NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR Geico 500 preview in 3 minutes | Jeff Gordon on pole

Four of the top five qualifiers in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway are Hendrick drivers, led by pole winner Jeff Gordon.
Four of the top five qualifiers in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway are Hendrick drivers, led by pole winner Jeff Gordon. Getty Images

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, in three minutes:

Three things to watch

1. Sunday could be a big day for Hendrick Motorsports. Four of the top five qualifiers are Hendrick drivers, led by pole winner Jeff Gordon. Kasey Kahne is on the outside of the front row, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth. Ryan Blaney, who qualified third, is the only non-Hendrick driver in the top five. Gordon also won the pole for the Daytona 500, another restrictor race, but finished 33rd.

2. Tony Gibson, Kurt Busch’s crew chief, spent part of last week in the hospital having kidney stones removed. So he went fron victory lane at Bristol with Busch, to the operating room, and on to Talladega, where he’ll be on top of Busch’s pit box Sunday.

3. Danica Patrick, who is losing her Godaddy sponsorship after this season, has two top 10s in her last four races (Martinsville and Bristol). Although those two short tracks are as different from Talladega as possible, she has run well on superspeedways, but without decent results.

Observations

▪  Looks like the new qualifying format for Talladega (and Daytona in July), worked well. Drivers seemed to like returning to the single-car system, with the top 12 advanceing to a second round. Pole-winner Gordon certainly did.

▪  Brian Scott, a surprise pole winner at last year’s spring Talladega race, starts 16th Sunday. Scott finished 42nd in 2014, and has run just two races this season, finishing 13th at Las Vegas and 27th at Fontana.

▪  Talladega’s SAFER barriers did their job Friday when ARCA driver Brad Smith slammed into the wall with 25 laps left in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200. Smith was airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham, Ala., where he had surgery on both his ankles and was listed in stable condition Saturday morning.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Says he feels pressure from his fans if he’s not running near or at the front of restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona.

Tony Stewart: It’s been a tough season for Smoke, but he’s had a fast car in practice and in qualifying (sixth). It might be time for him to win.

Jeff Gordon: Pole winner owns six victories at Talladega, but most recent came in 2007. He’d like to win again in his final season of full-time racing -- and likely put himself in the Chase.

He said it

“There’s an 80 percent chance you’ll get caught up in a wreck. How do you avoid that? – Gordon.

Race facts

Geico 500

Where: Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.

Track type: 2.67-mile oval.

Race distance: 500 miles, or 188 laps.

Green flag: 1:20 p.m.

Weather: Mostly sunny, high 83. Zero percent chance of rain.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

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