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First-time winners at Talladega don’t happen often

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for big packs, big crowds and big wrecks. All are fueled by the restrictor-plate racing that’s been in place at the 2.66-mile track since 1987.

It’s the packs and the wrecks that ultimately jump-start the conversations about underdogs and the unexpected, with the word “winner” related to each. These conversations happen four times a year with plate tracks and the second time in 2016 comes this weekend with the GEICO 500.

But in the 93 Sprint Cup races run at Talladega since 1969 – two a year since 1970 – the number of times a driver has earned their first Sprint Cup victory in Talladega, Alabama, is slim.

It’s happened 10 times in 46 years, but only in four races since the introduction of restrictor plates 28 years ago.

The last time was seven years ago on April 26, 2009. That’s when Brad Keselowski, then a part-time driver for Hendrick Motorsports, won the Aaron’s 499 driving for car owner James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team. The race is remembered most for how Keselowski won.

While running in second place coming to the checkered flag, Keselowski made contact with Carl Edwards as he tried to pass the race leader. The contact sent Edwards flying into the frontstretch catchfence as Keselowski, who only led the final lap, took the win.

Three years prior, Brian Vickers claimed his first win in the UAW-Ford 500. His triumph also came after starting a crash. Vickers was running third on the last lap when he made contact with Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson on the backstretch while attempting to pass. The contact turned Johnson into race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sent both spinning toward the inside wall as Vickers took the lead.

Vickers’ win came 18 years after Phil Parsons and Ken Schrader both became first-time winners at Talladega in 1988, the year after the introduction of restrictor plates. Parson’s win was his only victory in 203 starts.

The introduction of plate racing came as a result of a crash involving Bobby Allison at Talladega in the 1987 Winston 500. Allison’s son, Davey, went on to win the race, the first of his 19 career wins in the Sprint Cup Series.

Of the 10 first-time winners at Talladega, only four have gone on to victory in another race: Davey Allison (19 wins), Keselowski (18 wins), Schrader (four wins) and Vickers (three wins).

That leaves six drivers, counting Parsons, who had lighting strike their careers at the Talladega.

Richard Brickhouse was the first, winning the inaugural race at Talladega on Sept. 14, 1969. He only competed in 39 Sprint Cup races in six seasons.

In 358 Sprint Cup starts, Dick Brooks’ only win came in the 1973 Talladega 500. He beat out Buddy Baker and David Pearson, drivers who combined for 124 wins.

Five years later, Lennie Pond joined the club when he beat Donnie Allison, a 10-time winner, for his lone victory in 234 starts.

Ron Bouchard made 160 starts, but his only win came early. In just his 11th race, Bouchard passed Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte in the tri-oval on the last lap to grab the win in the 1981 Talladega 500.

It would be until 1986 when the next first-time winner took place at Talladega. Bobby Hillin Jr., led the last nine laps of the Talladega 500 to win his only race in 334 career Sprint Cup starts.

Kyle Larson wins preliminary event at Chili Bowl

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Kyle Larson won the A feature Tuesday night to advance to Saturday night’s A main at the Chili Bowl Nationals. It was his fifth preliminary event win at the Chili Bowl. Zach Daum finished second.

Larson took the lead on Lap 6 of the 25-lap feature and went on to the win.

MORE: Tuesday night race results from Chili Bowl

MORE: Monday night race results from Chili Bowl

“We’ll move on to Saturday and try to be better,” Larson said in the press conference afterward.

NBCSN broadcaster Dillon Welch finished seventh in the 24-car field. Alex Bowman placed ninth. Tanner Berryhill, who will be a Cup rookie this season, was 10th.

The Chili Bowl continues the rest of the week, culminating with Saturday night’s main event.

JJ Yeley, Landon Cassill and Rico Abreu are among the drivers scheduled to race Wednesday night at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, event.

Thursday’s racing will include two-time defending winner Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier and Karsyn Elledge, daughter of Kelley Earnhardt Miller. Kasey Kahne and Tanner Thorson are among those scheduled to race Friday.

Thorson won Tuesday night’s Race of Champions. Larson was second, Bell placed third and Yeley was fifth in that event.

 

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports dominate Lionel’s best-selling diecasts for 2018

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2018 was a really good year for Hendrick Motorsports — on the diecast market.

Lionel Racing revealed Tuesday that despite having its fewest Cup wins in 25 years, Hendrick Motorsports dominated its top 10 best-selling diecasts last year.

Anchored by five Chase Elliott diecasts, HMS claimed the top eight spots.

Elliott, who scored Hendrick’s only three Cups wins and was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver, tops the list with his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet.

All three of Elliott’s race win diecasts are on the list, with his first career Cup win at Watkins Glen coming in at No. 2.

Hendrick is represented by all four of its drivers on the list with Jimmie Johnson, William Byron and Alex Bowman each having one diecast in the top 10.

Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Credit One Chevrolet is eighth and Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 Busch Beer Ford is 10th.

Here’s the full list:

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Wayne Carroll to serve as Landon Cassill’s crew chief, Tony Furr moves to ARCA team

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StarCom Racing has named Wayne Carroll as crew chief for driver Landon Cassill in the 2019 Cup season, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Carroll served as crew chief for 12 Cup races last season on StarCom Racing’s No. 99 car, working with several drivers including Derrike Cope, Gray Gaulding, Kyle Weatherman and three races with Cassill.

After leasing a charter from Richard Childress Racing for the No. 00 last season, StarCom purchased the charter for the same car for this season. The No. 00 and 99 will also have ECR motors under the hood for both Cassill and teammate Derrike Cope.

Also, Tony Furr, who served as crew chief for both Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt last season with StarCom, has accepted a similar position with Mullins Racing in the ARCA Racing Series, the team announced Tuesday.

Tony Furr, right, and team owner/driver Willie Mullins. Photo: Dinah Marie.

Furr will serve as crew chief for the No. 3 Mullins Racing Ford driven by team owner and 2018 Daytona ARCA runner-up Willie Mullins in the ARCA Racing Series season-opening Lucas Oil 200 on Feb. 9 at Daytona International Speedway.

Furr has spent much of his career in the Cup Series, working with numerous stars including Bill Elliott, Joe Nemechek, John Andretti, Ward Burton, Jerry Nadeau and others.

Furr has two Cup Series wins as a crew chief, one with Andretti in the summer race at Daytona in 1997 and one with Nadeau at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2000.

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Public memorial service for J.D. Gibbs set for Jan. 25

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A public memorial service for J.D. Gibbs will be held at 11:30 a.m. ET Jan. 25 at Davidson College’s John M. Belk Arena in Davidson, North Carolina. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

Gibbs, the eldest son of car owner Joe Gibbs, died Jan. 11 after a battle with a degenerative neurological disease. J.D. Gibbs was 49.

On a website honoring Gibbs’ legacy, it states that in lieu of flowers, the Gibbs family requests donations to the J.D. Gibbs Legacy Fund. The fund has been established to honor Gibbs and his passion for the Young Life Ministry, which he served as a member of the National Board.

The J.D. Gibbs Legacy Fund has two specific objectives that reflect J.D.’s passion for outreach:

  1. To ensure “every kid” in the greater Charlotte region can be reached with the gospel, the Fund will provide the support necessary to reach adolescents from all socioeconomic backgrounds, those with special needs, and teen moms.
  2. Young Life’s Windy Gap Camp in the mountains of N.C. has been a favorite of J.D.’s and his family for many years. Windy Gap is located just 15 miles north of Asheville, N.C. and the Fund will be used to support the construction of a new dining hall as well as additional facility improvements.