Post-Race Reactions: Fast Five 225
Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet Jr., Parker Kligerman and James Buescher comment on their solid runs at Chicagoland Speedway.
Keselowski preps for Junior-less 'Dega with motivation, fast car
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brad Keselowski 's winning Coke Zero 400 Ford was lightning fast . The Team Penske driver led 115 of the 161 laps around Daytona International Speedway to win the July event at the famed superspeedway. But he won't be unloading that hot rod this weekend at Talladega. "The car that we won Daytona with I saw it the other day," Keselowski said Oct. 7 during a Team Penske luncheon at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "It's sitting in the back and completely torn down. The body and everything is still just like it finished at Daytona. I asked the guys, 'Are we really gonna let that car sit? Are we not gonna run that at Talladega?' "And they said, 'No, we've got a car better than that for Talladega.'" Given Keselowski's current circumstances heading down to Alabama for the elimination race this Sunday (Hellmann's 500, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a fast car is a must. His 38th-place finish last week at Kansas Speedway put the No. 2 driver in a precarious position on the Chase Grid, as he sits 11th of 12 drivers and seven points behind the cut-off spot. RELATED: Keselowski, Elliott lowest on Chase Grid But if anyone can climb out of the hole holding the checkered flag, it's Keselowski. The 32-year-old veteran has a field-high four wins at Talladega, including the spring race earlier this season. For Keselowski, his past success paves the way for future conquest. "There's a self-fulfilling prophecy to plate racing to when you have confidence it transcends, not just through yourself, but to the cars you're running around, other drivers that work with you more, but also to your team, to where your team puts extra emphasis on those race and the drivers year-round cut you a little more slack because they just think you're going to pass them anyway," Keselowski mused. "And that creates a snowballing effect of momentum at plate tracks. So when you can have consecutive quality runs at a plate race, it almost gets easier. "It's kind of hard to explain and funny to explain, but I would say the success we've had this year on the plate tracks has put my team in a spot to where they almost put more effort on those races and developing the car and developing strategy and so forth because they have confidence that we can perform well at those tracks. And that they're not so much of a roll of a roulette wheel." Keselowski isn't the only current driver with a flair for plate racing. Six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . is always considered a favorite heading down to the Deep South. But Earnhardt, who is out for the remainder of the season due to concussion-like symptoms, will be watching the Talladega chaos unfold from the sidelines -- something that hasn't happened there since Junior began racing in the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2000. The absence of a veteran plate racer like Earnhardt Jr. is a big deal, Keselowski says. "There's no doubt about it that Dale Jr. at Talladega is one of the best," Keselowski said. "Without kind of putting in how the field feels about Dale himself in the moment, just losing one of the best drivers at the track is going to change the race. When you add in those other components and elements, I think it reduces the likelihood that you'll kinda see the field line up single-file against the wall. "And that itself means that the race is more taxing and an opportunity for incidents goes up dramatically." Multi-car incidents, tagged the "Big One" at restrictor plate tracks, are definitely no-go zones for Keselowski, who likely needs a win to advance to the next round of the Chase. There's no room for mistakes, no room for wrecks -- and likely no room for even just "safe" finishes. "Even being good at Talladega, it still doesn't feel good going there with no win," Keselowski said. "But you know you have an opportunity, especially when you have a great team and all those things. It can be tough -- I think it’s tougher on the guys that go there and don't enjoy that style of racing already. "But for me, I look forward to it."
