Staff picks for Talladega Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : The Daytona 500 winner has experience in getting to Victory Lane at restrictor-plate tracks. If his tendency for sour luck in the Chase -- see last year's odd roof flap issue in this race -- doesn't bite him, Hamlin has a strong shot at advancing with a Talladega win. -- Zack Albert Brad Keselowski : He was backed against a wall in 2014 and came through with a dramatic win to advance in the Chase , and he'll do it again on the heels of winning at Talladega this spring. -- George Winkler Brad Keselowski : Seems like an obvious pick because of Keselowski's two restrictor-plate wins this season coming into Talladega. But the former Cup champ is so good at this form of racing, particularly at Talladega where he got his first career Cup win and three more including this spring. And most importantly ... he needs a good showing to advance in the Chase . This is his race. -- Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson : The man who doesn't need the win -- thanks to his Charlotte victory -- gets the W to lock some strong competition out of the Round of 8. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : The talented Team Penske driver hasn't had exceptional results this season, but he's been lurking. We saw what he can do in this round last year, and I think he turns it on when it counts and takes Talladega for the second year in a row. -- Pat DeCola Matt Kenseth : One year after a Round of 12 he'd rather forget, the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran leaves no doubt and secures his second career win at Talladega. -- Brad Norman Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
Blown engine ends Truex Jr.'s Chase hopes prematurely
RELATED: Race results " Chase Grid TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Martin Truex Jr .'s Sprint Cup Series championship hopes ended abruptly only 41 laps into Sunday's Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . His pole-winning No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota suddenly lost power while running on the high banks, leaving the title hopeful to slowly create a smoke trail through the track garage, where his Furniture Row Racing team awaited to start analyzing the problem. It was the team's first engine failure in two years. As the team surveyed the car, one crew member picked up Truex's helmet and slowly walked it back to the team trailer, essentially spelling the end of his day and his 2016 title hopes. "It's definitely disappointing; what else can you say?" Truex said. "We had a team capable of competing for the championship. And unfortunately we aren't going to be able to show that. I guess there's still a chance of a miracle, but I don't see it happening. We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out today." RELATED: No. 78 team works on car, more Talladega photos Truex, who is in the midst of a career-best, four-win season -- including two victories in the opening round of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- will instead now be watching others vie for the title many figured Truex might well hoist. As his Denver-based team hurried around the Talladega garage area examining his car, he looked over his shoulder, obviously feeling badly for them as well. "I'm sure they're devastated," Truex said. "They've worked so hard this year to put us in a position to challenge for a championship. You know, we felt like we could do it. But this sport is tough. "We didn't perform at Kansas and Charlotte the way we are capable of and had some issues that bit us and put us in the hole. We could have gone there and done better and gotten a win and we wouldn't be talking about this right now. "At the end of the day, we didn't get the job done. But we've got a great team. We've got four more races to try and win and I know we could win all four of them." RELATED: How Furniture Row was built in Colorado For all the disappointment Truex felt and displayed, he still spoke to reporters, demonstrating great perspective and promising a solid end to the year. Just not the end he and his team had hoped. "It's part of life, it's part of racing," Truex said. "You take it one week at a time. Enjoy the good days and try to get past the bad ones, that's what you do no matter where you're at. "Just, damn. It just hurts to go out like that. We could have raced all day and gotten in a big wreck and still not made it, so there's no telling. But it sure would have been nice to have at least found out, played the whole game so to speak and see what happened instead of barely making it to the first pit stop. That stings. But all in all, we can't hang our heads. We've got a lot to be proud of," said Truex. "This will make us stronger.''
