Ryan Blaney looks to continue Talladega success


At Talladega Superspeedway, drivers think constantly about getting to the front and who can help them get there – all of which is subject to being lucky enough to avoid a massive wreck.

Ryan Blaney doesn’t ponder the latter part.

“If you’re thinking about that, then your mind’s somewhere else,” Blaney said in a Thursday media teleconference. “You understand what it can be, but when you’re out there running, you’re not thinking, ‘Oh, we might wreck, we might wreck, we might wreck. I’m afraid to get in a wreck.’

“You never think about that – at least, I don’t. If it happens, it happens. And until it does happen, you’re not conscious of that at all. You’re trying to figure out ways to get to the front, stay there, lead laps, win stages, win the race.”

The Team Penske driver has won two of the last three races at NASCAR’s biggest track, which is next up on the Cup Series schedule. Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, FOX) will mark his 14th Talladega Cup start.

From his first Talladega Cup start in October 2014 to now, Blaney acknowledges how his approach has changed on superspeedways.

Youthful aggression has given way to a veteran’s appreciation for everything that goes into coming out on top in this style of racing: Getting in front of a big run from behind, knowing how to work the lanes to get ahead, and perhaps most important, the teamwork that it all requires.

“The communication really has to be the best that it can be,” said Blaney. “Working with Josh (Williams) as my spotter, he’s done a great job and we’ve done a good job of getting better every year with him watching the races, him telling me a lot of information on what to do.

“I usually don’t like a lot of talking on the radio and information besides the (superspeedways). Because you just need that constant info. I like that side, that everyone’s really involved and it takes a lot of teamwork and communication to run well there.”

Blaney’s organization has had that down pat at Talladega. A Team Penske driver has won eight of the past 13 Talladega Cup races, dating back to Brad Keselowski‘s playoff victory in October 2014.

Eyes will be on the Penske camp (including the Wood Brothers’ Matt DiBenedetto) again this weekend, but not just for their previous Talladega success.

The Cup Series is back on a superspeedway for the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500. On the final lap, Penske drivers Joey Logano and Keselowski were running 1-2 until contact between them cost them both the Harley J. Earl Trophy.

Having been eliminated in the day’s first major crash on Lap 14, Blaney could only watch from his couch as his teammates went spinning and Michael McDowell slipped through to win.

Team owner Roger Penske counseled his drivers this week on how to avoid a repeat. From Blaney’s point of view, the conversation was productive.

“I feel like we had a really good discussion between all of us,” Blaney said. “Hopefully, we have a good plan, and hopefully, we found ourselves in that spot again to where we have teammates lined up at the end of this thing and we’re leading to try and work together and win the race. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Should Blaney benefit from that plan, it will continue a solid, if not perfect, early-season run for him and the No. 12 team.

Entering Talladega, they’ve posted six consecutive finishes of 11th or better, including a win over a dominant Kyle Larson at Atlanta. However, that stretch also includes an 11th-place finish at Martinsville that could’ve been much more if not for a late-race penalty on pit road.

“Getting a win early in the year is obviously nice,” Blaney said. “I think the 12 group’s in a really good spot now. There’s some things we’ve got to clean up at some places, like the Martinsville deal. It’s nice having a good run there and winning a couple of stages, but the deal that happened at the end of the race with the final pit stop – you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh.'”

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.