Five to Watch: Sleeper picks to win Talladega
Click here to see the five sleeper picks for Talladega
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 )
NBCSN, NASCAR Productions Present 'NASCAR Seasons: 2001'
RELATED: Oral history of first race after 9-11 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Immediately following this Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage at Martinsville Speedway , NBCSN presents "NASCAR Seasons: 2001," a new 60-minute documentary that chronicles a NASCAR season and a year that will never be forgotten. Unfolding through Dale Earnhardt's tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500 , the enormous outpouring of emotions that followed, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s stirring victory at the July Daytona race, "NASCAR Seasons: 2001" also covers the sport's passionate reaction to the tragic events of the September 11th attacks. The story of this unforgettable year illustrates how NASCAR's legion of supporters came together at times of sorrow and jubilation to exhibit a tremendous sense of unity, and how the experiences of 2001 generated several advancements in safety that continue to evolve today. Produced in partnership with NASCAR Productions, the documentary candidly presents the events through rarely seen archival footage and new interviews with those who experienced the season firsthand. "NASCAR Seasons: 2001" premieres Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Dale Earnhardt Jr . contributes, openly discussing his memories from the year he lost his father and NASCAR lost a racing icon. The special features interviews with winner of the 2001 Sprint Cup Championship, Jeff Gordon , and fellow drivers Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton , Kyle Petty, Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler . In addition, the documentary includes interviews with former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, and longtime NASCAR senior executive Mike Helton, as they recall the challenges, healing and ultimately the pride that surrounded the sport and its millions of fans. Below are excerpts from "NASCAR Seasons: 2001": Dale Earnhardt Jr . on his father's impact: "When mainstream media was covering the death of my dad, how much attention that got kind of blew me away. Because I don't even know if dad had an idea of what he was to the world, or what he was to this country." Kyle Petty on Dale Jr. returning to Daytona in July for the first race after his father's passing: "The way he handled himself and didn't shy away from it. 'It is part of who I am and who I am going to be for the rest of my life.' He became, in a lot of ways, a leader in the garage that day." Mike Helton on delaying the first race after September 11, 2001: "Sports and entertainment are good complements to a healing process. But there is a time and a place. I think we landed on you simply have to be aware of the fact that the magnitude of that day was one that deserved peace and quiet." Tune-in to watch the Goody's Fast Relief 500 this Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or listen live on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can also purchase tickets to catch all the on-track action in person by visiting www.nascar.com/tickets .
The Rundown: Talladega driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway : 1. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Not even dragging his jack around for one lap could keep Logano out of Victory Lane. Logano grabbed the lead five laps after the engine of teammate Brad Keselowski 's dominant No. 2 car expired and he didn't let it go, leading the final 45 laps. Grade: A 2. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . In his 49th start, Scott snagged the best finish of his career -- and first top 10 -- with a brilliant run. It also was the best finish for RPM since Marcos Ambrose placed second at Watkins Glen more than two years ago . Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit road (again) and advanced to the next round of the Chase by the slimmest of margins (about two feet). Hamlin didn't make it easy on himself, but he's moving on -- and his No. 1 track, Martinsville, is up next. Grade: A 4. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Steady Busch flew under the radar into the Round of 8. Well, until his postrace dust-up with teammate Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's fourth top 10 in seven starts at Talladega is also his sixth this season, a personal best. In addition, it was his fourth top five this season, one more than in his previous three full-time seasons combined. Grade: A 6. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing ninth in his first race there in May 2014. Grade: A 7. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick was running behind Joey Logano on Logano's "jack lap" and caught a huge break when the jack remained attached to Logano's car and didn't fly into him. Grade: A 8. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Finally! Almirola's streak of starts without a top-10 finish ends at a career-high 32. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . How close was Dillon to advancing in the Chase? The difference was the one point Denny Hamlin earned by finishing .006 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch . Grade: A 10. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top-10 finishes for the third time this season despite having an average running position Sunday of 25.8. Grade: A- 11. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney ran with the leaders all afternoon, and his 7.6 average running position was third best. He also led laps for the second time this season. Grade: A 12. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott needed a win to advance in the Chase and did everything he could -- his average running position of 7.3 was second to Kurt Busch 's 6.9 -- but he was hemmed in at the end and couldn't challenge the front-runners. Grade: A 13. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard posted his best finish since his last top 10, in July at Indianapolis. Grade: B 14. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman, whose average running position of 27.3 was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20, ran one lap in the top 15 -- his last. Grade: B- 15. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle was strong early and led 13 laps, but his day took a negative turn when he brought out the second caution on Lap 114. A coming-together with Jeffrey Earnhardt and Casey Mears sent all three cars into the inside wall. Grade: C 16. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Three of McDowell's five best finishes this season have been on restrictor-plate tracks (10th and 15th at Daytona). Grade: A 17. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne was two cars behind Kasey Kahne when Kahne spun on Lap 182. Bayne was able to check up and avoid running into the back of Jamie McMurray . Grade: B- 18. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . In a season of small victories, Bowyer posted his 10th top-20 finish of the season. Grade: B- 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's day was saved when he didn't plow into Kasey Kahne 's spinning car immediately in front of him on Lap 182. Grade: B- 20. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick now has finished 20th to 24th in half of this year's races (16 of 32). Grade: C 21. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill made a great save with 20 laps to go when his car went veering down the track after he tried to fill a gap in front of David Ragan and received a nudge from behind. Grade: B 22. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . That Buescher finished the race is the story here. He had DNFs for crashes in the season's first three restrictor-plate races. Grade: B 23. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson did his best to help teammate Chase Elliott , but in the end, wherever the No. 48 finished was never an issue. Johnson's ticket into the next round of the Chase was punched two weeks ago. Grade: S (for Smart, Safe and Satisfactory) 24. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing sixth in the fall race three years ago. Grade: C 25. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in restrictor-plate races this season. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500 . Grade: C 26. Ryan Reed , No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Nice Sprint Cup debut for the 23-year-old. Grade: B- 27. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Great effort by DiBenedetto, who raced even though he was in the throes of food poisoning. Grade: C+ 28. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . If you are going to be critical of what Gibbs drivers Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch did Sunday -- playing it safe by driving together in the back of the field -- would you have been critical of any of the three if they had mixed it up in the peloton, crashed and failed to advance in the Chase? You can't have it both ways. Grade: S (as in See Jimmie Johnson ) 29. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ibid. Grade: S 30. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Op cit. Grade: S 31. Bobby Labonte , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. Our TBJT (Throw Back to Junior Theme) Latin bibliography references end with Labonte, who completed his four-race, restrictor-plate run for the second consecutive year the same way he began the season – with a 31st-place finish. Grade: C- 32. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Driver Tony's 70th superspeedway restrictor-plate race finished quietly. Can't say the same for Owner Tony. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett stayed out during green-flag pit stops and led six laps, one fewer than he led in his first 101 Sprint Cup starts. Grade: C+ 34. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Earnhardt's Lap 114 tangle with Greg Biffle also collected Casey Mears . Despite significant damage, Earnhardt posted the first lead-lap finish of his career (20 starts). Grade: C 35. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne went for a spin on Lap 182, and his run of good finishes -- six top 10s in his previous seven races -- spun out, too. Grade: D 36. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman's tweet said it all: "3rd with 5 to go and we finish 36th ... damn speedway racing." Grade: D 37. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished 13 laps off the pace in his first start at Talladega in two years. Grade: F 38. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski had the dominant car and led a race-high 90 laps, but he held the point for too long after debris blocked part of his grill. A slick, orchestrated move with Ryan Blaney removed the debris, but it was too late. Moments later, his engine started smoking and his day, and championship hopes, came to an end on Lap 145. Grade: F 39. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Racing can be so cruel. For the second time in three weeks, something bad happened to Mears for no other reason than he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he was two lanes below Greg Biffle and having a beautiful day when Biffle turned into Jeffrey Earnhardt and also collected Mears. The three slammed into the inside wall, but only Mears could not continue and was gone after 113 laps. Two weeks ago, Mears received a "U" grade for Unfortunate. This week? Based on his grade at Charlotte -- and if you caught all four clues -- you know the answer. Grade: U2 40. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . When Truex's engine blew on Lap 42, his championship hopes ended as well. It's a shame Truex won't be able to contend for the championship, but we haven't heard the last of Truex this season. Finishing with the most victories would be huge. Grade: F
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;
NASCAR TV schedule: October 24-30
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."
RECAP: Chase troubles hit five top contenders
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman recaps the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that saw problems for five of the drivers remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.