Talladega

Time for Martin Truex Jr. ‘to be more of a jerk’ to win at Talladega

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Martin Truex Jr. is the only playoff driver with nothing to worry about Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, and you might see him racing that way on the 2.66-mile oval.

The Furniture Row Racing driver, who is 0 for 50 at the restrictor-plate tracks of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega, told NBC Sports after his win Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it’s time to shed his nice-guy image at the tracks where depending on the whims of drafting partners can be the key to success.

“I’ve got to be more of a jerk on the racetrack if I’m going to win a plate race,” Truex said with a laugh. “I give too much room. I’m too cautious. I don’t make those dumb moves that cause big wrecks like some guys do.

“And you see the guys who win there a lot are just erratic as hell, and they’re all over the place, and you never know where they’re going to go. That’s why they’re good there, but that’s also why they cause the big wrecks. So I’m kind of in the middle. I race like I normally do — pretty cautious. I don’t want to mess anybody up. So I guess I got to race like a jerk this time around since I’ve got nothing to lose. See if we can win it.”

Truex doesn’t need to win it because his Bank of America 500 victory advances him to the Round of 8 regardless of his results at Talladega and Kansas Speedway. He still has incentive to keep rivals from gaining playoff points to start the next round (while also building on his series-leading 64 playoff points).

But mainly he and his No. 78 Toyota team will enjoy a stress-free 500 miles while the other 11 drivers wrestle with the nail-biting capriciousness that Truex is all too familiar with in his career.

Truex has only two top fives in 25 starts at Talladega and one in 25 starts at Daytona – a runner-up finish to Denny Hamlin in the 2016 Daytona 500. The tracks are his two worst in average finish on the circuit (21.0 at Talladega, 22.6 at Daytona).

“We suck,” crew chief Cole Pearn said of his team’s record in plate races. “I know we’ve had a couple ones we’ve got close, but man, average finish-wise we’re pretty terrible.  For us not to have to worry about that, and it’s just the randomness of what can happen.  But we always feel like we’re in the randomness.”

Things might seem a little less random Sunday as Truex will have a Furniture Row Racing teammate (Erik Jones) and the four-car fleet of Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, which won’t be sandbagging this season after employing that strategy last year.

Hamlin also believes that Truex might benefit from getting “meaner” in Sunday’s race.

“It’s fair to say,” Hamlin said Tuesday when told of Truex’s postrace comment. “When people think of Jamie McMurray at superspeedways, he has a lot of success there. He also wrecks a ton there, and it’s because of the moves he makes sometimes. Most times, they don’t pay off, but when it does, he has great results.

“I think it’s a risk/reward thing. I found success the other way, letting those guys make abrupt moves and me follow through. I think it’s to each his own and the styles with which they race, but I’d somewhat agree that Martin errs on the side of helping teammates vs. being selfish, but he hasn’t really had all the teammates that he’s had over the last couple of years. So he’s got more teammates out there than what he probably has had in the past.”

Aric Almirola says car failed Laser Inspection Station by less than thickness of a credit card

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A miniscule measurement likely will mean a hefty penalty for the Richard Petty Motorsports team of Aric Almirola.

After finishing fourth Sunday at Talladega Superpeedway, Almirola’s No. 43 Ford failed the Laser Inspection Station.

Almirola told NBCSN’s Marty Snider that the infraction was 0.01 of an inch beyond the tolerance.

“It’s less than the thickness of a credit card, but it’s the rules,” Almirola said. “We’ve seen other teams penalized for the same thing, so we’re not being singled out. NASCAR is making clear they have rules, and we have to play within the rules.

“As a driver and race team, we have to push the boundaries and have to push it right to the ragged edge because all our competition is. If we just built a car well within the measurements and tolerances, we’d run 30th every week. That’s the reality of it. All the teams push every thousandth of an inch that they can get. You have to to keep up.”

The standard penalty for an LIS failure has been a $65,000 fine, 35-point deduction and three-race suspension for a crew chief. Team Penske lost its final appeal of an LIS penalty Tuesday.

Almirola, who earned his second top five of the season Sunday, said his team hadn’t received confirmation of a penalty yet from NASCAR and didn’t know if it would appeal if so.

“I don’t have a lot of details on where we’ll go from here,” he said. “We have an idea (of a potential penalty) based on other teams, but we’ll wait and take it as it comes.”

Watch the full interview with Almirola on NASCAR America on NBCSN from 5:30-6:30 p.m. today.

Cup points standings after Talladega: Kyle Larson widens lead

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Rebounding from an impact with the wall for a 12th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway, Kyle Larson increased his lead in the Cup Series standings.

Larson is in first by 54 points over Martin Truex Jr., who finished 35th after getting caught in a wreck.

Brad Keselowski jumped two spots to third in the points with a seventh at Talladega. Chase Elliott (30th) fell a spot to fourth in standings ahead of Jamie McMurray

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (22nd) dropped from 24th to 25th in the points.

Click here for the standings after Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega.

Today’s Xfinity race at Talladega: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The Xfinity Series makes its only visit of the year to Talladega Superspeedway rthis afternoon with the Sparks Energy 300, the ninth race of the season.

Points leader Elliott Sadler looks to defend his win last year at the 2.66-mile speedway and he’ll have to fend off seven full-time Cup drivers who are pulling double duty this weekend.

Here’s all the info you need ahead of today’s race.

All times are Eastern

START: Wayne Sternbergh will give the command for drivers to start engines at 1:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:19 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 113 laps (300 miles) around the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 8:30 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 10 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:30 p.m. .

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jason Warren, member of The Marching Southerners will perform.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 1 p.m. Its coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com. MRN’s coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wungerground.com forecasts a race time temperature of 68 degrees with a zero percent chance of rain.

LAST YEAR: Elliott Sadler was declared the winner of the race after a wreck on the frontstretch coming to the checkered flag. The caution froze the field and forced NASCAR to take five minutes to determine whether Sadler or Brennan Poole was the winner.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

NASCAR America: Logano warns crapshoot of Talladega will bounce favorites out (VIDEO)

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Joey Logano affirms speculation that the Round of 12 is one of the roughest stages of the championship hunt because Talladega is a crapshoot that will get the best of title-favorite drivers.