The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs roll on while Round 1 comes to a close for the Camping World Truck Series this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Sunday’s 1000bulbs.com 500 (MRN, 1 p.m. ET) is the middle race of the second round in the Cup Series Playoff battle. Chase Elliott’s second career win last week at Dover International Speedway moved him into the next round leaving 11 drivers battling for the remaining seven spots.
However, don’t discount Elliott from winning the year’s second race at the 2.66-mile track. He has a pair of top-five finishes in his young Talladega Cup career as well as a poll position at the track.
“I think it’s nice to be able to know you’re going to move on, but you can’t get complacent in the fact that you are moving on, and you can’t let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage, that’s huge, and you need as many as you can get,’’ Elliott said. “One or two points could be the difference in you making the Round of 4 or not.
“Just knowing that we don’t have to worry about Talladega, so excited to be able to win the first one of three and get to enjoy it all a little bit more. We are going to keep the hammer down and see what we can do.”
Team Penske has owned Talladega in recent years with drivers from that camp winning six of the last eight races. Joey Logano was the latest victor with his April win and believes he and his teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney will be in the mix again although the driver of the No. 12 Ford knows all about the unpredictability of Talladega.
“I personally enjoy speedway racing, so you just try to, like I said, be able to control the race by running up front,” Blaney said. “I think that’s the best spot to be to try to stay out of trouble and things like that, but you never know what could happen.”
It’s been a while but the Camping World Truck Series finally returns to action for Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250 (MRN, 12:30 p.m. ET) the final race in the division’s opening playoff round. Justin Haley and Grant Enfinger won the first two races of this round to solidify their spots in the playoffs leaving six drivers to vie for the remaining four berths.
Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen are below the cut line coming to Talladega but only seven and ten points out respectively. The tight race will only add to the drama of how Saturday’s usually wild and wooly 250 miles will play out.
“This is going to be a very challenging and tricky race at Talladega because our entire season is coming down to this one race – to know if we’re going to advance in the playoffs or if we’re going to be falling short,” said the ThorSport Racing driver. Unfortunately, luck plays a big part in this race, but you also have to be smart – team and driver. For us, we have to be cautiously aggressive. That means we have to be running in the top-five to top-10 the entire race, scoring as many stage points as possible.
“At the same time, survival is the biggest element here. Any of the drivers not locked in to the next round could fall out of the playoffs here, and it could possibly come down to who wrecks out first this weekend. We have to be careful, we have to play it safe, but we also have to be going for every point we can get.”