Thursday, April 22, 2021

Denny Hamlin is 10/1 to win 2021 Geico 500 at Talladega


Denny Hamlin

11 FedEx Ground Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing


Race Info:
Race: Geico 500
Date/Time: Sunday, April 25/2 p.m. ET
Distance: 188 laps/500 miles
Track Shape: Tri-Oval
Track Length: 2.66 Miles
Banking: 33 degrees

2020 Winner: Ryan Blaney

Express Notes:

Press Kit: Download the 2021 FedEx Racing press materials at www.fedexracing.com/presskit, including bios for Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart and Joe Gibbs Racing leadership, program highlights and statistics.

Richmond Recap: A solid-handling car and fast pit stops kept Hamlin up front for most of the 300-mile event. An 11.6-second pit stop even put the #11 in the lead for the final restart with 12 laps to go. But the FedEx Toyota did not take off well when the green flag waved, and Alex Bowman made the pass around Hamlin for the eventual win. The second-place finish for Hamlin was his eighth top-five in the season’s nine races and sixth straight. The result increased Hamlin’s championship lead to 81 points, and the stage wins earned him two playoff points. The FedEx Racing team raced with heavy hearts at Richmond, with the #11 Toyota paying tribute to the FedEx team members killed last Thursday in a mass shooting at a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. The car featured a black ribbon “Indy” decal and the hashtag #fedexstrong on the TV panel.

Talladega Preview: The NASCAR Cup Series makes its way to Talladega, the biggest and fastest track on the circuit. Coming off a strong performance in Richmond, Hamlin and the FedEx #11 team look to carry that momentum with them as they bring their FedEx Ground Toyota Camry to Talladega. Hamlin has two wins at the superspeedway but is focused on changing it to three come this weekend. The #11 Toyota will again honor the memories of the FedEx Ground Indianapolis shooting victims with black-ribbon and #fedexstrong decals and will promote a fundraising site for those affected by this tragedy: gofundme.com/FedExSurvivors.

Hamlin Statistics:

Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Races: 30
Wins: 2
Poles: 0
Top-5: 9
Top-10: 13
Laps Led: 346
Avg. Start: 16.9
Avg. Finish: 16.7

Hamlin Conversation – Talladega:


What is your FedEx Racing team’s focus as you get ready for Talladega?

“First and foremost, we want to continue to think of the families and team members in Indianapolis affected by last week’s tragedy. Our FedEx Camry will continue to reflect that with a black-ribbon decal and also information about the support fund for those affected. We’ll bring our A game to the track as we always do and see if we can get a win for our FedEx family.”

Are you frustrated that the first win hasn’t come yet?

“Yeah, there’s frustration, for sure. But it doesn’t change my attitude or work ethic. I’m going to work just as hard to win next week and the week after that. You’re a competitor, you want to win. Especially when you have a great opportunity to win.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Aric Almirola is 20/1 to win 2021 Geico 500 at Talladega

 

Aric Almirola

Talladega Race Advance

Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

 

Event Overview

 

● Event: GEICO 500 (Round 9 of 36)

● Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday April 25

● Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

● Layout: 2.66-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 188 laps/500 miles

● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

Notes of Interest

● Almirola tied the record last year of eight consecutive Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway top-10s set by Dale Earnhardt Jr., from April 2001 and October 2004. Almirola’s average finish in his last 10 races at Talladega is 10.5 – the best average finish in the series. 

 

● Almirola heads to the season’s first Talladega race under circumstances similar to last year’s first visit to the mammoth 2.66-ile oval – fresh off a solid finish that he said “stopped the bleeding” from previous bad luck. Last year, he arrived at Talladega fresh off a solid fifth-place result at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which was preceded by five consecutive finishes of 15th or worse. He finished third that weekend at Talladega, spinning backward across the finish line, for the second of his season-high nine consecutive top-10s. 

 

● History at Talladega: In 22 starts, Almirola has earned one win, nine top-10 finishes, five top-fives, and has led 55 laps. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega, Almirola visited victory lane in May 2017. 

 

● In Almirola’s last start at Talladega last October, he was leading the field at the end of Stage 1 until he was contacted in the rear bumper, sending him into the outside wall and ending his day. 

