An emotional Bubba Wallace breaks down in tears after runner-up finish

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The emotions of a career-best runner-up finish overcame Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who wept openly after embracing family members Sunday in a poignant news conference at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m so proud of you,” said Wallace’s mother, Desiree. “We’ve waited so long. So long.”

“You’re acting like we just won the race!” Wallace protested after becoming the highest-finishing African-American in the 60-year history of the Great American Race.

“We did,” Desiree said. “We did. We did win that race.”

“Dang it, mom,” Wallace said.

There then was another embrace from his older sister, Brittany, whom Wallace joked about having all the good looks.

Then the Richard Petty Motorsports driver broke down crying while attempting to collect his thoughts about finishing second to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said. “But I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard, and so having them here to support me is …

“Pull it together, bud. Pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome. I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day.

“But yeah, I just love my family and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle, everybody here just means a lot.”

Wallace is the first full-time African-American driver on the circuit in 47 years since Wendell Scott. Before Sunday’s race, he received a call from baseball legend Hank Aaron.

Here’s what else Wallace said after the win:

Q: Walk through the final laps, please.  That was quite a finish.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I said, uh‑oh, for the green‑white‑checkered, I didn’t know if we’d end up ‑‑ well, we still ended up in the infield care center, but just wild.  I mean, it’s Daytona.  You’ve just got to be relaxed for it the whole time.  Just like the Duels, I just found myself looking back like a third perspective again, like, just like you’re so calm, you’re doing great, just kind of pumping myself up, but at the same time just trying to stay focused on the task at hand and just not mess up.  We battled through a lot of adversity there, and just being able to run every lap, and I wish I could say bring the car home in one piece, but what a great car, what a great Click ‘n Close Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  Just fast all day, fast all week, and I think there was a lot of talk in the garage how good our car was at pushing, and I think that gave me a lot of respect out there to be able to do what I can do.

Having everybody from Click ‘n Close here, Richard Petty, that’s another story I’ll get to in a second.  But just a great night.

Q: I just wondered if you could talk about the King and Drew were very complimentary of you.  This wasn’t just an end of the race, he ended up top 5.  You were up front all day.  Could you talk about the effort of the entire race and really earning this position?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, thanks to the King and Brian Moffitt, Andrew Murstein for giving me this opportunity and believing in me those four races last year.  I just went out and tried not to be a hero, like the King told me right before climbing in.  I didn’t try to be a hero tonight, and we’re sitting here in second trying to talk to you guys about a great finish for my first Daytona 500.  The chemistry we have with the team, it’s incredible.  Drew and I just hit it off.  Like when I walked into the garage at Pocono it was like, boom, here it is, we have it.  Before we even said anything, we knew it was something there.  So we’re able to build off that, and he’s really good at managing races and calling races, and when I mess up like sliding through the box there, he just repeats it over and over, that we’re fine, just settle in, refocus, and just go out there and do what you do, and don’t do it again, obviously.  But just the team we have behind us right now is so much fun, and knowing that we’re a smaller budget team, we have a lot of poise and a lot of attitude and just a lot of stuff to fight for this year.  I’m really looking forward to Atlanta.  Don’t know what the hell we’ll have there because it’s all new for us.

I know this will carry over to Atlanta and be good.

Q: How taxing has this whole week been on you with all the cameras and all the Facebook deal and all that, and then also, can you talk about getting the call from Hank Aaron before the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, Griffin, him and I have almost come to blows over this Facebook deal.  Not really, but we both know how stressful it is and we’re both trying to do our jobs, and it’s been very taxing on that.  Griffin, I’m not doing another interview after this, so this is all you’re getting.  The race went great, we ran 500 miles at Daytona, my first Daytona 500, we finished second.  Put that in there.  We’re done.  His favorite question is what did we do today.

But just an incredible moment.  To be in that position, it takes me back to a week ago when Dale called me ‑‑ as soon as I landed here, he says, hey, the next three or four weeks are going to be busy for you, and I’m like, yeah, no kidding, just come off a stressful night.  And he just had the words to bring that positive light back up that I try to carry with me every day, and he says, I’ll have the opportunity to do things outside of this sport that not really anybody else can.  So take that, run with it, and set yourself up for 10 years from now, look back on it and see how you did.

