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66-year-old Mark Thompson to make first Cup start in 25 years Sunday at Talladega

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Veteran race car driver Mark Thompson will make his first start in a NASCAR Cup race in more than a quarter-century in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The 66-year-old Thompson, of Cartersville, Georgia, will drive the No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet. Veteran crew chief Tommy Baldwin will be atop the pit box.

It will be Thompson’s second career Cup start. In his Cup debut, he finished 39th at Pocono in 1992

“Talladega is my most favorite track in all of NASCAR,” Thompson said. “It’s convenient to my home which is in Cartersville, Ga., and it’s only about 75 miles from my home.

“As a pilot, I can fly over there quite quickly and easily. I like the track, it’s just an enjoyable place to drive. I’ve driven about 20 to 30 races at Talladega over my career in the ARCA and Xfinity Series and I’m looking forward to getting in the 15 Cup car this weekend”.

The U.S. Army veteran and pilot will be sponsored by Phoenix Air, an international charter flight service, which is based in Cartersville.

Thompson, a veteran of the ARCA Series, became the oldest pole winner (63 years old) at Daytona International Speedway for the season-opening ARCA race there in 2015.

The Alabama 500 takes the green flag Sunday at 2 pm ET and will be televised on NBC.

Sprint Cup Chase clinch scenarios for Talladega

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The time has come again. The Chase for the Sprint Cup field will be whittled down to eight drivers from the 12 that enter Talladega Superspeedway this weekend

Two of those, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, are in the clear with their Round of 12 wins. The rest? They’ll be racing on a hope and a prayer that they can survive Talladega for 188 laps to either win their way in the next round or just simply last longer than everyone else.

Here’s all the clinch scenarios for the 10 Chase drivers who are still in play.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins, 3074 points) – Would clinch on points with 13 points (28th and no laps led, 29th and leads at least one lap, 30th and leads most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 11 points (30th and no laps led, 31st and leads at least one lap, 32nd and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Kyle Busch (0 wins, 3072 points) – Would clinch on points with 15 points (26th and no laps led, 27th and leads at least one lap, 28th and leads most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 14 points (27th and no laps led, 28th and leads at least one lap, 29th and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Carl Edwards (0 wins, 3069 points) – Would clinch on points with 18 points (23rd and no laps led, 24th and leads at least one lap, 25th and leads most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, would clinch on points with 16 points (25th and no laps lead, 26th and leads at least one lap, 27th and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Kurt Busch (0 wins, 3062 points) – Would clinch on points with 25 points (16th and no laps led, 17th and leads at least one lap, 18th and leads most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 24 points (17th and no laps led, 18th and leads at least one lap, 19th and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Martin Truex Jr (0 wins, 3058 points) – Would clinch on points with 29 points (12th and no laps led, 13th and leads at least one lap, 14th and leads most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 28 points (13th and no laps led, 14th and leads at least one lap, 15th and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Joey Logano (0 wins, 3045 points) – If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 41 points (second and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.

Austin Dillon (0 wins, 3045 points)
– If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 41 points (second and leads most laps). With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.

Denny Hamlin (0 wins, 3039 points) – With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with help.

Brad Keselowski (0 wins, 3038 points) – With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with help.

Chase Elliott (0 wins, 3020 points)
– With a win, would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with help.

Sprint Cup Chase Grid: Joey Logano, Austin Dillon tied for bubble entering Talladega

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The Sprint Cup Series and its 12 remaining Chase drivers are preparing for the last race of the Round of 12 at the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.

Only Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have nothing to fear due to their wins at Charlotte and Kansas.

Heading into the Alabama 500, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon are tied for the bubble with 3,045 points each. With Dillon below the cutoff spot are Denny Hamlin (-6 points from the cutoff), Brad Keselowski (-7) and Chase Elliott (-25).

Keselowski won the May Talladega race and is the only repeat winner in the last 11 races at the 2.66-mile track. Both Elliott and Dillon’s only restrictor-plate wins have come at Daytona in the Xfinity Series.

Click here for the full Chase grid.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. explains what caused his steering wheel to detach

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. took responsibility Monday for his steering wheel coming off during Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway and explained what happened Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The incident happened after he returned from his first crash in the race. He was involved in another incident and finished last in the 40-car field.

Here’s what Earnhardt told “The Morning Drive” about his steering wheel coming off briefly:

“It’s kind of embarrassing to be honest with you anytime your steering wheel comes off because it is the driver’s responsibility. My interior guy, Adam Jordan, wants to take some responsibility, but when it comes down to it, I’m the one that gets into the car and straps myself in there and puts the steering wheel on. It’s my job to put on the wheel and make sure it’s on.

“Me and Adam, have a really good system. We’ve never had an issue in the past. For whatever reason, I think crashing out and repairing the car, it was starting to sprinkle, the caution had just come out, everybody was kind of out of their element and not in a comfortable place.

“I jumped into the car and was hustling, trying to get back on the track. I couldn’t wait to get back out on the track and get back out in the draft even though we were 40 laps down.

“I did not pull on the wheel to check to see if I had it on. I had put it on hundreds of times. I thought it was on. So, luckily, as we were pacing around, we got to one (lap) to go (until the restart) and were going down the backstretch and (crew chief Greg Ives) said, ‘Alright, check your belts and your wheel one more time before we get going here.’ I yanked on the wheel and it came right off.

“We were going pace speed (70 mph) … and the car veers to the left because of the castor in the front end. Any time you pull the wheel off of a race car at an oval track, it is going to go left because that’s the way front geometry is set up. It takes off to the left and I grab the steering shaft and it started spinning in my glove, but as soon as it hit the grass it was so easy to turn. Once I understood that, I threw the wheel back on real fast.

“They waved off the restart, which added more insult to injury there because I went down into the grass and NASCAR freaked out, ‘What’s going on?’ Then to get up on Monday and see that it’s gotten a lot of attention and people are wondering why steering wheels are coming off this year makes it even more embarrassing. It’s just a mistake. I own it. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt or no one else was hurt or no one’s race was ruined by it. It has given me a wakeup call that I need to be more careful when I get into the car.’’