Backed by Junior Nation, Alex Bowman sees opportunity at Talladega
RELATED: Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish With Dale Earnhardt Jr . slated to miss his first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway since he broke into the big leagues full time as a rookie in 2000, many wonder which driver will replace the superspeedway ace as the one to beat in Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). How about, you know, the guy actually replacing him? Fresh off a seventh-place showing at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Alex Bowman is set to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the third consecutive week and the seventh time this season as the driver recovers from concussion-related symptoms. This weekend is perhaps Bowman's most significant start of the year. Because it's at Earnhardt's own Talladega. RELATED: Earnhardt-Talladega streak to continue Sunday "He's got a couple fans out there," Bowman told NASCAR.com at Kansas. "Man, I'm excited about (racing at Talladega). Speedway racing is always stressful, but … ( Hendrick Motorsports ) brings such fast race cars to the race track and their speedway stuff is amazing. Always fast. Especially the 88. So, just really looking forward to having a chance to win. "I'm going to sit Dale down and have a couple-hour conversation with him about speedway racing. If there's a speedway racer left in this garage, it's him, for sure." The man's got a point. From a wins standpoint, Talladega ranks as Junior's best track with six, only closely followed by four wins at Daytona, another Earnhardt cornerstone -- and another superspeedway. Bowman's 'Dega stats don't match Junior's, of course, but he did pilot the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish just last year. And while it's almost jarring to hear a driver say that he is "excited" for Talladega, it's unsurprising coming from Bowman, who'll have the roar of the crowd on his side -- a fanbase that has named the man he's replacing NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 13 years running. "Junior Nation has been great," said Bowman, 23. "It's been really cool; they've just been really supportive. Every now and then there's one fan that hates me, but for the most part they've been awesome. Casey Mears fans hate me after (Charlotte), because apparently it was my fault that we blew a tire and wrecked him, but Junior Nation has been awesome." RELATED: Dale Jr. to join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville Not only does Bowman have full access to Earnhardt's Talladega insight, a wealth of knowledge so deep it likely needs its own Dewey Decimal System, he's sharing substitute driving duties with a four-time Sprint Cup champ and six-time 'Dega winner in Jeff Gordon . "It’s been really cool (to share a ride with Gordon). Jeff was my favorite driver growing up when I was a kid," Bowman said. "It's been really good to learn from him. He's an open book. All five of my teammates are complete open books. It's great to lean on them and learn as much as I can, but Jeff just has so much experience and has a really interesting view on a lot of things. "It's been a great time just listening and observing and learning everything I can from him." The lessons taken at "Gordon Drivers Ed, Inc." appear to be working, too. While the final results might not show the whole picture, Bowman, at times, has looked like the more competitive driver behind the wheel of the No. 88, and owns the car's best finish -- seventh -- since Earnhardt placed second at Pocono way back in June. Bowman says that some people joke with him and say "Oh, I'm glad to see you've finally learned how to drive." He's always known how to drive, it's just been more about opportunities. And if luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, "Bad Luck Bowman" -- a driver that once learned he'd been fired via Twitter -- knows the magnitude of the opportunity presented to him this weekend and in his remaining races. And you can be sure he'll be prepared. "I hope (this opportunity has put my name out there)," Bowman said. "We've talked to a lot of people and it always comes back to money. It's always 'Well, do you have any sponsorship?' 'Do you have any funding?' I don't, so it's just … the sport's such a business at this point that it really kind of limits what I can and can't get into and that's what's limited what I can and can't get into for the last four years. "I don't have anything lined up (for next year yet). I think my role that I had at Hendrick Motorsports before all this happened is still going to be the same. Still being a part of the team, still doing all the simulator stuff and helping as much as I can. I don't think that will change. Obviously, when Dale comes back and all that, I don't really know what that leaves for me as far as driving anything. "I don't know what the future holds there. I don't have anything going forward, really." In the short-term, at least, he'll have the full support of Junior Nation at Talladega. </p>
Talladega Chase race to be called Hellmann's 500
