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News – NASCAR National Series News & Notes — Talladega

 

 

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: CampingWorld.com 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, Oct. 25
The Time: 2:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBCSN, 2 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 500.08 miles (188 laps)

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, Nov. 7
The Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, Oct. 24
The Time: 1 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 250.04 miles (94 laps)


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

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Logano Locked-In On NASCAR’s Biggest Stage

If the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is a stage, then Joey Logano is its leading man.

Logano has proven “the moment” isn’t too big for him.

A year after posting the best average finish during the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (6.4), Logano has won the first two races of the 2015 Contender Round and is the only driver guaranteed to advance to the Eliminator 8 Round heading into Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His average finish in the Chase this year – 4.2. For context, the best average finish through an entire Chase was Carl Edwards’ 4.9, set during the final 10 races of 2011.

On the season, Logano has tied his career-best total in wins and has set career highs in top fives (19), top 10s (25) and Coors Light Pole Awards (5). His win at Kansas marked the first time in his career he’s recorded consecutive victories.

Logano noted it’s nice to be able to relax going into Talladega, but the next round presents challenges.

“I look at these last two races, and we can’t be too proud of ourselves as far as – this is two tracks that are very similar,” Logano said. “So we had two very fast race cars at very similar race tracks, but if I look at the next round, you’ve got Martinsville, way different; you’ve got Texas, it’s similar but quite a bit different than what we have here; and obviously Phoenix.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – The Talladega Tornado

No one whips a car around Talladega faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

That’s good news, considering the precarious position in which he now finds himself. He heads to the 2.66-mile behemoth in a win-or-go-home conundrum as he sits 11th on the Chase Grid – a near-impossible-to-erase 31 points below the cutoff line.

Earnhardt ranks tied with Jeff Gordon for the active wins lead at the Alabama track with six checkered flags, and has won two of the three previous restrictor-plate races this season, including the May competition at Talladega. A visit to Victory Lane on Sunday would make him the first driver to win three restrictor-plate races since his father Dale Earnhardt accomplished the feat in 1990.

At Talladega, the No. 88 Chevrolet driver owns the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ best driver rating (92.8) and second-best average running position (13.956).

“I wouldn’t rather be going anywhere else than Talladega for the next race if we need a win, Earnhardt said. “That is a good opportunity for us. Even over Daytona, I think we can go to Talladega and do the job. There is a little more room there to be aggressive and make the moves you need to make. I got the car. That car won the 125 (Budweiser Duel), ran third in the (Daytona) 500 and won Talladega and won Daytona. That is a good enough car. I wouldn’t want to be going anywhere else if it’s a win and you are in kind of deal.”

Down But Not Out: Kenseth In Dire Need Of Win At ’Dega

In the Challenger Round, No. 1 seed/four-race winner Jimmie Johnson learned this Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format can swallow you up and spit you out whole in a heartbeat.

The Chase’s No. 2 seed, Matt Kenseth, is learning the same lesson in the Contender Round.

Although Kenseth ranks tied for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lead with five wins, he is currently last on the Chase Grid, 35 points below the cutoff line and needs a win in Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to advance to the Eliminator 8 Round.

The first two races of the Contender Round have been filled with misfortune for Kenseth. At Charlotte, he won the pole, but wrecked out of the race after leading 72 laps. At Kansas, he was bumped by Joey Logano and tossed into a spin after leading a race-high 153 laps.

In 31 starts at Talladega, Kenseth has one win (fall 2012), six top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 19.9.

Talladega “Knight”: Keselowski Goes For Another Big Win In ‘Bama

Brad Keselowski provided one of the highlights of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in the fall Talladega Contender Round cutoff race, seizing the lead from Ryan Newman on a green-white-checkered restart and holding off a swarm of challengers on his way to victory lane in a must-win situation.

