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Race Rewind: Talladega in 15
Relive all the highlights from the race at Talladega Superspeedway that saw the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field get narrowed from 12 drivers to eight.
The Rundown: Talladega driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway : 1. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford , Team Penske . Not even dragging his jack around for one lap could keep Logano out of Victory Lane. Logano grabbed the lead five laps after the engine of teammate Brad Keselowski 's dominant No. 2 car expired and he didn't let it go, leading the final 45 laps. Grade: A 2. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . In his 49th start, Scott snagged the best finish of his career -- and first top 10 -- with a brilliant run. It also was the best finish for RPM since Marcos Ambrose placed second at Watkins Glen more than two years ago . Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit road (again) and advanced to the next round of the Chase by the slimmest of margins (about two feet). Hamlin didn't make it easy on himself, but he's moving on -- and his No. 1 track, Martinsville, is up next. Grade: A 4. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Steady Busch flew under the radar into the Round of 8. Well, until his postrace dust-up with teammate Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's fourth top 10 in seven starts at Talladega is also his sixth this season, a personal best. In addition, it was his fourth top five this season, one more than in his previous three full-time seasons combined. Grade: A 6. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing ninth in his first race there in May 2014. Grade: A 7. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick was running behind Joey Logano on Logano's "jack lap" and caught a huge break when the jack remained attached to Logano's car and didn't fly into him. Grade: A 8. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . Finally! Almirola's streak of starts without a top-10 finish ends at a career-high 32. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . How close was Dillon to advancing in the Chase? The difference was the one point Denny Hamlin earned by finishing .006 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch . Grade: A 10. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top-10 finishes for the third time this season despite having an average running position Sunday of 25.8. Grade: A- 11. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford , Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney ran with the leaders all afternoon, and his 7.6 average running position was third best. He also led laps for the second time this season. Grade: A 12. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott needed a win to advance in the Chase and did everything he could -- his average running position of 7.3 was second to Kurt Busch 's 6.9 -- but he was hemmed in at the end and couldn't challenge the front-runners. Grade: A 13. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard posted his best finish since his last top 10, in July at Indianapolis. Grade: B 14. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman, whose average running position of 27.3 was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20, ran one lap in the top 15 -- his last. Grade: B- 15. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle was strong early and led 13 laps, but his day took a negative turn when he brought out the second caution on Lap 114. A coming-together with Jeffrey Earnhardt and Casey Mears sent all three cars into the inside wall. Grade: C 16. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Three of McDowell's five best finishes this season have been on restrictor-plate tracks (10th and 15th at Daytona). Grade: A 17. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne was two cars behind Kasey Kahne when Kahne spun on Lap 182. Bayne was able to check up and avoid running into the back of Jamie McMurray . Grade: B- 18. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . In a season of small victories, Bowyer posted his 10th top-20 finish of the season. Grade: B- 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's day was saved when he didn't plow into Kasey Kahne 's spinning car immediately in front of him on Lap 182. Grade: B- 20. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick now has finished 20th to 24th in half of this year's races (16 of 32). Grade: C 21. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . Cassill made a great save with 20 laps to go when his car went veering down the track after he tried to fill a gap in front of David Ragan and received a nudge from behind. Grade: B 22. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . That Buescher finished the race is the story here. He had DNFs for crashes in the season's first three restrictor-plate races. Grade: B 23. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson did his best to help teammate Chase Elliott , but in the end, wherever the No. 48 finished was never an issue. Johnson's ticket into the next round of the Chase was punched two weeks ago. Grade: S (for Smart, Safe and Satisfactory) 24. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing sixth in the fall race three years ago. Grade: C 25. