TALLADEGA — The quandary of “what do you give a man who has everything?” has challenged every speedway along this Dale Earnhardt Jr. farewell tour. On Friday, Talladega Superspeedway opted for sentimentality.
Earnhardt, called an “Alabamian not by birth but by adoption” by State Sen. Gerald Dial, was presented a car fresh from the showroom at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, for which Dial serves as chair.
One of the yellow-and-blue No. 2 Chevrolets driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr. in his 1980 NASCAR championship season has been on display at the Hall, but is now in Junior’s possession. He even took it for a two-lap spin — at considerably less than pole-winning speed — around the track.
The speedway also produced a champagne bottle from the same case that was used to celebrate Dale Senior’s final NASCAR victory, here in 2000, and another from Dale Junior’s first Talladega win, here in October 2001.
Brad Keselowski had the fastest practice lap and Ryan Blaney the best 10-consecutive-lap average in Friday’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. Keselowski, a four-time winner here, turned a lap of 197.859 mph. Blaney’s average was 196.829 mph.
Typical of Talladega, the second session had limited participation. Only 23 of the 40 entrants ventured out, with Kasey Kahne topping the charts at 191.222 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a 10-lap average of 182.542.
What do drivers do in their down time? Joey Logano talked about his evolving friendship with teammate Brad Keselowski.
Logano was invited to Keselowski’s house to celebrate his daughter’s birthday when Keselowski said, “’Let’s do something manly.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you want to do?’” Logano related. “And he says, ‘Let’s play croquet.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, God.’ But he was serious and I thought it was the funniest thing.
“He’s a very good croquet player, if you’re wondering.”
Fun with veggies
Logano, who has won the last two fall races here, won at Richmond in the spring but there were violations detected during postrace inspection. NASCAR labeled the win “encumbered,” a word with which many inside the sport have had a great deal of fun this year.
Alluding to the word, Logano said, “You can take your cucumbers and stick it. It was a win.”
—Jimmie Johnson spun during the first practice session when he suffered a blown tire. He believed he ran over something on the apron as he entering the track. Johnson expected the team to repair the car and not have to go to a backup. Said Johnson: “All in all, (we) got away with one there for sure.”
—Christopher Bell, currently atop the Camping World Truck Series standings and a five-time winner this year, will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series next season, it was announced.