Q: Darrell, what did the King tell you before the race, and what was your ‑‑ what was it like with him after the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Well, he did tell me last night ‑‑ I was his Uber back from dinner, so I brought him back to the bus.  We were just making small talk, no cameras there.  We were talking what it was like.  He’s been here since day one running on the beaches, and ever since this was built, and just hearing all that just was like, wow, first of all, I wasn’t even born yet, wasn’t even a thought yet.  My parents were just born.  Just kind of showing his age there, and just hearing what he had to talk about.

But right when we pulled in the bus lot, he was talking, just park at your bus, I’ll walk over.  I’m like, no, I’ll take you to your bus, we’re not far, and he said, all right, can you do a burnout?  I’m like, yeah, sure.  Then all of a sudden he follows up, if you do a burnout in the race car I’m going to beat the s‑‑‑ out of you, so I’m like, all right, so we got that out of the way.

But I think having him ‑‑ and then after the race, let me get to that, to where my heart is still pumping over that, sitting on the cot in the infield care center, and I’m pissed off about the finish, obviously, and he walks in lived, and I’m like, yes, he’s mad, let’s go do something.  And he walks in, and the first thing he said, what’s the first thing I told you, with a very stern attitude and look, and I’m like ummmm, and he says, “I told you not to wreck the car,” and I was like, I didn’t do it.  So we shared a good laugh, and he come in and gave me a big hug after that.  To see the smile on his face, I think you had to be there to experience that moment.  All the liaisons in there were pretty nervous for me, too, until he cracked the joke.  But just a great day, a great week, seeing him after the Duels, how pumped up he was and just the same amount of emotion, if not more right here after the race.

Q: You said that the King told you not to try and be a hero.  What did you expect for yourself sort of going into the race?  Could you have imagined this?  And when during the race did you realize that you really had a chance to make a push?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I don’t have the experience, nor does anybody out there.  I got the rookie stripes for a reason, so making some of those moves today I was a little bit delayed and a little bit late and luckily kept out of harm’s way.  But it just all comes with time.  Jumping into the Xfinity Series, I was ‑‑ I have the attitude and just the confidence to win every race that you enter.  We all know that’s not going to happen, so jumping in tonight we had the same attitude, but I knew the circumstances and how this plays out and the moves that you have to make and the defending and blocking that you do.  I’ve never done it at this level.  I was like, if we get put in that position, here we go, hang on.  Unfortunately we never did, but we come to a really close second, and I was able to push our RCR affiliate teammate there out to the win, so congrats to Austin.  That was cool.

Q: You saved your race there at the end with that save in Turns 1 and 2 where you threw sparks.  Could you describe going through that?  And the second thing is in the beginning of the race, you looked really antsy when you were second, like you wanted to lead the race.  What was going through your mind then?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I think I was just trying to learn stuff there, make those bold moves, see what happens, and try to ‑‑ if we fell back, it wasn’t the end of the world, but just try to fend off the guys behind me.  I think it was myself and Denny that were out front, and wasn’t really trying to get by him, but I just wanted to lead the bottom line, go back to the top line, everything that you’ve watched from Brad doing, Joey doing, Ryan did it all night tonight.  I wanted to experience that for a little bit, and I got to, so my notebook was jotted down for sure.

But then after the pit stops, we were just so hard on the splitter, and it looked like I was just kind of driving around, but I was playing it smart, trying to save my race car.

Q: Talk about the save.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Oh, the save.  There’s a reason I skipped that.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Ooh‑weee, Daytona.

Q: Darrell, you were asked about Hank earlier; you also got a tweet, I think, from Lewis Hamilton.  What do those types of things mean to you when you see those things?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  That was cool.  My manager Kyle, who’s also my big brother over there, he walks in the bus, guess who just followed you.  I’m like, who.  He said, Lewis Hamilton.  I’m like, what?  Freaking out, fan growing out.  I look up to him.  He does so many great things in the F1 world.  He’s just a genuine badass in what he does, so that was cool, and then he sent out a tweet, and I got weak at the knees.  Luckily I was sitting down when I was replying to him.  I think I was taking a golf cart ride out to an appearance and I replied back.  Really cool and really special for Hank Aaron also to call right there before was really special, and just knowing that people are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR and they get behind it and support it.  Just exciting.

