Jeff Gordon on late-race speeding penalty: ‘I ruined it for us.’

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Denny Hamlin’s car roared by, a thick plume of white smoke trailing in celebration of his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Martinsville Speedway, while Jeff Gordon unbuckled his seat belts and prepared to climb out of his car on pit road.

That could have been Gordon burning rubber and rewarding fans with the victory had he not sped on pit road. Instead, Gordon’s chances of winning ended when he was penalized on Lap 462 after entering pit road in the lead.

“That’s all on me,’’ Gordon radioed his team after rallying from 22nd to finish ninth. “I’m sorry guys we lost that one.’’

As his Cup career comes to a close, there are fewer chances for redemption. He’ll have the fall race here and maybe another chance or two after that – Gordon has said if he came back to drive in the series after this season he’d consider running at Martinsville. That didn’t help after exiting his car.

“That was really devastating,’’ Gordon said. “I feel pain because we had a golden opportunity to be right there, and I ruined it for us.’’

What made it worse was that his car was the best it had been all day.

“I couldn’t believe we were in the top 10,’’ he said. “I thought we were just trying to get to 25th.’’

Gordon’s faux pas marked the second consecutive race at Martinsville a speeding penalty cost him a chance for the win. Gordon lamented the speeding penalty he received at this track during last year’s Chase. Had he won, he would have earned a spot in the Chase finale at Homestead and his incident with Brad Keselowski late in the Texas race the following week would not have kept him from contending for a fifth series crown.

Gordon said Sunday’s situation was different from what happened last fall.

“That was a situation where we were between a second- and third-gear option down pit road,’’ Gordon said. “To eliminate that from happening, I made sure I ran second gear today all day long. I don’t  know. I have no idea. It had to be really, really close. I thought I did everything perfect.’’

NASCAR did not release Gordon’s speed. Pit road speed was 30 mph. NASCAR gives teams an allowance of 4.99 mph, thus Gordon had to have gone faster than 34.99 to be penalized.

Based on how Gordon ran early in Sunday’s race, ninth wouldn’t have seemed like a bad finish even for someone who has eight Martinsville victories.

“I just got so loose so quick,’’ Gordon said of his struggles early in the race. “I was afraid of that. I mentioned it before the race. When this place isn’t laying rubber, we seem to really struggle with wearing out the left rear tire really bad. It really bit us today.’’

Gordon credited crew chief Alan Gustafson and his team for making the right adjustments that when the track began to take rubber, Gordon’s car was strong.

“As we made adjustments and we started to be really competitive that’s when I started getting excited that we are as good as we were last year, as good as I feel like we can be. It’s been up-and-down this year, so we need these kind of performances.’’

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE

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Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.