Sprint Cup Chase leaders hope to avoid Talladega carnage - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Sprint Cup Chase leaders hope to avoid Talladega carnage

Posted: Updated:
Drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson hope to avoid crashing in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway. (AP Photos/Jay Sailors) Drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson hope to avoid crashing in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway. (AP Photos/Jay Sailors)

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — They plan and tinker, double-check this and triple-check that.

Then, they cross their fingers, stick a rabbit's foot in their race suits, and hope the luck goes their way.

That, in essence, is Talladega Superspeedway.

"My outlook is like everybody else's," said Jeff Burton, who will start Sunday's Sprint Cup race on the outside of the front row. "I hope I miss the big wreck. If you make it through that part, you can be there at the end."

By the end of the weekend, the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship could be a whole lot clearer — or just a big ol' mess.

Talladega is the biggest wild card among the five playoff races left on the schedule, meaning it's still a little too early to declare points leader Matt Kenseth or the guy in his rearview mirror, Jimmie Johnson, as the only drivers with a legitimate chance to win the Cup.

For those farther back, including Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, this might be the best chance to make a big move in the standings.

"We recognize where we are in the points and that this could be a turning point for us," said Gordon, who trails Kenseth by a rather-daunting 36 points and teammate Johnson by 32. "We need to come out of here with a pretty solid finish and make up some of those points that we're behind right now. This is a track that we can do it at."

Talladega is the longest, fastest oval in the series, but horsepower-sapping restrictor plates lead to tightly bunched racing at 200 mph — putting a premium on working with others in the draft and avoiding the slightest bobble that can cause a crash that takes out a huge pack of cars.

There's a sense that good fortune is as much a part of the Talladega strategy as making the proper adjustments on the cars or getting out of the pits faster than anyone else.

Just ask David Ragan, who stunningly claimed a victory for Front Row Motorsports in the spring race at Talladega. Getting a boost on the final lap from teammate David Gilliland, who was drafting on his rear bumper, Ragan passed three of the biggest names in the sport — Kenseth, Johnson and Carl Edwards. Gilliland made it a 1-2 finish for the tiny, underfunded team.

Ragan called it "a true David vs. Goliath moment."

Nah, that's just Talladega.

"The chances of that perfect storm happening in two consecutive races at Talladega is probably not realistic," Ragan said. "We're certainly not counting on any situations like that to come out thin air late in the race."

Kenseth and Johnson dominated the first half of the 10-race Chase.

The series leader won the first two playoff races, then posted three more solid finishes (seventh at Dover, 11th at Kansas and third at Charlotte). Johnson, a five-time Cup champion and burning to win another, won the Dover race and hasn't finished lower than sixth in any of the other Chase events, a typical run of consistency for the No. 48 team when they get to this time of year.

"Certainly, I realize that we are the points leader," Kenseth said. "But we're pretty close to being tied with the 48. If we have a bad week any week, it's going to hurt. The chances of having a bad race here are probably a little higher here than other tracks, because you can get caught up in stuff."

As Ragan showed in May, there's more drivers with the potential to win at Talladega. Adding to the potential mayhem, those 30 drivers who don't have a shot at the season championship are likely to be more inclined to take chances that might get them a season-salvaging victory — or perhaps cause a crash that knocks out some of the title contenders.

"The folks in the Chase have to be a little more conservative," Ragan said. "They've got to get through this week without a 30th-place finish or a DNF (did not finish). The guys who are not in the Chase can be a little more aggressive behind the wheel. The crew chief can take a few more chances."

Kenseth will be keeping an eye on everyone, not just the guys closest to him in the standings.

"Your guard is up maybe a little bit more than normal," he said. "Last week, you probably fewer guys racing for the win. It's a smaller group. But when you come here, it opens it up. Everyone feels like they have a shot."

Richard Petty Motorsports hopes to pull off a Front Row-like upset Sunday.

Qualifying was rained out, which put Aric Almirola on the pole for only the second time in his career and teammate Marcos Ambrose right behind him in the second row. They earned their spots based on practice times, with Almirola putting up a blistering speed of 202 mph and Ambrose just a smidgen slower.

