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Tifft, Wallace top XFINITY practices at Talladega
Practice 2: Results Matt Tifft kicked off the weekend strong, topping final NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Talladega Superspeedway . Tifft, who was wheeling the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, earned a fastest lap of 181.918 mph. Next was the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (181.515 mph), last week's Dash 4 Cash winner. Rounding out the top three was the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Brandon Jones (180.346 mph). The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Daniel Suarez , the current points leader, and No. 51 Chevrolet of Jeremy Clements were fourth and fifth, respectively. The defending race winner Joey Logano finished the 55-minute session 33rd (153.787 mph). Practice 1: Results Darrell Wallace Jr . scooted to the top spot in opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice Friday at Talladega Superspeedway . Wallace wheeled the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford to a best lap of 192.413 mph around the 2.66-mile track. He vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with an aerodynamic boost from teammate Ryan Reed , who clocked the second-fastest lap at 192.355 mph in Roush Fenway's No. 16 Ford. Ty Dillon , last week's winner of the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus from the series sponsor, was third-fastest at 191.827 mph in the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet. Matt Tifft (191.670 mph) was fourth-best in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota with Austin Dillon (190.601) completing the top five in Childress' No. 2 Chevy in early prep for Saturday's Sparks Energy 300 event (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Series points leader Daniel Suarez , in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota, wound up 10th of the 43 drivers to turn laps in the opening 55-minute session. Sprint Cup regular Joey Logano , the defending race winner, was 18th-best in Team Penske 's No. 22 Ford.
Matt Wallace will race against uncle Kenny at Iowa
Mike, Matt and Chrissy Wallace set a racing first, as well Proud papa Mike Wallace was in the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage on Friday as son Matt prepares to make his national series debut in Saturday’s Lakes Region 200 (4 p.m. ET NBC Sports Network, PRN, SiriusXM). Three months after heart surgery, the elder Wallace said he'd rather be racing but watching his son step into the No. 26 JGL Racing Ford is a proud moment. RELATED: Kenny Wallace subs for brother at Talladega Wallace also proudly announced that Matt would be racing alongside brother Kenny Wallace at Iowa, which will be the last NASCAR national series race for Kenny, he announced earlier this week. And for trivia buffs, Mike Wallace points out that his family sets a new mark this weekend with Matt's XFINITY debut. Mike, Matt and Chrissy Wallace make up the first father-daughter-son team to all compete in a national series. Chrissy made two XFINITY Series starts in 2010, finishing 43rd at Daytona and 24th at Talladega. Mike has 494 XFINITY Series races under his belt, with four wins, 22 top-five finishes and 66 top 10s. He also has 197 Sprint Cup Series starts. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bubba Wallace : Helping NASCAR grow one tweet at a time
As the sport of stock car racing evolves, a new generation of drivers is poised to grab the reins of NASCAR. And Darrell Wallace Jr . -- better known as "Bubba," driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the XFINITY Series -- is one of the leaders of that charge. • • • Standing in the Concord, North Carolina-based Roush Fenway Racing museum on a brisk Wednesday morning, Wallace has zero airs about being one of the up-and-coming stars in racing. Dressed smartly in a pullover, flat-bill hat and leather Converse, he arrives promptly, immediately greeting everyone in the crew like old friends. "Time to look pretty now," Bubba tweeted out just prior to an on-camera interview. It has been a busy day for the 22-year-old, who just biked across RFR's campus from the morning pit practice and reveals he's heading to the ZMAX Dragway later in the day before leaving for Bristol Motor Speedway the next morning. But he's young, energetic and ambitious -- with a booming laugh that comes easily. Busy days like this don't seem to wear on him. That same fire and energy translates to the race track. Wallace and crew chief Seth Barbour put together a sixth-place run at the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway -- a track that's not on Bubba's list of favorites -- and more recently, a career-best third-place at Auto Club Speedway . "We've just been working really hard, never giving up," Wallace said. "Going into Fontana, I didn't expect to finish third -- maybe 23rd the way we were running. … We've just been trying to really make a lot of gains." Nonetheless, it's the races sandwiched between Bubba's strong runs -- Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix -- and a 15th-place result at Texas that the No. 6 driver focuses his attention on when he recounts the early part of the season. "Daytona, Fontana really went our way somewhat. The (others) did not," Wallace said. "We have to focus on why (those) did not and come up with a better game-plan to attack those next handful of races coming up." As Wallace adjusts to his sophomore season, the newly debuted XFINITY Series Chase format adds another element to the competition with its win-and-you're-in format. And Bubba is a fan. "I think it takes the pressure off us, really," he said. "I was talking to (Dale Earnhardt) Junior about it and he said that was the main thing that helped him was kind of relaxing. You get in kind of this consistent run -- obviously if you win, you're in. So, the emphasis is on winning but you can kind of take a step back knowing the points are going to reset as long as you're in the top 12. "So, it's exciting. I'm glad that NASCAR implemented that into the NASCAR XFINITY Series." • • • It's unsurprising Bubba favors the format, as the thrilling nature of the new