RELATED: Buy tickets for Talladega TALLADEGA, AL – Hellmann's mayonnaise, which has been a staple in American kitchens for generations, and NASCAR's Most Competitive Track – Talladega Superspeedway - announced today that Sunday’s (Oct. 23) much anticipated elimination race in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will now be known as the Hellmann's 500 . Hellmann's, a brand of Unilever, has been involved in the sport of NASCAR since 2004 and has a reputation for delivering fans with quality, delicious products. In addition to the new Talladega Superspeedway y (TSS) partnership, the Hellmann’s brand has a long-time relationship with six-time TSS winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . and JR Motorsports. NASCAR fans have embraced many of the attributes that resonate with the Hellmann's family of products – plain and simple, they are the real deal. Hellmann's flagship product, Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise, is the best-selling mayonnaise in the United States. "In honor of our long-standing partnership with NASCAR, Hellmann's is thrilled to show our dedication to the race car community by becoming the exclusive, title sponsor of the Talladega race," said Hellmann's Marketing Director Russel Lilly. "We've been a staple on the speedway for years, getting to know Dale Jr. and establishing his No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet as the car to beat. Whether on the track or cheering from the stands, Hellmann's is a life-time fan of the sport of racing and we’re honored to be a part of such an iconic race." "Hellmann's is an incredible nationally known product that fits in perfectly with our facility and the fans who attend the events here," said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. "We have an incredible fan base who are here all week and love to cook up a variety of tasty dishes to eat while they are enjoying the best racing in the world. Take a walk on our property and you will see campers and tailgaters using a host of Hellmann’s spreads. We are glad to welcome them to our Talladega family with the Hellmann's 500 ." Sunday’s Hellmann's 500 at the mammoth 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked layout, will be the pivotal third and final race in the Round of 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . When the checkered flag falls in the pressure-packed event, the field of title contenders will be reduced from 12 drivers to eight. While he won’t be competing in the Hellmann's 500 , Earnhardt Jr. will be at Talladega and will be interacting with fans as part of the Fan Question & Answer session at the start-finish line as part of the track’s " Pre-Race Pit Pass Upgrade ." Weekend preparations for the Hellmann's 500 get underway Friday (Oct. 21) with two different practice sessions (1:00-1:55 p.m. CDT & 3:30-4:25 p.m. CDT). Foodland/ Food Giant Qualifying, which will determine the starting lineup for the Hellmann's 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, is set for Saturday (Oct. 22) at 3:00 p.m. CDT. A ticket to the Hellmann's 500 also gets fans into the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert, which will feature country star Jerrod Niemann, Tim Dugger and DJ Michaelis. The Hellmann's 500 is set for a 1:00 p.m. (CDT) start Sunday (Oct. 23).
Food City -Bristol partnership roots run deep
RELATED: Bristol quick facts " Full weekend schedule BRISTOL, Tenn. – It began with a promotion to help former series sponsor RJ Reynolds sell product. Today, 25 years later, the Food City sponsorship of Bristol Motor Speedway 's spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event is as strong as ever. It is the second-longest race entitlement in NASCAR – trailing only the Coca-Cola sponsorship of the 600-mile May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We started in 1992, followed up the Valleydale 500 ," Steve Smith , Food City President and CEO, said Thursday at BMS. "That was back when it was still Winston Cup. We worked with RJ Reynolds on a promotion ... that was the whole genesis of us getting involved in racing." Initially, it wasn't a long-term deal, but by the time the next season had arrived, officials with the grocery chain were ready and willing to return. "We signed the (initial) agreement and we had a great first race," Smith said. "Alan Kulwicki actually won our first race in 1992; I remember that well. We were off and running." Kulwicki, an owner/driver, went on to win the series title that season. Tragically, the following year he was killed in a plane crash while en route to BMS to defend his Food City 500 title. Smith said his company, founded by his father Jack, became involved at the right time in the sport, when the fan base was on the upswing, TV coverage was gaining traction and sponsorship dollars were flowing. "What happened with Bristol was really indicative of what was happening with NASCAR, it was just growing and growing," he said. "Five years later Bruton (Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder) bought the track and things just really started to escalate here with the amenities and the things that they did for the race fans. ... Folks love coming here, they love the racing environment, and they love, I think, the southern hospitality. "We try, as a sponsor, to do a lot of things to get them in here a little bit early, whether it's Food City Race Night or other events to really make it a full week of fun for the race fan." In addition to the Sprint Cup race sponsorship, the company also sponsors the August NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Bristol. While there have been times that spending money on race entitlement rights might have been questionable, Smith said "I don't think there's ever been a time when we really thought about dropping the race. "Now, we've negotiated pretty tough with Speedway Motorsports because obviously the fan base dropped a little bit, the viewership dropped a little bit, but when you've got folks like (former BMS General Manager) Jeff Byrd and (current GM) Jerry Caldwell that you know are going to do everything they can to give the race fan, our customers, that experience, it makes it pretty easy to continue to spend the dollars and continue to keep our associates that work in our stores involved in racing, and that's a big part of it, too." The return for Food City , he said, comes in many forms. No. 1 is name recognition. "We're a relatively small regional company -- we're in four states, 135 stores, 16,000 associates," Smith said. "It sounds like a lot but in the scheme of things compared to some of our competition, it's not. But it's a sense of pride for our associates, our customers who know we sponsor racing. "NASCAR fans are very loyal, they're loyal to the brands that are involved whether it's Food City or other consumer products sponsors. We think it helps us sell more products and bring more people in to our stores." In February of 2014, Food City and BMS officials announced a five-year extension for the naming rights of the track's spring Sprint Cup race. "At the end of the day, it's hard to put a financial statement together that proves that it's a great spend, but we've been doing good ever since we been sponsoring racing so we don't want to stop there," Smith said.