To get to victory lane, Almirola must overcome the loss of veteran crew chief Todd Parrott, who was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for violating its substance-abuse policy.

"It's definitely something that caught us all off guard," Almirola said. "We're just trying to work through it and make the best of it."

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

  • Central Alabama NewsMore>>

  • Local mom ready for Boston Marathon

    Local mom ready for Boston Marathon

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:57 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:57:02 GMT
    Birmingham - Runners are gearing up for the Boston Marathon Monday. Despite last year's bombings, there was a surge in entries for this year's race. ABC 33/40 caught up with a mother of four leaving Sunday to fulfill her dream. The images we won't forget. "It was just complete shock and just sadness that someone would use that platform to be destructive." Lisa Booher will be running in this year's Boston Marathon hoping to carry on a message that so many others also want to share. Booher says...More >>
    Birmingham - Runners are gearing up for the Boston Marathon Monday. Despite last year's bombings, there was a surge in entries for this year's race. ABC 33/40 caught up with a mother of four leaving Sunday to fulfill her dream. The images we won't forget. "It was just complete shock and just sadness that someone would use that platform to be destructive." Lisa Booher will be running in this year's Boston Marathon hoping to carry on a message that so many others also want to share. Booher says...More >>
  • Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:56 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:56:20 GMT
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old Brian Mitchell of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday. Police say Mitchell is behind a message posted on social media site, Yik Yak,More >>
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old from of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday.More >>
  • Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:54:35 GMT
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • ABI investigate shooting

    ABI investigate shooting

    Sunday, April 20 2014 9:11 PM EDT2014-04-21 01:11:58 GMT
    Officers investigate a shooting in the parking lot of Papa Sias Sports Grille. Helena and Pelham police were on the scene around 8:30 Saturday. More >>
    Officers investigate a shooting in the parking lot of Papa Sias Sports Grille. Helena and Pelham police were on the scene around 8:30 Saturday. More >>
  • Fairfield police: burned body dumped at house, crime committed elsewhere

    Fairfield police: burned body dumped at house, crime committed elsewhere

    Sunday, April 20 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-04-21 00:02:53 GMT
    The burned body found in a the backyard of a Fairfield house has not been identified. But police say it was a woman. They also believe there is another crime scene.More >>
    The burned body found in a the backyard of a Fairfield house has not been identified. But police say it was a woman. They also believe there is another crime scene.More >>
  • Police shoot and wound a man outside a Helena restaurant

    Police shoot and wound a man outside a Helena restaurant

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:53 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:53:20 GMT
    Helena police shot and wounded a man last night in the parking lot of Papa Saia's Sports Grille. Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving reports of a man brandishing a gun. Helena Detective Sgt. Chris Rollan says no one in the restaurant was in any danger. The incident apparently began as a domestic dispute and escalated when officers arrived. Pelham police also responded to assist. The suspect was taken to the hospital for treatment. The investigation has been turned over to t...More >>
    Helena police shot and wounded a man last night in the parking lot of Papa Saia's Sports Grille. Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving reports of a man brandishing a gun. Helena Detective Sgt. Chris Rollan says no one in the restaurant was in any danger. The incident apparently began as a domestic dispute and escalated when officers arrived. Pelham police also responded to assist. The suspect was taken to the hospital for treatment. The investigation has been turned over to t...More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • ABI investigate shooting

    ABI investigate shooting

    Sunday, April 20 2014 9:11 PM EDT2014-04-21 01:11:58 GMT
    Officers investigate a shooting in the parking lot of Papa Sias Sports Grille. Helena and Pelham police were on the scene around 8:30 Saturday. More >>
    Officers investigate a shooting in the parking lot of Papa Sias Sports Grille. Helena and Pelham police were on the scene around 8:30 Saturday. More >>
  • Fairfield police: burned body dumped at house, crime committed elsewhere

