Friday, October 31, 2014

TV Schedule: Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Texas Motor Speedway. Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
All three series get back on track this week at Texas Motor Speedway. Everything is bigger in Texas, including a win here. One of the top 8 in the Chase has a chance to win Sunday's race and the clinch a ticket to the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage at Texas. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Oct. 31:
Noon NNS Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
4:30 p.m. NNS Practice, ESPN2
6:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, ESPN2
8 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
8:30 p.m. NCWTS: winStar World Casino & Resort 350, FS1. Green flag: 8:49 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 1:
4 a.m. NCWTS at Texas (re-air), FS1
6 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS2
7:30 a.m. NCWTS: winStar World Casino & Resort 350 (re-air), FS2
10 a.m. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at Thompson, FS1
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
Noon NNS Qualifying, FS2
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS2
2 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2
3:30 p.m. NNS: O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, ESPN
11 p.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS2

Sunday, Nov. 2:
Midnight NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS2
10 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS2
11 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS2
1 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
3 p.m. NSCS: AAA Texas 500, ESPN. Reruns at 1:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
8:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Eliminator Round at Texas

Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway Darlington Raceway • Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway • Kentucky Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 5 - Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer 
Both with 4 - Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick  
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

By Track 
Greg Biffle - 8
Both with 7 - Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson
Both with 6 - Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Recent Pole Winners: 
2013 Carl Edwards
2012 Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: Last week's win by Dale Earnhardt Jr. creates only two "win and you're in" opportunities this round, if other non-Chasers don't spoil the party. This week I'm still licking my wounds from picking Jimmie Johnson last week, so pardon me if I don't express much enthusiasm for six-time. However, I am feeling the love for these drivers I expect to run well at Texas: Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer this week is a tie between Kenseth and Bowyer. My next picks are Biffle, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Newman. I will round out my team with Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick. Enjoy the race!

Post your comments here or email me at

Monday, October 27, 2014

Travel Tips: Texas Motor Speedway – Oct. 30 - Nov. 2, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media

Race No. 8 on the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup schedule is the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. There’s on-track activity from Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 30 - Nov. 2, as the weekend features all three of NASCAR’s top series: the Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series.

credit: NASCAR Media
Raceday University is a Sunday-only pre-race hospitality option featuring club level grandstand seating, hospitality area with food and Coca-Cola products, pre-race pass for concerts and driver introductions and a guided pit tour. Currently scheduled “professors” for the day include driver Joey Logano and NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell. Find out more about Raceday U here.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, Oct. 30
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. CT

Friday, Oct. 31
  • Nationwide Series practice – 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 2:10 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino and Resort 350 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, Nov. 1
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 11:10 a.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge – 2:30 p.m. CT

Sunday, Nov. 2
  • Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 – 2 p.m. CT

Click here for an updated list of driver and show car appearances.

Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scores first win at Martinsville, fourth win of 2014

Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
One week after being eliminated from championship contention, Dale Earnhardt Jr. held off teammate Jeff Gordon to win the 66th Annual Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway and finally get the grandfather clock trophy he's wanted for so long.

"Got you a timepiece, buddy," said crew chief Steve Letarte on the radio as his driver began celebrating.

In Victory Lane, Earnhardt Jr. said, "I've wanted that grandfather clock since I was a little boy and I got it today. My team all came together and we made it happen."

He took the lead on Lap 454 and threaded through traffic looking for the checkered flag. On Lap 489, Kyle Larson tried to muscle under Marcos Ambrose and sent the two cars spinning. Larson's No. 42 ended up against the wall leaking fluid across the track and bringing out the red flag for the second time in the race.

Despite there being fewer than 10 laps to go, Letarte told his driver, "We've got to pit."

After a four-tire stop, the No. 88 restarted fifth behind drivers who didn't pit: Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and David Ragan. On the restart, Bowyer shoved Stenhouse Jr. aside and Earnhardt Jr. darted below the knot of cars and into second place.

Stewart couldn't hold off Earnhardt Jr.'s four fresh tires and got slammed to the side as the No. 88 streaked past him to the lead. The crowd, as they say, went wild.

Stewart wound up fourth, his best finish since Bristol back in March.

Ryan Newman slipped through to finish third, and Joey Logano, who led twice for a total of 60 laps, wound up fifth.

To add to the tension of the first race of the Eliminator Round, several of the Chase contenders experienced problems during the race.