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in restrictor-plate races this season. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500 . Grade: C 26. Ryan Reed , No. 99 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Nice Sprint Cup debut for the 23-year-old. Grade: B- 27. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Great effort by DiBenedetto, who raced even though he was in the throes of food poisoning. Grade: C+ 28. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . If you are going to be critical of what Gibbs drivers Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch did Sunday -- playing it safe by driving together in the back of the field -- would you have been critical of any of the three if they had mixed it up in the peloton, crashed and failed to advance in the Chase? You can't have it both ways. Grade: S (as in See Jimmie Johnson ) 29. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ibid. Grade: S 30. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Op cit. Grade: S 31. Bobby Labonte , No. 32 Ford , GO FAS Racing. Our TBJT (Throw Back to Junior Theme) Latin bibliography references end with Labonte, who completed his four-race, restrictor-plate run for the second consecutive year the same way he began the season – with a 31st-place finish. Grade: C- 32. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Driver Tony's 70th superspeedway restrictor-plate race finished quietly. Can't say the same for Owner Tony. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett stayed out during green-flag pit stops and led six laps, one fewer than he led in his first 101 Sprint Cup starts. Grade: C+ 34. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Earnhardt's Lap 114 tangle with Greg Biffle also collected Casey Mears . Despite significant damage, Earnhardt posted the first lead-lap finish of his career (20 starts). Grade: C 35. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne went for a spin on Lap 182, and his run of good finishes -- six top 10s in his previous seven races -- spun out, too. Grade: D 36. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman's tweet said it all: "3rd with 5 to go and we finish 36th ... damn speedway racing." Grade: D 37. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished 13 laps off the pace in his first start at Talladega in two years. Grade: F 38. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford , Team Penske . Keselowski had the dominant car and led a race-high 90 laps, but he held the point for too long after debris blocked part of his grill. A slick, orchestrated move with Ryan Blaney removed the debris, but it was too late. Moments later, his engine started smoking and his day, and championship hopes, came to an end on Lap 145. Grade: F 39. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Racing can be so cruel. For the second time in three weeks, something bad happened to Mears for no other reason than he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he was two lanes below Greg Biffle and having a beautiful day when Biffle turned into Jeffrey Earnhardt and also collected Mears. The three slammed into the inside wall, but only Mears could not continue and was gone after 113 laps. Two weeks ago, Mears received a "U" grade for Unfortunate. This week? Based on his grade at Charlotte -- and if you caught all four clues -- you know the answer. Grade: U2 40. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . When Truex's engine blew on Lap 42, his championship hopes ended as well. It's a shame Truex won't be able to contend for the championship, but we haven't heard the last of Truex this season. Finishing with the most victories would be huge. Grade: F
Trouble knocks Nemechek, Hemric from Chase hunt
RELATED: Chase Grid " Race results TALLADEGA, Ala. -- It was high drama for both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers contending for a spot to advance in the series' Chase on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway . For John Hunter Nemechek , it was an abbreviated fate; for Daniel Hemric , the action went right to the wire. Neither was able to race into the six-driver next phase of the title Chase, however, which will include William Byron, Christopher Bell , Timothy Peters , Matt Crafton , Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter . The motor on Nemechek's No. 8 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet blew only 13 laps into Saturday's 94-lap elimination race. And he was scored in last place in the 32-truck field. Hemric, 25, was caught up in three incidents -- two of them multi-truck crashes including "The Big One" with 36 laps remaining that essentially sealed his fate, leaving his No. 19 DrawTite Ford with heavy damage to the rear and left side. But still drivable. He spun out again with 12 laps remaining and pitted for repairs. And despite all the drama, he still finished 11th and on the lead lap. "Today was another statement of what we've done all year, battle to the end," Hemric said, adding, "It was a matter of keep fighting, because you never know. We were trying to put ourselves in the best situation. I promise we made the most out of what was presented to us." In fact, with six laps remaining, Hemric's closest competitor in the Chase, Matt Crafton , went behind the wall, his truck smoking when the crew lifted the hood. But even by that point, pulling out a victory remained Hemric's best option to move on. "Honestly, we