This weekend marks the 23rd running of the Aaron’s 312 from the Talladega Superspeedway. Chase Elliott comes in leading the points by 19 over Regan Smith. Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon, and Trevor Bayne round out the top-5.
Entry List Notes
This weekend we’ll see some drivers with different sponsors from usual:
- Jeffrey Earnhardt – FW1
- Regan Smith – Ragu
- Chris Buescher – Roush Performance Parts
A few Sprint Cup Series regulars will be running this race:
- Kasey Kahne – #5 Great Clips Chevrolet
- Josh Wise – #40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet
- Kyle Larson – #42 Cartwheel Chevrolet
- David Ragan – #98 Carroll Shelby Engine Co. Ford
Some Camping World Truck Series regulars will be running this weekend:
- Darrell Wallace, Jr. – #20 ToyotaCare Toyota
- Ryan Blaney – #22 Discount Tire Ford
- John Wes Townley – #25 Zaxby’s Toyota
A few teams will have different drivers this weekend, notable entries include:
- Sam Hornish, Jr. – #54 Monster Energy Toyota
- Chad Boat – #84 Billy Boat Performance Exhaust Chevrolet
- Bobby Gerhart – #85 Lucas Oil Chevrolet
Joe Nemechek is maybe the last driver you’d expect to be leading most categories at a track, but he does it here at Talladega. He has the most starts (19), most poles (5), second most wins (2), most top-5s (7), most top-10s (8), most laps completed (1,819), and most laps led (202).
David Ragan has a win and only two laps led in his Nationwide Series career, further emphasizing that leading laps does not mean you’re more likely to win.
Martin Truex, Jr. won three consecutive Nationwide Series races at Talladega from 2004-2006 for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
A handful of drivers will make their Talladega debuts in the Nationwide Series including Chase Elliott, Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Dylan Kwasniewski, and Dakoda Armstrong.
Sam Hornish, Jr. will be making his first start of the season and of his career for Joe Gibbs Racing. He is scheduled for six events driving the #54 Monster Energy Toyota this season in place of Kyle Busch. His only action of the year so far was subbing for an injured Denny Hamlin at the Auto Club Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series.
The most lead changes were seen in 2011 at 56, with the fewest being 7 as recently as the 2003 race. Last year out there were 47 lead changes.
The number of cautions have varied each race with the highest total being 11 in 2011 and lowest being 7 in 1997. Last season there were 7 cautions.
Brad Coleman is the youngest pole winner in history capturing the 2007 award at 19 years, 2 months, and 2 days. Ken Schrader is the oldest pole winner capturing the 1999 award at 43 years, 9 months, and 26 days.
The youngest race winner is Joey Logano, who won the 2012 event at 21 years, 11 months, and 11 days. Mike McLaughlin is the oldest winner at 44 years, 6 months, and 15 days when he won the 2001 race.
|Rank||Driver||Poles||Wins||T-5s||T-10s||Avg. St.||Avg. Fin.||Led||Rating|
What They’re Saying This Weekend
Sam Hornish, Jr.: “I feel like a kid again, waiting for my 16th birthday so I can get in the car and drive. It’s been a long time, almost six months since I last raced in the Nationwide Series and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Monster Energy Camry. It’s a great kick off to my racing schedule this season and it can’t come quick enough.”
Dakoda Armstrong: “Talladega is one of my favorite tracks. It’s a lot of fun. Even though you’re close to other cars and in the draft, I feel like you can control your car there more than you can even at Daytona. It’s wider and definitely easier to get three grooves and even a fourth groove. You can move around a little bit more. I ran well there in the trucks and have a win at Talladega in the ARCA series, so I think we’ll be pretty good. It will be different to not have tandem racing this year, but we’ll figure out this new style of speedway racing. A lot of it is just finishing the race, stay out of trouble and just being at the right place at the right time.”
Eric McClure: “Talladega comes at a good time for us; we always seem to be competitive there. The last three years we have been caught up in late accidents, but hopefully this year, we can avoid that and get a good result.”
Elliott Sadler: “Talladega is considered a wildcard on the NASCAR schedule. One of the main goals of the race is to stay out of the inevitable “Big Ones.” We hope to stay out of the way and be there at the end to compete for the win. I enjoy racing at Talladega, and I’ve been lucky enough to win the pole award five combined times from all my Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series starts. This OneMain Financial team is really hoping for a breakthrough weekend, and Talladega could definitely be the weekend.”
James Buescher: “I feel it helps a bunch. You could tell the moral was lifted after the finish we had at Richmond. The whole Rheem team is motivated to keep this momentum rolling and getting our season back on track. I really enjoy restrictor-plate racing, for whatever reason that style of racing really suits me. We had a very strong showing going at Daytona before we received our penalty. I think that was the point that changed the momentum with the season. My Rheem team is bringing the same car to Talladega that we had in Daytona so if we can stay out of the big one, I truly feel we’ll be a threat for a top-five if not the win.”
Ryan Reed: “I ran an ARCA race at Talladega back in 2012, so hopefully some of that will translate. I’m looking forward to getting back on a restrictor place track since we had a great car in Daytona. Hopefully, we can have another solid restrictor plate run, minus the post-race incident.”
Ryan Blaney: “I’m really looking forward to it (running Talladega). It will be very different for sure. I think I can take from my Truck Series experience and apply some of that, but then again, you are racing with a whole different group of people and several Sprint Cup Series guys, so I know it will be an entirely different type of race. It’s going to be interesting too to see how the race plays out compared to the Daytona race. Brad was right there in that race up until the very end, and I think we can be too as long as we keep ourselves out of trouble.”
Darrell Wallace, Jr.: “It’s good to be back behind the wheel of a Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series. I’m excited to work with Kevin Kidd and all the guys on this Nationwide Series team. I know they have a good Toyota Camry and Matt (Kenseth) has been running it all season long and posted good finishes. Hopefully we can go out there, stay out of harm’s way and add to that by posting a good, strong finish at Talladega for the No. 20 ToyotaCare team.”
Brian Scott: “At Daytona, the superspeedway knockout qualifying was the most intense this season. You had people dragging off, you had cars all over and you had groups of 20 cars together. My biggest fear is to see a knockout qualifying procedure that has a ‘big one’ happen where 20 cars are collected in qualifying at a superspeedway. That is the wrong thing for the Nationwide Series, which is a series built on developing and saving money from the big leagues. It is the teams’ discretion and their choice if they want to go out there, but there is still a lot of risk. You have to try to produce and have the best speed that you can. My thought and hope is that NASCAR does something so we don’t have a ‘big one’ in qualifying in a series that is kind of built around saving money and being competitive.”
Brendan Gaughan: “We finally got through Daytona with a good finish and that was a solid start for the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet in the point standings. As everyone knows anything can happen at Talladega, but I have always had pretty good runs at that track. In comparison to Daytona, I have always had better finishes at Talladega. RCR and ECR aero programs are second-to-none when we come to big tracks like this.”
THURSDAY, MAY 1:
- 3-4 p.m. ET: practice, no TV
- 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. ET: final practice, no TV
FRIDAY, MAY 2:
- 6:40 p.m. ET: Qualifying, FOX Sports 1
SATURDAY, MAY 3:
- 3 p.m. ET: NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312 (117 laps, 311.2 miles), ESPN