Steven B. Wilson

Steven B. Wilson

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Sunday’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway has prime placement in the NASCAR Playoffs, for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

For the 12 drivers still in championship contention, a victory will result in automatic advancement to the next round. Following next week’s (Oct. 21) event at Kansas Speedway, the contenders list will be trimmed to eight, after which three more races will produce a “Championship 4” showdown going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The 500 is set for 1 p.m. CDT start. (TV: NBC; Radio: MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).

The Talladega tri-oval looms large – and not only because of its 2.66-mile layout and 33-degree high banks. That inherent intimidation is mitigated somewhat by Sunday being the Monster Energy Series’ second ‘Dega appearance this season, following April’s event.

“Going back to places where we’ve raced once already this year is a big [factor],” said Chase Elliott, the only driver who has clinched a Round of 8 berth, via his victory last week at Dover International Speedway. “Having some history from spring to the fall, that’s the biggest thing … to look back and see how you ran that race and see how you’ve improved.”

In terms of the playoffs, Talladega’s “wild card” reputation is enhanced by its sheer uniqueness in the 10-race lineup. It was prefaced by one road course and a one-mile concrete track (Dover). It will be followed by three 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, a half-mile and one 1-mile layout.

By any measure, it looks like a puzzle that will be tough to solve – starting with Sunday. Reigning Monster Energy Series champion Martin Truex Jr. can relate. He has yet to win at Talladega, in Monster Energy Series competition, despite having won three times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“The rest of the schedule in general [looks promising],” said Truex, driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota. “This track is really the last big question mark for us.

“I like racing here. It’s a lot of fun but man, it’s been tough on me. I’ve tried every possible different approach. I’ve been crashed running side-by-side with the leader … I’ve ridden around in back trying to stay out of a wreck and ended up in it.  It’s just one of those places where I’ve haven’t unlocked the magic code or whatever. I hope that changes Sunday.”

There was one Monster Energy Series practice session on Saturday, topped by playoff contender Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's Ford) with a fast lap of 204.227 mph. Qualifying for the 500 was set for 3:35 p.m. CDT Saturday.

For information on the 500 and all Talladega Superspeedway events, visit or call 855-518-RACE (7223).


Friday’s opening night to the 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters at zMAX Dragway saw Ron Capps build on his bid for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Funny Car championship, with a scintillating 3.875-second, 329.42-mph pass. Capps topped the charts in a full-throttle, high-octane opening to a spectacular weekend of 11,000-horsepower Countdown action at the Bellagio of drag strips.

“We knew coming in that conditions would be great or better than great,” Capps said. “Quite possibly, they could be better tomorrow. This is a great race track and with good conditions, this is what you see. The best part is looking up and seeing (car owner) Don Schumacher smile. The moments like that, seeing the boss smile, it’s big.”

Steve Torrence led all Top Fuel qualifiers with a 3.704-second, 331.53-mile-per-hour pass on his second run of the evening.

“I’ve had quite a bit of success here in the past and I enjoy coming here,” Torrence said. “The track is so smooth. … We’re going to try to carry the momentum we have here into race day. Clay (Millican) has done a good job of out-qualifying us lately. Every point counts, so we need to keep those guys from getting as many points as possible. … We’ve got to take this (title battle) one round at a time. We’ve got to keep working, don’t let up and eventually, someone’s going to say ‘Hey, you lost,’ or ‘Hey, you won.’”

Erica Enders jumped to the top of the Pro Stock charts with a 6.518-second, 211.69-mph run in Round 2.

“We came off from the test session prior to Dallas, where we felt like we made some strides in the right direction,” Enders said. “After the first session, (teammate) Jeg (Coughlin) was No. 1 and I was No. 2. I was hoping to redeem myself and my crew chief said, ‘If we do our job, we’ll be on the pole.’ We did our job. It’s nice to be able to go to bed being No. 1 right now.”

Eddie Krawiec will chase his second straight NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters victory on Sunday. Friday’s qualifying sessions saw Krawiec’s Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson post a best-in-class 6.806-second, 197.83-mph pass.

