UPDATED: Vickers wins ‘Dega pole; 7 Chasers to start at rear, including Keselowski, Kenseth; Nemechek DQ’d

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UPDATE 2: More than two hours after qualifying was complete Saturday for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR officials announced two additional changes to Saturday’s outcome.

First, Brad Keselowski will go to the back of the pack for Sunday’s race due to changing an alternator. Then, Matt Kenseth was also tagged for a violation and will also start at the rear of the field Sunday due to an engine change.

NASCAR has not announced where Keselowski and Kenseth will start, most likely pending any other drivers going to the back of the pack prior to Sunday’s race. That’s why they’re still listed in their original qualifying positions in the grid below.

Here’s the tweet from Bob Pockrass of SportingNews.com, announcing the changes. That means seven Chase drivers — more than half of the field — will start at the back of the 43-car pack for Sunday’s race.

UPDATE 1: What was already a confusing afternoon became even more obtuse after Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Reed Sorenson had been told he did not qualify and would not race Sunday. Others who failed to qualify were Rickey Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier.

About an hour after qualifying, however, Sorenson found out that he will indeed race Sunday and that Joe Nemechek, who had originally qualified 24th, had his qualifying time and speed disallowed by NASCAR officials.

According to a tweet by USA Today’s Jeff Gluck, Nemechek was DQ’d “due to some oil tank thing.”

NASCAR subsequently announced early Saturday evening that the oil tank encasement was not properly sealed, prompting Nemechek’s disqualification.

It was the second attempt to qualify for a Sprint Cup race by RAB Racing. The previous attempt for this year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway fell short of making the field.


ORIGINAL STORY:

Confusion. Conflict. And inexplicable strategy.

And that was just qualifying Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

We can only imagine what the actual race will bring.

What was supposed to be a simplified qualifying format wound up having almost everyone scratching their heads on what to do – and what ultimately happened.

“What a weird qualifying session, there’s no way around it, confusion on multiple levels,” said six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, who ultimately wound up qualifying on the outside of the front row.

In the end, non-Chase driver Brian Vickers emerged from the three qualifying rounds to take the pole for Sunday’s race with a speed of 196.129 mph.

“It’s crazy,” Vickers told ESPN. “Coming with three to go, I thought we had no shot. They all checked up and gave me a chance to get a run.

“We found some speed and this Aaron’s Dream Machine was quick.”

Johnson (195.732 mph), who is in a must-win situation to make it into the Elimination Round, will start on the outside of the front row, followed by A.J. Allmendinger (195.496) and Ryan Blaney (194.015).

“I thought we were completely out of the running and then we were able to suck back around and catch back up to get second,” Johnson said. “I thought we were going to be 12th the way it all worked out. So, I don’t know what happened exactly, but it worked out well and we got ourselves a second-place starting position.”

Also in a must-win situation is Brad Keselowski, who qualified fifth (194.007), followed by Michael McDowell (193.693), Travis Kvapil (193.603) and Kasey Kahne (193.498).

Making what he has said will be the final race of his lengthy Sprint Cup career, Terry Labonte will start ninth (193.431), alongside Michael Annett (193.162).

Rounding out the top 12 starting spots were Ryan Newman (191.302) and Martin Truex Jr. (190.981).

Drivers were so confused by what they could and couldn’t do, that several big names ultimately wound up being scored way back in the pack.

In fact, five of the last seven drivers on the qualifying grid are Chase competitors and made the field on owner’s points, while a sixth (Tony Stewart) made it on a past champion’s provisional. In a surprising turn of events, four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon will start last in the 43-car field.

With the controversial new format of Round 1A and 1B, three of the 46 drivers that entered ultimately failed to qualify.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the biggest surprise that failed to make Sunday’s race, followed by Justin Allgaier and Reed Sorenson. (Sorenson would subsequently be reinstated into the race when Joe Nemechek’s qualifying time and speed were disallowed due to some type of oil tank issue with his race car, according to USA Today’s Jeff Gluck.)

(REVISED) STARTING LINEUP FOR SUNDAY’S GEICO 500 AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY

Row
1 Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson
2 AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Blaney
3 Brad Keselowski, Michael McDowell
4 Travis Kvapil, Kasey Kahne
5 Terry Labonte, Michael Annett

6 Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
7 Matt Kenseth, Alex Bowman
8 Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne
9 Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch
10 Casey Mears, Paul Menard

11 David Gilliland, Cole Whitt
12 Mike Wallace, Greg Biffle
13 David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose
14 Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
15 Landon Cassill, Austin Dillon

16 Jamie McMurray, JJ Yeley
17 Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip
18 Josh Wise, Reed Sorenson
19 Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin
20 Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano

21 Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson
22 Jeff Gordon

DNQ: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, Joe Nemechek

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?