Although they rallied back to finish second and third respectively, Gordon and Newman both got speeding penalties on Lap 191. Matt Kenseth inadvertently sent Kevin Harvick into the wall on Lap 228. Brad Keselowski was involved in an accident on Lap 222 and then either broke a transmission or an axle on Lap 437, piling up the field behind him and bringing out the first red flag of the afternoon. Just a normal day at Martinsville.

Normal days at Martinsville also meant tempers flared. Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers traded blows on track until NASCAR told them they were done. Danica Patrick gave no quarter to Martin Truex Jr. and he went spinning, then later punted her into the wall. Just normal short-track racing.

Despite it being just normal short-track racing, for Earnhardt, the win carried meaning beyond the fact that he's having his best season since 2004. That year means more than just the last season he won multiple races.

"This place is so special to me, I've wanted to win here so bad," said Earnhardt. "It's just really emotional. It means so much to all of us."

"Us" meaning Hendrick Motorsports, for whom the win means more than just another grandfather clock. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the plane crash that changed the lives of the Hendrick family and HMS employees forever.

On October 24, 2004, the plane carrying Ricky, John, Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, HMS chief engine builder Randy Dorton and general manager Jeff Turner, DuPont executive Joe Jackson, Tony Stewart's pilot Scott Lathram, and pilots Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrison slammed into a foggy Virginia mountainside. All were killed.

Earnhardt Jr. didn't drive for Hendrick at the time, but was always close to the family and even if he hadn't been, it would be difficult to have spent the years he has at the company and not be aware of how important winning at Martinsville is for the organization.

"We prepare for this race like most people prepare for the Brickyard," said Letarte. "There's a reason that all of our cars run well here. It starts with Mr. Hendrick. Right behind him it comes to our drivers. They study it, understand it, believe it, work very hard at it. It's not just by chance. We don't just have some lucky drivers that are good here. They work very hard to be good here. I think that trickles through the organization."

"It's a way to really pay tribute," Gordon said. "It's the ultimate way you can do it. We've been able to do it several times, which is very, very cool."

Heading to Texas, Gordon leads the Chase standings by three over Newman. Positions three through eight are Logano, Kenseth, Hamlin, Edwards, Keselowski and Harvick.

Unofficial finishing order  

Fin    Driver
1    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
2    Jeff Gordon
3    Ryan Newman
4    Tony Stewart
5    Joey Logano
6    Matt Kenseth
7    Clint Bowyer
8    Denny Hamlin
9    A.J. Allmendinger
10    David Ragan
11    Kyle Busch
12    Austin Dillon
13    Greg Biffle
14    Paul Menard
15    Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
16    Jamie McMurray
17    Justin Allgaier
18    Cole Whitt
19    Landon Cassill
20    Carl Edwards
21    Aric Almirola
22    David Gilliland
23    Marcos Ambrose
24    Michael Annett
25    Josh Wise
26    Mike Wallace
27    Brian Vickers
28    Kyle Fowler
29    Alex Bowman
30    Kyle Larson
31    Brad Keselowski
32    Jimmie Johnson
33    Kevin Harvick
34    Danica Patrick
35    Reed Sorenson
36    Kurt Busch
37    Casey Mears
38    Martin Truex, Jr.
39    J.J. Yeley
40    Kasey Kahne
41    Travis Kvapil
42    Timmy Hill
43    Clay Rogers

Friday, October 24, 2014

TV Schedule: Oct. 24-26

Martinsville Speedway. Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway for some short track action and the first race of the Eliminator round in the Chase. The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series converge on the "paperclip."

The Nationwide Series is on a break and will return next week at Texas.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Martinsville. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Oct. 24:
Noon NSCS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NCWTS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, Oct. 25:
9 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
10 a.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
11:30 a.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
12 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
1:30 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 200, FS1. Green flag: 1:46 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 26:
10:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
1:30 p.m. NSCS: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger, ESPN. Green flag: 1:43 p.m. Re-airs at 12:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Martinsville Eliminator Round Opener

Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway • Dover International Speedway
Phoenix International Raceway • Richmond International Raceway
Distance: .526 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Jimmie Johnson - 5
All with 4 - Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick
All with 3 - Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

By Track
Both with 7 - Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer  
Both with 6 - Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
All with 5 -  Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Denny Hamlin
2012 Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: Pick the pole winner this week and chances are you will also be picking the race  winner. These Martinsville elite drivers should be on your radar this week: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman.

