Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway | General Tire 200 Race Recap

Team: No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion
Driver: Joe Graf Jr.
Follow the Team: @ChadBryantRace; @JoeGrafJr
Start: Ninth
Finish: 10th; Running (76 | 76 laps completed)
Unofficial Driver Points Position: Fourth

Joe Graf Jr. Quote: “Man, I wish the rain would have held off. We had a pretty good No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion early in the race – but we struggled as the run progressed in Turns 3 and 4 getting the car to grip towards the top.

“Chad (Bryant, crew chief) made an adjustment there after we came in for tires and I would have liked to see how it would have played out under green. We got trapped a lap down during the long green flag run – but I think we had the speed to get back on the lead lap and hustle back to the front.

“Our performance from start to finish though is a step in the right direction moving forward and we’ll take our first top-10 finish of the season and carry on to Talladega in a few weeks.

“I can’t thank EAT SLEEP RACE and all of the Chad Bryant Racing team for their continued support, it means a lot.”

Next Up: General Tire 200 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Fri., Apr. 26, 2019.

For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter(@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.

About EAT SLEEP RACE:

EAT SLEEP RACE (eatsleeprace.com) is a racing lifestyle apparel company based out of New Jersey.  Since 2001 the brand has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies.  As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.

The company has expanded to now offer a dedicated children’s product line of apparel and accessories branded as the Fast Kids Club with it’s hot selling ABC book for future race car drivers.

CONTACT: press@chadbryantracing.com

Joe Graf Jr. returns to Talladega on a strict agenda

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Joe Graf Jr. (@JoeGrafJr) returns to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Friday afternoon’s General Tire 200 trenched in the headlines of the ARCA Menards Series annual return to the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Last year, Graf and Zane Smith were involved in the closest finish in the 67 years of ARCA competition history which left the world wondering which driver won.

The margin was so narrow it was a statistical dead heat, the margin of victory on the computerized scoring monitors showing 0.000 seconds. Only a video replay and the photo finish camera were able to determine Graf finished second by a matter of millimeters.

Having to settle for second in a gut-wrenching finish left Graf having to wait 12 months before an opportunity at redemption aboard his No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion.

“I’m excited to get back to Talladega this weekend,” said Graf. “Obviously, everyone knows how close the finish was and I still think I won, but we can’t dwell on last year, there’s a race to be won on Friday afternoon and I want to win it.”

A sophomore on the ARCA Menard Series tour and on the heels of his first top-10 finish of 2019 two weeks ago at Salem (Ind.) Speedway, Graf heads into the final restrictor plate race of the season fourth in the championship standings and an opportunity to make some gains on the championship lead in his third superspeedway start.

“Restrictor plate racing is very methodical,” added Graf. “It’s not exhausting physically – but mentally it can wear you out. A lot happens in a hurry and you have to be on your game every lap for about two hours.

“Luckily, I have a good spotter and a good crew chief, and I think we can go to Talladega this weekend and start showing everyone that we have the potential to be championship material.”

For the fourth straight race, EAT SLEEP RACE, a racing lifestyle apparel company headquartered in New Jersey returns as the primary sponsor of Graf Jr.’s No. 77 Ford Fusion for the 76-lap race.

Since 2001, EAT SLEEP RACE has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies. As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.

Talladega will showcase the end of EAT SLEEP RACE’s two-month campaign to promote plastic bag awareness after a grocery plastic bag landed on the front of Graf’s race car in the season-opening race at Daytona in February.

The plastic bag ended up overheating the race car forcing an unscheduled pit stop for the team and dashed any opportunity to win the race. Since then, ESR has invested a $1,000 cash into the campaign hoping to educate the public. Entries can still be received at EATSLEEPRACE.com/win until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 25.

“EAT SLEEP RACE has really put a lot of effort into our wheelhouse and I’m excited to have them onboard for their Talladega debut,” offered Graf Jr. “We are working with them on several different projects and they have been instrumental in making our social media campaign surrounding Daytona a success.

“We’re doing a lot behind the scenes and already launched a Joe Graf Jr – Talladega shirt that is available online. A lot of good things going on for me both on and off the track.”

Graf’s crew chief and car owner Chad Bryant says Talladega is the perfect opportunity for the No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE team to get redemption and gain more momentum ahead of the summer stretch.

“Talladega was heartbreaking last year but has definitely given us something to shoot for this year,” added Bryant. “If we can shake the mechanical gremlins and avoid any debris – particularly plastic bags – we should be in good shape this week.

“Joe knows what he needs to do when it comes to restrictor plate racing. From a team aspect, we just need to do our job on pit road and hope that when push comes to shove we’re in a position to be exactly where we were last year but just be on the other side of the outcome.

“A win would benefit us all.”

To bring exclusivity to his No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion, Graf will carry the Fast Kids Club on-board camera for his second start at Talladega Superspeedway. The Fast Kids Club is the designated youth division of EAT SLEEP RACE.
For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.

The General Tire 200 (76 laps | 202 miles) is the fourth of 20 races on the 2019 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Fri., Apr. 26 with an hour and twenty-five-minute session planned from 8:30 a.m. – 9:55 a.m. Group qualifying is set for later in the day at 2:35 p.m. The race in the 67th consecutive ARCA season is set to take the green flag later in the day shortly after 5:00 p.m. The event will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the day’s festivities. All times are local (Central).

Joe Graf Jr. relives last year’s closest finish in ARCA Menards Series history at Talladega Superspeedway

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — In less than two weeks, Joe Graf Jr. will be headed back to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, a track that was the background for the closest finish in the 67-year history of the ARCA Menards Series.