    Fairfield police: burned body dumped at house, crime committed elsewhere

    Sunday, April 20 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-04-21 00:02:53 GMT
    The burned body found in a the backyard of a Fairfield house has not been identified. But police say it was a woman. They also believe there is another crime scene.More >>
    The burned body found in a the backyard of a Fairfield house has not been identified. But police say it was a woman. They also believe there is another crime scene.More >>
  • Local mom ready for Boston Marathon

    Local mom ready for Boston Marathon

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:57 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:57:02 GMT
    Birmingham - Runners are gearing up for the Boston Marathon Monday. Despite last year's bombings, there was a surge in entries for this year's race. ABC 33/40 caught up with a mother of four leaving Sunday to fulfill her dream. The images we won't forget. "It was just complete shock and just sadness that someone would use that platform to be destructive." Lisa Booher will be running in this year's Boston Marathon hoping to carry on a message that so many others also want to share. Booher says...More >>
    Birmingham - Runners are gearing up for the Boston Marathon Monday. Despite last year's bombings, there was a surge in entries for this year's race. ABC 33/40 caught up with a mother of four leaving Sunday to fulfill her dream. The images we won't forget. "It was just complete shock and just sadness that someone would use that platform to be destructive." Lisa Booher will be running in this year's Boston Marathon hoping to carry on a message that so many others also want to share. Booher says...More >>
  • Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:56 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:56:20 GMT
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old Brian Mitchell of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday. Police say Mitchell is behind a message posted on social media site, Yik Yak,More >>
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old from of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday.More >>
  • Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:54:35 GMT
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
  • UNA social media threat suspect turns himself in

    UNA social media threat suspect turns himself in

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:54:13 GMT
    One student turns himself into the University of North Alabama police after a threat on the social media app “yik yak”. Police say the online threat was aimed at the University.Brian Mitchell, 22, turned himself in and now faces terrorist threat charges. Police say Mitchell posted that he was going to "shoot up UNA". Police worked with "yik yak" to track Mitchell down, that's when he admitted that he posted the threat and stated he would turn himself in. Mitchell will now have to face the uni...More >>
    One student turns himself into the University of North Alabama police after a threat on the social media app “yik yak”. Police say the online threat was aimed at the University.Brian Mitchell, 22, turned himself in and now faces terrorist threat charges. Police say Mitchell posted that he was going to "shoot up UNA". Police worked with "yik yak" to track Mitchell down, that's when he admitted that he posted the threat and stated he would turn himself in. Mitchell will now have to face the uni...More >>
  • Police shoot and wound a man outside a Helena restaurant

    Police shoot and wound a man outside a Helena restaurant

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:53 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:53:20 GMT
    Helena police shot and wounded a man last night in the parking lot of Papa Saia's Sports Grille. Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving reports of a man brandishing a gun. Helena Detective Sgt. Chris Rollan says no one in the restaurant was in any danger. The incident apparently began as a domestic dispute and escalated when officers arrived. Pelham police also responded to assist. The suspect was taken to the hospital for treatment. The investigation has been turned over to t...More >>
    Helena police shot and wounded a man last night in the parking lot of Papa Saia's Sports Grille. Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving reports of a man brandishing a gun. Helena Detective Sgt. Chris Rollan says no one in the restaurant was in any danger. The incident apparently began as a domestic dispute and escalated when officers arrived. Pelham police also responded to assist. The suspect was taken to the hospital for treatment. The investigation has been turned over to t...More >>
  • Burned Body Found In Fairfield

    Burned Body Found In Fairfield

    Sunday, April 20 2014 7:52 PM EDT2014-04-20 23:52:58 GMT
    Police are conducting a death investigation after a burned body was found in the 500 block of 40th St. in Fairfield.Witnesses say the body was found in the backyard of a vacant home. There was a burned area in one spot of the grass behind the house and the back door was open. Police have yet to identify the cause of death. The investigation is ongoing.More >>
    Police are conducting a death investigation after a burned body was found in the 500 block of 40th St. in Fairfield.Witnesses say the body was found in the backyard of a vacant home. There was a burned area in one spot of the grass behind the house and the back door was open. Police have yet to identify the cause of death. The investigation is ongoing.More >>