By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – With no practice and only qualifying ahead of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega, the NASCAR Cup Series drivers had a light day on Saturday.
Meeting with the media on Saturday morning, here are some of the storylines that came out of the session with the top-30 in points.
RFK Racing Leaning on Keselowski’s Superspeedway Success at Talladega
When it comes to superspeedway racing, RFK Racing has an ace in the hole with co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski in the fold. With six wins at Talladega under his belt (most among active drivers), the knowledge that he can impart on not only his No. 6 team, but also the No. 17 team in which Chris Buescher drives is invaluable.
Keselowski’s superspeedway success has already paid dividends earlier this season when both Keselowski and Buescher were able to win their Duels at Daytona when the Next Gen car made its superspeedway debut.
Though the season has not gone as planned, especially for Keselowski, who is still climbing out from under a massive NASCAR penalty leveled on the No. 6 team last month, Talladega serves as a track that could be a springboard for both Keselowski and Buescher can get their season back on an upward trajectory.
“We’ve had this one circled as a great opportunity and a place we know we’ll have good speed, good horsepower,” Buescher said. “This place obviously, Brad’s won at a lot and a place we’ve talked about a lot as a good shot for us to grab a win here early in the season and carry on through the summer.”
“(Brad) has got a ton of experience here, a ton of wins, which is great to talk to somebody on your team about that same thing. We’re looking forward to getting out there with him and working together. We’ve been able to work together really well as Ford teammates the last several years, so that’s already been a good start. I know we’ll be able to now as teammates and as a boss man as well. It’ll be a good race for us.”
Reddick: A Week Later, Bristol Finish “Still Sucks”
Last weekend at Bristol, Tyler Reddick came agonizingly close to scoring his first career win in the Cup Series, only to get tangled up with Chase Briscoe on the last lap and having to watch Kyle Busch beat him back to the finish line to steal the win.
Almost a week later, Reddick is still reminiscing on what could have been.
“It still sucks,” Reddick said. “Just because I didn’t lose my mind doesn’t mean I’m OK with what happened. It still sucks. I wasn’t OK with it, but I know it wasn’t intentional. In my opinion, I don’t feel like he went in there and tried to wreck me. I think it’s pretty obvious he did the opposite once he figured out it wasn’t going to work. It just worked out the way it did.”
Despite the lingering effects of the near miss, Reddick added that he wouldn’t forget the incident anytime soon, instead turning it into a motivational tool going forward.
“I don’t think I need to tune it out of my brain. What happened is an important thing to learn from. If for whatever reason under caution it comes into my mind, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to motivate me to do a better job or get ready for the next restart or whatever it might be.”
Kyle Busch “Not Antsy” About 2023 Contract Situation with JGR
The 2022 Cup season may only be nine races old, but the attention is already being shifted toward 2023, especially for Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Earlier this year, longtime sponsor M&Ms/Mars announced that they would not be returning to the No. 18 team next season and Busch has yet to sign a new contract that would keep him in the seat he has occupied since 2008.
Asked about his contract situation, Busch was a man of few words.
“Yesterday,” Busch said of when he would have liked to have a new contract in place. “Not getting antsy about it. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Goodbye.”
Busch currently sits as the only active two-time series champion in the Cup Series, having won 60 races at NASCAR’s highest level – 56 of which came while racing for JGR. So would the team really let a driver of his caliber walk out the door at season’s end?
“Ask Joe Gibbs,” Busch replied.
Stenhouse Looking for Return to Form in Sunday’s GEICO 500
For Ricky Stenhouse Jr., there’s something about racing on superspeedways that just fits his driving style. With his two career Cup wins coming on superspeedways with triumphs at Talladega and Daytona in 2017, the Olive Branch, Mississippi native always finds himself in the mix on these types of tracks.
When the green flag flies on Sunday at Talladega, he is hoping for more of the same success he has found in the past. Though he hasn’t visited Victory Lane in the Cup Series since those two wins five years ago, Stenhouse is still confident he and his No. 47 team can be a player this weekend, even rolling off from 26th place.
“I have confidence for sure,” Stenhouse said. “A little disappointed in our qualifying lap. We thought we should be faster than that. Obviously had issues getting everything through tech yesterday, so I don’t know how much that affected some of our speed.
“All in all, I think our Sunny D Camaro is going to be good tomorrow. Always does really well here and drafts at the two superspeedways so far this year has been really, really good. It’s comfortable and been fast, so looking forward to tomorrow.”
Stenhouse added that his ability to be on offense during superspeedway races, rather than being on defense has given him the edge he needs to be successful at both Talladega and Daytona.
“For me, I have a really good spotter. Our cars are really good on the superspeedways. When you can be on the offense and your car can do things you’re comfortable with and the speed to make moves, you learn quicker.
“I felt like the beginning of my career in superspeedway races, I was kind of on the defense. Just kind of chilled out, tried to miss the crashes and get good finishes. Then when our cars got better and I learned more, I was able to do things to keep us toward the front and more competitive throughout the race.
“It’s a superspeedway race, but you still have to have a good car and a good spotter and a good strategy.”