 

●  Last weekend at Richmond, Almirola ended a streak of unfavorable outcomes with a sixth-place finish. It was his first top-10 of the season and second consecutive top-10 at Richmond. 

 

● Looking at the next four racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Almirola has finished no worse than eighth at least once at each respective track in 2020. In addition to his third-place finish at Talladega last June, he was sixth at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, seventh at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and seventh at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

 

● The start to Almirola’s 2021 season has been mired by accidents and unfortunate situations, but the No. 10 team has performed much better than the results show. Almirola kicked off the season with a win at the Duel at Daytona. He proved to have a fast Smithfield Ford in the Daytona 500 before he was involved in an accident not of his doing while running at the front of the field. Almirola raced inside the top-10 the following weekend on the Daytona road course, showing his and the team’s improved speed at road courses, and ran inside the top-10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway before he was involved in an accident. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he gradually gained speed, running in the top-15 before a flat tire sent him into the wall, causing irreparable damage. At Phoenix Raceway, Almirola ran as high as sixth, but a speeding penalty demoted him to the rear of the field before he raced back to a solid 11th-place finish. Almirola cracked the top-14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway before handling issues hampered his progress, and he was not able to show his dirt-racing speed at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway due to an accident on lap 41, when he was pinched to the bottom lane and struck a large clump of dirt and then was contacted on all sides by multiple cars to end his day. At Martinsville, he had a potential top-10 spoiled by an incident not of his doing when he was contacted multiple times, putting him a lap down in 20th. 

 

● Career Stats: Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 24 top-five finishes, 80 top-10s and 842 laps led in 361 NASCAR Cup Series starts.

 

● Smithfield Foods celebrates 10 years of partnership with Almirola this season with a special campaign called Taste Victory.As one of the most active partners in NASCAR, Smithfield plans to engage fans all year long by hosting a microsite that provides the opportunity to win when Almirola wins or finishes inside the top-10. When Almirola wins, one fan wins $10,000, and 10 fans win a gift card for each top-10 finish. The microsite also doubles as an Aric Almirola fan page and entertainment source where fans can get behind the wheel of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with a custom racing game, and learn more about Almirola with fast facts, favorite recipes and custom content about his life on and off the track. Visit www.tastevictory.com to learn more. Thanks to Almirola’s Feb. 11 win in his Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500, one lucky fan has already won $10,000.

 

● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series:In 2021, Almirola continues to share his life beyond the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with season three of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and it gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook. 

 

● The Smithfield Ford team sits 27th in the championship standings with 137 points, 297 behind leader Denny Hamlin. Almirola is 77 points behind 16th-place Kurt Busch for the final playoff spot. 

 

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

What do you look for in a run at Talladega while you’re 77 points behind the playoff cutoff line? 

 

“My goal at Talladega is always to earn as many playoff points as possible and win the race. We always have a fast setup there and we’re always able to put on a show up front. I’ve been wrecked at the front of the field multiple times, the back of the field, the middle, so you just race as smart as you can and treat it like any other race and hope you don’t get caught up in the big one. Talladega is always one we try to capitalize on and you just hope to be there at the end to have a shot at a win. That’s all you can do. When we’re there at the end we typically find ourselves contending for the win or a top-five."

 

You have found the most success in your career at superspeedways. Why is that?

 

“I always had to go to these races and be aggressive because, back in the day, they were our only realistic options to win races. It was the only way I could make it into the playoffs and we were able to do that in 2014. They’ve been good to me. I’ve always gone into those races with that mindset.”

 

What did it mean to finally win a race in 2018 after nearly winning multiple races but just coming up short?

 

“The win at Talladega was clutch. Going through the season and really being consistent from summer to the playoffs was great. We didn’t really have any devastating races throughout those months and never were a threat to really win races. Then, all of the sudden when the playoffs started, our performance really ramped up. We went into the first few races with chances to win, leading laps and running up front. Even right before that, you look at races like New Hampshire, where we led a lot of laps and felt like we had the potential to win. We kind of pointed our way into the playoffs.”

