Loose wheel dashes Earnhardt's hopes — NASCAR notebook

Ruben Ruiz
May 10, 2017

Stenhouse Jr. won the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon.

At what is expected to be one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s final races at the famed Talladega Superspeedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stole the show on Saturday, earning pole position with a lap of 191.547 miles per hour.

The crowd roared Saturday in qualifying when he shot to the top of the board, but it was short-lived. The race was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse on Saturday ousted Dale Earnhardt Jr. off the pole during the knockout qualifier. "The start of this season, I had a different mindset that let's continue to build on what we learned at the end of a year ago, and let's try and get a win before the season is up". His lap was 190.780 miles per hour in a Chevrolet.

"My dad has done so much for me in my career", Stenhouse said.

It appears the timing might be ideal for Roush, his crew members and his drivers. "Would have liked that pole".

Stenhouse did start from the pole and praised the power from his Doug Yates-built engine for the speed.

"Doesn't get any sweeter", Stenhouse said. "It's a cool way to start the weekend". We knew that Talladega was a good race track for us- it's been a good one in the past. Thrilled with our vehicle. I'm glad I got out there when I did because it only had one lug on it.

The anticipation in the air was palpable, as Earnhardt rolled through the tri-oval toward the start/finish line, but what happened next had fans in the front grandstands ripping the radio headphones off their heads and throwing them to the ground. "We had a great auto in Daytona, just had some bad luck when we were leading, so we're looking forward to Talladega". His vehicle did not even make the green flag in the most recent race.

"His son wins the race", related Talladega PR Director Russell Branham.

Between the two, there was one career victory - Bayne's 2011 Daytona 500 title while he was driving for Wood Brothers Racing. In that event, he had an aggressive late battle for position with Greg Biffle to earn the victory. He'll need to pick things up to make a playoff run in his final season. But at least he wasn't passing me.

"I got a wheel coming off".

Stock auto racing in general, and Talladega Superspeedway in particular, can upset what you might think is the natural order of things.

Trevor Bayne, the second Roush driver, had a brief fling with stock auto racing celebrity, winning the 2011 Daytona 500 with a brilliant drive for the Wood Brothers Racing team before it became a Penske adjunct. Brad Keselowski for Team Penske qualified third and Kevin Harvick was sixth for Stewart-Haas Racing. Daniel Suarez, his teammate, was seventh.

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"Last year, we started off the season pretty decent and then fell quite a bit", Stenhouse said.

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, called it "the most gratifying win since I've been at Roush". He wheeled the No. 98 vehicle to Victory Lane in the Xfinity Series for Richard Petty Motorsports then avoided carnage on Sunday to come away with his second fourth-place finish of the season and first since the Daytona 500. So far. Stenhouse has a pair of top-five finishes and four top-10s. Junior, who is continuing his farewell tour, almost grabbed his first career pole at Talladega, but instead will have to settle for P2 starting spot.

It's far too early to tell whether Stenhouse will fully develop into the driver many thought he would become, or if Roush is truly in the midst of a renaissance. The guys want to work there. Even after showing them his credentials, they were hesitant.

Trevor Bayne is 16th in the standings. It's been really fun to drive, real special.

Roush Fenway Racing has struggled.

At Talladega SuperspeedwayTalladega, Ala.

He knew just minutes into practice at Talladega that he had a Ford capable of winning.

"Everything that I know about racing I learned from him", said Stenhouse after the race. "This thing is fast, '" Almirola said. "The auto was so fast this weekend".

A caution for debris set up a restart with 11 laps remaining, and they were frantic at the front of the field. (35) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 191, 0, 0. 18. Almirola didn't win the race, but losing 35 points could see him drop from 17th down to a tie for 21st with Daniel Suarez and moving Kasey Kahne into the bubble spot just outside the playoffs.

'Hold on one second, sir.

Our guys saw it, naturally they stopped him, they asked him who he was, said would you get in the auto. Talladega started so promising for the No. 88, starting in second place and running decently well throughout the day. "The draft is so insane and different".

"They come out here to have fun. You have to physically block them with your vehicle and it's really tight".

Earnhardt lost a lap because of the unscheduled stop but got it back as the highest-scored lapped vehicle when NASCAR called the seventh caution on Lap 179.

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