TALLADEGA, AL – Six-time Talladega Superspeedway winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will take his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) laps at the sport’s Biggest and Baddest track and is hoping for one last celebration in Victory Lane. NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver will look to put on a memorable performance for the multitude of fans supporting him and the No. 88 team in Sunday’s Alabama 500.
“Talladega is a track we’ve had a lot of success at, and we’ve been looking at this race as a great opportunity for us to come in and get an awesome run or finish and maybe a win,” said Earnhardt Jr. “So, we’ve just been focusing on the car to be as good as possible and make sure it’s driving the way we need to drive it so we can be aggressive in the race; and all the usual things you think about and are concerned with on any given race weekend, that’s what we’re dealing with.”
Dale Jr. is the winningest active driver at Talladega with his six triumphs, including four consecutive from the fall of 2001 through the spring of 2003. On Talladega’s All-Time Wins List, he trails only his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr., who has ten career victories at the famous 2.66-mile tri-oval. The legacy of the Earnhardt family at Talladega is part of NASCAR’s storied history.
“Anyone who follows NASCAR has to be aware of that (Earnhardt legacy at Talladega),” said Chase Elliott, Dale Jr.’s teammate and driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “He’s a lot of people’s favorite driver, so when you go somewhere and you know a guy is really good at a track, that’s probably one you want to watch. To be a spectator and see how fired up people get in the stands when Dale makes a good move or takes the lead of a race, it definitely is something that will give you chills. I have a lot of respect for that. Dale is no slouch at plate racing and he never has been. He will certainly be a threat this weekend.”
“I do know this place has been great to me and we’ve got a lot of fans that come see us run here because they see it as a great opportunity to see us run well,” said Dale Jr. “There’s motivation to do well and run hard for all the folks that have come to see it happen. I’m sure there’s a few extra here this particular weekend considering it’s our last trip here. And, so that’s more motivation. So, I’m excited and looking forward to the race to get started on Sunday and hoping we can get up there and give everybody that’s going to be pulling for us a reason to cheer, and hope they leave the track on Sunday satisfied.”
The perfect conclusion to Earnhardt’s career would be celebrating with his most loyal fans in Victory Lane following the Alabama 500, the “Wilcard” second race in the Round of 12 of the MENCS playoffs.
One career Talladega accomplishment he has not conquered is capturing a pole position at the famed track. Qualifying for theAlabama 500 takes place on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. (CDT).
OTHER STORYLINES FROM FRIDAY
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his first career MENCS victory when he took the checkered flag in the spring race at Talladega. Stenhouse Jr. has high hopes that he can make it a Talladega sweep, saying, “I think the biggest thing for me is you’ve got to have these things play out exactly right. I feel like the last two played out really well for us and we were able to capitalize on good fortune for us and cautions coming out at the right time and missing wrecks, so you’ve got to have a fast car and get a little lucky at the same time and get the job done when it comes time.”
- In advance of Saturday’s qualifying for the MENCS event, a pair of Chevrolet drivers – Kasey Kahne and Earnhardt Jr. – led the final practice. Kahne posted a speed of 191.222 mph, while Earnhardt Jr. went 191.069 mph. Kurt Busch was third with a top speed of 190.257 mph, whileTrevor Bayne positing a speed of 190.102 mph. Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five with a speed of 189.729 mph.
- The fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race is the cutoff race in the Round of Eight of the NCWTS playoffs. Two drivers – Christopher Bell and Ben Rhodes – have already locked themselves into the Round of Six, while the rest of the six playoff drivers will be jockeying for every position in hopes of advancing to the next round. Defending race winner and Fairhope, AL native Grant Enfinger hopes to play the role of spoiler and capture his second checkered flag at the iconic venue.
Tickets are available to both the Alabama 500 MENCS event scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. (CDT) and the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NCWTS race, which gets the green flag at 12 Noon (CDT) on Saturday, Oct. 14.