2016 Team Preview: Hendrick Motorsports

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HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

SPRINT CUP DRIVER LINEUP: Jimmie Johnson (Chad Knaus), Chase Elliott (Alan Gustafson), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Greg Ives), Kasey Kahne (Keith Rodden).

XFINITY DRIVER LINEUP: None

CHANGES: Biggest change is the retirement of four-time champion Jeff Gordon and the ascension of 2014 Xfinity Series champ Chase Elliott to the Sprint Cup Series. Gustafson remains as crew chief of the No. 24.

DID YOU KNOW: Team owner Rick Hendrick was inducted last week into the National Motorsports Press Association along with Joe Gibbs and IndyCar great Al Unser. … After winning five championships in a row, Jimmie Johnson skipped two years before earning his sixth title. He’s now missed winning the championship again for the last two years. Is he due in 2016, at least numerically? … Even though he’ll segue into the broadcast booth for Fox Sports, Jeff Gordon will remain co-owner of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car and team.

EXPECTATIONS: Look for Johnson and Knaus to figure out a way to get through the Chase and into the final round this season. … Given that the first two winners of the new format of the Chase were first-time Sprint Cup champs (Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch), will Dale Earnhardt continue the trend and be the third first-time Cup champ in 2016? … While hopes are high, expectations are more realistic for Chase Elliott in his first season. Probably the biggest goal is for him to win Rookie of the Year honors. Anything after that (including a win or making the Chase) will be a bonus.

WHAT THEY SAID:

“I think we’re better going into this year. We’re definitely going to miss Jeff Gordon. But I think the teams are fired up. We want to be contenders and we want to win the championship. We want to do that every year. We started by really digging in last summer. We had a heart-to-heart with everybody, all of us together, to see what we could do to be better.” – Team owner Rick Hendrick

“You always get fired up this time of year. The proof is when you get down to Daytona and see how you do. We’ve won a lot of those races. If we can go down and win that race to kick off the season, I think we’ll be in good shape.” – Team owner Rick Hendrick

“I’m excited about watching Chase race, he’s very mature for his age and he has a lot of talent. … I’ve seen Chase handle pressure so well, not make any mistakes, always says the right thing. I don’t think he gets rattled. All the testing he’s done, he’s been good. He’s been extremely fast but extremely careful. He doesn’t wreck a lot of cars. There’s no pressure other than what he puts on himself. He handles it well. … Chase is a little bit different driver, he’s more like his dad than Jimmie (Johnson) or Jeff (Gordon). I’m excited. I think he’s going to win a race this year and has a real good shot of making the Chase. I would never put him in a car if I didn’t think he could do it.” – Team owner Rick Hendrick on Chase Elliott.

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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.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.