Q: Bubba, Denny claims that he got a flat tire at the start‑finish line at the checkered flag.  Do you buy that?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I mean, it looked kind of like the same move he pulled on Ryan at Martinsville if I remember correctly last year with that mayhem.  But you know, if I did ‑‑ if that happened, okay, so be it, but it just seems like he got off of me a little bit and then turned back into me.  I know the cars drive crazy and whatnot and they’re a handful, but it just didn’t seem like that right away, but it was tough to see from that angle anyways.  Who knows.  We’re both pissed off at each other.  But we’re racers.  We’re competitive, and we’ll go into Atlanta and be fine.  I might be kicked out of the basketball league, but whatever.  And golf league, too.

Q: I’ve been talking to a lot of drivers, and rookies have a bit of a reputation in general, but the drivers that have been seasoned veterans are speaking with respect of you.  Clint Bowyer said you earned this ride, and you’re earning the respect of the veteran drivers.  How are you able to do that so quickly?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I don’t know.  Thanks, Clint.  I’ve always kind of tested his waters, and it’s like, hey, Clint.  All right.  Thanks, Clint.  I don’t know.  I just be myself and try not to be a jackass out on the track.  Just try to ‑‑ from running trucks and Xfinity, it was always hold the steady line.  That’s how you’re going to gain respect.  I think all throughout practice and the Duels just having the right guys behind me.  I worked with Newman a lot this weekend.  I think he was a big fan.  I don’t know if he’ll ever admit it, but yeah, it’s just trying to run my own race and not cause any havoc out there.  If you run a good clean race, run all the laps, I think you’ll get a lot of respect, and I think our cars, the way my guys built our car, we were a really good push car.  We got behind there a little bit, and I’m like, man, we’re not really going anywhere, but I can just run over these guys and we’re making some ground up a little bit.  That’s just hats off to the guys back in the shop and everybody on this 43 Chevrolet Click ‘n Close Camaro ZL1.  So yeah, that’s it.

Q: Were you at a point there right at the white flag where you thought you might be sniffing a win, or did Austin just have too much of a lead at that point?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I’ve watched a couple of these races, and it got down to 10 to go, and I said, all right, we’ve still got about two hours left here, I’m all good in here, so I’m not thinking about it, and even on the white flag, we’ve still got two and a half miles to go with Logano breathing down my neck, knowing that he likes to just dart out and everybody is going to go with him, so I’m just trying to keep him in my mirror, so I think I was full of thinking about that and not really thinking about winning the race, knowing that we still had to get through 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and almost got caught up there on the backstretch.  But still, anyways, it’s a good day just to come home second, just to come home with a finish here at Daytona.  A lot of cars wrecked out early, and we were able to capitalize on that.  It really means a lot to be able to just run all the laps, have a good, clean race and earn the respect of your peers.

Q: And how are you feeling?  I know you were kind of a little puny ‑‑

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Puny?

Q: Well, you weren’t feeling well earlier in the week.  Are you feeling better now?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, yeah, I’m feeling good.  I’m all right.  I’m a little emotional right now, but all good.  Thank you.

Q: We’ve seen your colorful personality, but tonight we’ve seen a lot of emotion.  Are you always this emotional, or did you expect to be this emotional after this good finish?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I usually just sprinkle water and sprinkle tears on my face to make it look like I’m that emotional.  But no, no matter what the circumstances are, when you have family here and you run good and it’s been a while since you’ve been somewhat competitive, it pulls on the heartstrings.  I’m competitive.  I love to win.  I hate to finish second.  Obviously that shows for everybody.

But I’m human.  No matter if I race cars for a living and enjoy doing it, at the end of the day we all get emotional about something, so I’m just the same as you guys.

Q: I wanted to ask you because over the course of your career, you had some times that were very uncertain, and you stayed with it and you were positive and you joked on Twitter about this could be the sponsor or that could be the sponsor.  Could you just talk a little bit about how you feel and where you are today versus even two years ago and the power that you felt in terms of sticking this out and staying with your dream?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, it’s just all about adversity, and looking at the stuff you’ve gone through, it’s motivation.  Here come the emotions again.  But on the sponsorship side, it’s tough.  We should all be firing a tweet to Domino’s because if we finished second, we should at least get free pizza for the media room, right, so they’re missing out on that ball, but that’s why we have great partners like Click ‘n Close.  They take the big step not knowing anything about NASCAR, right?  And they take the big step and believe in me and give me an opportunity that not a lot of people get, so I had to capitalize.  Never quit.