Kevin Harvick is 16/1 to win 2021 Geico 500

 

KEVIN HARVICK

TallaDOGa Advance

No. 4 Busch Dog Brew Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

 

Event Overview

 

●  Event:  GEICO 500 (Round 10 of 36)

●  Time/Date:  2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 25

●  Location:  Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

●  Layout:  2.66-mile oval

●  Laps/Miles:  188 laps/500 miles

●  Stage Lengths:  Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

●  TV/Radio:  FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

Notes of Interest

 

●  Busch’s Latest Product Unleashed: Kevin Harvick will drive the No. 4 Busch Dog Brew Ford Mustang this Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Busch Dog Brew is exactly what it sounds like – a brew for dogs – but this brew is made from bone broth crafted specifically for man’s best friend. Made with vegetables, herbs, spices, water, and pork broth, Busch Dog Brew provides all tail-waggers with a nutritious and tasty snack that helps to promote a healthy digestive system. Bone broth is also a great way for dogs who struggle to eat solid food get all of their extra nutrients. Your four-legged friend will pawsitively love it. Dog Brew is sold only over e-commerce, but ships everywhere in the United States. You can purchase or find additional information at www.Busch.com/DogBrew.

 

●  Alpha Dog: When Harvick takes the green flag for the GEICO 500 Sunday at Talladega, he will become the all-time leader in starts across NASCAR’s top-three series – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. Harvick is currently tied with Joe Nemechek with 1,197 total starts. Harvick has 727 Cup Series starts, 346 Xfinity Series starts and 125 Truck Series starts while Nemechek has 674 Cup Series starts, 453 Xfinity Series starts and 70 Truck Series starts. Last year, the duo surpassed the previous all-time leader – NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time Cup Series champion Richard Petty, who has 1,185 total starts. The next active driver on the list is Kyle Busch with 1,094 total starts.

 

●  Dogfight: Harvick came out the victor in a dogfight of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega on April 25, 2010. There were an incredible 88 lead changes in the 200-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval and three massive accidents that collected a total of 24 cars. Harvick kept his car intact throughout each bout of calamity and despite leading only two laps, the second lap led was the one that counted most. Harvick got underneath race leader Jamie McMurray in the track’s tri-oval to sweep past McMurray and take the win by just .011 of a second. It was just the 12th of Harvick’s 58 career Cup Series wins.

 

●  Doggonit: In Harvick’s previous race at Talladega last October, Harvick started fifth and led twice for two laps and was poised to contend for another Talladega victory until an accident on the penultimate lap sent him to a 20th-place finish.

 

●  Dog Walking at ‘Dega: Back in October 2008, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) dog-walked the field at Talladega. The team qualified 1-2-3-4 for the first time in its history. SHR drivers then led 155 of the race’s 193 laps (80.3 percent), including the last lap by Aric Almirola who delivered SHR’s milestone 50th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victory and the organization’s 11th win of 2018.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Dog Brew Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

Describe the intensity of racing at Talladega.

“You have to be aggressive just for the fact that if you’re not aggressive, it always seems like you’re not going to be where you need to be. Nine times out of 10, the aggressor is going to be the guy who comes out on the good side of things just for the fact that you’re making things happen and you’re not waiting for something else to happen. When you wait for something else to happen, that’s usually when you get in trouble because it’s usually someone else’s mess. You can still get in trouble if you’re aggressive, but with this rules package and the way things are, it’s best to stay aggressive and try to stay up front.”

 

Blocking seems to be a necessary evil at Talladega. What’s your take?

“I don’t like blocking, but it’s a necessity. Blocking is something that has evolved over the years as people have figured out trying to time the runs, and people have figured out when you can block and when you can’t. It’s just a matter of putting yourself in a position where you think you’re making the right move, and sometimes you make the wrong move. It’s just a game of inches. It just really is a high-speed chess match that you have at 200 mph – and this week will be absolutely no different. There will be a big crash. There will be mistakes made. There will be pit errors made. There will be strategy played. But I can promise you we’re all going to race in a pack – and that’s the way Talladega should be.”

 

What are your expectations for Talladega?

“For me, it’s been a destruction derby over the last couple of years. We’ve run really well at Talladega, but that’s just kind of the phases you go through when you go to Talladega. I’m doing worse than 50-50 on whether you crash or finish the last few years, but it’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times. You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Dog Brew Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”

 

Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, are often mentioned in the same breath, but there are differences between the two venues. What are they?