“We underestimated (the track surface) in our first run,” Krawiec said. “The track was good. We came out, made the proper changes. … Rolling into tomorrow, cooler weather means that run could definitely not stand as the No. 1 qualifier. There’s five or six who could take the pole from me. It makes it interesting.”

The forecast for this weekend’s fourth race of the six-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Countdown to the Championship features cooler temperatures and clear weather – meaning Saturday’s all-important third and fourth rounds of qualifying could switch up the order for Sunday’s eliminations.

Tickets, camping and upgrades for NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters are available at the gates, by visiting or calling 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Every ticket is a pit pass. Kids 13 and younger get in FREE with an adult ticket purchase.

Fans can connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway, zMAX Dragway and The Dirt Track at Charlotte by following on Twitter and Instagram or becoming a Facebook fan. Keep up with all the latest news and information with the Charlotte Motor Speedway mobile app.


On October 20-21 at Circuit Zolder in Belgium, alongside the closest battle for the Euro NASCAR title in the ELITE 1 Division and a spectacular duel for the ELITE 2 Division crown, five between trophies and cups will have their 2018 winners. With a NASCAR race in the US on the line for each special classifications,  trophies and cups always provide intense door-to-door NASCAR racing across the field and great entertainment both for the fans and the competitors. 

The Euro NASCAR Finals at Circuit Zolder will decide who is the best NASCAR driver in the following categories.

ELITE 1 Division

Junior Trophy: drivers aged 25 and under

The Semi Final weekend at the Hockenheimring turned the Junior Trophy classification upside down and third-placed Loris Hezemans jumped to the top of the charts with a 42-points advantage on Gianmarco Ercoli thanks to his first ELITE 1 win and a second place in Germany. Thomas Ferrando fell to -54 from the lead, just ahead of Martin Doubek, Alex Sedgwick and Justin Kunz.

If Hezemans can count on a solid margin for the last two races of the season, the 2018 Junior Trophy crop proved to be outstanding, totaling two wins – Gianmarco Ercoli became the first ELITE 2 Champion to climb the top step of the podium in the top division –13 top-5 and 33 top-10s, putting many emerging talents under the spotlight on the biggest stage of NASCAR in Europe.

Challenger Trophy: silver and bronze drivers 

Mauro Trione took the Challenger Trophy by storm in the NASCAR GP Germany and moved from third to first in his rookie season in Euro NASCAR, scoring his second ELITE 1 top-10 of 2018. Returning behind the wheel after a 23-year hiatus, Trione steadily  improved both for pace and results in a trophy that saw seven different winners this season.

The race for the Challenger classification will be tighter than ever at Zolder since the Swiss driver of the #31 Race Art Tech / Blu Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro has a 3-point advantage on former leader and 2016 Challenger Trophy winner Dario Caso and a 6-point margin on Kenko Miura. With double points awarded in the Finals, three positions on track are all there is between the contenders.

ELITE 2 Division

Rookie Cup: drivers making their Euro NASCAR debut

The NASCAR GP of Germany put some distance between Rookie Cup leader Florian Venturi and the rest of the field, led by Nicholas Risitano with a 32-point disadvantage to overcome. 17-year-old Venturi has been very effective in his debut season at the wheel of the #32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang, but his NASCAR race in the US is not won yet and he will have to carefully navigate through two double-points races in Belgium. 

Risitano will be in a must-win situation, while the battle for the last place on the final Rookie Cup podium will be a tight one with four drivers separated by 24 points: Pierluigi Veronesi, Maxim Pampel, Cycling World Champion Tom Boonen and Kenko Miura.

Legend Trophy: drivers aged 40 and over

Jerry De Weerdt is on the verge of conquering his third consecutive Legend Trophy, an absolute first across both the NWES divisions, thanks to a margin that grew to 40 points on second-placed Francesco Parli and 41 on third-placed Arianna Casoli. 

The expert Belgian driver, who can count on 5 trophy wins this year, knows that having a solid weekend at his home track of Zolder will be fundamental and will do his very best to grab a spot in the NASCAR Hall Of Fame ceremony that will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 6 to 8.

Lady Cup: female drivers

For the second time Carmen Boix Gil and Arianna Casoli will face each other in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Finals to determine who will win the Lady Cup.  Boix Gil will enter the Zolder event with just 5 points on her Italian rival, making the last two double-points races of the season crucial. 

Boix leads the score in 2018 with seven wins against Casoli’s three and the Spaniard grabbed both wins in Belgium in 2017, but counting Casoli out would be a mistake, because she won the two Zolder races en route to her Lady Cup title in 2016. 

Fans all over the world can enjoy the action of the October 20-21 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Finals at Circuit Zolder live on, the EuroNASCAR Facebook page and Youtube Channel, the EuroNASCAR Twitter account, and a vast network of websites and social media profiles.

NASCAR Euro Series PR

David Gilliland captured the pole position for the Fr8Auctions 250 on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, setting the stage for Saturday’s critical NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff race.

The Fr8Auctions 250, set for Saturday at noon CDT, is the last race of the first NASCAR Playoff round for the truck series – and will trim the field of championship contenders to six. After three more events, the series will have its “Championship 4” finalized for the season’s last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the eight drivers currently alive in the championship battle, a victory Saturday will award automatic advancement to the next round. But the “wild card” nature of Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval means that in terms of a race victory, virtually everyone is a contender.

And that high-banked reality is personified by Gilliland (No. 51 Pedigree Toyota), racing in the truck series at Talladega for the first time, for Kyle Busch Motorsports. His overall Talladega resume, though, bodes well for Saturday. Gilliland won the pole for the track’s October 2006 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, and started second in April 2007. He also has four top-10 ‘Dega finishes in Monster Energy Series competition.

Gilliland topped qualifying at 180.570 mph. Spencer Gallagher (No. 2 Allegiant Chevrolet) will start alongside on the front row. Gilliland’s son Todd (No. 4 Pedigree Puppy Toyota) will start sixth.

Also Saturday, at 10:05 a.m. CDT, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will have its only practice session. Foodland/Food Giant Qualifying is set for 3:35 p.m. CDT, to establish the starting lineup for the weekend’s main event – Sunday’s 500.

Saturday night, fans also can enjoy off-track activities. Kids Movie Night will take place in the FOX Sports 1 Dome (located behind the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, just outside the track), with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. CDT. Anyone holding a Sunday ticket will also have access to the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert presented by Wind Creek Casino and Hotel (6 p.m. CDT), located in the infamous infield at the 2.66-mile venue, featuring country music artist Chris Janson.


The biggest race track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is gearing up for one of NASCAR’s biggest races, Sunday’s 500, where unpredictability adds a riveting dose of drama to the NASCAR Playoffs.

Sunday marks the middle race of the playoffs’ second round. Currently, 12 drivers remain in the championship hunt; following next week’s (Oct. 21) event at Kansas Speedway, the contenders list will be trimmed to eight, after which three more races will produce a “Championship 4” showdown going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Come Sunday at the famed 2.66-mile TSS layout, a victory by one those 12 contenders will result in an automatic berth into the next round. Unpredictability — via the always-looming prospect of a results-shuffling “Big One” – aside, a solid favorite to win the 500 is a driver who isn’t in the playoffs, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 SunnyD Ford).

Stenhouse, one of the most capable competitors at the two biggest tracks on the schedule (Talladega and Daytona International Speedway), has a series-leading average Talladega finish of 11.4, based on 10 starts in the Monster Energy Series. He has one victory, in the 2017 spring race, his first victory at NASCAR’s top level.

“It’s always coming back to the place where you got your first win,” Stenhouse said. “Excited to get back on the track. I think we had a real good run here in the spring (fifth-place finish). I wish I had done a few things different coming down to the last few laps. Hopefully, I learned a little something that if it comes down to it [Sunday] we can put ourselves in a better position to cross the finish line first.”

Another driver who is outside the playoffs but still merits attention is Bubba Wallace (No. 43 Medallion Bank/Petty’s Garage Chevrolet). A native of Mobile, Alabama, Wallace is a Monster Energy Series rookie. His first Talladega start, this past April, produced a 16th-place finish.