Keselowski gets by with help from spotter
Go inside the headsets as Brad Keselowski works his way to the front with help from spotter Joey Meier.
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 )
NASCAR TV schedule: October 24-30
Logano lands victory in Talladega overtime
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Logano gear " Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- If Joey Logano 's victory in Sunday's Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was decisive -- in relative terms -- the race between Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon for the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup 's Round of 8 was anything but. In an overtime race that went four laps past its scheduled distance, Logano surged ahead after a restart on Lap 191 at the 2.66-mile track and beat runner-up Brian Scott to the finish line by .124 seconds. Hamlin's margin over Dillon for the eighth spot in the Round of 8 was much smaller. At the end of 510.72 miles, Hamlin outraced Kurt Busch for third place by .006 seconds -- roughly two feet -- to score the exact number of points he needed to eliminate Dillon from the Chase on a tiebreaker. Logano, who won for the second time this season, the second time at Talladega and the 16th time in his career, entered the race on the Chase bubble but settled the issue by leading the final 45 of 192 laps -- after Chase hopefuls Martin Truex Jr . and Brad Keselowski fell out with blown engines and failed to survive the Round of 12. "It's never a layup here at Talladega," Logano said. "It's always close. You never get a big lead. (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that. "We got that track position and just hung onto it. I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well." Hamlin's success completed a perfect round for Joe Gibbs Racing , which placed all four of its drivers in the Round of 8. Matt Kenseth , Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch spent all 192 laps riding around at the back of the field and finished 28th, 29th and 30th, respectively, but had sufficient margins entering the race to afford the luxury of a strategy that could be summed up in two words -- "Don't wreck." "We needed some things to fall our way if we didn't win the race," Hamlin said. "Today things fell our way. The last lap, we went out and earned it. I think back all the years that I've been doing this, honestly, 11 years. "For me, I really truly believe this is the first really great fortune that we had in a Chase in my 11-year career. Things just happened well for us. We went out there and we did our jobs. It was very tough to be able to run against guys that had a lot of teammates up front. I knew that was going to be a problem for us all day. But we were able to have just enough there at the end to get past the 41 ( Kurt Busch ) and get in." Seventh-place finisher Kevin Harvick and 23rd-place Jimmie Johnson already had secured spots in the Round of eight, thanks to their respective victories at Kansas and Charlotte. Kurt Busch completed the Round of 8 field comfortably with his fourth-place result. Joining Dillon, Truex and Keselowski on the sidelines was Chase Elliott , who came to Talladega 25 points below the cut line and finished 12th after leading nine laps. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Twitter-less no more? Edwards vows to join if he wins title
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Carl Edwards joked earlier this week about the possibility of finally, at long last, joining the popular social media site, Twitter. And the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship runner-up was asked again about it Friday at Talladega Superspeedway , where Edwards again promised he would join the social media site if he wins the 2016 season championship. "Yeah, it's going to happen,’" Edwards said, shaking his head and smiling. Among NASCAR's most famous "Twitter-less" drivers, Edwards told reporters he didn't know how popular the social media site would be by the time he finally acquiesced. “ By the time I join Twitter, Twitter will be like out of fashion probably," he said. "But that's my plan ... to tweet from Victory Lane at Homestead. That would be good." There's one small hitch: Edwards was admittedly unsure of the details. "I don't know what my Twitter handle would be," he said. Earlier in the week, reporters attending a NASCAR test at Homestead-Miami Speedway had reminded Edwards of his pledge to join Twitter if he clinched the 2016 Cup title. And he surprised the media group by telling them he had considered posting something from that test session on Twitter via his public relations representative's account. Other high-profile drivers such as Jimmie Johnson , Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski have been active on the site. Dale Earnhardt Jr . famously started using his Twitter account after winning his second Daytona 500 in 2014, and now has 1.76 million followers. Only one thing is stopping Edwards from joining right now. "I committed if we won the championship I will join," Edwards said.