Keselowski runs into engine issues late in Talladega Chase race
RELATED: Race results " Updated Chase Grid Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Team Penske Ford succumbed to an engine failure on Lap 144 of 188 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway . The unfortunate circumstance ends the title hopes of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, who all but needed a win coming into the race to avoid being eliminated. Keselowski finished the race 38th. "We came here to win and we were doing what we needed to do to win, and it just didn't play out," Keselowski told NBCSN. "It just wasn't meant to be. … "We had an incredible car today and I'm really proud of that. Just got to keep pushing and hopefully we can go win these next four (races). I want to finish the season with the most wins and we've got a great shot at that, leading it right now. Cars that ran like this one did today, it'll all work out." Keselowski had led nine times for a race-best 90 laps before the incident. A similar fate befell fellow Chase driver Martin Truex Jr ., whose No. 78 Chevrolet suffered an engine failure earlier in the race. Truex Jr. finished last in the 40-car field and was eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR ’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. " The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hamlin edges in, bold Talladega strategy pays off for JGR
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Denny Hamlin stood by his No. 11 FedEx Toyota on Talladega Superspeedway pit road Sunday afternoon looking as relieved as he did happy with his third-place finish. It was among the most important third-place finishes this year's Daytona 500 winner has ever secured – and a mere .006 seconds ahead of fourth-place Kurt Busch . It was the difference in Hamlin advancing to the next round of the Chase -- and he secured the playoff pass by virtue of winning a tiebreaker with Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon . "We had something go our way," Hamlin said smiling. "One time something went our way and we battled at the line with the 41 ( Kurt Busch ). I'm just so happy. I just never really had good Chase fortune to be honest with you. I've been doing this 11 years and very, very few times has the dice fallen well for us. Today was one of those times. "Today, we didn't back in with a 15th- place finish. We had to root and gouge against guys absolutely committed to each other. That's what I'm most proud of -- getting a good finish when the odds were really stacked against us." Although Hamlin ran among the front half of the field for much of the race, his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Carl Edwards , Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch , spent the vast majority of the race in a three-car nose-to-tail draft at the back of the 40-car field. In fact, they finished 28th (Kenseth), 29th (Edwards) and 30th (Busch). Hamlin was left very much a man on his own mission. "There's a certain level of strategy and being smart that goes with any race," Edwards said. "And this is not the most fun way to race. But our mission is simple here. If it required that we go up to the front and try to win the race, we would do that. You have to balance everything. This is not my first time here. I'm really proud of my group. "This is the format and we have to do what it takes to get there. ... It would have been a lot more fun to have won that race in Kansas and then go up there and push Denny to the win all day. That would have been a lot of fun. But this is a really tough format. And don't mistake what we did today as being simple or easy. That's really tough to do and actually, at the end we were at a very high risk." Team owner Joe Gibbs said following the race that there was some confusion after the checkered flag and he briefly -- albeit mistakenly -- thought that Dillon had advanced instead of Hamlin. "It was nerve-wracking for us, and at the end, it flipped the other way on our board and I thought we came in ninth," Gibbs said. "I about panicked until I knew what the tiebreaker was. We lost two of our cars in this round last year. The farther you go in this format, everybody’s geared up. You've got to try to win a race." And, Gibbs reiterated, he was fully committed to the team's strategy Sunday. "Everybody talked it over, crew chiefs and everything," Gibbs said. "I think it was just a strategy we needed to start off with and really depended on how it would go. "Denny is a great restrictor-plate racer and he got everything he could out of it today." Hamlin certainly proved that in his dramatic Daytona 500 victory to start the season. After sub-par showings at Charlotte (30th place) and Kansas (15th place) in this elimination round of NASCAR's playoffs, he came to Talladega absolutely needing a top-shelf finish. For much of the day, the points difference between Hamlin and Dillon was negligible. And after all the tough and tight racing, it still was decided on a tiebreaker. "You know, it's heartbreaking obviously," said Dillon, who finished ninth. "You need a spot, and it comes down to three one‑thousandths I think between (us) and the (eighth place) 43-car ( Aric Almirola ). "I'm just proud of this team. We made it a full 'nother round. Thought we were going to make it another one, but it didn't work out for us. ... I don't think we had it today to really mix it up up front. Might have waited a little too long. We tried to get track position one time, but it didn't work out. I put my car in the places I thought it would work the best in that last lap and a half. My teammates stuck with me. I'm proud and thankful for them. Just missed it by a spot." Hamlin, meanwhile, heads to next week's race in Martinsville feeling like a very real contender to hoist the season trophy. He's won five times on the Martinsville short track, including last spring. He was third in the 2015 Chase race there. He has a pair of wins at Texas, sweeping the 2010 season there. And Hamlin has a win (2012) and two pole-position starts at Phoenix, with a third place effort there this spring. Should he be among the four drivers deciding the Sprint Cup in the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale, he also goes there with an enviable record. He was the polesitter there last November and is a two-time winner (2009 and 2013). He has finished among the top 10 in four of the last five races. "We all know that Martinsville is where I've made my career for the most part," Hamlin said, sizing up his championship chances. "I feel very confident we can go there and do great things. My teammates are all going to be strong there. They were in the spring. "So, it's new life for us. We're on house money at this point. Honestly, the cards were stacked against us before we entered the day, but now we're moving on and we have a clean slate."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville
