USA TODAY Sports’ Brant James previews the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
USA TODAY Sports
Sunday’s GEICO 500 has the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series back at a restrictor-plate track for the second time this season. Some essential information you need to get ready for the race:
START TIME: Frank Pickering, Assistant VP of Southeast Claims for GEICO, will instruct drivers to start their engines at 2:07 p.m. ET (1:07 p.m. local), followed by the green flag at 2:19 p.m. ET.
RACE DISTANCE: The GEICO 500 is 188 laps around the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. That’s 500.08 miles.
SEGMENTS: Beginning this season, NASCAR is dividing every race into segments and awarding one bonus point to the winner of each stage. Segment lengths will be different for every race. Also, the top 10 finishers of segments 1 and 2 will be awarded regular-season points in descending order from 10 to 1. Here are the segments for the Toyota Owners 400: Stage 1: 55 laps; Stage 2: 55 laps; Stage 3: 78 laps, for a total of 188 laps.
NATIONAL ANTHEM/FLYOVER: The 313th United States Army Band will play the National Anthem and a flyover will be performed by the Maxwell AFB 908th Airlift Wing C-130 (Turn 4 to Turn 1). A semi-truck will fly the American flag past the start/finish line.
TV/RADIO SCHEDULE: Fox will broadcast Sunday’s race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius/XM Radio will call the race on the radio.
LIVE STREAMING: Fox is offering a live stream through its Fox Sports Go app.
WEATHER: The Weather Channel is calling for a relatively cool but sunny spring day, with a high of 72 degrees and no chance of rain.
JUNIOR WATCH: Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns for his penultimate race at his most successful track before retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season. Earnhardt has won six times (most recently in 2015) in 33 races at Talladega, with 12 top-five and 16-top 10 finishes. Talladega is clearly Earnhardt territory as it is also the track where Dale Earnhardt Sr. earned the most wins of his career (10).
LAST TIME: Team Penske’s Joey Logano clinched a berth in the the third round of the playoffs, edging the now-retired Brian Scott by a margin of .124 seconds in a relatively tame race — for Talladega standards. This was in direct contrast to the race one year ago last spring in which 35 of 40 cars departed the track with at least some damage, and Chris Buescher, Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth were each involved in scary incidents. At the end of the day, it was Brad Keselowski that came through the carnage of the 2016 GEICO 500, winning under caution. A Penske driver has now won the last three races at Talladega.
STARTING LINEUP: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earned his first Cup Series pole since September of 2013 and the second of his career, edging fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. in both rounds of qualifying.
Here’s the starting lineup for today’s NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway (car number in parentheses):
1. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford
2. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
3. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford
4. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota
5. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford
6. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford
7. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota
8. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet
9. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet
10. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota
11. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota
12. (22) Joey Logano, Ford
13. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota
14. (77) Erik Jones, Toyota
15. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford
16. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford
17. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford
18. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet
19. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet
20. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet
21. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet
22. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford
23. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet
24. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet
25. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford
26. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford
27. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet
28. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet
29. (38) David Ragan, Ford
30. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
31. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford
32. (75) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet
33. (55) Reed Sorenson, Toyota
34. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet
35. (7) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet
36. (83) Corey LaJoie, Toyota
37. (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota
38. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet
39. (15) Joey Gase, Chevrolet
40. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet
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