A relief victory at Talladega by Ty Dillon could qualify Tony Stewart for the Chase

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Even if he doesn’t take the checkered flag Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Tony Stewart could have much to celebrate.

Under NASCAR rules, he’d be credited with the victory having started the race before he turns his No. 14 Chevrolet over to Ty Dillon (likely during the first caution). But NASCAR confirmed Tuesday night that a victory by a relief driver also would count toward making Stewart eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can make the top 30 in points over the final 17 races of the regular season.

Stewart finished 19th at Richmond International Raceway after missing the first eight races with a fractured back. The three-time Sprint Cup champion will turn the car over to Dillon as a precautionary measure at Talladega, which is known for its vicious, multicar wrecks.

If he were to win over the next 17 races, Stewart still would need an impressive run to qualify for the playoffs with a victory. Based on past seasons, he likely would need to average a top-20 finish to gain enough points to reach the top 30 and become eligible.

Last season, Kyle Busch won the championship despite missing the first 11 races, winning four of his first nine races back and easily making the top 30 in points.

There’d been confusion over whether a relief win by Dillon would help make Stewart eligible to qualify for the Chase. When the playoff format was revamped in 2014, NASCAR officials had indicated that such a scenario wouldn’t qualify a driver despite the new rule tying Chase berths to regular-season wins.

Aric Almirola was credited with an Xfinity Series victory at The Milwaukee Mile in 2007 despite turning over the wheel to Denny Hamlin, who had arrived late at the race from a Sprint Cup practice in Sonoma, Calif.

Dillon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that he would qualify the No. 14 for the GEICO 500 and that he and Stewart would both drive it in practice.

Dillon also addressed the difference in cockpit preferences between him and Stewart, saying the this weekend’s car will be designed to his preferences.

“I actually ran his bucket, the carbon fiber frame of the seat, in every race this year and the same angle he usually runs in his seat,” Dillon said. “The pedals I’m sure will be a little bit further away than what he’s used to. We have adjustable seat belts in it, so when we’re getting in and out it makes it easier, we don’t have a set, standard.”

Jordan Anderson in fiery crash in Talladega Truck race

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson was airlifted to an area hospital after being involved in a fiery crash during Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Anderson’s car caught fire in the middle of a pack of drafting trucks. Flames burst from three areas around the truck as Anderson tried to slow the vehicle and move onto the track apron. The truck hit the inside wall. Anderson climbed from the vehicle in a cloud of smoke as it came to a stop.

Anderson, 31 and a resident of Forest Acres, S.C., was transported to the infield medical center before being airlifted. NASCAR confirmed Anderson’s trip to the hospital.

Fox Sports reported that a team member said Anderson had burns.

Anderson is a part-time driver in the Truck Series. He has a top finish of 14th this season.

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

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

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

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.

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