Chevy vs. Ford vs. Toy­ota at Tal­ladega race

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Numbers Game - By JENNA FRYER

TAL­LADEGA, Ala. — The first loser at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way better not have been hung out to dry in the clos­ing laps by a team­mate.

And in the case of Sun­day’s race, team­mates will have a far wider def­i­ni­tion.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers have taken steps to man­date their driv­ers work to­gether to en­sure their brand gets to vic­tory lane at both Day­tona and Tal­ladega, the two tracks on the NASCAR cir­cuit in which driv­ers need draft­ing part­ners to race through the field. It was Toy­ota years ago that first got all its teams to align for an en­tire week­end as it tried to win the Day­tona 500, and Ford and finally Chevro­let fol­lowed suit.

Chevro­let was the last man­u­fac­turer to stren­u­ously urge its teams to play as one at Tal­ladega in April, and it worked with a Chase El­liott vic­tory that ended a streak of seven con­sec­u­tive wins by Ford driv­ers at the Alabama su­per­speed­way. The stakes Sun­day are much higher be­cause Tal­ladega is the mid­dle race of the sec­ond round of NASCAR’s play­offs, with driv­ers try­ing to avoid drop­ping be­low the cut line headed into next week’s elim­i­na­tion race at Kansas, but the man­u­fac­turer align­ments re­main un­changed.

“The play­off pic­ture is ob­vi­ously im­por­tant to some of the guys in each re­spec­tive group, I sup­pose,” El­liott said. “The man­u­fac­tur­ers are go­ing to see it as they want the man­u­fac­turer to do well and they see that be­ing better than any­thing else. I think you’re go­ing to see more of those games be­ing played this week­end.”

El­liott won the pole for Sun­day’s race as his Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports dom­i­nated qual­i­fy­ing again. El­liott led the four Hen­drick cars to a sweep of the front two rows in Satur­day’s ses­sion. He bested ti­tle chal­lengers Alex Bow­man and Wil­liam By­ron, fol­lowed by Jim­mie John­son.

Aric Almirola, last year’s win­ner, then led Ford driv­ers in the next six po­si­tions, with Erik Jones the high­est Toy­ota at 11th.

Denny Ham­lin blew his en­gine and did not com­plete a qual­i­fy­ing lap, so he will start last Sun­day. He was grate­ful the en­gine ex­pired on his qual­i­fy­ing lap and not in the open­ing laps of the race.

Kyle Lar­son is the only driver locked into the round of eight after his vic­tory last week­end at Dover, where he snapped a los­ing streak that spanned nearly two years and made him the only driver at ease be­fore Tal­ladega. The mag­ni­tude of not need­ing a de­cent finish was so im­por­tant to Lar­son that it was one of the first things he noted when he climbed from his win­ning car last week.

“Just awe­some to get a win and not have to worry about Tal­ladega ... I don’t like that place,” he said, not­ing that he crashed in April’s race and “I was on my lid and I could still end up on my lid next week, but it doesn’t mat­ter after this win.”

He still will be re­quired to be a strong team player for Chevro­let, which was em­bar­rassed in Fe­bru­ary when Toy­ota, with the small­est fleet of en­trants in the field, worked a side deal to align with Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports in the Day­tona 500 be­cause the Hen­drick cars were fast and didn’t have a lot of equal Chevro­lets to work with that day.

Ham­lin led a 1-2-3 sweep for Toy­ota and Joe Gibbs Racing, while Ford and Chevy were left speech­less. Ford ac­tu­ally had its own in­ter­nal dustup when Joey Logano con­fronted fel­low Ford driver Michael Mc­Dow­ell for not push­ing him to the win, and Mc­Dow­ell main­tained he was un­der no obli­ga­tion to a ri­val Blue Oval driver.

Ham­lin said the man­u­fac­turer man­date will be strong Sun­day, even though seven driv­ers are racing for their cham­pi­onship chances. El­liott had an en­gine fail­ure last week to drop be­low the cut line, and Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney are all try­ing to avoid elim­i­na­tion next week.

As­so­ci­ated Press

UP FRONT Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries driver Chase El­liott wins the pole for the 1000Bulbs. com 500 at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way on Satur­day in Tal­ladega, Ala.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.