By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on October 12, 2017 | 9:00 A.M. EST&#thirteen;
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the newest winner at Talladega, is among the eight playoff drivers with a minimum of one win at Talladega. (Photograph: Getty Pictures)&#thirteen;
The dozen drivers nonetheless within the Monster Power NASCAR Cup Collection playoffs have an enormous problem forward in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The two.sixty six-mile Alabama monitor and its restrictor-plate racing has an extended popularity for creating the sudden and for the second race of spherical two within the playoffs is predicted to proceed the development.
Brad Keselowski boasts probably the most wins at Talladega among the many 12 drivers remaining within the hunt for the championship with 4.
However in 2017, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been the restrictor-plate king with a pair of wins, together with this spring’s Talladega go to, which was his first profession Cup victory. The Roush Fenway Racing driver brings a substantial amount of confidence into Sunday’s race given how good he’s been in plate racing this season.
“Nothing is assured whenever you go there,” Stenhouse Jr. admitted. “I’ve been crashed out of them simply as straightforward as ending properly, so we’ve acquired to do our job right here at Charlotte and get an honest factors day trip of it after which go to Talladega and see if we will’t get a win, however undoubtedly gonna really feel assured going to Talladega for positive.”
Two drivers within the playoff grid have a pair of Talladega wins on their resume, together with Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is grateful this yr’s schedule was shifted so Talladega isn’t an elimination race any longer and whereas a 3rd win can be good; he’s simply hoping to hold on to his playoff spot Sunday.
“I’m pleased it’s not a minimize off for the Spherical of eight however we actually have to make it by means of the race and have a very good end,” Johnson stated. “We don’t need to go to Kansas preventing to remain alive within the hunt for an eighth championship.”
The opposite two-time winner nonetheless within the title image is Jamie McMurray, who completed second behind Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega within the spring. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who can be making his thirty first profession Talladega begin Sunday, has been profitable plate racing nevertheless it nonetheless doesn’t tank excessive on his listing of favourite issues to do each season.
“I might not say that I like superspeedway racing; I might say that I’ve been lucky at that type of racing and we’ve had actually quick automobiles at these tracks,” McMurray defined.
“We ran rather well at Talladega within the spring race and completed second; we’ve been fairly profitable there as a group. We’ll go and attempt to rating as many stage factors as attainable and win the race to hopefully safe a spot within the subsequent spherical of the playoffs.”
The playoff driver with probably the most profession Talladega begins is Matt Kenseth, who has made 35 Cup appearances on the monitor. Final yr Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates employed the technique of driving behind the sector to keep away from hassle and advance to the subsequent spherical. However this season, it seems to be one other story.
“Talladega is probably the most unpredictable race within the playoffs so it’s in all probability going to finish somebody’s probability for a championship, but when somebody can go in there and win it to lock themselves into the subsequent spherical, that’s what we’re hoping to do,” stated Kenseth’s crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“As a result of this weekend is the second race inside the Spherical of 12, you should attempt to accumulate as many factors as you’ll be able to. The place our 20 staff is at proper now, we have to attempt to do our greatest to gather some factors and even attempt to win a stage, as a result of each level issues. The objective this weekend shall be to run up entrance, keep up entrance, keep away from hassle the most effective we will, and to gather as many factors as attainable.”
Talladega’s unpredictable nature isn’t essentially nearly accidents. Martin Truex Jr., who already has a berth within the subsequent spherical of the playoffs because of his win final week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, made an early exit from the race and the championship hunt final season when his engine expired.
Whereas he can breathe straightforward figuring out the third spherical of the playoffs awaits, Truex Jr. nonetheless has incentive to run nicely on Sunday.
“We need to be one of the best we could be, and we need to get these (playoff) bonus factors and cease anyone else from getting them,” he stated. “However it’ll undoubtedly be just a little little bit of a unique feeling to go there and never have that strain, not have to fret about if we exit early for one thing loopy.”
Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Truex are the one playoff drivers that haven’t visited Victory Lane but at Talladega within the Monster Power Cup Collection.