Q: You referenced a little bit earlier about not sure about what you would have at Atlanta.  From a competitive standpoint, did you feel a little bit more confident about what was possible at Daytona because of that uncertainty, or are you just not sure what you’re going to have next week?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the exciting thing about Daytona is unless you’re just coming there just to run at the back of the pack all day and accept a finish, everybody that shows up to Daytona has a shot.  That’s just the ‑‑ that’s what Daytona produces, and Talladega, as well.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  A very low budget team or a top dollar team, everybody has a shot to win.  That’s why we always say when we go to Atlanta, that’s when we really see who’s playing what cards.  Just from everything that’s been going on in the off‑season, switching over to Chevrolet, the alliance with RCR, they were rebuilding their stages there at the end of the year for their program.  We’re heading in there like we’re going to win that race.  But at the same time, we know we also have a lot of things to check off the list.

Q: Every driver thinks they should be in the Cup Series.  If they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be driving a race car.  But at this moment for you, was it when you signed your contract?  Was it when you rolled in here this week, or was it when you took the checkered today that you finally have that belief in yourself that, yes, you are officially a Cup Series driver full‑time?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the Vegas test, really.  We get to test again.  That’s nice.  I think there, going there, it’s like, okay, we were able to do all these things, two‑day test here, get familiar with the cars and get to experience these cars and how fast they are.  We’re faster in Vegas than we are here.  It’s incredible.  And just getting to experience that, and just coming down here put the icing on the cake, being on this side of the garage, knowing my hauler is over here and getting to see how the fans react with the windows, which I think is great.  Not just walking through and, hey, what’s up, waving to everybody at the top because I’m going to cheer on ex‑teammates or whatever they are.  It’s my garage stall, my eyes.  It’s our team.  And I think that’s special.

I’m enjoying it all.  Just taking it day by day.

Q: Exactly what did Hank Aaron say to you, and how surprised were you to hear from him?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, he just said, hey, good luck, and just have a good race today, and that was it.  He knew that we were pressed for time, and it was five seconds, and that’s all he said.  That was really cool.  So when Murstein came up to me and said, hey, Hank Aaron is on the line, I’m like, what?  That’s awesome.  So I was pretty excited about that.

Dr. Diandra: How much does Talladega shake up the playoffs?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for shaking up the playoffs. But how well deserved is that reputation?

Playoff drivers usually view the first race in the second round of the playoffs as the best chance to earn points, earn stage points and maybe even a win given that Talladega is the second race. Now that Texas is in the rear-view mirror, let’s turn our data analysis tools to Talladega.

The shake-up index

Determining how much one race shuffles the playoffs standings requires a simple metric that is applicable to all the years NASCAR has had stages and playoffs. In a rare point of consistency, Talladega has remained the 31st race of the season since 2017, when stage racing started.

After trying a couple different approaches, I finally settled on playoff rankings. These rankings are a zero-sum game. For each driver who moves up a position, another driver must move down.

The first graph is playoff ranking as a function of race for the second playoff segment of 2021. It’s a bit of a mess, but stay with me.

A scatter graph of rank changes to help determine how much shaking-up Talladega actually does

Playoff rank runs along the left side of the graph. The highest ranked driver is at the top and the 12th ranked at the bottom.

The leftmost set of dots shows the rankings coming out of Bristol, after eliminating the lowest four drivers and re-seeding the rest. The second column of dots show the rankings after Las Vegas, which was the first race in the second round in 2021.

Each driver is represented in a different color, with lines connecting his rankings. For example, the dark purple lines show Denny Hamlin rising from third to first over these three races. The light blue lines at the bottom show Alex Bowman plummeting from seventh to 12th.

The messier the lines between two races, the more the playoffs were shaken up. Because it’s hard to quantify “messiness,” I counted each time one driver’s line crossed another driver’s line.