“Talladega is a lot bigger. It’s a lot wider. The track itself is bigger. The shape of Talladega is different than Daytona because of the track being wider and the way the tri-oval is shaped. The start-finish line is almost all the way down into turn one, which seems to change some of the outcomes of the finishes because you have to go all the way down the front straightaway before you get to the finish line. Talladega’s tri-oval is a little bit different than Daytona’s. That bottom groove has a little less banking than the rest of the racetrack, so it’s almost like you’re dipping down into a hole. Sometimes you see guys get loose down into the tri-oval and spin out, so it ends up being where some of the wrecks are caused. It’s really hard to push through that tri-oval, especially as you’re heading down into that bottom lane. It’s tough to know exactly where you need to be at the end of the race. I’ve only won one of them there. In that particular race, we were tandem racing and I was second coming into the tri-oval and was able to get past Jamie McMurray. But I would still rather be leading and in control. If I’ve made it to the white flag, then I’ve made it a lot farther than I’ve made it lately, so it’s a chess match all day. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but you can also put yourself in a good position by making the right moves, having a good day on pit road, and not making any mistakes.”

 

You have a rookie teammate and drafting partner in Chase Briscoe. What kind of advice or encouragement do you have for him as he prepares for his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Talladega?

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, that’s what I tell him all the time, and you have to make sure your voice is a part of the equation. You get to this level, you’ve shown that you can do it, you’ve raced a long time, and you understand the things that you need to do. Jumping in a new car your rookie year and not having any practice is a tough scenario. Being a part of that equation to solve that problem is going to be very rewarding for him as he goes forward, and it’s also going to be great experience. Chase is one of the best humans that you’ll ever meet. I think his personality is good for people and it’s good for teams.”

Kyle Busch is 18/1 to win 2021 Geico 500 at Talladega

 

KYLE BUSCH

JGR: Outrageously Dependable for 30 Years and Counting

 

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 21, 2021) – Back in 1991, then-Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs ended up in the Dallas office of Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller.


Gibbs was there to make his pitch to have Miller’s company sponsor the three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach’s first foray into the NASCAR Cup Series. The only problem was that Gibbs had no race shop, no employees, not even a driver to drive his cars. What he was selling to Miller that day was nothing more than a piece of paper and a dream.

 

During his entire business career, Miller was never shy about taking chances. And while Interstate Batteries had sponsored a little-known team for a few races with Stanley Smith as its driver, Miller and Interstate Batteries agreed to sponsor Gibbs’ team. That was more than 30 years ago, and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was formed. Fast forward to 2021, and the organization that started from humble beginnings before the commitment of Interstate Batteries has been regarded for years as one of the premiere teams in all of NASCAR.

 

Not only did Gibbs gain a lifetime sponsor in Miller and Interstate Batteries, but a lifetime friendship, as well. Needless to say, it’s a relationship that cannot be overemphasized when discussing JGR’s evolution and longevity.

 

One driver who has been at the forefront of JGR’s success in the last 14 years has been Kyle Busch. The two-time Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for JGR, heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this weekend hoping to continue the winning legacy of both the team and Interstate Batteries, as he looks to bring home his first win of the season in Sunday’s GEICO 500.

 

Busch has brought home nine victories sporting the colors of Interstate Batteries. Add Bobby Labonte’s 21 wins and Dale Jarrett’s two, and Interstate has made a combined 32 visits to victory lane in the Cup Series over the years. Labonte scored his last win for Interstate Batteries at the 2003 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five years later it was Busch who brought Interstate back to victory lane during his first season at JGR when he bested Carl Edwards to win the July 2008 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

 

While Busch and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries team are capable of winning at any track, the Las Vegas native has experienced plenty of ups and downs at the mammoth Talladega oval. He has one career win there, which came in April 2008, and he has accumulated 13 other top-15 finishes, but also exited six races early due to accidents.

 

So as Busch heads to Talladega this weekend, he would like nothing more than to kick off JGR and Interstate Batteries’ 30th anniversary in style. But, in order to do so, he’ll have to somehow stay out of the inevitable multicar Talladega accidents and be running at the end to put himself in position to end up with quite the anniversary celebration in victory lane on Sunday afternoon.  

