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Talladega rainout forces Sunday doubleheader; Nationwide race after Cup event

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

TALLADEGA, Ala.—For the second straight week, NASCAR will stage a Sprint Cup/Nationwide Series doubleheader, thanks to severe storms that forced cancellation of all on-track activity Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Aaron’s 499 Cup event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday, with the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide race to follow at 5:30 p.m. Because rain washed out Saturday’s scheduled Cup qualifying session, the field for the season’s ninth event was set according to owner points, with series leader Jimmie Johnson earning the pole under rainout rules.

Kevin Harvick won the top starting spot for the Nationwide race during Friday’s qualifying session.

On Monday, Denny Hamlin won the Samsung Mobile 500 Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. Later that afternoon, Kyle Busch won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide race, giving Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of the doubleheader.

NASCAR announced the decision to postpone Saturday’s activities because of an ominous weather system developing west of the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

"For much of central Alabama — including the Talladega area — we have been placed on a tornado watch," said Jim Stefkovich of the National Weather Service, who was on hand for the announcement in the Talladega media center. "It’s called a ‘PDS’ watch, PDS meaning ‘particularly dangerous situation.’

"We are expecting across the state (Saturday) a number of tornados, including tornados that are on the ground for long periods of time—could be violent tornados. We’re also expecting large hail and damaging straight-line winds in non-tornadic storms."

Drivers took different approaches to staying safe. Some already had returned home Friday night, anticipating the cancellation. Others left after the decision was made.

Jamie McMurray, Talladega’s most recent winner, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed at the track for an announcement Saturday of the repaving of Daytona International Speedway before next year’s Daytona 500.

"I’m going to ride it out in the motor home, I guess," said McMurray, who won the Daytona 500 earlier this year.

Earnhardt was open to suggestions.

"I was going to ask for advice on where the best spot would be," he said. "I ain’t got my plan figured out yet. I’ll be looking up at the sky all day, I reckon."