Keselowski will attempt to defend his victory in Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at the Alabama track. Fortunately for him, he sits seventh on the Chase Grid right now, seven points ahead of the cutoff line, and doesn’t have to win. Still, if Keselowski can’t keep his car clean at Talladega, he runs the risk of falling out of the Chase as one of the four winless drivers lowest in points in the Contender Round.

All three of Keselowski’s wins at Talladega have been big. He won his first career race at Talladega in spring of 2009 as a complete dark horse running for James Finch. Keselowski also took the checkered flag at ‘Dega in the spring of his 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship season.

No Points Position Safe At ‘Dega

Sitting second on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid, 18 points above of the cutoff line, Denny Hamlin appears safe to transfer to the Eliminator 8 Round following Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

His teammate Kyle Busch would be quick to tell him otherwise. Busch entered last season’s Talladega fall race 26 points above the cutoff line, able to control his destiny with a 24th-place finish. Busch couldn’t avoid a wreck, placed 40th and missed the cutoff by seven points.

The only safe driver is Joey Logano, who won at Charlotte to advance to the Eliminator 8 Round and visited Victory Lane for the second consecutive week at Kansas to block the second automatic transfer spot.

Busch, Newman Can Make Eliminator 8 Round On Points

Winning is the most stress-free way to advance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but drivers can also earn transfer spots on points. Kyle Busch (6 points below the cutoff line) and Ryan Newman (-8), currently ninth and 10th on the Chase Grid, respectively, can advance to the Eliminator 8 Round with strong finishes and a little bit of luck.

In 20 Talladega starts, Busch claims one win (spring 2008), four top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 21.7. He has placed in the top five in three of his last six starts at the superspeedway.

Newman has yet to win in his 27 starts at Talladega. He claims two top fives, 11 tops 10s and an average finish of 20.4 there. “Rocket Man” has notched three top-10 finishes in his last four starts at Talladega.

Eliminator Round Clinch Scenarios

As outlined above, there are no sure things when it comes to Talladega. Having said all that, if the following drivers have the finishes below, they’re assured a spot in the next round – regardless of the finishes of any other driver.

Denny Hamlin: 14th and no laps led; 15th and at least one lap led; 16th and most laps led

Kurt Busch: 8th and no laps led; 9th and at least one lap led; 10th and most laps led

Carl Edwards: 7th and no laps led; 8th and at least one lap led; 9th and most laps led

Kevin Harvick: 3rd and no laps led; 4th with a lap led

Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski: 2nd or better; 3rd and at least one lap led; 4th and most laps led

Martin Truex Jr.: 2nd and no laps led; 3rd and the most laps led

Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth only control their own destiny with a win.

Coors Light Pole and Keystone Line Pole Qualifying Procedures – Talladega Superspeedway

Qualifying for all superspeedway races will consist of two rounds with the first round’s order based on the slowest to fastest single-lap speed posted in the first practice session.

Qualifying consists of one timed lap. The 12 vehicles that post the fastest single-lap speed from the first round will advance to the final round.

The remaining vehicles will be sorted based on their fastest single lap speed posted in the first round in descending order to determine starting positions 13th – 43rd.

There will be a ten-minute break after the completion of the first round, and the 12 remaining vehicles that advance to the final qualifying round will have their speed reset.

The final round consists of one timed lap. The vehicle’s fastest single lap speed will determine starting positions 1st-12th in descending order.

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

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Buescher Is Close To A Title

Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher is just three races away from capturing his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series title. This weekend and next the series takes a hiatus, giving the 22-year-old Buescher time to prepare for Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Buescher’s fate can be decided by his own hand.  If he finishes fourth or better in the next three races he will win the XFINITY Series championship no matter what any other driver does.

The Texas native currently holds a 27-point lead over second-place Chase Elliott and 33-point lead over third-place Regan Smith.

Buescher’s points advantage is attributed to his relentless consistency. He has posted two wins, 11 top fives and 20 top 10s this season.

Buescher can potentially clinch the title early in Phoenix.  To accomplish the feat, his points lead would have to be 49 points or more ahead of second place in the standings following the race at the desert oval. 

