It’s what fans crave and drivers dread.
Anything can and usually does happen at Talladega Superspeedway, a track less than an hour east of Birmingham, Ala. It’s always an unpredictable, drama-filled race where wrecks can happen at any moment.
This year, though, the stakes are even higher. Come Sunday, there’s no telling what could happen in the final race to decide which Chase drivers advance to the Eliminator Round.
Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have already clinched two of the eight spots with wins the past two weeks. The six other spots are up for grabs.
Kyle Busch is in the best non-winner spot, needing to finish 24th or better. Ryan Newman (19th or better) and Carl Edwards (18th or better) would also seem to be in good shape to make it to the next round.
But nobody is taking his spot for granted. An early wreck could end championship dreams in a hurry.
“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble,” Busch said. “At Talladega, you pretty much stay around the bottom, since there is a lot of grip there, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that.
“It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”
Edwards agreed, and said getting a respectable finish at Talladega is much more difficult than it sounds.
“You are literally in a pack of cars,” Edwards explained. “One mistake or one part failure on any of those cars could affect you.”
It’s an intriguing race on many levels. Chase contenders such as Busch and Edwards simply have to keep themselves out of positions where things could go severely wrong.
However, there are also five Chase drivers who are in a win-or-go-home scenario. The only ways Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. control their destiny is with a win.
Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess.
It’ll surely be an intense race once again where emotions and tempers could easily flare up like last week’s race in Charlotte when Kenseth and Keselowski got into it in the hauler area.
“The format is definitely creating a lot of drama, a lot of intensity, a lot of pressure and each round seems to intensify that much more,” said veteran driver Jeff Gordon, who needs to finish 16th or better to advance.
Keselowski will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday, participating in an event that features him playing various video games on TMS’ Big Hoss TV.
The event, which benefits the Texas chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, is free to the public and runs 6-9 p.m.
In order for a chance to play against Keselowski, fans have to purchase raffle tickets and hope their number is called.
Raffle tickets will be sold for $100 each or six for $500.
Fans can also make a $20 donation to have access to the “Man Cave Lounge,” a hospitality tent adjacent to the stage.
The “Man Cave Lounge” has a maximum capacity of 200 people.
Along with Keselowski playing video games with a select number of fans, there will also be a Q&A session with the 2012 champion and Chase contender.
It’s all part of the buildup to TMS’ Chase race on Nov. 2, the AAA Texas 500.
He said it
“I won’t be anorexic and throwing up all week. I didn’t even know how we were going to prepare for next week without just being a total disaster because you just know that so much is out of your control going into Talladega. … Talladega is always crazy. I mean, it’s going to be so crazy with everybody in the offensive frame of mind like everybody was tonight that they might have to move the seats back a few rows.” — Kevin Harvick after he won last weekend in Charlotte to guarantee a spot in the next round
0 Sprint Cup champions who won Talladega’s Chase race during a title season. Tony Stewart (2005) and Jimmie Johnson (2007) had the best finishes with second-place runs.