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).