Ryan Blaney will honor the late Neil Bonnett this weekend with his firesuit for the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, will once again use the throwback firesuit he wore in the Southern 500 earlier this season.
When he wore it at Darlington Raceway, it was as a tribute to Dave Pearson, who had a long career with the Wood Brothers. It will serve as a tribute to Bonnett, who replaced Pearson in the No. 21 halfway through the 1979 season and won three times that season.
Talladega was the home track for Bonnett, who was a native of Bessemer, Alabama.
“For Neil, Talladega was just like Martinsville is for us,” co-owner Ed Wood said in a press release “There were all kinds of cousins there picnicking in the infield. That made it even more special for him to win there.”
Bonnett earned one of his 18 Sprint Cup wins at Talladega in 1980. The No. 21 led seven times for 53 laps and led the final four laps to beat out Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the victory.
“I’m really happy that Ryan wanted to wear the uniform this weekend to honor Neil, and I’m proud of the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team for backing him as we recognize one of the more popular members of the Wood Brothers racing family,” Wood said.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified first for Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway, winning his third pole of the season.
Truex claimed the pole with a speed of 123.859 mph around the .75-mile track. The Toyota Owners 400 will mark Truex’s 450th Cup start. Truex had DNFs in the last two races.
“It’s definitely been a crappy two weeks,” Truex told Fox Sports 1. “But that’s part of racing. This team, I’ve got so much faith and confidence in them and everything we’re doing. You can’t let those kinds of things get you down. It was nothing we did, just circumstances. Just proud of the effort today.”
Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski both failed to advance out of the first round. Keselowski will start 28th and Busch will start 32nd.
“We didn’t make a mock run in practice and then we thought the spread would be about three tenths (of a second),” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “It wasn’t, it was faster than that. We only ran two laps trying to make sure we preserve out tires for later on deeper into the session. A bunch of those guys ran three laps and obviously we needed that third lap. It would have picked up. For some reason the tire here today, even in race trim, your fastest lap was the seventh lap. So just takes awhile for everything to come in. Just trying to short cut it a little bit and it didn’t work out for us.”
START: Leslie Gravitte, Toyota Camry owner, will give the command to start engines at 7:07 p.m for the ToyotaCare 250. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:13 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (187.5 miles) around the .75-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:10 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:35 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Henrico Fire Choir will perform the anthem at 7:01 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 7 p.m. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 59 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Kyle Larson took the lead with 10 laps to go to win this race last April. He was followed by Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric. Brad Keselowski won last September’s race and was followed by Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon.