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Talladega… a place most of the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers love to hate. A place where restrictor plates hold back the speeds of 3400 pound race cars that could go much faster and a place where the outcome won’t be known until the checkered flag falls for the drivers that manage to make it to the finish line. It is high speed, door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper racing for 500 miles on a 2.66 mile oval with the pedal to the metal at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. Add to that the fact of it also being an elimination race for those that will be able to move on to the round of eight still able to compete for the Championship and you have what is considered by those competitors as a chess match full of emotion and drama.
This race is also as unpredictable as a lottery drawing with only two that really don’t have to worry about the outcome. Ten others will be competing for the available six spots left to be able to move on to the next round. That also speaks of pressure, tension and that word I overuse a lot – drama but, wow!! – there will definitely be some drama on Sunday afternoon at Talladega.
I am sure you all know which two drivers and teams don’t really have to be concerned about the outcome of this one but I have to mention it is Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Hendrick team and the #4 Stewart-Haas team of Kevin Harvick. Of the 40 drivers competing on Sunday, those two could break or wreck before they make the first lap and they would still move on because they both have a win in this round of twelve. As for the rest of the Chasers, well, none of them are safe with where they are but some are safer than others. It will either be all about winning or finishing way ahead of their competitors for the rest of them.
With Talladega being so unpredictable and the possibility of someone that does nothing wrong getting caught up in someone else’s problem, the outcome of this race could have a drastic effect on the way the round of eight next week will look. It may not look at all like it does at the present time and some of the favorites may no longer even be competing for the Championship. Yes, it has been just that kind of a Chase so far and every weekend has shown nothing is definite about moving on unless a driver wins.
That may not sound all that interesting but I can tell you that the drivers still involved in the Chase part of this race are very interested in all of the possible scenarios. At the present time, many have already counted Chase Elliott out simply because he just hasn’t been able to finish in good points positions and he is now 25 points out of eighth place. He knows his best chance to move on is to win but he also knows winning this race is not completely in his control. That’s not to mention this is only his first full year in Cup racing. If he doesn’t move on this year, he should still have plenty of chances to do so and maybe win a few championships in the future.
Another one that is on the edge is Brad Keselowski. He hasn’t had good racing luck in this round either and he isn’t that far out of the hunt but he just about needs to win to be assured of moving on to the next round. Yes, this fan knows he is only seven points out of eighth but don’t forget this is Talladega. He usually performs very well at this track but past good performance doesn’t guarantee good finish on this particular Sunday. Denny Hamlin is basically in the same boat with him, just one point better.
Probably the biggest surprise to me is Austin Dillon. I really didn’t think he would be where he is but he is tied with Joey Logano for eighth (even though he is listed in ninth.) From this fan’s view, I suppose it is possible he could be moving on to the next round but I’m just not seeing it myself. He doesn’t need to win but he cannot afford to have a bad finish and, (I’m just stating the obvious) the closer to the front he finishes the better for him.
As I stated earlier, no one other than Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are guaranteed to move on to the next round and even those that have a cushion going into this one at Talladega aren’t taking anything for granted. They are all running for the win and any of them could win but any of them could have big problems that take them out of being able to move on to the next round. You may see them trying to stay out of trouble but this fan doesn’t think you will see any of them just hanging around hoping nothing happens. I think you will see them being aggressive but smart. After all, this is Talladega and anything can happen to any one of them at any time and it doesn’t even have to be their fault. All they have to be is in the right place at the wrong time and the rest of the season they could be statistical “also rans” for the 2016 Chase…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 22, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated