Who is hot and cold entering the Alabama 500 at Talladega

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Recent races at Talladega Superspeedway usually deliver in the last 10 laps, if not the last one.

Only twice in the last 26 races has the final green-flag run lasted longer than 10 laps.

In the 94-race history of the 2.66-mile track, there have been 23 last-lap passes for the win. In the 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup races it’s held, there have been seven.

However, four of the last six races, including the last two visits, have ended under caution.

But this is Talladega. None of these numbers mean anything. Bring on the chaos.

Here’s who is hot and cold entering the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski

  • Lost 32 points to the bubble at Kansas after an accident left him with his season-worst finish of 38th and his first DNF since the 2015 Daytona 500.
  • Finished top 10 in seven of the last eight races.
  • Won the fall 2014 Talladega race in a must-win situation. Has won at Talladega three times in 11 races and is the only repeat winner in that time.
  • Won May Talladega race and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

Kyle Busch

  • Top-10 finishes in the last six races, best streak of 2016.
  • One of two drivers with top-10 finishes in all five Chase races in 2016 (Matt Kenseth).
  • Finished 25th or worse in 11 of 22 Talladega starts.
  • Finished in the top three in all three restrictor-plate races this season.
  • Kansas was first Chase race this year he didn’t lead a lap in.

Matt Kenseth

  • Top-10 finishes in the last five races, including two runner-up results.
  • Since 2013 Daytona, has finished 14th or worse in 12 of 15 restrictor-plate races.
  • Only one finish of 20th or better in last six Talladega starts.

Jimmie Johnson

  • Finished top 10 in the last four races, best streak of 2016 after having only four top 10s in the
    prior 18 races.
  • 363 laps led in the Chase, 266 in the regular season.
  • One top 10 in last six Talladega starts.
  • Already advanced to Round of Eight with Charlotte win.

Who is cold

Carl Edwards

  • Finished fifth in this race last year, his only top-20 finish in the last five races at Talladega.
  • Two top 10s in last seven races.
  • Seven DNFs in 24 Talladega starts.
  • Top five at Kansas was first since Kentucky in July.

Chase Elliott

  • Won pole at Talladega in May and finished fifth.
  • Results of 31st and 33rd (DNF) at Kansas and Charlotte.
  • Top 10s in four of the last eight races.
  • Last on the Chase grid, 25 points back from eighth.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • After winning two races in the first round, finished outside top 10 at Charlotte and Kansas.
  • Had an issue in 23 of the 31 races this season, including a fueling problem at Kansas.
  • Four top 10s in the last seven races at Talladega (finished 13th in May).
  • Five top 10s in the last 14 plate races (nearly won the 2016 Daytona 500).

Other notes of interest ahead of the Alabama 500.

  • The No. 24 car has won the last three poles at Talladega. Two with Jeff Gordon in 2015 and one with Chase Elliott in May.
  • Team Penske has won three of the last four Talladega races. All four of its Talladega wins have come in the last nine races.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has led the most laps in four of the last six Talladega races, but won only once (Dale Earnhardt Jr., May 2015).
  • The driver leading the most laps won only two of the last 13 races at Talladega (Keselowski, May 2016; Earnhardt, May 2015).

 

Darlington celebrates NASCAR’s 70th birthday by revealing 4th throwback weekend details

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Darlington Raceway on Thursday celebrated the 70th birthday of NASCAR in a big way, announcing details for the fourth annual NASCAR throwback weekend.

The track revealed the 2018 edition of the throwback weekend will celebrate “Seven Decades of NASCAR,” to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the legendary 1.366-mile track.

The weekend will include the Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

NASCAR held its first of several organizational meetings on Dec. 14, 1947, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. That ultimately led to the official formation of NASCAR on Feb. 21, 1948.

The throwback weekend will honor and feature highlights of some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history over its first 70 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Darlington Raceway and the NASCAR industry to celebrate the sport over a seven decade period during our 2018 throwback weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in a media release.

“We have been era specific the past three years,” Tharp added, “so we felt it was important to recognize the 70th anniversary of NASCAR with our ‘Seven Decades of NASCAR’ celebration next season and give the teams, sanctioning body and others a wider brush to paint a picture capturing memorable moments we might not have celebrated in year’s past.”

Memorable moments to be celebrated include several that took place at Darlington itself, including Ned Jarrett’s record-setting 14-lap victory in the 1965 Southern 500, Ricky Craven’s record-setting photo finish win over Kurt Busch in 2003, and Jimmie Johnson’s 2012 Southern 500 win, which gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory, among others.

Cup winners of the first three throwback weekends have been Carl Edwards (2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2016) and Denny Hamlin (2017).

As has been the case for the first three throwback weekends, the track will once again issue commemorative tickets for the Southern 500.

“We have produced commemorative tickets for our fans every year of the throwback program, which is an important part of our platform,” Tharp said. “We appreciate how much the fans have supported Darlington Raceway and want them to walk away from our weekend with a special keepsake that recognizes our rich history and honors the stars of our sport.”

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, McDowell replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.