My 2 Cents: The major no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.  My next picks are Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. If you have any Brad Keselowski starts left pick him instead of Tony Stewart. I will complete my team with Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier. Enjoy the race!

Post your comments here or email me at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fast Facts: Martinsville Speedway

Kurt Busch wins at Martinsville in March 2014
credit: Getty Images/Chris Graythen
“The Paperclip,” Martinsville Speedway, holds a few NASCAR distinctions – learn what they are and more about the history of this short track in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Martinsville Speedway is older than NASCAR itself: the 0.526-mile track opened in 1947 with seating for 750 spectators – over 6,000 showed up for the first race. NASCAR was formed in 1948, and in 1949 Martinsville Speedway hosted its first race in the series; it has been on the schedule every year since.
  • In addition to being a charter NASCAR track, Martinsville is also the shortest track on the schedule. The track surface itself is a unique hybrid of asphalt straightaways and concrete corners. Until 1999, Martinsville had two pit roads, similar to Bristol Motor Speedway; the pit area was reconfigured to have pit road begin at the entrance of Turn 3 and end in the exit of Turn 2, allowing for a garage to be built in the infield.
  • Another distinction Martinsville holds is its unique trophy: a longcase grandfather clock, chosen by track architect and owner H. Clay Earles to represent the Martinsville area. The clocks are made by an area company, Ridgeway Clocks, and are valued (circa 2009) at approximately $10,000.
  • Richard Petty holds the records for most wins (15), most starts (67) and most laps completed (27,891) at Martinsville. Joey Logano currently holds the Sprint Cup Series qualifying record at the track: 100.201 mph (18.898 seconds).
  • Current Speedway president Clay Campbell is Earles’ grandson. He has competed in the ARCA Racing Series and K&N Pro Series East in recent years, earning a career-best third-place finish in the ARCA Series race at Daytona in February 2014, driving for NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader.
  • Learn more about Martinsville Speedway at its website,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Travel Tips: Martinsville Speedway – Oct. 24-26, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media

The first race of the Eliminator Round in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup is the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway. The race goes green on Sunday, Oct. 26, while the Camping World Truck Series races in the Kroger 200 on Saturday, Oct. 25.

credit: NASCAR Media
On Sunday before the race, fans can check out the Green Flag Experience, which includes pre-race admission to the frontstretch for driver introductions and driver question-and-answer sessions featuring Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, David Ragan, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Green Flag Experience costs $30 per person, and also includes continental breakfast items, simulators and a photo opportunity at the flag stand – find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Oct. 24 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 1:40 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET

Saturday, Oct. 25
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 a.m. and noon ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10:10 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 – 1:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Oct. 26
  • Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 – 1:30 p.m. ET

Find the Martinsville Speedway fan guide here.

Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wild Card Talladega shuffles the Chase deck in qualifying

Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images
Four will be done in 'Dega.
It's time to prepare for glory, or defeat. ~ NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup commercial 

Brian Vickers grabbed the pole for the GEICO 500 at Talladaga Superspeedway Saturday, perhaps as much because of what other drivers didn't do as because of what he did.

"I don't deserve any credit." said Vickers after the final segment. "I just tried not to wreck."

Jimmie Johnson starts second for much the same reason. "I'm not sure what happened there, but it worked out." said Johnson, who's in danger of being eliminated from Chase contention if he doesn't win today's race.

In September, NASCAR announced changes to the qualifying format for Talladega that included a first round divided into two groups by a random draw, with each group getting five minutes on track to make their runs. After a 10-minute break, the 24 drivers with the fastest laps in either round advanced to an intermediate round also five minutes long. From that round 12 advanced to determine their starting positions based on their fastest lap in that five-minute segment.

At the time the changes were announced, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR senior vice president of competition and racing development, said the changes, "Should be more exciting for our fans. It will feature a more accelerated pace, provide greater opportunity for team strategy to come into play and it should more closely resemble actual racing conditions.”

"Strategy" resulted in five Chase contenders relying on owner's points to make the show. For the first time in his Cup career, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. failed to qualify. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Allgaier also didn't make the race. Joe Nemechek's car failed post-qualifying inspection, so Reed Sorenson got a reprieve and starts in 36th position.

Jeff Gordon qualified 43rd.  Only four times has Gordon earned starting spots of 40th or worse, but for the first time in his career, his lap time put him dead last in the field. The four-time champion made the race by only .127 seconds.