Chase seems to fit the Bubba Wallace Brand -- something he's constantly building. It's a brand that’s a mixture of sass, humor, heavy metal music and transparency his fans experience through his social-media accounts. It could be a Twitter video of him and best friend/fellow driver Ryan Blaney 's heavy metal cover of a Parkway Drive song or a Snapchat of his plane ride to the track. It could be a tweet that reveals his fear of spiders ("You want an eight-legged thing running at you? Jumping at you? No," he said later) or an Instagram of his hike on the West Coast. No matter the subject, it's pure Bubba. That transparency allows fans to connect with Bubba away from the race track -- a luxury that many fans lack with their favorite drivers. "You get some of the funny tweets that you're not supposed to respond to but you do," Wallace said. "… It's just fun to be able to interact with them (fans). At the track, getting autographs, we get to talk to each other, but that's only two days out of the week. So, throughout, just keep them up with what you're doing." In the process, Bubba is aiding in the sport's growth: He appeared on an episode of the popular television show "American Idol" while in Los Angeles. He suited up for the gridiron and practiced with his childhood favorite Tennessee Volunteers football team. He's befriended rock stars like the band members from Asking Alexandria, bringing them to the race track. Just like that, NASCAR and pop culture have become intertwined. "Aside from what we do for a living, as far as race cars and turning left and going really fast, we have a personal life that we kind of like to show and show fans how we can connect with them," Wallace said. "A lot of fans watch 'American Idol' and I've got a lot of UT fans that follow me, so I've gotten to go to some of those games. And now I (got) to practice with the squad, which (was) really cool and one of the best days of my life. "But we just connect with the fans -- it's all about the fans in this sport," he continued. "We want to keep them engaged and get them to latch on, help build my brand." As the sport evolves, life's natural processes take place: Original, die-hard fans still form the core of NASCAR's audience, but as star drivers retire and up-and-comers make their marks, a younger generation steps into the light in the stands, too. These fans are still passionate -- but they're different. Young stars like Bubba know how to reach them. "I think anything that we do that's exciting, that's fun, that's cool to us is going to attract a new face," Wallace said. "NASCAR's all about bringing new faces in … We're trying to keep a consistent flow through and just trying to make everything exciting." At just 22 years old and at the beginning of a promising career, Bubba represents the future of NASCAR. And that future rocks out to Parkway Drive on the drums.
Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
Edwards: 'Kyle and I haven't talked' since Richmond
RELATED: No team orders for Edwards, Busch " Vote: Clean or dirty move? TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Following last weekend's thrilling finish to the Sprint Cup series race at Richmond International Raceway in which Carl Edwards bumped teammate Kyle Busch from the lead to pick up his second straight victory, the lingering question in the days leading up to this weekend's events at Talladega Superspeedway was if the Joe Gibbs Racing duo would bury the hatchet. According to Edwards, the two drivers have yet to speak to each other. "No, Kyle and I have not had a chance to talk yet," Edwards said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway . "I was testing at ( Indianapolis Motor Speedway ) for two days. I missed the meetings. This weekend will require us to all get together as a group and work well together. I'm sure we'll have a chance to talk." Busch confirmed Sunday at Talladega during the pre-race telecast that he and Edwards still have yet to clear the air, replying to FOX Sports analyst Kenny Wallace 's question about the situation with a simple, "No." Much was made of the move that saw Edwards nudge his teammate Busch, the reigning series champion, up the track in Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap to beat him by .675 seconds on the Virginia short track. RELATED: Cain: Edwards' move is what racing is all about Was it clean? Was it dirty? Should it matter that they're teammates? Should it matter that they're both already virtually locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of their early-season wins? (A NASCAR.com poll revealed that 76 percent of our readers deemed it a clean, racing move, for what it's worth.) But it all boils down to how the pair -- who've been racing against each other full-time for over a decade, but have been teammates for just over a year -- will handle things moving forward, both on and off the track. Busch was understandably terse in his post-race press conference at Richmond on Sunday, deflecting questions about the incident and instead noting how good of a car his team gave him. The two-time 2016 race winner has yet to offer any comment since. RELATED: Recap all of Edwards' wins " All of Busch's wins
Wallace Jr. fails post-race inspection at Auto Club
RELATED: Full race results " Race recap " Standings post-race FONTANA, Calif. -- A strong top-three finish for Darrell Wallace Jr . in Saturday's TreatMyClot.com 300 by Janssen at Auto Club Speedway was slightly marred, as NASCAR announced the No. 6 Ford failed post-race inspection. According to NASCAR officials, Wallace's Roush Fenway Racing entry failed to meet the minimum ride height requirement. Potential penalties for the team would be addressed early next week at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. (UPDATE: No penalties were issued to the No. 6 team) The third-place finish for Wallace tied the 22-year-old driver’s career-best finish in the XFINITY Series and was his top result thus far in the 2016 season. MORE: At-track photos
XFINITY GarageCam ‘drafts’ at Talladega
Matthew Dillner strolls the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage to catch up with drivers and football personality, Eli Gold, to see who the No. 1 draft pick could be.
Wallace Jr. aims to carry late-season surge into '16
Darrell Wallace Jr . looked perfectly comfortable sitting in his chair, awaiting reporters during NASCAR’s annual Charlotte Media Tour at the NASCAR Hall of Fame last month. Much has been expected of the talented young driver, who has learned that early navigation through NASCAR’s big leagues is a science of its own. But after a rookie season that fell a little short by Wallace's big standards, the 22-year old looked prime and readied for 2016, his best shot yet at winning a NASCAR national series championship. "You have rookie stripes for a reason, but they're gone so we need to show why they're gone," Wallace offered with a slight smile. As an 18-year old in 2012, the Alabama native had three top-10 finishes in four then-Nationwide Series starts and won a pole position, gaining great notice in the NASCAR garage. He answered that with a win in the 2013 Camping World Truck Series season and four more in 2014, earning him his high-profile, high-expectation XFINITY Series ride with Roush Fenway Racing last season. A fan favorite already, much has been made of Wallace's potential success story and now he is eager -- perhaps even a tad anxious -- to start proving why so many consider him a bright star in the sport. Last year’s XFINITY Series rookie campaign was tougher than even Wallace might have anticipated, however. He did have three top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 33 races, but Wallace expected -- and was accustomed to -- more still. Too often the performances fell short of what Wallace knew he could do. He expected to win. "I definitely learned a lot last season working with (crew chief) Seth (Barbour) and learning to make the right calls in practice," Wallace said. "That, for example, was a confidence booster. But we have to be more in-depth with that. I need to be in the meetings more and find out why x-y-z works with a-b-c." Wallace is particularly hopeful the final 13 races he ran with Barbour calling the shots will turn into a head start for 2016. He earned half of his total top-10s and two of his three top-five finishes when Barbour came on board last August. And they are highly optimistic about this season. In particular, Wallace wants -- and needs -- to up his game on the superspeedway tracks at Daytona Beach and Talladega. Two of Wallace's three worst finishes (34th in the summer and 20th ) came at Daytona and Talladega, respectively. A good start on Daytona's high banks in the Feb. 20 XFINITY season-opener is crucial for a number of reasons, including the potential for securing additional, much-welcomed sponsorship. The team will boast a one-race Daytona sponsor deal with Selfeo, an app that invites users to "immerse" themselves and promises to "transform a single screen on a single device into a customized, multi-screen viewing environment" with one-click. And Wallace is hopeful a great outing -- a win -- would be all the allure this sponsor needs. "Daytona is the Super Bowl for our sport and I'm going to try to go down early just to get the groove on," Wallace said. "There's so much pressure on our program to be competitive and win to get sponsorship. So to go to Daytona with sponsorship is super big." That sponsorship, Wallace added, "Could end up being a big potential race for us. Add confetti to it and they could potentially sign on for more." "It's one race, but this one race could set up our whole season. The offseason has been pretty hefty with front office trying to land sponsorship so to see progress gets you optimistic heading into the season." Wallace is also buoyed by what he and many see as a renewed commitment by the Roush team. The XFINITY cars are now housed with the Cup entries and across the board, the team's drivers are optimistic that the entire team's performance, in general, will be upped. "For all of us across the board, there's a lot going on, the whole organization," Wallace said. "We've moved XFINITY into the Cup shop and the communication level will just get higher and higher. Some other behind-the-scenes people are coming in and that will revamp our program. We need to get on a consistent program to make our Ford Mustangs better. … not force the issue, but have fun, be competitive, be smart, manage races better and myself. "We all want to be successful with whatever we do in life, to seize the opportunity we're given."
Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace Snap way into our hearts
Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr . have taken their show on the road. The friends/drivers/comedians took over the official NASCAR Snapchat account following Sunday's race at Phoenix, sending hilarious updates of their road trip to California throughout the night. From impersonating drivers' style behind the wheel (our favorite: Ryan Newman ) to impressions of drivers giving post-race interviews (our favorite: Joey Logano ), the two looked like … well, a couple of 22-year-olds having fun on NASCAR Goes West. Wallace sent out a sneak preview, but to view the whole thing, simply add "NASCAR" as an account you follow on Snapchat (download Snapchat from the App Store if you don't have it) and watch their story. Felt like that was strong intro to this takeover! Missed it? I got you right here pic.twitter.com/TfD7EfVbvY — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) March 14, 2016 When @BubbaWallace and @Blaney take over your Snap account... pic.twitter.com/yTYpgGflbz — NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 14, 2016
Practice crash sends Wallace Jr. to backup car
Darrell Wallace Jr. spins during the opening practice for the XFINITY Series at Daytona International Speedway, sending him to a backup car.