch. Something has to happen for these drivers to  advance.

On Friday in Kansas, Jimmie Johnson was made available to the media. Johnson talked about his season and the relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing with their move to Ford next year.

 

When asked about loosing the information from Stewart-Haas, Johnson stated, “You know that environment is tricky.  Just to be selfishly speaking on Hendrick Motorsports the Stewart-Haas relationship we didn’t get their data.  We didn’t share their data, they had ours.  So, it was a fantastic situation for them. They had our best stuff and then they have a huge engineering staff and they can take Hendrick’s best equipment and refine it and make it better.”

 

“There were some things going on that were helpful and data was moving around a little bit, but they really had all the rights to our stuff; we didn’t have the rights to theirs.  It’s tricky.  If Mr. Hendrick can raise the money to not have that relationship, I think for us, selfishly it is better not to. We would always like to have some people running our engines and trying to do durability stuff on new motors that are coming out,” Johnson continued, “I would imagine having a couple of cars out there we will always have that, but a team at that high of caliber again, I believe we would look really hard before we made that decision again.” 

 

However, Johnson’s comments were not up to the standards of Doug Duchardt, General Manager for Hendrick Motorsports. Duchardt made his way to the media center to clarify Johnson’s earlier comments.

 

“That is simply that the relationship from a data standpoint was a two-way relationship.  The received our information, we received their information.  That is the way it had worked from the time I have been at Hendrick Motorsports.  That is basically it.  We received information from Stewart-Haas when we worked with them. Obviously, when they made their announcement to Ford that changed things.  But the bottom line is that as partners we exchanged data between each other,” stated Duchardt.

 

That relationship was before the announcement of Stewart-Haas earlier this year.

 

“I have told Jimmie what I was going to come and explain here, but yeah for sure this year they haven’t gotten our and we haven’t gotten theirs.  That got shut off I think before Daytona actually.  That has been straightforward between Stewart-Haas and us and Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) and I worked through that.  That was, from my standpoint, very straightforward.”

 

Throughout this year, Hendrick Motorsports has built parts for Stewart-Haas to their specifications.

 

When asked about confidential information, Duchardt stated, “From a technical relationship standpoint the information got cut off, but we build their engines, we build their chassis’ to their specifications.  They get certain chassis components from us that we have supplied over the years rear-end housing, lower control arms, truck arms things like that. They continue to receive those to their specifications from our shop.”

 

Crew Chatter: Kansas

Sunday, Oct 16

Fire up the scanners, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Kansas with the question, “Should NASCAR limit the participation of Sprint Cup drivers in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Chase?”

 

Brett Winningham

 

This is an interesting question that is always popping up. I think this is something that should be left up to the drivers in the series as I have posed this question to the regulars numerous times and have yet to find one driver who said they shouldn't. The regulars love the Sprint Cup Series racers in the series because it makes them feel proud of themselves when they go out there and beat them. I will say that the races are much better when it's all series regulars. But if the regulars enjoy the challenge of having them there then why take it away because we don't like it? 

 

Katie Williams

 

Yes! I think it's a good thing they can't run at Homestead and I don't think they need to run during the rest of the Chase either. If they are not currently in the running for the Cup title, then things might be different. There might be some who aren't going to be factors in the XFINITY and truck race but they may still need some seat time. I thought it was just fine that the current 'Chasers' and double-duty drivers like Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon did not run both races at Dover when that race became a double header after being postponed for weather conditions.  Another thing is when you have a Cup driver 'stink up an NXS or truck show', not much can change in the Chase standings in those two divisions. 

 

 

Davey Segal

Absolutely.

 

The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Chases will have a champion that is a regular in that series. The races that make up the playoffs for those respective series should only include those drivers eligible for the championship in that series.

 

Or maybe NASCAR could limit participation from Cup Chase drivers in the lower series, and Xfinity drivers in the Truck Series. I'm a firm believer that the championship should be decided with the drivers who have fought tooth and nail all year long to get to where they are, and shouldn't have Cup regulars spoil the party.

 

You'll probably see that Homestead will be one of the best races of the season, due to the drama, high intensity and everything being on the line. And with no Cup regulars in the races, the drivers will be free of worry, and can put on a show.

 

 

Caleb Whisler

 

I believe NASCAR should limit that participation from Sprint Cup drivers. At Kentucky and Dover, we saw Xfinity Series regulars battle it out in an uninterrupted battle to win. New Hampshire and Las Vegas saw the same action without Cup participation for the Camping World Truck Series. There is many reasons why I believe that participation should be limited is because names have to be made in those series for those drivers to advance to the Sprint Cup ranks. However, I also believe that Xfinity and Truck regulars like that participation from Cup drivers because it shows that they can beat Cup drivers on any given week. Sponsorship is the main reason why Sprint Cup drivers drive in these two series. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does after this year.

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