"I just mistimed getting to the line." said Gordon. "The whole group was going so slow I knew I had to have a gap and when I came across the line I thought I had enough (time) to be able to complete that lap and get one more, which was the only way we were going to make it. But we came up short."

Gordon leads active drivers in wins at the 2.66 mile superspeedway with six to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s five victories.

Tony Stewart had to use a past-champion's provisional to make the field.

On the other side of the equation, the beneficiaries of "strategy" were names not usually seen in at the top of the field in qualifying. AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Blaney, who's running the No. 12 Penske entry, line up on the second row. Michael McDowell qualified sixth, Travis Kvapil seventh, and Michael Annett tenth, while Terry Labonte earned a ninth-place start in his final Cup race.

The Dogecoin-funded entry of Josh Wise also made the field, qualifying 36th.

Matt Kenseth starts in the back because of a precautionary engine change. Also dropping to the back: Brad Keselowski, who may discover just how many enemies he made with his actions last week at Charlotte.

Here are the full qualifying results. Tune in at 2:00 pm ET on ESPN to see whose nation falls the hardest.

Rank Driver Time Speed
1   Brian Vickers 48.825   196.129  
2   Jimmie Johnson 48.924   195.732  
3   A.J. Allmendinger 48.983   195.496  
4   Ryan Blaney 49.357   194.015  
5   Brad Keselowski 49.359   194.007  
6   Michael McDowell 49.439   193.693  
7   Travis Kvapil 49.462   193.603  
8   Kasey Kahne 49.489   193.498  
9   Terry Labonte 49.506   193.431  
10   Michael Annett 49.575   193.162  
11   Ryan Newman 50.057   191.302  
12   Martin Truex, Jr. 50.141   190.981  
13   Matt Kenseth 49.510   193.415  
14   Alex Bowman 49.520   193.376  
15   Carl Edwards 49.542   193.291  
16   Trevor Bayne 49.771   192.401  
17   Aric Almirola 49.803   192.278  
18   Kurt Busch 49.850   192.096  
19   Casey Mears 49.899   191.908  
20   Paul Menard 49.934   191.773  
21   David Gilliland 50.140   190.985  
22   Cole Whitt 50.144   190.970  
23   Mike Wallace 51.838   184.729  
24   Greg Biffle 49.985   191.577  
25   David Ragan 50.026   191.420  
26   Marcos Ambrose 50.080   191.214  
27   Danica Patrick 50.097   191.149  
28   Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 50.101   191.134  
29   Landon Cassill 50.102   191.130  
30   Austin Dillon 50.129   191.027  
31   Jamie McMurray 50.184   190.818  
32   J.J. Yeley 50.218   190.689  
33   Clint Bowyer 50.220   190.681  
34   Michael Waltrip 50.245   190.586  
35   Josh Wise 50.266   190.507  
36   Reed Sorenson 50.585   189.305  
37   Tony Stewart 50.590   189.286   OP
38   Denny Hamlin 50.863   188.270   OP
39   Kevin Harvick 51.110   187.361   OP
40   Joey Logano 53.980   177.399   OP
41   Kyle Busch 54.065   177.120   OP
42   Kyle Larson 54.163   176.800   OP
43   Jeff Gordon 54.245   176.532   OP
44   Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 54.118   176.947   DNQ
45   Justin Allgaier 54.166   176.790   DNQ
46   Joe Nemechek .000   DQ 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Day When Everything Goes Cray: Five Questions for Talladega

(Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Hide your wife, hide your kids, because Talladega’s fixing to get crazy up in here.

We all wanted this day to come, and it has finally arrived: the cut-off of the second round. Talladega Superspeedway’s date. The Day When Everything Goes Cray.

There’s so much to discuss, so I’ll skip the rambling and get on with it. Five questions, five responses from yours truly. Fairness, retaliation and goodbyes are all discussed in this week’s column.

Will we see Charlotte-related retaliation? In case you’ve been living under a rock, Charlotte Motor Speedway ended in a melee between Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. There was even tackling! It was a great example of the emotions the new Chase format conjures. Denny Hamlin was also involved in a scuffle with Keselowski, and there was a slight tiff between Joey Logano and Danica Patrick. Will we see any responsive actions this weekend? Not only is the answer "no," but it’s "heck no." It would be preposterous to attempt payback at Talladega. The carnage will garner enough entertainment itself. If you’re looking for payback, tune in a week from Sunday; Martinsville Speedway is the perfect place for some rumbling.