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

 

Now in its 30th year, how special is the partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries?

 

“It’s crazy if you think about it. If it weren’t for Norm (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman), JGR wouldn’t even exist today. Personally, Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries treats me and my family like we are a part of their family. We won the race at Daytona back in 2008 and that was the first time Interstate Batteries had been to victory lane in a long time, and we’ve been able to add more for them over the years. I’ll never forget how excited Norm was back a few years ago when we finally got him that win he wanted so badly at Texas (Motor Speedway). He had been trying for so many years and he really soaked it up the entire night. He and Joe (Gibbs) came up to the Speedway Club and told some stories about how long they had been trying to win there. So I was very proud to be able to do that for Norm. Would love to get him another one this weekend at Talladega. We will be doing some cool stuff this year to celebrate Interstate Batteries being with JGR for 30 years. If you think about it, not many things are so special where it lasts as long as Interstate and JGR have, but the partnership is just so special. We would like to give Norm, along with all the dealers and distributors, a reason to celebrate this weekend.”

 

Is it an advantage being a former winner at Talladega?

 

“It doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.”

 

Without Cup Series practice at a place like Talladega, now that you have a few races under your belt with this current Superspeedway package?

 

“I think it would be more of an issue with the engine tuners and knowing whether or not we guessed correct on the gear. Then, obviously whether they can guess right on the fuel mapping of the engine, stuff like that with it just being different RPM and essentially less horsepower. I think getting adjusted to not having any practice at a big track like Talladega was something more challenging for them than for us drivers. I don’t think any of us would have any problem with it. Looking forward to getting back in the Interstate Batteries car this weekend and hoping to get us back to victory lane there at Talladega.”
 

What can a driver still control at Talladega?

 

“You kind of look at what Denny (Hamlin) does and what Brad (Keselowski) does, the guys who are good racers at Daytona and Talladega and the guys who are fast at those places. Denny makes the most out of what he’s got for equipment, and I’ve got the same stuff and I’m not quite as forceful in situations as he is, and he makes that work for him. Our cars have been better at the speedway tracks and I’m hoping we can have a good run at Talladega. I won’t try to put myself in a bad spot to cause something, but it’s always a challenge and it’s always different. I feel like, every time you go to Talladega it’s the same, but it’s different and you just don’t know what to expect. A lot of new drivers who are out there don’t have wins, yet, in our series who are going to be hungry and looking for wins, so they’re going to be trying to punch their tickets to the playoffs and be very aggressive. You’ve got to be mindful of that, too.”

 

What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega?

 

“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. You stay where the pack is, generally, and we get up single file on the wall at times until it’s time to go, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”

 

Event Overview:

 

● Event: GEICO 500 (Round 10 of 36)

● Time/Date: 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 25

● Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

● Layout: 2.66-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 188 laps/500 miles

● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

 

Meet the No. 18 Interstate Batteries / Joe Gibbs Racing Team

Primary Team Members:
 

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Ben Beshore

Hometown: York, Pennsylvania

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

 

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
 

Gas Man: Matt Tyrrell

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

Front Tire Changer: Blake Houston

Hometown: Enochville, North Carolina

 

Jackman: T.J. Ford

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Tire Carrier: Joe Crossen

Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina

 

Rear Tire Changer: Jeff Cordero

Hometown: Salem, Connecticut

 

Road Crew Members:

 

Race Engineer: Seth Chavka

Hometown: Soldotna, Alaska

 

Truck Driver: Chris Miko

Hometown: Bronx, New York

 

Truck Driver: Tom McCrimmon

Hometown: Spicer, Minnesota

 

Mechanic/Tire Specialist: Justin Peiffer

Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania

 

Mechanic: Scott Eldridge

Hometown: Warsaw, Indiana

Chase Briscoe is 80/1 to win 2021 Geico 500

 

CHASE BRISCOE

Talladega Advance

No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

 

 

Event Overview

 

● Event:  GEICO 500 (Round 10 of 36)

● Time/Date:  2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 25

● Location:  Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

● Layout:  2.66-mile oval

● Laps/Miles:  188 laps/500 miles

● Stage Lengths:  Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

● TV/Radio:  FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

Notes of Interest

 

● Rush Truck Centers returns to Chase Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for the GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, this time joined by Cummins. The latter is the Indiana-based company from car owner Tony Stewart’s hometown of Columbus. It is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. It is best known for its diesel truck engines. Since its founding in 1919, Cummins now employs approximately 61,600 people and serves customers in about 190 countries and territories through a network of some 8,000 wholly owned and independent dealer and distributor locations.

