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.

TALLADEGA, Al.— Carl Long will return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition next weekend at Kansas Speedway. Long has been banned from the MENCS Garage since 2009 after an illegal engine was found at the All-Star Race.

 

Long was unable to pay the fine of $200,000 imposed in 2009. Long bought an engine from a supplier, but had claimed that he had no idea that the engine was illegal. Long has been competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as part-time owner and driver.

 

According to a Facebook post, Long will be heading to Kansas with MBM Motorsports. Long hops to sign a couple of sponsors to get them to Kansas. He has asked some NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers if they could get money from their sponsors in return for a ride in the Cup Series.

 

A NASCAR spokesman has stated that Long has met all the necessary requirements to obtain his Cup license and that the sanctioning body wishes him the best.

 

Long competed in the Cup series for 11 years and has 23 career starts in the series.

 

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.