Cup teams head back to work with Next Gen test at Phoenix

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Cup teams get their final time in the Next Gen car this week before they race it next month. 

NASCAR will hold an organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix Raceway. Teams are scheduled to test from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET each day. One car per organization is allowed at the test for one- or two-car teams; two cars per organization are allowed for three- or four-car teams. NASCAR.com will live stream all of the action on its YouTube channel.

For reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson, this test will be significant because he’s had limited time in the Next Gen car.

“I haven’t been in it since they narrowed down the rules package,” Larson told NBC Sports. “For me at Phoenix, I’m just going to try to learn as much as possible in a short time. 

“Stuff that will stand out to me will be the steering, the brakes, just the comfort in the car. …  I’m sure we’ll do some longer runs, see how the car handles differently than it would have with the other car. There’s just a lot to learn in a day and a half.”

Kyle Busch also has had limited time in the car and will use this test to further familiarize himself with the vehicle.

“It’s all about trying to get laps and repetitions,” Busch told NBC Sports. “Continuing to give the information to the engineers and the guys who work on the car to get it comfortable and set up how you need it to be to go out there and have a fast car in the races.”

NASCAR has had organizational tests for the Next Gen car on the Charlotte Roval (October), Charlotte oval (November and December) and at Daytona (January). 

This marks the first organizational test with the Next Gen car at a track 1 mile or less in length. This also provides teams a chance to test the car on the track that will host the championship race in November. 

“It will be interesting to see if we’re shifting on the oval, how hard you can turn into Turn 3, a straight corner entry vs. Turn’s 1 rounded entry,” Kurt Busch told NBC Sports. “Excited to go to a short track just to see (the car’s) feel.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has spent time in a simulator preparing for this test with his JTG Daugherty Racing team. 

“For us, the old cars, you kind of floated it down into the corner in Turn 1 and then kind of carried your momentum,” he told NBC Sports. “Then you tried to back your corner up into Turn 3, so you could get to the gas sooner and get off Turn 4 with some good throttle and speed there.”  

“In the simulator, I was playing around … floating it into the corner. I played around with driving it really far into the corner and using a lot of brake because our brakes are so good compared to the car we ran previously. That’s something that I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and seeing what the difference is going to be like.”

Also at the test will be Bubba Wallace, who had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He has not been in the Next Gen car since the October test at the Charlotte Roval. He told NBC Sports last week that his shoulder is “100%” and he’s ready to go.

Cup teams compete Feb. 6 in the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Teams will race Feb. 17 in the Daytona qualifying races in preparation for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500.

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.