 

● Briscoe’s domination in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was on full display in both events at Talladega in 2020. In June, Briscoe started fourth, won the second stage and was on pace to secure his fourth win of the year before being collected during an incident with 35 laps remaining. The No. 98 team was as far back as 32nd but Briscoe powered his way back to salvage a 28th-place finish. In the October playoff race, he started on the pole and swept the first two stages while leading four times for a race-high 73 laps. With only three laps remaining, Briscoe had his sights set on his ninth win of the season and his third in a row, but he was forced into the turn four wall after his Ford Mustang received a nudge from the nose of Noah Gragson’s machine while protecting his lead. A cut right-rear tire slowed the No. 98’s approach to the checkered flag and the team left with a 20th-place finish.

 

● In total, Briscoe has made four Xfinity Series starts at Talladega with a best finish of fourth in 2019. He also has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there in 2017, when he finished 22nd, and one ARCA Menards Series start in 2016, when he finished third. Briscoe completed all 454 laps available in his six career starts at the superspeedway.

 

● Briscoe leads the Cup Series Rookie of the Year standings by 54 points over Anthony Alfredo after eight races. With Rookie of the Year honors in the Truck Series (2017) and Xfinity Series (2019), Briscoe is looking to join Erik Jones and William Byron as only the third driver in history to claim the title in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series.

 

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

The No. 14 team has been making progress, but you haven’t been able to notch a finish that really shows that. Is this Sunday’s race at Talladega a chance to do so?

“Talladega would be a great chance to do that. You just never know what can happen on these bigger tracks. Superspeedway racing is a different kind of game. You can hang around and take it easy and come out with a top-10 or race hard up front all day and get wrecked with two (laps) to go. I enjoy this type of racing, especially at Talladega where you can move around a little more than at Daytona. We have a car capable of running up front and getting a good finish. We’ll just have to stay out of trouble early on to have the chance to get up front.”

 

Your first Cup Series start came on a superspeedway at Daytona earlier this year. The two tracks aren’t necessarily identical, so are you able to lean on your experience from earlier this year as you prepare?

“The biggest takeaway from Daytona was just how the Cup car races on a superspeedway. I had no idea what I was doing and now I’ve got a few races under my belt. I know that it doesn’t take much to tear up a car and how it handles in the pack. Now I can take what I know from racing at Talladega and apply what I’ve learned about the Cup car, and just how these guys race, and that gives me a little more prep than I had going in the Daytona 500. I’m still trying to figure it out, but at least now I’ve got some idea of what to expect.”

Harrison Burton is 200/1 to win in Cup debut at Talladega

 

HARRISON BURTON

Talladega Advance

No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry

 

Event Overview

 

● Event: GEICO 500 (Round 10 of 36)

● Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday April 25

● Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

● Layout: 2.66-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 188 laps/500 miles

● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

Notes of Interest

 

● Harrison Burton, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year, will make a historic NASCAR Cup Series debut when he gets behind the wheel of the No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) during Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The 20-year-old Burton will become the first driver born in the 2000s to take part in a Cup Series race. He was born on Oct. 9, 2000.

● The son of 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton will take the reins of the No. 96 Toyota for the part-time team’s fourth event of 2021. GBR competed with veteran driver Ty Dillon at its previous three events, most recently at the Food City Dirt Race on the half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval four weekends ago.

● Burton is in his second year as driver of the No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, in which he will be making his milestone 50th career start during Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega. Last year, he posted four wins, 15 top-fives, 22 top-10s and led 291 laps led en route to earning top rookie honors. Through the first seven Xfinity Series races this year, he has best finishes of third at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and has led 84 laps.