The margin was so narrow it was a statistical dead heat, the margin of victory on the computerized scoring monitors showing 0.000 seconds. Only a video replay and the photo finish camera were able to determine Graf finished second by a matter of millimeters.

Almost a year later, Graf Jr. relives the heart pounding drama of Talladega debut and those exhilarating final laps.

Q: It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the most thrilling finish in ARCA history. Have you thought about the race in the last twelve months?

A: Not really to be honest. I moved past it and went on to the next race. Over the last twelve months lots of things have changed.. I am competing for a championship and at the time last year I had no idea I was going to run the rest of the 2018 season. The finish at Talladega opened opportunities for me and I’m grateful.

Q: Lets go back to the beginning. You didn’t even know that you were running at Talladega until three days before the race. What was the first thing you thought when you drove to the tunnel and saw the speedway?

A: It was the first time I was ever there. All I could think was how big and massive the place was. It was kind of surreal. Being one of my favorite tracks growing up added to the moment.

Q: From the moment you arrived until the first time you buckled into your Chad Bryant Racing race car what was going through your mind?

A: I was mentally preparing. Visualizing being on the track, going through all of the details I needed to comprehend. I spoke with my crew chief and my spotter to make sure I was ready to hit the track.

Q: The moment has arrived. You back out of your pit garage and start towards pit road. What’s going through your mind?

A: I was just thinking of what I needed to do when I get out there. For me, the adrenaline doesn’t begin until the race starts but there was definitely the WOW factor. I was thinking at the time I am a short track driver getting ready to race on a track that large.

Q: The official gives you the go ahead on pit road. You start to head out onto the 2.66-mile superspeedway. What does a driver do…go flat out, pace themselves?

A: Well you go through the gears and get up to speed and listen to your spotter about where to run and we try different things to make the car faster. It was exhilarating but once I was full speed my racing instincts took over.

Q: Take us through a lap at Talladega from a driver’s perspective.

A: Ok, you cross the start finish line with your foot to the floor. A Talladega if you are by yourself you can actually run anywhere you want. It really doesn’t get that interesting until you are in the draft. You actually are preparing for turn one right after the start finish line.

What makes Talladega and a track like Daytona so different is this when you race a short track the g-forces move you to the right in the seat at Talladega with the banking it forces you down in the seat and that is something you really have to get used to. It’s the same in every turn.

Q: 80 laps is a long way on a 2.66-mil oval. What was your plan for the race?

A: We were just going to keep our nose clean and help me learn the draft since I had never felt it before. Once I was comfortable, we just hung in the back to miss the big wreck, which we fortunately did. With around five laps to go Riley Herbst and I were running something like 17 and 18th and we just took off to the front.

Q: It’s race time…you are on the pace lap with cars in front of you, cars behind you all preparing for 80 intense laps. Take us through the start.

A: Most important you have to make sure you get through the gears perfectly and wind it up to 7200 RPMs through every gear or you will just be slow and get run over. My adrenaline was pumping, and I just had to focus on staying clean as we got up to speed.

You’ve got to do your job and get up front and run good for your team and marketing partners. You can’t let your feelings distract you, if you do it can create a mistake.

Q: You ran a smart race. Your spotter Brian Cranmer was on top of the grandstand. What role does the spotter play at such a huge facility?

A: Definitely different from a smaller track. His job was to communicate with other spotters and teams to find drafting partners. He found Riley Herbst and that was a key to getting me to the front.

Q: People talk about the draft. Can you really feel that sensation?

A: It feels like you pick up speed, like you have more motor. Its nothing crazy unless you are in a big pack and the air moves you around and that gets a little sketchy. During the race Natalie Decker’s car shut off and she was six inches off my bumper, that was pretty intense. When cars wreck in front of you everything is happening at 200 miles per hour and you are definitely on the edge.

Q: So, there are five laps to go and you are running around 18th. You strike a deal with the 18 car of Riley Herbst. Then what?

A: It was time to go. We just hooked up and our cars worked together. It was really cool passing all those cars on the way to the front.

Q: Let’s jump ahead…it’s the second green-white flag and you are on the front row on the outside. You and Zane Smith are racing like there is no tomorrow and on top of the that you might run out of fuel, what are you thinking?

A: This is a big deal, a really huge opportunity. I was hoping I didn’t run out of fuel and going into turn three I doored him pretty good and thought we were going to wreck. But we weren’t done.

Q: Turn four: You and Zane (Smith) bump again. Are you running on adrenaline or is your mind crystal clear as to what you need to do?

A: A little bit of both. I was doing everything I could do to win. I was trying to get back out in front of him. I was on the outside…my heart was pumping pretty good.

Q: You head off Turn four nearly ¾ of a mile to the checkered flag, describe that moment.

A: I knew I was ahead coming off of turn four and it felt like an eternity to just make it to the tri-oval and the start finish line was even farther away.

Q: A few hundred feet from the start finish line you and Zane (Smith) are playing race car pinball with each other… Take us through the last few hundred feet.

A: I was just fighting. I was done thinking about fuel and it was all about what can I do to win.

Q: What was the first thing you did or said when you crossed the start finish line?

A: I yelled hell yeah…To this day I totally believe that I won.

Q: Brian (Crammer) came on the radio and said Zane (Smith) had won…what were your emotions?

A: Well, actually they said he won, then that he didn’t win and then that he did. I was pretty disheartened.

Q: One year later what are your thoughts on the event and how much are you looking to get back to Talladega?

A: Not many people had heard of Joe Graf Jr. prior to that race. My Dad was at an event in Charlotte and he talked to Martin Truex Jr. about the race and Martin said oh yeah, your son ran a great race, so it’s kind of made people aware of who I was.

It will be so cool to be back there…I kind of feel that Talladega owes me one. Guess we’ll have to see what happens.

For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.