Non-Chasers drive on a fine line at Talladega Superspeedway
There is no doubt the 2015 championship is essentially on the line during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Eleven drivers will be racing to avoid elimination from the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but there are also a host of other drivers in the field looking to secure a win and hopefully stay out of trouble.
At Talladega, almost anyone can win. This is the place of underdogs. Richard Brickhouse scored his lone Sprint Cup victory here in 1969, and over the years so did Dick Brooks, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Bobby Hillin Jr.
Still, the drivers not in the Chase know those 11 drivers are racing to keep their championship hopes alive. Those not in the title fight certainly understand the stakes for the other drivers in the field.
"I think it’s hard because there are still 12 Chase guys and there are still guys fighting for fifth in points," HScott Motorsports’ driver Justin Allgaier told FOXSports.com. "I think you just have to look at is as you just have to put yourself in a good position. I always try to put myself in the position where I’m not going to wreck myself, but I’m not going to wreck everybody else either.
Allgaier said the advantage of racing around the Chase drivers is the fact they have yellow spoilers on their cars and are easy to spot throughout the field, but when it comes down to it at the end of the race, the will likely go out the window.
"You kind of know who you’re going against," said Allgaier. "But at the same time when it comes to that last lap and you’re all fighting for the win, I don’t think it’s going to matter if they have a pink spoiler or not. I think everybody’s going to go for the win. I think I’m more cognizant of who has the yellow spoilers coming into the race because there are some of those guys are going to have to win to make it to the next round. They’re going to be willing to take a chance and do something that maybe I wouldn’t normally put myself in that position."
Part-time Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney has been fast all weekend in the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, but he also understands there is a lot on the line during Sunday’s race and that changes his approach.
"You always have to be aware of that and keep that in the back of your mind," said Blaney. "I had that question asked to me last week, and honestly we took a lot less chances than I would have toward the end of the race just because of the guys I was racing around. You don’t want to take a chance and put their championship run in jeopardy. This weekend, you never know what can happen, but you don’t want to be that guy. I’ll definitely give more room to the guys who need to advance in the Chase or guys racing for the championship. You just don’t want to put them in a bad spot.
"We’re going to try to do all we can to get into Victory Lane, but there’s a fine line there and you’ve always got to be aware of who you’re racing," he said.
With Wood Brothers Racing aligned with Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Blaney also understands he can help Keselowski in the pack if things line up right at the end of the race.
"We’ll definitely help out (Keselowski) as best we can," said Blaney"Joey has nothing to lose and we don’t really either. We’re not running for points or anything. Brad is so good at these races, and he won this one last year, which was a huge in for him and it got him into the next round. He’s one of the best in this type of racing.
"I’m sure if we stick with him and help him throughout the day it’s sure to help us , too. It’s kind of a win-win for us because we can help our teammate and it’s more than likely going to help us. We’re going to do all we can to get that 2 car (of Keselowski) into the next round."
For Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Alex Bowman, it is more about finding the right cars to work with in the draft to secure a good day.
"It’s still Talladega," said Bowman. "When it comes to superspeedway racing, you don’t really race anyone different unless it’s a really fast car or a really slow car. You don’t want to get stuck behind a slow car and lose the draft. You kind of try and gravitate toward the fast cars. Obviously the Chase guys are going to have fast cars, so you’re going to try and work with them. At the same time, they’re probably looking for top-tier cars."
Still, Bowman understands Talladega is a place he and the team can get a solid finish and possibly contend for the win.
"All that aside, I think we have a really fast car," he said. "We’ve got good horsepower. Tommy and the guys built a really good car. I think we’ve got as good of a shot as anybody to go win on Sunday."
While the Chase drivers will likely be the biggest contenders in Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500, the non-Chase drivers could spoil the party or foil another driver’s championship hopes all in one.