● Not only will Burton become the first driver born in the 2000s to pilot a Cup Series car on Sunday, he’ll become the youngest to drive the No. 96 GBR Toyota. Jesse Little, previously the youngest, was 21 years of age when he drove it at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol.

● Sunday’s race will be Burton’s eighth stock car start on a superspeedway and fourth at Talladega. His best Xfinity Series finish at the mammoth 2.66-mile oval was 23rd last October. He finished 11th in the 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega, driving the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. On Talladega’s sister track at Daytona, Burton scored a victory in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series season opener, leading a race-high 48 laps behind the wheel of the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota and edging runner-up Todd Gilliland by .112 of a second. He also has top-five finishes in all three of his previous Xfinity Series outings at Daytona, including a runner-up finish in the 2020 season opener to Noah Gragson, and a third-place finish in this year’s season opener.

● Despite Harrison’s youth, the second-generation driver has been racing for 16 years. He started in Quarter Midgets at age 4, eventually winning three national championships (2009, 2011 and 2012). By 11, he was also racing Late Model stock cars, winning his first pole in 2011 at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina, and earning his first win in 2012 at Dillon (S.C.) Motor Speedway.

● Burton has been climbing the racing ladder ever since, winning his first Pro Late Model division race in February 2014 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway to become the youngest Division I winner in the history of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. When Burton made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut in October 2015 at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, he became the youngest driver to compete in that series at just 15 years, eight days old.

● Burton has raced and won at nearly every level he has competed, with victories in Super Late Models, the K&N Pro Series, the ARCA Menards Series and the Xfinity Series. Along the way, Burton won the 2017 K&N Pro Series East championship and some of the biggest Late Model races in the country, including the 2017 World Series of Asphalt Championship at New Smyrna, the 2017 ARCA/CRA Super Late Model Series Speedfest at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordele, Georgia, the 2018 Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway in Kinston, and the 2018 World Series 100 at New Smyrna.

● The No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry will be making GBR’s 76th start since joining the Cup Series as a part-time team in 2017. Team owner Marty Gaunt’s almost two-decades-long relationship with Toyota dates back to his ownership of the Toyota-powered Clean Line Racing team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which became Red Horse Racing, as well as his executive role in the formation of the Red Bull’s nascent Toyota-powered Cup Series team. Gaunt’s Toyota ties strengthened after the 2008 season when he purchased Triad Racing Development, which leased Toyota engines across NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Truck series and continues to be NASCAR’s exclusive distributor of Toyota parts as Triad Racing. Gaunt founded GBR in 2010, with his eponymous team starting out in the Canada-based NASCAR Pinty’s Series and the U.S.-based NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Its first driver, Jason Bowles, scored GBR’s maiden victory in the 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in California, with the precursor to that win being the pole position in track-record time at the 2011 Streets of Toronto 100. After seven years competing in NASCAR’s development divisions, Gaunt stepped up to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. His team contested the full Cup Series schedule with Daniel Su├írez in 2020, but scaled back its focus in 2021 to the superspeedway and road-course races with an eye toward the introduction of NASCAR’s Next Gen Cup Series car in 2022.

● Supporting Burton throughout his rise to the NASCAR Cup Series is DEX Imaging, the nation’s largest independent dealer of imaging equipment. DEX Imaging is the digital document imaging division of Staples, the world’s largest business solutions provider. Founded by the father-and-son team of industry innovators Dan Doyle and Dan Doyle Jr.DEX Imaging sells and services the broadest selection of copiers, printers and data management solutions in the industry, such as Konica Minolta, Canon, Kyocera and HP. The family-based company is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and has more than 50 locations in the eastern United States.

 

 

 

Harrison Burton, Driver of the No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing

 

You’re going to be making history this weekend as the first driver born in the 2000s to start a NASCAR Cup Series race. What does that mean to you?

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity. It’s a dream come true, and it’s pretty neat to think back on all the days that I spent working and taking my parents’ time away and travelling all over the country with them trying to race. And everyone in NASCAR along the way, whether it’s KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) or Joe Gibbs Racing who have helped me be a better racecar driver and get to where I am now, it’s nuts. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m excited to be here, but I’m a competitive guy, so just being there isn’t enough. I’m really looking forward to working hard and trying to get a really good run out of it.”