Time Is Running Out For Chase Elliott’s Second Championship

Chase Elliott has just three races left to catch NASCAR XFINITY Series standings leader Chris Buescher if he wants to become the sixth driver in series history to win consecutive championships.

Despite Elliott’s best case scenario – winning all three remaining races and leading the most laps in each race – if Chris Buescher finishes fourth or better in the final three races, the title is his. 

So, no matter what, Elliott is going to need Buescher to slip in the final three races if he wants to catch him. Elliott is currently 27 points behind Buescher.

Elliott has outperformed Buescher on the final three tracks in the past. This season at Texas and Phoenix, he has a combined average finish of 7.5 compared to Buescher’s 11.5. Also, last season, Elliott posted an average finish of 8.7 in the final three races compared to Buescher’s 10.0.

Smith, Dillon Need Some Luck And Wins – A Lot Of Them

To be frank, Regan Smith’s and Ty Dillon’s chances at a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship this season are fading quickly. Just three more opportunities sit waiting for either driver to make big moves in the points and catch series standings leader Chris Buescher.

JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith will not be returning to the team next season and is looking to make the most of his opportunity at the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned company this season. He currently sits third, 33 points behind Buescher.

If Smith were to win all three remaining races and lead the most laps scoring the max points possible, he would total out at 1,204 points. With that scenario in mind, Buescher would still have to finish eighth or worse without leading a lap or ninth or worse leading at least one lap in each of the final three races for Smith to pass him.

Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon is currently third in the standings 36 points out of the series lead. If Dillon was to win the three remaining races on the schedule leading the most laps and getting the most points possible, he would top out at 1,201 points. If Dillon scores the maximum possible points, Buescher would still have to finish ninth or worse without leading a lap or 10th or worse while leading a lap in each of the final three races for Dillon to pass him.     

Owner Title Could Be Locked Up In Next Two Races

Roger Penske has facilitated another masterful year of competition in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with his multi-driver No. 22 Ford team this season. Team Penske’s No. 22 is currently 81 points ahead of Joe Gibb Racing’s No. 54 Toyota with three races left on the schedule.

Penske’s No. 22 team could lock up the title no matter what any other team does if they finish 22nd or better in the next three races.

Crew Chief Greg Erwin has led a contingent of skilled drivers this season in the No. 22 Ford – Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Alex Tagliani and Ryan Blaney – posting a series-best average finish of 6.2.

Additionally, the No. 22 team can clinch the title early if they leave Texas with a 97-point lead over second place in the car owner standings with two races to go. If the No. 22 has a points lead of 49 points after the Phoenix event, it will clinch the title there.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:

RCR Makes Changes: Richard Childress Racing has assigned industry veteran and longtime RCR crew chief Gil Martin as its competition director for the NASCAR XFINITY Series, effective immediately.

Martin, formerly crew chief of the No. 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team and director of research & development, has been with RCR since 2000. He has won races in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. Martin guided the No. 2 XFINITY Series team with driver Clint Bowyer to the 2005 XFINITY Series driver championship.

“This is an exciting time for our XFINITY Series teams and I’m looking forward to building on our success,” Martin said. “Richard (Childress) has invested significant resources into our XFINITY Series program and we’ve brought in a lot of talented individuals. I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead this group and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

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Peters Pushes For Talladega Repeat

Defending Talladega winner Timothy Peters will push for his second consecutive victory at the 2.66-mile behemoth in Saturday’s fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

The No. 17 Red Horse Racing driver led 31 laps on his way to the checkered flag at ‘Dega for his eighth career win last October.

Peters hasn’t won in the 22 races since his Alabama triumph, but did finish second at Las Vegas in the last NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. He has five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes this season and ranks sixth in the series standings.

In addition to his win at Talladega last year, Peters earned his other superspeedway win at Daytona on Feb. 13, 2010.

Super(speedway) Man: Reddick Shows Knack For Racing At Superspeedways

It’s a bird… It’s a plane… No, it’s Tyler Reddick.

