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Post-Race Reactions: Showtime Southern 500
Edwards, Keselowski, Kahne and others congrat Regan Smith and comment on their race in Darlington.
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).
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr. backs Bowman, will tackle Talladega on the air
RELATED: Alex Bowman's time to shine TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Talladega's favorite son, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., won't be racing this weekend but much to the pleasure of his massive fandom, he will be trackside helping his Hendrick Motorsports team and even working in the MRN radio and NBCSN television booth during Sunday's Hellmann's 500 . Earnhardt, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, was a popular sight in Talladega's garage Friday afternoon. He shared his thoughts in an impromptu interview outside his team's hauler just before opening Sprint Cup Series practice. Earnhardt seemed eager to return to the announcing booth during the race -- something he'll do on both radio and television. "It gives me an opportunity to see the racing from a different perspective and that's an opportunity to learn something about the sport," Earnhardt said. "It'll be fun. It'll be a neat experience. "I've been in the booth before and had a great time at Michigan this year for the XFINITY race. I won't be doing the whole race [Sunday], but … I'm glad I have the opportunity and to be able to still kinda be around and be a witness to what's happening at the race track. It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," Earnhardt added with a smile. "The only thing that ever made me nervous was driving race cars. I don't feel nervous. I feel good about going up there. What's the worst thing that could happen, right?" Earnhardt was very complimentary of Alex Bowman , who along with veteran Jeff Gordon , has been filling in for him in the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet. In six starts for Earnhardt, Bowman has a pair of top-10 finishes. He scored his best showing of seventh place last week at Kansas -- while suffering from a stomach bug that made him so sick, the 23-year-old was on a stretcher getting an IV after the race. "The night before [the race] was a terrible evening as far as how he felt even getting a good night's sleep," Earnhardt said. "I was very surprised he was as competitive as he was, as bad as he felt. He was very nauseous throughout the race. He was a real trouper. Most of those guys on track have that grit and determination. "But he can do it. And he's capable and belongs out there." This weekend's race at Talladega will be a new challenge for Bowman. However, Earnhardt has high expectations. "I think he's going to do great," Earnhardt said. "He's going to have fun and he's going to really enjoy the car because it's going to be competitive. We'll sit down and talk a lot and give him all the opportunities and understanding he can. He's already had some experience so some of the things we'll talk about will already make sense to him. "I'm looking forward to sharing what I can throughout the weekend to help him. I've told him from the start, now that's he's getting more opportunities and I'm out of the car for the rest of the year, he's able to kind of relax and realize he doesn't have to bottle up lightning for one particular weekend. He'll have a lot of opportunities this year to show what he can do. "He did that last weekend and pretty much every time he's been in the car he's shown he's fast and very capable and I expect that this weekend."
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.
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.
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."
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;
With uncertain future, Mears focused on '16 season
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Casey Mears says he and the Germain Racing No. 13 team are concentrating their efforts only on the remaining five races of 2016 and can't speak about next year. "Not at the moment," Mears said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway . "Right now we're just focused on what we talked about at the beginning of the season. Focus on the remainder of this year first and foremost." Mears, 38, has one victory in 483 career starts at NASCAR's top level, capturing the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He has a best points finish of 14th in 2006. Rumors have Germain opting to replace Mears next season, possibly with NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . Dillon's Richard Childress Racing organization has a technical alliance with Germain. Geico, the No. 13 team's primary sponsor, is signed through 2018. In many cases, sponsor and driver contracts run concurrently. "As I know more, we can talk about it," Mears said. "But right now we're just focused on getting through this weekend." Mears enters Sunday's Hellmann’s 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) 28th in points. He has five top-10 finishes in 26 careers starts at the 2.66-mile track.
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>