 

Your sponsor DEX Imaging has been with you since you were 13 years old and is joining you for your first Cup Series start. That has to be something special.

“It’s crazy. DEX Imaging, when we first started our partnership, it was a company I hadn’t really seen or heard of. When I met the people there, they became like family very quickly. Being that young and having someone believe in you is crazy. And they obviously are happy to be participating in NASCAR. They’re on (Ryan) Blaney’s car in Cup, they’re on my Xfinity car, and now on my Cup car. It seems like every sporting event I’m watching, they’re on the board. I’m watching the (NBA’s Charlotte) Hornets game the other day and I see DEX Imaging scrolling across the screen, and I thought, ‘Gosh, that’s so cool.’ To think about them taking a flier on me when I was 13 and growing from Late Models to K&N to Trucks to Xfinity and now to Cup is pretty wild. It’s something that not a lot of people have had happen to them.”

 

What was your dad’s reaction when you introduced the idea of wanting to be a racecar driver when you were younger?

“Dad kind of felt the need to put me through the wringer to find out. Hey, it’s a fun hobby if you’re a young kid to go Quarter Midget racing, but there’s a difference between wanting to do it for a living as a kid and having to feed your family driving a racecar and the amount of commitment that it takes when you’re older. He ran me through the wringer, working every day after school. Whenever we were testing, it was long hours and he didn’t let me get out of the car, made me stay in there. I think those are the moments that made me who I am today and I’m really thankful for it. Those were the moments when you really had to dig deep and realize you really did want to do this because quitting was never an option.”

 

How do you feel about Talladega being the track where you’re making your Cup Series debut?

“Talladega’s a tough track, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on and there’s a high attrition rate. You want to find a way to learn and be aggressive, but also not crash, so there’s a lot going on there. In this sport, you’ve got to be versatile. Jon Gruden (head coach of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders) has a football saying that goes something like, ‘The best ability is availability.’ So, I’m ready to go do it and ready to take it on. Superspeedway racing is a part of our sport that is very important. Our biggest race of the year is held at a superspeedway. So I’ll be trying to figure that out, trying to learn, and be the best I can be for hopefully more opportunities down the line, and I think it’ll make me a better Xfinity driver, as well. I think, gosh, I’ve made the right decision and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

 

Superspeedway racing is all about working how you work with teammates and other drivers. You’re literally going to be the new kid on the block this weekend. How do you plan to work with other drivers?

“Every time I’ve made a jump into the next series, you always look at the veterans you’re racing around and you think, ‘Oh, man, I know that guy and it’s pretty cool,’ so I think there will be some of that. But I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of those guys ever since I was a little kid and they know me. Somebody who’s been helping me, recently, has been Denny Hamlin. I’ve been wearing him out on the phone trying to get better. I asked him for some pointers when this Cup deal was announced and he was happy to help and I appreciate that. I think a lot of the veterans are more than happy to help. It’s just a matter of reaching out and asking for it.”

 

Do you feel like your performance this weekend can and will lead to other Cup Series opportunities?

“That’s what I want, I want to be a Cup driver one day. This race is about trying to learn a lot, obviously really quickly, with no practice and no qualifying and just getting in there and going. It’s trying to learn a lot and trying to do the best I can, and if that opens more doors, it’ll open more doors, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. For me, it’s a great experience to be even talked about to run more Cup races, or even a Cup race. I’m just focused on the moment right now. The best thing I can do as a driver is focus on the next weekend and trying to be the best I can be then, and hopefully the chips will fall where they will.”

 

What kinds of things have you been doing to prepare for this weekend?

“For me, preparing has helped me a lot recently to be better. I think the way I’ve prepared has changed a little bit. I’ve got some great people with me who are helping me with that. For me, preparation has been key, watching a lot of race film. The simulator is great for tracks where you’re not running single file like you do at Talladega. You can’t really simulate the draft and what’s going to happen in there. So it’s kind of tough to prepare for this one because there’s no real, accurate way to do sim for it. There’s no real, accurate way to feel anything other than just watching and kind of imagining what it will feel like and trying to prepare yourself the best you can that way. But I’ve been doing everything I can and making the notes I can and, when the time comes, I’ll attack it.”