Since its existence, Talladega Superspeedway has brought out the best in underdogs. This weekend was no different across NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
Along with some sporty runs for lesser-funded teams, there was chaos throughout, specifically the NASCAR Cup Series race which had a track record 13 caution flags. Yikes! The wrecks and unique handling package allowed underfunded drivers their chance to run up front.
However, while the small teams ran well, multi-car giants still wound up in victory lane: Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports. It’s easy for the Cinderella stories just behind them to slip beneath the headlines… except for here.
Let’s delve into them in the latest edition of NASCAR Stat Sheet.
The month of September was a rough one for single-car NASCAR Cup Series team Germain Racing. First, the team announced it was looking at all options for 2021 after sponsor GEICO chose not to renew their deal. It was only for a few weeks later Germain announced their charter was sold to Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
Seventeen years of hard work for Bob Germain — 12 at the Cup level — will soon be over for good.
But Germain’s driver, Ty Dillon, hasn’t given up yet. He showcased his superspeedway ability on Sunday (Oct. 4) at Talladega, running inside the top five for a chunk of the race. Come the checkered flag, the No. 13 Chevrolet rounded out the podium after penalties jumbled up the final running order.
The finish was a career-best result for both Dillon and Germain. Previously, Dillon had a fourth-place effort at Daytona International Speedway in the July race there, two years ago. Casey Mears also wheeled the No. 13 to a fourth at Daytona back in 2014.
Dillon believes he’s a top-tier Cup driver if given the opportunity. Surely, he’s shown flashes of speed, particularly at superspeedways where underfunded teams are able to maintain the lead draft. Maybe, if he got that opportunity in 2021, the 28-year-old would prove his haters wrong.
Hell, if the race went another lap, it’s quite possible Dillon would have been soaking in his first victory. The field was all out of sorts for the final half-lap and several cars limped to the start/finish line with damage.
Thanks for the memories, @TalladegaSuperS! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/n5EIADqs8W
— Germain Racing (@GermainRacing) October 5, 2020
When it comes to Justin Haley and superspeedway racing, it’s his world and we’re just living it. This guy is elite.
Flash back to 2018. Haley was running full-time in NASCAR’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for GMS Racing while making occasional appearances in the Xfinity Series. In just his second career NXS start, Haley crossed the finish line first in the July race at Daytona International Speedway. However, NASCAR deemed he passed for the lead below the double yellow line (debatable), awarding the win to Kyle Larson.
It took just one year for karma to catch up. Haley stole the Cup Series victory in July 2019 in a rain-shortened Daytona event, one of the biggest NASCAR upsets this century. He earned Spire Motorsports its first and only career victory while leading just one lap.
All the while, he was impressive on superspeedways in 2019. Running full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing, he earned finishes of 17th, seventh and second, respectively (including a stage victory at Daytona).
In 2020, the organization stepped up its superspeedway game significantly, remaining loyal to one another with drivers Haley, AJ Allmendinger and Ross Chastain. No, Kaulig didn’t win the season opener this season at Daytona, but the three superspeedways since have gone to Haley. Yes, in a time where superspeedway racing is the most unpredictable, the No. 11 car has three straight triumphs at said racetracks: two at Talladega and one at Daytona. He joins elite company, too, becoming just the third driver to win three straight races on superspeedways in Xfinity. Who does the 21-year-old join? Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Really special to be in the same category as @DaleJr & Dale Sr for consecutive speedway wins. Proud to get @MattKaulig & @KauligRacing more trophy’s. Still plenty to get. 👊🏼 pic.twitter.com/SvO3bYKQqP
— Justin Haley (@Justin_Haley_) October 4, 2020
All of Haley’s victories have been different, too. He was in the right line on a late restart in the spring event at Talladega, then squeaked through a crash on the final lap triggered by his teammates getting together in August at Daytona. Finally, on Saturday, the No. 11 methodically leapfrogged cars over the final 10 laps, finding himself in the lead with two laps to go.
Welcome to the Round of 8, Haley. Can he harness this momentum and go one step further to the Championship 4?
A 24th-place finish doesn’t look good on paper, but Jennifer Jo Cobb had a career day in Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega.
How, you ask? Cobb led a career-high 16 laps during a cycle of green flag pit stops. Yes, she was leading during green flag pit stops and wound up gobbled up by the field in 16 laps. However, that’s still mighty impressive from her small race team. Consider her No. 10 truck didn’t even qualify at Daytona in February, the only other superspeedway track on the circuit.
— Dustin Albino (el-bee-no) (@DustinAlbino) October 3, 2020
Since 2008, Cobb has been a mainstay in the Truck Series, making 207 starts while sprinkling in 29 Xfinity races. But her team, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, is attempting to make races weekly, even if the team doesn’t have the speed to be competitive.
Spending time out front is rare for Cobb. In her first 206 series starts — prior to Saturday — she’d led a total of seven laps. Including Saturday’s 250-miler, she’s led in six total races; four of those were for one lap apiece.
So yes, it was a pit strategy, and Cobb was in a draft of three trucks. But she led the second-most laps in the race (Derek Kraus led 19), which is rewarding for a dedicated Truck team that small in size.
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