NASCAR Talladega Notebook: Eleven Chase Drivers Trying To Survive ‘Dega Pressure Cooker

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Brad Keselowski celebrates victory earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski celebrates victory earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway (Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – In last year’s first season of the elimination format in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski came to Talladega with a singular purpose.

He needed to win the race to advance to the Eliminator Round—and he did.

This year, Keselowski can move on to the next round with a strong finish in Sunday’s 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). He’s seventh in the Chase standings, seven points clear of ninth-place Kyle Busch, the first driver below the last transfer position.

Accordingly, the strategy is less clear-cut than it was a year ago, when Keselowski had to go all-out for the win.

“We’re in a decent position, not quite as hectic as last season, but certainly not perfect either by any means,” Keselowski said. “It should be interesting to see how it all unfolds. “

“We know we need to have a very strong day to be able to get to the next round, but the interesting thing is there’s only one car out of the 12 in this bracket (Team Penske teammate Joey Logano) that doesn’t feel that way, so that should be very exciting when it comes to crunch time at the end of this race, especially if something is to happen early in the race and someone gets damaged or eliminated with a wreck.”

Aside from Logano, who won the first two races in the Contender Round, no other Chase driver is safe.

“As far as an approach, people ask me that all the time when I come to Talladega, and it kind of always reminds me, I think it was Mike Tyson who used to say that everybody has a plan until they get in the ring.

“Well, Talladega is the same way. Everybody has a plan here, or an approach, until they drop the green, and then it usually doesn’t work. We’ve had some really good approaches here in the past that have worked, but we’ll just have to see. I’m not really all that interested in sharing what my plan is now, but hopefully it’ll play out.”


After he runs his final restrictor-plate race on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Jeff Gordon may be ready to reflect on his history at the track.

Until then, however, Gordon’s focus is confined to the 500, the race that will determine which eight drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and which four won’t.

“This place has been really good to me and also really bad,” said Gordon, who was 10th fastest in Friday’s final practice. “I’m coming in with a positive attitude – excited at how fast our race car is and how good our team is. It’s a great opportunity we have in front of us. So I’m not thinking about it from a historic standpoint or even letting it sink in that it’s my final race here. We have too much of a job at hand here. Our focus is on this round, continuing in the Chase and moving on.

“I really believe that if we can make it through this round, we have three great tracks coming up that we can move on all the way to Homestead and do something we didn’t do last year and possibly something I’ve never done before, and that’s win a Sprint Cup championship (all four of Gordon’s titles came under the Winston Cup banner).”

Gordon then fired a warning shot his competitors in the Chase would be well-advised to heed.

“I know that we’re not running the way that some others are,” Gordon said. “But if we get through this one, I’m telling you, there are four tracks (Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead) where we can surprise some people. That’s all that’s on my mind.”

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