Aric Almirola: Having fast Fords ‘plays into our favor’ at Talladega

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After arguably the most disappointing final 10 laps of his Cup career last weekend at Dover, Aric Almirola has reason to be positive.

He’s heading to Talladega.

Like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Almirola is one of the few drivers who can claim the chaotic 2.66-mile track as one of his best in the last few years.

Before the fall 2016 race there, Almirola had never finished better than 10th in 13th Talladega starts.

In the four races since, he’s finished eighth or better each time.

Talladega now represents his fourth best average finish (17.2) behind Richmond, Dover and Phoenix.

Almirola’s four race top-10 streak is the longest active at Talladega. David Ragan‘s three-race streak is second best.

In April, six Fords finished in the top seven, with Almirola bringing up the rear of that group in seventh.

“The Fords typically run well at Talladega and up front,” Almirola said in a press release. “I think Stewart-Haas Racing has been right on the heels of Team Penske and their success at Talladega. So as much as Talladega is a wild card, I think it kind of plays into our favor given that our cars are so fast.”

Almirola, who has one Xfinity win at Talladega and one Daytona win in both Cup and Xfinity, is looking to catapult into the third round of the playoffs to further the best season of his career.

Following a flirtation with his first Cup win since 2014 and finishing 13th at Dover, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is ninth on the playoff grid. Almirola is 10 points behind the cutoff spot.

Knowing his No. 10 team has shown speed at plate races and on 1.5-mile tracks does not ease Almirola’s nerves.

“It’s that part of the year and we’re all racing for a championship and it’s really high stakes,” Almirola said. “Everybody is on edge, everyone wants to be aggressive and score all the points they can. We saw at the end of Charlotte (Roval) that every point and position matters.”

Almirola, who has only one playoff point, secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs after passing enough cars in the final three laps on the Roval.

“Talladega is going to be no different,” Almirola said. “It has been a good place for me, but it’s still the unknown. You can get caught up in a wreck that had nothing to do with you, or you could be the cause of the wreck. Things just happen when you’re running 200 mph and an inch apart from each other for three hours. One mistake and it usually collects a lot of people. You just have to hope you’re in the right place at the right time. If we are, it could be a good day for us.”

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Penalty report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael Bugarewicz, crew chief on Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford, have each been fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut.

Those fines are in addition to the points penalties against Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity Series team (10 driver and owner points) for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times.

NASCAR also indefinitely suspended Bayley Currey for violating its substance abuse policy.

Michael McDowell to honor Jimmy Means with Darlington scheme

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Front Row Motorsports is changing things up on its No. 34 Ford for the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway next week (6 p.m. Sept 1 on NBCSN).

After three years of using the same retro Love’s Travel Stops paint scheme, the team will show up in Darlington next weekend with Dockside Logistics as Michael McDowell‘s primary sponsor. With that sponsor comes a tribute to long-time NASCAR owner and former driver Jimmy Means.

McDowell’s car will be made to look like the No. 52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac Means owned and drove part-time from 1989-91 in the Cup Series.

One of Means’ cars, which was driven by Mike Wallace, is located in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car graveyard.

More: Retro Rundown of Southern 500 paint schemes

Front Row Motorsports was originally known as Means-Jenkins Motorsports, based on a partnership between Means and current FRM team owner Bob Jenkins. Their relationship began with Jenkins sponsoring Means at Bristol with his local Taco Bell franchise, which led Jenkins to a partial ownership of Means’ race team. The team was active for one year before Jenkins separated and founded Front Row Motorsports.

“Throwback weekend at Darlington is one of my favorites of the whole year,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s fun to recreate some of the most well-known paint schemes throughout the history of our sport. Our owner, Bob Jenkins, has always admired Jimmy Means, and the Alka-Seltzer car is definitely a favorite of his. I’m really excited that we can honor their friendship with our No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford.”

Corey LaJoie to carry ‘Scooby Doo’ paint scheme at Martinsville

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Popular cartoon character Scooby Doo will be featured as the theme on Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang for the First Data 500 on Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

Long-time team sponsor Keen Parts/ will transform the team’s usual paint scheme to what it’s calling “the Mystery Machine” for the Martinsville race, which will be four days before Halloween.

“Scooby Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up, so when Tom and TJ (team co-sponsors Tom and TJ Keen) asked what I wanted to do for Martinsville, there was no doubt that I wanted to be driving the Mystery Machine,” LaJoie said in a media release. “They always have really cool themes behind their Halloween-weekend schemes and I’m excited to be part of this one and thankful for all that they do for our team.”

For last year’s fall race at Martinsville the team and sponsor combined for a purple and black Peanuts scheme that featured Snoopy and quickly became a much-talked about fan favorite.

“We are super excited to present this paint scheme to Corey to run at Martinsville,” said lTJ Keen. “This cartoon was his favorite as a kid and I bet it still is today. We cannot thank the team enough for letting us do these schemes and we hope you fans will enjoy it.”

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Richard Childress resigns from National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors

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On Monday, Richard Childress submitted his resignation letter as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association and a handful of the organization’s committees, NBC Sports has confirmed.

The resignation came two days after the owner of Richard Childress Racing helped give the command to start engines  for the Cup Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was co-sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the NRA.

“At this time, it is necessary for me to fully focus on my businesses,” Childress said in his letter. “I owe that to my employees, our partners, my family, and myself. Since proudly agreeing to serve on the NRA Board, I have supported the organization and its important mission to preserve and protect our Constitutional rights. But when, as now, I am no longer able to be fully engaged in any commitment I have made, it becomes time for me to step down. I have reached that point in my ability to continue to serve the NRA. As such, I must resign.”

According to the Washington Post, Childress is the sixth member of the Board of Directors to resign since May. The Board of Directors totals more than 70 members.

Childress was elected as the NRA’s second vice president in 2015 and had also served as the first vice president until he stepped down in April of this year.

Childress will retain his NRA membership moving forward.