Talladega history shows second in points far from secure
RELATED: Series standings " Chase Grid " All you need to know for Talladega The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination-style format is in its third year and the 2016 postseason marks the last time that Talladega Superspeedway will serve as a cutoff race for the Round of 12 as the playoff field drops to eight drivers. The Talladega and Kansas Chase races will flip-flop their spots on the schedule in 2017, making Kansas the Round of 12 cutoff race. In previous years, "The Big One" has wreaked havoc on the postseason picture, leaving drivers who looked like near-locks to advance on the outside looking in as the championship battle continued. Bad luck at Talladega always seems to find at least one Chase driver. In the past two years, the driver second in points (and the first driver not locked in by a win) entering Talladega has failed to advance. Both times that has been a Joe Gibbs Racing driver; Kyle Busch in 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2015. This year, Matt Kenseth , a JGR driver, enters Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in that same position. Will bad luck strike JGR three years in a row? NASCAR.com examines how the Chase eliminations played out at Talladega the past two years. (*) on chart indicates that driver won a Round of 12 race to lock up a spot in the Round of 8.
JGR cars sent back through Talladega qualifying inspection
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR asked three Joe Gibbs Racing teams to make adjustments on their Toyotas just before Coors Light Pole Award qualifying Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway . The cars driven by reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch and his JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were flagged in the minutes before qualifying. As the cars were being rolled out to the track, NASCAR noticed the right rear quarter panels had been manipulated around the deck lid area. NASCAR inspectors pulled the cars out of line, and the teams corrected the issue before going back through tech. Kenseth led the team with a third-place qualifying effort and will start Sunday's Hellmann's 500 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from the second row. Hamlin will start eighth. Busch will begin 14th . Carl Edwards , who drove the only JGR car not tagged at inspection, will start 13th . However, Edwards' No. 19 team did lose its pit stall selection for a fourth warning related to inspections. Kenseth's team lost its pit stall selection for the same reason. "The bodies on these cars can be pushed and prodded and these teams are very smart at the areas … for a bunch of little gains," NASCAR's Senior Vice President for Competition Scott Miller said. "It's nothing huge but it's our job to make sure it's even across the board and that's what we do. A little infraction is an infraction, right? "The quarter panels appeared to have been messed with around the deck lid and we brought them back in and rectified it." Busch said after qualifying that he wasn't too concerned with the situation. "Not my problem," Busch said. "I just worry about driving and doing the best I can do there, so did everything right and we ended up exactly where we thought we were going to -- 14th -- so we'll take it. That's fine and we'll go racing tomorrow and see what happens from there." He said his No. 18 Snickers Halloween Toyota didn't really feel any different from Friday practice to Saturday qualifying. "Everything was really the same, you know?" Busch said. "We did some single-car stuff yesterday just barely. Didn't really do a full mock run or anything and taping it down or anything like that, but knew we had decent speed." "... We'd love to be able to finish these things and that's all we've got to worry about tomorrow is being able to capture the right amount of points and be able to move on." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;