Joey Logano’s crew chief: ‘Really fortunate’ Talladega is next race

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Anyone expecting crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano‘s No. 22 team to throw in the towel on their playoff hopes after Sunday’s pre-race mechanical issue that led to 34th-place finish is in for a shock.

Gordon admitted Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” his team sees the second race of the Round of 12 playoff round at Talladega Superspeedway through what others would consider “backwards logic.”

“Really, really fortunate we got Talladega coming up,” said Gordon, who has three wins at the superspeedway with Logano since 2015.

“With Roush Yates horsepower and the cars we build here at Team Penske and Joey and (spotter) TJ (Majors) do a phenomenal job at that place,” Gordon said. “If you look at the speedways this year, we’ve been in contention to win in two of three of them and we were running up front at Daytona (in July) when we got damaged and then the rain delay. I feel good about going speedway racing and executing a great race.”

Logano heads to Talladega tied with William Byron in points for the last transfer spot but Byron owns the tiebreaker (best finish in this round). Logano’s car experienced a gear issue during the warmup laps, which forced him to the garage for the first 23 laps of the race.

Gordon said even if Dover hadn’t been an impound weekend he’s not sure the gear issue could’ve been caught.

“We haven’t delved through everything that happened here,” Gordon. “I don’t know that we get to the point that even on a non-impound event, we’ve only got three-and-half-hours to get our cars ready from practice to presenting them in the (inspection) line. You do what you can and we do a great job, the gear shop does a great job here. Obviously, this is an outlier for our organization to have an issue. I don’t know if we were parked on pit road a little funky, backed up the hill. It shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know what happened. Something broke.”

Gordon explained to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the team’s approach for the rest of the event after Logano returned to the race. He finished 25 laps down, with Garrett Smithley the next car in front of him by two laps.

“You never know in those situations,” Gordon said. “Every position’s a point and every point matters. … We just put ourselves into making every lap we could, because at the end of the day as we kept going it almost became the carrot to dangle there were a couple of those cars that were off the pace and losing laps and we just kept trying to catch them. We needed about 50 more laps, I think we could’ve passed another car.”

Chasing that carrot would lead Logano to receive criticism from Denny Hamlin for the way he raced him while Hamlin led late in Stage 2.

Gordon pointed to Logano’s narrow points position heading to Talladega as a defense for Logano.

“It’s no different than chasing for a stage win because it’s a bonus point,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Any point you can gather in this round is going to make a big difference. If you look at the points right now, if you just said the round ended yesterday, we’d be out by one point. Because we’re tied with William Byron and they out finished us. That’s what the tiebreaker goes to, the best finish within that round.”

With the chaos of Talladega looming, Gordon doesn’t expect to change his team’s approach to the superspeedway.

“The best way that I know to avoid being caught up in the wreck at Talladega is be in front of it,” Gordon said. “If you start playing your game differently that’s when you make mistakes, because it’s not doing the things you’re used to doing. I think we’ll go to Talladega and race the way we’ve raced (all) along. Race hard, race smart and get ourselves into position.”

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.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.