The 19-year-old Ford driver has performed well in limited time at superspeedways and can prove to be the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Super(speedway)man with a visit to Victory Lane in Saturday’s fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola.

Reddick won the first superspeedway race of the season at Daytona, leading 46-of-100 laps from the third starting position on the way to the checkered flag. Last season at Talladega, he earned the 21 Means 21 Pole Award and placed fourth. The Brad Keselowski Racing driver finished 12th in his superspeedway debut at Daytona in 2014.

A strong finish would go a long way in helping Reddick earn the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title. With five races left, he ranks third in the series standings, 16 points behind leader Erik Jones.

Bromance: Brian Keselowski Makes Truck Debut For Brother’s Brad Keselowski Racing Team

Brad Keselowski has tapped his older brother Brian Keselowski to take the seat of his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford in Saturday’s fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The race will mark the NASCAR Camping World Truck series debut for Keselowski, 34, who is 2.5 years older than brother Brad.

Brian Keselowski has made 63 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts and three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts in his career. He has a high finish of 10th in an XFINITY Series start at Memphis in 2007 and showed restrictor-plate prowess by placing fifth in the 2011 Gatorade Duel 150 No. 2.

“(Brian) gets to drive the truck that finished fourth at Daytona in the spring,” wrote Brad Keselowski on his blog. “I’m looking for him to have a safe day, first and foremost, and beyond that, to run up front, and make the most of the opportunity. He’s got a good team that could win the race, and he knows that, too.”

Jones Attempts To Maintain Championship Points Lead At Talladega

With five races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, Erik Jones holds a four-point standings lead over two-time defending champion Matt Crafton heading into Saturday’s fred’s 250 at Talladega.

Jones enters the race riding a streak of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes and will likely need another one to continue to hold off Crafton. The NASCAR Next alum made his first-ever superspeedway start at Talladega last year, finishing sixth. In his second superspeedway start at Daytona this season, he nabbed a second-place finish.

“The biggest thing we’ve done there in the past that has worked out well has just been staying on the bottom and staying out of trouble and trying to stay up front and stay out of trouble,” said Jones of Talladega. “We did a good job last year of staying out of trouble and getting a top-10 finish out of it. Hopefully this year we can do the same. As long as we can bring home a top 10, lead a lap or two and get some good points out of it that would be a good day for us. I feel like we can make up some more points at some other tracks rather than there, as long as we can just get through Talladega.”

A Jones championship would be the first driver title for Kyle Busch Motorsports and a NCWTS record fourth owner’s crown. Jones –  19 years, 5 months, 21 days – would also break Austin Dillon’s record as the youngest series champion (2011: 21 years, 6 months, 22 days).

Gallagher Leads GMS Racing To ‘Dega In Search Of Another Strong Finish

In his first-ever start at a superspeedway last season – the 2014 fred’s 250 at Talladega – then-24-year-old Spencer Gallagher posted a third-place finish at a track tough for young drivers to navigate.

On Saturday, Gallagher will try to at least match that result as he searches for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate ranks 10th in the series with a top-five showing and five top-10 finishes.

Also running for GMS is 18-year-old Brandon Jones, who is making his superspeedway debut. In 12 NCWTS starts this season, Jones boasts three top fives and five top 10s. He placed fifth in his last start at Las Vegas. In September, it was announced Jones will race full-time for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next year.

NASCAR Trucks on FOX

Don’t miss out on this weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series action if you are watching from the couch. Saturday’s fred’s 250 will be broadcast on FOX for the first and only time this season. Check your local listings for full details.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Etc.

Two-time reigning NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss will make his NCWTS debut this weekend. He will pilot the Jim Rosenblum-owned No. 28 FDNY machine this weekend with help from his NWSMT car owner, Eddie Harvey. … Daniel Hemric’s No. 14 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet will feature a special Salvation Army message for the upcoming Talladega and Martinsville races to help those affected by the floods in South Carolina.