“There are good vibes already,” Wallace said. “As soon as we stepped off the plane here there was a big crowd of fans at the airport to greet us for autographs. It’s shaping up to be a good weekend.”

On Saturday at 10:05 a.m. CDT, the Monster Energy Series will have its only practice session with Foodland/Food Giant Qualifying set for 3:35 p.m. CDT.

Friday afternoon, qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Fr8Auctions 250 was held. That race will start Saturday at noon CDT.


Award-winning moonshine distillery Sugarlands Distilling Company, LLC. has entered the sport by signing agreements with both the sanctioning body and one of the most iconic tracks on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway. The new partnerships designate Sugarlands Shine as the “Official Moonshine of NASCAR” and as the title partner of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series fall race, the Sugarlands Shine 250. The announcement was made Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, which is hosting its much anticipated NASCAR Playoff doubleheader weekend.     

Sugarlands Distilling Company, LLC., produces high-quality craft moonshine. Since opening its doors in 2014, Sugarlands Distilling Company has won more than 20 awards for superior taste and quality. The distillery in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a popular attraction with more than one million visitors each year. In its fourth year of business, Sugarlands saw a 50% annual growth in distribution sales and expanded its distribution area to 24 states. Sugarlands Distilling Company is one of America’s top-rated distillery experiences and the number one “thing to do” in Gatlinburg, according to Trip Advisor.

“Moonshine is deeply rooted in the history of racing, so partnering with NASCAR felt very natural for us,” said Edward Vickers, President of Sugarlands Distilling Company. “This partnership is our first venture into the sporting industry and we’re excited to extend our brand to NASCAR’s passionate and dedicated fan base.”

As a part of the five-year agreement with NASCAR, Sugarlands will gain rights to promote its moonshine at retail, on packaging and will host key customers and distributors at-track. Additionally, Sugarlands is kickstarting the partnership with a ‘Beyond the Checkered Flag’ sweepstakes. The grand prize winner will experience VIP access at a NASCAR race, entry to the Sugarlands hospitality tent, travel accommodations and more. Fans can visit to enter and learn more about the sweepstakes.

“Moonshine is one of the fastest growing spirit categories in the country and we are excited to help introduce Sugarlands’ award-winning product to our brand loyal and national fanbase,” said Jon Tuck, Chief Revenue Officer, NASCAR. “There is an authentic connection between our two brands and we are confident our fans will embrace the historical association.”  

The Sugarlands Shine 250 will be held on October 12, 2019 and serve as a key playoff event during the battle for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship. As part of the multi-year deal, Sugarlands will offer a specially licensed moonshine for Talladega Superspeedway and be named the “Official Moonshine of Talladega Superspeedway.”

“Sugarlands is a natural fit for Talladega Superspeedway and we are thrilled to have them join our team,” said speedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “There are many old-time tales here about the good ol’ days when running moonshine in and around Talladega was happening, and our partnership with Sugarlands and the Sugarlands Shine 250, those stories will come back to life. There isn’t another venue in motorsports that has fans as loyal as ours, and I know they will love Sugarlands.”

Sugarlands recently announced a partnership with country music’s rising star and NASCAR fan, Cole Swindell. Swindell will be releasing his own Sugarlands Shine flavors starting with a Peppermint Moonshine which hit the shelves in liquor stores across the country, online and in Sugarland’s distillery this month. Swindell is currently working with Sugarlands to create a new recipe to be released in the new year.

Sugarlands Distilling Company is also a proud partner to Discovery Channel’s ‘Moonshiners’, bringing the show’s notorious stars’ moonshine recipes straight to consumers. Sugarlands’ ‘Moonshiners Legends’ products feature recipes from Mark Rogers, Mark Ramsey & Digger Manes, Steven Tickle, Jim Tom Hedrick, and Patti Bryan, all stars of the popular television series.

The trucks will be in action tomorrow (Saturday) for the Fr8Auctions 250, where the field of eight championship-eligible drivers will be trimmed to six, at noon CDT. The race will be followed with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foodland/Food Giant Qualifying for Sunday’s 500. It will serve as the second race (of three) in the Playoff Round of 12, and cars are scheduled to take the green flag at 1 p.m. CDT.