What was the reasoning behind Stewart’s penalty? There was another thing that came out of Charlotte: penalties! NASCAR announced Tuesday that Keselowski received a $50,000 fine for his actions, and Tony Stewart’s fine clocked in at $25,000. Both are also on a four-race probation. Many fans are confused on why Stewart was dragged into this mess and what the mainstream media would take away. As expected, news outlets exploited the fine and tied it back to the fatal incident with Kevin Ward Jr. What exactly was NASCAR thinking? Well, they approached it as they would any other driver; they specified that the driver of the No. 14’s actions on pit road resulted in the monetary punishment. The fact of the matter is, he backed into Keselowski around other drivers that had their belts and HANS devices off. This happened after Keselowski sideswiped Kenseth, and the latter driver was mad because he felt endangered. I feel that NASCAR took that into consideration when they divvied out the penalties.

Can an underdog do the thing again? "Do the thing" obviously means winning. Drivers such as David Ragan are great at restrictor plate tracks and have the ability to steal a win. Anything can happen, so don’t count the small teams out. Two others I’m focusing on are Casey Mears and Landon Cassill. Mears knows how to work the draft well; Jimmie Johnson has used him as a dance partner many times. That’s a pretty big seal of approval. Cassill is an enigma to me because he is on the cusp of doing great things. If he had the chance to run for a high-end team, I have no doubt he could do a solid job. This could be the weekend he highlights his skills, which are phenomenal at plate tracks. A spoiler might be in the near future.

If Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t make the Chase, is NASCAR at a disadvantage? Earlier this week, I read an article that talk about the backlash if Johnson made it into the next round. I’ll save you a click: fans wouldn’t be happy. Why? Because that means Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be out of the picture. Look, I understand some people would be disinterested, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The ratings would probably dip more, yet there’s much more excitement to be had in the final four races. However, this isn’t applicable until Junior officially misses the cut-off. No pressure!

Is it fair that Talladega is the cut-off race? This is a question many have been asking since the format was revealed. So many scenarios could kill title hopes. What if a huge wreck happens, and all these drivers get caught up in it? I’m going to be honest: it’s a bit off-putting. Despite that, we also need to remember that LIFE IS NOT FAIR. If these drivers wanted to be locked in and have it easy, they should’ve won one of the past two races. Also, driving like an idiot would increase their chances of not getting eliminated. Drive aggressively, but don’t overdo it, guys. 

TV Schedule: Oct. 17-19

Talladega Superspeedway. Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images
After a wild melee at Charlotte, NASCAR heads to the most volatile track on the circuit. Halfway into the Chase, the Contender Round will end at Talladega Superspeedway. The eight Sprint Cup drivers who survive the unpredictable 2.66-mile track will advance to the Eliminator Round.

After a two-break, the Camping World Truck Series gets back on track at Dega.

Now the Nationwide Series goes on a two-week hiatus and will return Nov. 1 at Texas.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Talladega. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Oct. 17: 
1:30 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at All American (tape-delayed), FS1
2:30 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Special, FS1
10 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS2

Saturday, Oct. 18:
5 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at All American (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
12:30 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FOX
1 p.m. NCWTS: Fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, FOX. Green flag: 1:22 p.m.
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, ESPNEWS

Sunday, Oct. 19:
Noon NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
2 p.m. NSCS: Geico 500, ESPN. Green flag: 2:20 p.m. Re-airs at 1 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
12:30 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The great 8 at Talladega

Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway •  Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) •
Indianapolis Motor Speedway • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Distance: 2.66 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Brad Keselowski - 4 
Both with 3 - Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 7
David Ragan - 5
All with 4 -  Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Rained Out
2012 Kasey Kahne

The Likely Suspects: Talladega racing always equals chaos, but as the closing race in the second round of this new Chase format, we may be seeing some pretty crazy racing. Picture last week's race times three. Interestingly enough, some of the players from last week should play a key role this week.

Look for these Dega stars to run well this week: Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. Oh, and as a restrictor-plate race you better throw in Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week would be last week's bad boy Brad Keselowski. Since I don't have any Brad starts left, I will be going with the "almost always mild-mannered" Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as my no-brainer twins. My next picks are Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin. I will complete my team with Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at