The thunder of roaring engines returned to Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, with practice sessions getting underway for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ GEICO 500 and for Saturday’s MoneyLion 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
As the action began to heat up on the race track, the unpredictable nature of this weekend’s competition was at the forefront of drivers’ minds. Ford drivers, owners of seven straight wins at Talladega, were no exception.
“You try to prepare yourself and look back at notes and stuff from recent events and honestly, I think a lot of the prep work that you typically do maybe just gets shifted to Friday night and Saturday night. You don’t know,” said Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Team Penske Ford who is seeking back-to-back GEICO 500 wins at Talladega. “You don’t want to overload yourself with races and not know what is going on. For me, at least, it’s probably better to figure out what we have here first and then kind of study and add to the strategy of what we need from there.”
With a new rules package making its debut at NASCAR’s biggest track, Clint Bowyer echoed the feeling that teams have more questions than answers heading into the GEICO 500.
“Good old fashioned luck goes a long way here sometimes. The big one happens. Something chaotic happens,” Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing), a two-time Talladega Superspeedway winner, said. “These stages have really compiled racing within the race. It isn’t just all about the end. As the stages come to an end, the first and second stages you really see the intensity pick up and it kind of gives you a glimpse of what you will see at the end and some carnage can happen at those. You have to be careful and cautious and lucky enough to get there to get your points. But the place to be at Talladega is no different than anywhere, it is out front. If you are ahead of all of that, it doesn’t matter what happens in the mirror.”
Kurt Busch (No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing) led opening practice for the GEICO 500 with a lap of 47.249 (202.671 MPH). For final practice, Ryan Newman (No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing) was fastest with a lap of 46.905 (204.157 mph). Qualifying for Sunday’s GEICO 500 is set for 3:40 p.m. CDT on Saturday afternoon.
After some concerns with engine durability, the RPMs and speeds creeping up during first practice, NASCAR added a 1 inch wicker to the 9-inch spoiler and are allowing the teams to switch between the two gear options (.345 and .350) until qualifying. Once they qualify, they must keep that gear in the car through the race.
First and second NASCAR XFINITY Series practices were led by Ross Chastain (No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) and Ryan Sieg (No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet), respectively. Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford), Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford), Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet), and Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Chevrolet) will compete for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus in the MoneyLion 300, which goes green at noon CDT on Saturday. Allgaier was the quickest of the quartet and fifth overall. Qualifying precedes the race at 9:10 a.m. CDT.
Ticket information for the GEICO 500 and the MoneyLion 300 is available online at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or by calling (855) 518-RACE (7223).