RELATED: Talladega schedule " Junior injury timeline Dale Earnhardt Jr . will join NBC's broadcast team for parts of the network's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway , NBC announced Wednesday on " NASCAR America." Junior, who has not raced since July as he recovers from a concussion, will reunite with his former crew chief Steve Letarte and work alongside race announcer Rick Allen and fellow analyst Jeff Burton . Sunday will mark Earnhardt's first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasting assignment. "It gives me a chance to see the racing from a different perspective," Earnhardt Jr. told NASCAR .com. "It's an opportunity to learn something about the sport. … It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," he added with a laugh. " The only thing that made me nervous was driving race cars." NBCSN presents the second elimination race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from Talladega on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Next weekend, NBCSN presents the first race in the playoff Round of 8 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET. "With five races left in the Sprint Cup playoffs, we are thrilled to welcome Dale Earnhardt Jr . into our broadcast booth as we present two of the most unpredictable and exciting races in the Chase ," said Jeff Behnke, VP of NASCAR Production for the NBC Sports Group. "Dale is incredibly respected and the viewers and fans will be treated to his perspective on two very different race tracks." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Top consecutive 10-lap averages for Talladega
Final practice: Results Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 18 Kyle Busch (C) 11 20 195.398 2 20 Matt Kenseth (C) 11 20 195.348 3 78 Martin Truex Jr . (C) 3 12 195.314 4 11 Denny Hamlin (C) 3 12 195.314 5 5 Kasey Kahne 2 11 193.453 6 99 * Ryan Reed (i) 2 11 193.394 7 88 Alex Bowman (i) 2 11 193.376 8 48 Jimmie Johnson (C) 2 11 193.348 9 24 Chase Elliott # (C) 2 11 193.133 Practice 1: Results Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 16 Greg Biffle 2 11 195.657 2 44 Brian Scott 4 13 194.855 3 95 Michael McDowell 2 11 194.531 4 4 Kevin Harvick # (C) 4 13 194.201 5 43 Aric Almirola 3 12 194.173 6 88 Alex Bowman (i) 8 17 193.979 7 22 Joey Logano (C) 5 14 193.941 8 24 Chase Elliott # (C) 7 16 193.927 9 10 Danica Patrick 3 12 193.909 10 48 Jimmie Johnson (C) 3 12 193.895 11 21 * Ryan Blaney # 3 12 193.886 12 47 AJ Allmendinger 6 15 193.883 13 5 Kasey Kahne 7 16 193.849 14 42 Kyle Larson 7 16 191.233 15 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr . 2 11 191.115 16 6 Trevor Bayne 2 11 191.073 17 3 Austin Dillon (C) 6 15 189.066 18 2 Brad Keselowski (C) 1 10 188.422 19 1 Jamie McMurray 24 33 187.786 20 34 Chris Buescher 1 10 185.131 -- Car must run 10 consecutive laps on the track to be included in the above charts. (C) indicates driver is in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . (#) indicates Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate. (*) indicates driver required to qualify on time. (i) indicates ineligible for Sprint Cup championship points.
Full schedule for Martinsville
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series will gather for a doubleheader showing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Check out the full schedule below. Note: All times are ET FRIDAY, OCT. 28: ON TRACK -- 11 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 12:30-1:25 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 2:30-3:50 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 4:40 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 10:30 a.m.: Sprint Cup Series -- Noon: Camping World Truck Series SATURDAY, OCT. 29: ON TRACK -- 9-9:55 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, CNBC ( Follow live ) -- 10:15 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- Noon-12:50 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions (200 laps, 105.2 miles), FS1 ( Follow live ) SUNDAY, OCT. 30: ON TRACK -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 (500 laps, 263 miles), NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live )
Talladega Sprint Cup qualifying order
RELATED: How qualifying works at Talladega # Car Driver Team 1 32 Bobby Labonte VisoneRV.com Ford 2 93 * Matt DiBenedetto Dustless Blasting Toyota 3 7 Regan Smith Golden Corral Chevrolet 4 46 Michael Annett Pilot Flying J Chevrolet 5 55 * Reed Sorenson Toyota 6 35 * David Gilliland Dockside Logistics Ford 7 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 8 83 Jeffrey Earnhardt # Starter Toyota 9 23 David Ragan sweetFrog Toyota 10 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Chevrolet 11 41 Kurt Busch (C) Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet 12 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 13 3 Austin Dillon (C) American Ethanol Chevrolet 14 22 Joey Logano (C) Shell Pennzoil Ford 15 21 * Ryan Blaney # Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 16 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 17 2 Brad Keselowski (C) Miller Lite Ford 18 14 Tony Stewart Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 19 10 Danica Patrick Nature's Bakery Chevrolet 20 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 21 11 Denny Hamlin (C) FedEx Ground Toyota 22 42 Kyle Larson Energizer Chevrolet 23 78 Martin Truex Jr (C) Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota 24 18 Kyle Busch (C) Snickers Halloween Toyota 25 99 * Ryan Reed (i) Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford 26 27 Paul Menard SYLVANIA/Menards Chevrolet 27 88 Alex Bowman (i) Mountain Dew Chevrolet 28 5 Kasey Kahne UniFirst Chevrolet 29 19 Carl Edwards (C) Subway Toyota 30 24 Chase Elliott # (C) NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 31 20 Matt Kenseth (C) DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota 32 48 Jimmie Johnson (C) Lowe's Pro Services Chevrolet 33 4 Kevin Harvick (C) Jimmy John's Chevrolet 34 38 Landon Cassill FR8 Auctions Ford 35 44 Brian Scott # Goody's Ford 36 95 Michael McDowell KLOVE Radio Chevrolet 37 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 38 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Zest Ford 39 34 Chris Buescher # Love's Travel Stops Ford 40 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger/Scott Products Chevrolet 41 16 Greg Biffle Cheez-it Ford *Driver is required to qualify on time, (i) ineligible for driver points in this series
The Climb: Who can leave 'Dega in the dust?
NASCAR .com's Jonathan Merryman and Regan Smith give you the drivers who they believe will be able to climb their way past Talladega Superspeedway and onto the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup .