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Victory Lane: James Buescher
James Buescher wins the Fan Appreciation 200 Presented by New Holland at Iowa Speedway.
New format, but Suarez still a Dash 4 Cash favorite
RELATED: Complete rundown on Dash 4 Cash BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Daniel Suarez won two of the four Dash 4 Cash events last season, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hopes for more success when this year's bonus program kicks off Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway . Suarez certainly has to be considered a favorite to take home at least one of the four $100,000 bonus checks, and is equally capable of using the program to pave his way into the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. "It's a good track for me," Suarez said of the fast, high-banked half-mile. "I hope I can stay in the outside line, but Bristol is a good track for me for sure -- two top fives last year." Suarez pocketed the bonus at Bristol in the August event, thanks to a fifth-place finish, and again in September at Darlington Raceway with a third-place result. This year's program offers more than a six-figure bonus for finishing highest among the four eligible Dash 4 Cash drivers in each race. Earning the bonus in two of the four events is the equivalent of winning the race itself, and that should translate into a spot in the series' inaugural Chase. This year's Dash 4 Cash events are slated for Bristol, Richmond (April 23), Dover (May 14) and Indianapolis (July 23). A year ago, the program's stops were at Dover, Indy, Bristol and Darlington. There's no extra effort put forth by himself or his JGR team for the Dash races, Suarez said. "Not really, they happen to be good races for us. It happened to be most of the Dash 4 Cash races were in the second half the year and we were stronger in the second half," Suarez said. "I think things just worked out for us." Suarez leads JR Motorsports' Elliott Sadler by one point in the standings, and his only finish outside the top eight came a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway when his No. 19 Toyota came home in 16th place. "Honestly I think the team is doing an excellent job," he said. "It doesn't matter where we go, the team has a good car. I think I'm doing my job decent. We're working super hard. But … all the work the team did during the winter is paying off. I'm confident in them and it seems like they are confident in me." MORE: Heat races add spice to program Also new to the program this year are heat races, short sprints following qualifying that will determine the starting order for the main event. At Bristol each heat will consist of 50 laps, followed by a 200 -lap main. "It will be interesting, different for sure," Suarez said of the heat races. "For a driver, we're going to be racing those races harder, be more aggressive. But at the same time you can make many mistakes and if you (do), you are in trouble for the main. It's going to be difficult to manage that. But it's going to be something new for everyone. "But if you do well, if you win two, you can lock yourself in for the Chase." An outright win in any XFINITY Series race would accomplish the same thing, something that's not lost on Suarez. He has 11 top-five finishes In 41 career starts, including a runner-up this year at Las Vegas, a third at Phoenix and a fourth at Auto Club Speedway . He took the lead briefly on the final lap at ACS before running out of gas on the backstretch. "Yeah, that would be easier," he said, "but we're right in there. I think we'll win sooner or later. We just have to keep working to make it happen."
Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
Talla-mento Dogwich: Super food for a superspeedway
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Heading into its first NASCAR weekend of the 2016 season, Talladega Superspeedway announced a new culinary creation to its repertoire -- the Talla-mento Dogwich. Described as a "grilled, all-beef hot dog split into two and placed on top of melted Yancey's Fancy buffalo cheddar cheese, topped with a generous helping of Pimiento Cheese, placed in between two slices of Texas toast (grilled to golden brown) and cut down the middle." In between XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 'Dega on Saturday, I decided to give it a whirl. It took me a few, hesitant seconds before taking my first bite. Perhaps inspired by what would've been the late Dale Earnhardt's 65th birthday on Friday, the thing was intimidating. "We have the best and most competitive form of racing in the world here at Talladega Superspeedway , and now we have the most unique, tasty and big-menu items anywhere," said Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch. "At Talladega, size matters and our fans won't be disappointed with the incredibly large Talla-Mento Dogwich. It joins 'The Big One Meatball' (last year's concoction) as the most creative and delicious food items at any sporting event in the world." Spoiler alert -- I couldn't finish it. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First bite impressions: powerful, buttery overtones hit you first (the Texas toast was buttered and grilled perfectly) before the hot dog and cheese flavors follow. It's a solid first bite, meeting my expectations going in. Midway through is when I started to taste the heat from the pimento cheese, but it was mild. As a general buffalo-flavored-anything fan , I was excited to see how the Yancey's Fancy buffalo cheddar cheese came into play, but it was subtle, if at all noticeable. I haven't tried that cheese by itself before, so it's entirely possible the buffalo flavor is intended to take a backseat to the cheddar flavor, but I was hoping for more of a kick. It was slightly difficult to keep the sandwich intact, with the hot dogs initially laid across in an X-shape, marking the spot -- at the cross-section of guilt and pleasure. Unlike the description from Lynch, my sandwich was uncut. I think if it'd been sliced down the middle (rectangle style) with a hot dog slice on each slide, it would've produced better results and dispensed some of the flavors a little more evenly. I tapped out with a full belly about three-quarters through. Overall, for a warm, sunny day at the race track it makes for a good comfort food if you have some calories to spare. Verdict: For $5, it'll definitely fill you up. Recommended to fans who really love hot dogs and pimento cheese. (Duh.) Find it: OV Hill North, OV Hill South, Tri-Oval Tower, Infield.
Jones storms to bonus in new -look Dash 4 Cash
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It's payday for Erik Jones , as the 19-year-old is going home with an extra-large $100,000 check for taking the first NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash bonus at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. The race-winning Joe Gibbs Racing driver led a total of 62 of the 200 laps in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 , and his victory essentially locks up a spot in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Should Jones record another Dash 4 Cash bonus in any of the three remaining Dash 4 Cash races, having two Dash 4 Cash bonuses would be the equivalent to a regular-season race win and give him a leg up on seeding when the Chase begins on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway . MORE: What to know about the Dash 4 Cash "We got a really good restart and Kyle (Larson) just left the top open and we went up there and he worked pretty hard to keep us behind him," Jones said post-race. "We just kept digging and it worked out. Just an awesome feeling. I never thought we'd get our first win here at Bristol." As for what he's spending the dough on, Jones is a frugal man. "Well, we're all going to dinner so that's going to be a big bill already I can tell," Jones said. "After that, I don't know, I'll probably put it away. I don't like to buy too many things." RELATED: Jones' discusses emotional Victory Lane call Jones' JGR teammate Daniel Suarez , Richard Childress Racing driver Ty Dillon and JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier all qualified for the Dash 4 Cash competition by being the top two finishers among XFINITY Series regulars in the two heat races that preceded Saturday's main event, which all came down to the final restart on Lap 198. With just three laps remaining, it looked as if Suarez -- who was running the highest of the Dash 4 Cash drivers in third -- was going to be the one to hoist the cardboard check after the checkered flag fell. That was until his JGR teammate Kyle Busch spun his tires, backing up Suarez's No. 19 Toyota. "I feel like we had a top-three car all day long and we were running in the top five, top three all day," Suarez said after the race. "In the end, the outside line was the preferred line and my teammate ( Kyle Busch ) spun his tires right there at the end with old tires and I was just right there stuck in the middle on the inside and there was nothing I can do at that point." Jones came from fourth on the restart to win the race. This was Jones' first Dash 4 Cash event, as he was not eligible for the competition last season being a full-time Camping World Truck Series driver. The next Dash 4 Cash event will be the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 23 (12:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The two heat races will be 35 laps each, with a 140-lap main event. There are a total of four Dash 4 Cash events in the 2016 season.
Stewart embraced, supported by drivers in return
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage " Drivers react to Stewart's return RICHMOND, Va. -- The feeling around the NASCAR garage at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was both unanimous and magnanimous. Tony Stewart 's return to Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend was the big news of the week, possibly the year and he was greeted by welcome text messages, friendly pats on the back, and lots of smiles and goodwill. NASCAR legend Richard Petty, whose team's car was parked in the garage stall next to Stewart's, sought Stewart out and embraced him. By the time Stewart, 44, climbed into his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Friday morning's opening practice, many of his competitors had stopped by to shake the three-time champ's hand or wish him well in his first racing weekend since the 2015 season finale. Doctors cleared Stewart to compete this weekend after an eight-race absence while his body healed from a broken back -- an injury he suffered during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident just before the season began. RELATED: Stewart's return is the talk of the garage Stewart broke the news of his return himself on Twitter Thursday saying, "Well the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again." Then he added, "The Dr's said my scans ‘looked much better than they thought they would after 3 months.' So they cleared me." He will start Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 from the 18th-place on the grid -- his position in the only practice on a day shortened because of rain. But the weather was the only downer on a day dominated by a warm and enthusiastic welcome back for Stewart. "I don't know about from the NASCAR standpoint, but from a competitor's standpoint Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun," Carl Edwards said. Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday's race thanks to a chart-topping run in Friday's only practice and it certainly sets the stage for a grand return of the team's namesake. Stewart's team confirmed their leader is re-energized and enjoying the positive reinforcement throughout the garage and in the grandstands. "It's been interesting just for the fact that I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony, and obviously it's been an in-and-out of the car situation for the last two and a half years," Harvick said. "So, to see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner's standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on." And his fellow competitors want to see "Smoke" go out strong. "This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he's now going to some of the these race tracks for the final time and I know just in general, Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race and tracks and been very hands on with his race team," Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin said Friday. "It's a great season and I would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note."
Dale Jr.: 'Awesome to see' dad appreciated on birthday
RELATED: Full schedule for Talladega TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dale Earnhardt Sr. would have been 65 years old on Friday. Fittingly, his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., spoke about his father on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway , where the paternal duo has a combined 16 Sprint Cup Series victories. "It's crazy to think of what he would have been like at 65 years old," said the Hendrick Motorsports driver. "You kind of had an idea he wouldn't have changed a whole lot had he lived a little bit longer, but at 65 and what would he have been like at 80 and all those things would be hard to imagine." RELATED: Crew, competitors recall Earnhardt's final win " See all of his 76 wins So often in racing -- and in sports in general -- names and figures come and go as they pass through, their careers short or long. One has remained constant -- Earnhardt. "One of the best things about it, and I've said it before, is that it's great that people still talk about him. That the sport, his fans, the media, that everybody still acknowledges who he was and what he meant. That is all I care about … that we don't ever forget just the impact that he had because I felt like he had so much influence, definitely in the top five, top three people that influenced this sport as a whole, as much as Bill (France) Sr. and guys like that. I put him right up there with people that really changed the sport. "It's so awesome to see him get that kind of appreciation and recognition after all these years. Hopefully, that is something that never changes. I see it on his birthday and days like this is when I'm reminded of that appreciation that everybody has for him."
ICYMI: Fan hit by Kyle Busch's car in Bristol garage
Kyle Busch's car collides with a fan in the Bristol Motor Speedway garage as Busch was bringing his damaged No. 18 to his crew for repairs.
Catching up with Kyle Busch fan whose video went viral
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Darienne Breazeale couldn't walk down pit road at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday without NASCAR fans stopping to gush over a video of the 23-year-old North Carolina native's recent encounter with Kyle Busch in traffic. Before her now-famous exchange with the Sprint Cup Series champion, Breazeale was just a diehard Kyle Busch fan who, as told by her friends, would knock down walls to meet the No. 18 driver. No destruction was necessary when Busch pulled up right next Breazeale in traffic after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver swept the weekend at Martinsville Speedway , winning both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series races. RELATED: Watch the video After the video went viral, Kyle and Samantha Busch invited Breazeale and her friends to spend the weekend with the No. 18 crew at "The Last Great Colosseum," which is Breazeale's first trip to the short track. "Ever since we've got here, everybody has just been so nice," Breazeale told NASCAR.com on Saturday. "Every part of his crew has just gone out of their way ... They've let us sit out here with the team the whole time, stand with him while he does the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem and all that stuff." Cool 2 have Darienne from the viral Martinsville video with us today at the track. pic.twitter.com/W7zE4iIcEW — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) April 17, 2016 This was just Day 1 at the track for Breazeale, who plans on participating in more interviews and events before Sunday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "I didn't even have anything planned today with him," Breazeale said. "I have a certain time to be with him tomorrow ... but today when he got out of the car after practice I was standing at his trailer and I was like, 'What's up?' and he did like I did in the video, started freaking out and was like, 'You're awesome' and gave me a high five." Breazeale has gotten an outpouring of attention since the video was posted, but what she's most proud of is what it's done for her favorite driver. "What's so awesome to me, is that people who didn't like him ( Kyle Busch ) before or didn't realize how exciting NASCAR can be, they saw that and they saw how someone can be that excited about it," Breazeale said. "People that didn't like Kyle before, they're like, 'Wow, he's a good guy.' So I think he gained some fans out it."
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."