Strategy for second round of Chase? Avoid Talladega ‘crap shoot’

Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has one win at Talladega this season. Image courtesy of @ESPN.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has one win at Talladega this season. Image courtesy of @ESPN.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has one win at Talladega this season. Image courtesy of @ESPN.

All 12 remaining Chase drivers convened on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte before the start of the Contender Round. With each driver looking to make the third round of just eight drivers, every driver is hoping to pull out a win in the first two races.

Why? Well, the biggest toss-up in the Chase happens to be the third race of the Contender Round—Talladega Superspeedway.

“Charlotte’s important and I think all of us feel the same way,” Joey Logano said. “The fact that it makes you feel a lot better about Talladega is one of the biggest parts. … Obviously Talladega is where we’re all trying to get to and set ourselves up for that because it’s just a crap shoot.”

The only restrictor-plate track on the Chase schedule doesn’t just terrify the NASCAR field, it likely puts their entire season in jeopardy.

One driver who knows all about the frustration of losing it all at Talladega is Kyle Busch. After finishing third and fifth at Kansas and Charlotte, respectively, Busch was sitting pretty with a shot at making the Eliminator Round. A bad day at Talladega saw him finish 40th and abruptly fall out of the Chase before heading to Martinsville.

“Last year we played it right and were the top point total scorer in the first two rounds and were seeded the highest guy without a win,” Busch said. “But we went to Talladega and sure learned how to throw that away. If we can do the same thing again, then we’ll do the same thing again.

“You obviously want a win at a Charlotte or Kansas, I don’t care which. But just to have yourself solid and through to Talladega because that’s the biggest crap shoot we have. If we can make it through this round with Talladega, the rest of the year is kind of simple.”

At this point, maybe Talladega should just rename the track “Crap Shoot Superspeedway.” The common theme around the NASCAR Hall of Fame was simply this—don’t put all your eggs in the Talladega basket.

Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat back looking as relaxed as any driver heading into this round. Earlier this season, Earnhardt recorded two third-place finishes at Charlotte and Kansas, which would set him up for the Alabama track. Only one driver has more wins at Talladega than Junior’s six—Dale Earnhardt Sr. with 10.

Junior didn’t talk about the pressure leading up to Talladega because, well, he quite frankly doesn’t feel much. Instead, former teammate Martin Truex Jr. did the talking about Earnhardt’s chances in the second round.

Image courtesy of @PeakAuto.

The “Big One” at Talladega can change the entire Chase if drivers get caught up in the massive wreck. Image courtesy of @PeakAuto.

“I feel really confident about the first two races in this round,” Truex said. “Luckily for us we do because Talladega is the third round and that’s just a crap shoot. … Unless you’ve got an 88 on your door, your chances of winning there are pretty slim. But we’ll see what happens.”

So can NASCAR fans can expect an all-out brawl to get a win at Charlotte and Kansas before the 88 show starts again in Talladega? Carl Edwards gave the best analogy of the day on the situation.

“You want to win one of those races [Charlotte or Kansas] because you don’t want to go to Talladega having to finish 10th or something,” Edwards said. “That’s not going to be a fun way to race at Talladega. You either want to go there with a win or with nothing to lose.”


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