Each crossing indicates two drivers changed places in the rankings. The number of intersections between Bristol and Las Vegas, for example, tells you how much Las Vegas shook up the standings.

Three intersecting lines count as three shake-ups because there are three pairs of drivers crossing.

In 2021, Las Vegas had nine intersections, Talladega 13 and the Roval only five. This seems consistent with our hypothesis that Talladega is the biggest shaker-upper in the second round.

Talladega Timeline

In addition to being only one point, the 2021 Talladega contest poses another problem. Bubba Wallace won the rain-shortened race, which went 311 miles instead of the scheduled 500 miles.

That raises the possibility that 2021 might not be the most representative year for Talladega races. I therefore repeated the analysis going back to 2017. Since we didn’t have stage racing — and thus stage points — before 2017, it doesn’t make sense to compare previous years.

The table below shows the shake-up index from 2017-2021. Note that the first and third races changed from year to year.

A table summarizing the shake-up index for Talladega and other races in the second playoff round from 2017-2021

This five years of data show that Talladega wasn’t always the race that most shook-up this round of playoffs. From 2017-19, Dover and Charlotte held that honor. That’s surprising, especially in 2017. That’s the year 26 of 40 cars failed to finish the Talladega race and NASCAR parked Jimmie Johnson and Matt DiBenedetto.

In 2020, the three races had just about equal shake-up indices.

The Roval has been the third playoff race for only two years. It was equally chaotic with Talladega in terms of affecting the standings in 2020, but less so in 2021. Kansas beat the Roval for switching up the playoff standings twice.

 A caveat for the first race

If you’re surprised to see a larger shake-up for the first race in the second round of the playoffs, you’re not alone.

The 2021 fall Las Vegas race was remarkably uneventful. There were only two DNFs, both non-playoff cars. And one single-car accident that, again, didn’t involve a playoff car. Yet it had a shake-up index of nine.

It turns out that this is a side-effect of the re-seeding protocol.

The graph below shows the same time period as the rankings graph, but reports total points for the top-12 drivers.

A scatter plot showing how points changed for the top-12 playoff drivers in 2021 in the second round of the playoffs

Immediately after re-seeding, the drivers are separated by 57 points from first to 12th. If you omit Kyle Larson’s 30-point lead, the bottom 11 drivers are separated by only 27 points.

Since a driver can earn a maximum of 60 points in a single race, the first race in a round has a lot more impact in changing the standings. In effect, the first race decompresses the re-seeding compression.

After Las Vegas, the 12 playoff drivers were separated by 78 points. After Talladega, the margin grew to 98 points.

The larger numbers for the first races in any round are more due to the re-seeding-induced points compression than to the nature of the track.

Applied to 2022

Drivers don’t have to win at Talladega. They just have to finish ahead of the other playoff drivers. In fact, if a given driver can’t win, the next best case for him is if none of the other playoff drivers win, either.

The largest drop in positions a driver has seen from Talladega is five — and that’s from the rain-shortened 2021 race. On the other hand, drivers have also seen as much as an eight-position gain in the standings following Talladega. That gain was after the 2017 race where more than half the field failed to finish, but at least one driver has come out of the fall Talladega race each of the last four years up at least three positions.

As far as the stats for this year’s second round playoffs so far: Last week’s Texas race had a shake-up index of 14. That’s higher than all but the first year of the stage-racing playoff era.

And the William Byron penalty (which Hendrick Motorsports is contesting) has a shake-up index of seven.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll into Talladega Superspeedway, a center of uncertainty, for the second race in the Round of 12 this weekend.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) could place the first driver in the Round of 8. Any playoff driver who wins the race automatically advances to the next round.

Through the playoffs to date, playoff drivers are batting zero in the race-win category. Non-playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones — have scored wins in the first four playoff races.

Joey Logano leads the playoff points entering the race. Ross Chastain, who won at Talladega earlier this year, is second.

The four drivers below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron was above the line earlier this week but was penalized 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. That move lifted Chase Briscoe above the cutline.

Playoff races also are scheduled for the Xfinity Series (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, USA Network) and the Camping World Truck Series (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., FS1) at Talladega.

Here’s a look at the Talladega weekend schedule:

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74.

Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 75.

Friday, Sept. 30

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 2 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

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)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.