Martin Truex Jr.: ‘Blows my mind’ may one day be in NASCAR Hall of Fame

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — It didn’t hit Martin Truex Jr. until just before Christmas.

At some point, the 2017 Cup Series champion likely will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The realization occurred to Truex in the halls of Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I never thought about it until Winston Kelley actually said it to me,” Truex said of the Hall of Fame’s executive director Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour.

MORE: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

“Every year, our foundation, we go to Levine’s and walk around and hand out toys to all the kids, and I put my Santa hat on. It’s a lot of fun, so I really enjoy it,” Truex said. “Winston Kelley always goes there and helps.”

The duo talked as they prepared to give out toys when Kelly made an “out of the blue” statement.

Kelley tapped the Hall of Fame logo on his shirt.

“You know, you’re pretty much a lock to get in here now,” Kelley said.

“He told me that, and I was like, ‘Well, I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s insane,'” recalled Truex, who won eight times in 2017 to bring his career total to 15 wins. “That was one of the moments this winter that I forgot about, what it was like. Yeah, I can’t believe that. Just to think ‑‑ yeah, that’s just crazy. Blows my mind.”

Last week, Truex got a taste of what it would be like to be inducted when he introduced the induction of the late Red Byron.

The Furniture Row Racing driver will get at least one unforgettable moment between now and the start of the Cup season next month.

Truex will get to attend his first Super Bowl next weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Feb. 4 on NBC).

To make it better, his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, are vying for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. They’ll play the five-time champion New England Patriots.

It’s only the third time the Eagles have made the title game in Truex’s lifetime.

“I was slated to go to the game before my team made it, which was kind of cool,” Truex said. “Yeah, going for NASCAR to do some NBC stuff with Dale Jr. (in) pregame, and excited about that. And then it was like, ‘All right, my team is pretty good this year, we’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance,’ and the NFC Championship game was a pretty good celebration at my house last weekend … I’m really jacked about it. It’s going to be awesome.”

Truex has only seen the Eagles play twice in person.

“The fact that I’m going to the Super Bowl for the first time in my life, my favorite team is going, as well, for only the (third) time since I’ve been born, that’s pretty cool.”

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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.