were hoping to be in a points battle moving forward, but with knowing that situation was you still need to win races," Hemric said. "… We're going to go down swinging. I hate coming up short, but now we have nothing to lose to make that situation a reality." The first multi-truck crash happened with 51 laps remaining. Hemric's teammate Tyler Reddick drove into the rear of his Ford while they both were trying to avoid an accident in front of them. Hemric had to make an extended pit stop for repairs, going a lap down at the time but got back on the lead lap a handful of laps later as a result of another accident. "A busy day to say the least. We didn't qualify where we wanted to but I was around our teammates. I thought we would be OK. We knew coming here the variables of superspeedway racing. … I hate we got caught up in what we did but we did everything we could. "The effort from this team was second to none. We were just a part of a lot of very unfortunate situations there that we couldn't avoid, couldn't miss. One, you can rebound from, two, you can probably rebound from, but the third one definitely put us in a bad situation. Hate we couldn't win a race earlier and get locked in." The disappointment was also palpable for the 19-year-old second-generation driver Nemechek, whose family-owned team had positioned him for his first try at the series title. Nemechek qualified for the series' first version of the Chase thanks to wins at Atlanta and again in a controversial close finish on the Bowmanville, Canada, road course. But he hardly even got a shot to race into the next round after his motor let go on the Talladega high banks minutes into the race. "All my temps were fine, I haven't seen a big blow-up like that in a while," said Nemechek. "We didn't even really have a shot to race our way in. But that's kind of how our last three weeks have been. I haven't seen a motor blow up like that in a while. Bad stuff can happen at Talladega and unfortunately we got the bad side. "We'll go back and regroup. I'm very proud of all our guys and now our focus will be on just getting some wins." Nemechek has a pair of runner-up finishes (2015 and 2016) at next week's short-track stop, Martinsville Speedway .
Keselowski runs into engine issues late in Talladega Chase race
RELATED: Race results " Updated Chase Grid Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Team Penske Ford succumbed to an engine failure on Lap 144 of 188 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway . The unfortunate circumstance ends the title hopes of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, who all but needed a win coming into the race to avoid being eliminated. Keselowski finished the race 38th. "We came here to win and we were doing what we needed to do to win, and it just didn't play out," Keselowski told NBCSN. "It just wasn't meant to be. … "We had an incredible car today and I'm really proud of that. Just got to keep pushing and hopefully we can go win these next four (races). I want to finish the season with the most wins and we've got a great shot at that, leading it right now. Cars that ran like this one did today, it'll all work out." Keselowski had led nine times for a race-best 90 laps before the incident. A similar fate befell fellow Chase driver Martin Truex Jr ., whose No. 78 Chevrolet suffered an engine failure earlier in the race. Truex Jr. finished last in the 40-car field and was eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Grant Enfinger earns first win in Talladega truck thriller
RELATED: Race results " Updated Truck Series Chase Grid TALLADEGA, Ala. – In the race that decided the lineup for the Round of 6 in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, Alabama native Grant Enfinger stole the thunder from the playoff drivers in Saturday's fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway . With a strong push from GMS Racing teammate and Chase driver Ben Kennedy after a restart on Lap 93 of 94, Enfinger surged to the front and stayed there in the face of a last-lap challenger from another teammate, Spencer Gallagher , who came home second, .108 seconds behind the winner. The victory was Enfinger's first in 13 career starts in the series. "It's unbelievable," said Enfinger, who led the first-ever 1-2 finish for GMS. "It's my home track. It's just so special." RELATED: 'Big One' shakes up Trucks Chase The race reduced the NCWTS Chase field from eight drivers to six. Third-place finisher Timothy Peters was the highest finisher among those who advanced, followed by Kennedy in fifth place, as GMS drivers claimed four of the top seven positions. "I got behind Grant Enfinger and tried to push him as much as I could," said Kennedy, who shoved his teammate's No. 24 Chevrolet to the front in the outside lane. "I knew the outside line had a little bit of something. I pushed him as much as I could, and once he got out to the lead, that truck was so fast out there. "I thought about trying to make it three-wide, but I didn't really have the momentum to carry it around him." Also moving on to the Round of 6 were sixth-place finisher Christopher Bell , GMS driver Johnny Sauter (seventh on Saturday), 10th-place finisher William Byron (who already had clinched a spot with a victory in the opening Chase race at New Hampshire) and Matt Crafton (who came home 22nd after his blown engine caused the seventh and final caution on Lap 89). WATCH: Nemechek out after his engine expires John Hunter Nemechek was eliminated from the Chase early in the race. The engine in his No. 8 Chevrolet expired on Lap 13, and Nemechek retired in 32nd place. Daniel Hemric , who entered the race below the Chase cut line, remained there thanks to three separate incidents on Saturday, the most costly a 14-car wreck on Lap 59 that severely damaged his No. 19 Ford . Hemric finished 11th, but fell 13 points short of Crafton, whose engine problems occurred too late to be of help to Hemric, given that 10 other trucks already were in the garage when Crafton’s motor blew. "Today was completely full of trials and trying to overcome things," Hemric said. "All we can do now is try to win races. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We got involved in three or four different situations there and never had the opportunity to get back to the front." Sunoco Rookie Rico Abreu finished fourth, his second top-five of the season and his best result in the series on pavement. Byron is the top seed in the Round of 6, followed by Bell, Peters, Crafton, Kennedy and Sauter. All six drivers start the Round of 6 with points reset to 3,000. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
No. 78 part confiscated in pre-qualifying inspection at Talladega
RELATED: Truex scores pole for Talladega TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Martin Truex Jr . will start on the pole in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway . It was clear sailing around the 2.66-mile track for the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota on Saturday. Meanwhile, dark clouds had gathered elsewhere. NASCAR officials confiscated the left-front jack bolt from the team during pre-qualifying inspection, and will take the piece back to the sanctioning body’s Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. "They had a jack bolt that we didn’t feel like met specifications that we have in the rule book," Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition for NASCAR, said. "Not a real competitive advantage. We will take it back … analyze everything and decide what we are going to do. "It's no different than … cars that fail the templates and have to go back through. It's our job to officiate the sport and this part and the rest of today’s activities are no different than what we do every weekend." RELATED: JGR cars have to go back through inspection Crew chief Cole Pearn said the bolt was the wrong size, not hollow as was initially reported. "It was a mistake," he said. "We fixed it; we found another one and moved on. Stuff like that happens all the time. We're not perfect. I know people like to think that we’re brilliant geniuses that have malicious plans to cheat the system somehow, but sometimes we're just stupid and make mistakes. "That's really just what happened and hopefully it doesn't turn into anything more than that." Miller said such a violation could result in a points penalty, impacting the team’s Chase status, but that it wasn't always the case. "I would say it would be unlikely but it has to go through our process," he said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend. Because this is the playoffs everybody has a heightened sense of everything but this is no different than things we have done all year and we will treat this one just like we do all year long." Both Pearn and NASCAR said that the issue was only with one bolt. "All other three corners were fine," Pearn said. "We're at Talladega; maybe if you're at Martinsville, and you have all four hollowed out …" Truex edged fellow Chase driver Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske No. 2 Ford ) for the top spot. Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Greg Biffle ( Roush Fenway Racing ) completed the top five as the lineup for the 40-car field was set. "All the crazy talk going on today is nonsense," Truex said. "I think people speculate on things and don't really know what they are. "The jack bolt issues is really not a big issue. It's not hollow like what was reported. (NASCAR) didn't take both, they just took the left front so it's not a big issue." The 78 team did lose its pit stall selection for a fourth warning related to inspections.
Logano: Skill, preparation outweigh luck at Talladega
RELATED: Weekend schedule " Chase Grid TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Joey Logano smiled a little and didn't waste any time with his answer. "No." No, the defending race winner will not race any differently at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon despite needing an overwhelmingly positive result to advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Eight drivers will move on to challenge for the title. Logano is currently ranked eighth -- owning a tiebreaker over ninth-place Austin Dillon . But the eight-year veteran insisted Friday before opening practice at Talladega that his approach and demeanor this weekend would remain the same as it was last year, when he carried a two-race winning streak onto Dega's high banks and ultimately hoisted that trophy, too. "Honestly, (it's) not much different, which is a good thing,'' said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford . "I feel like our team is in a good spot. We had a great run last weekend in Kansas. We did make up some points. We're in a great spot with having a really bad Charlotte, so our team has a lot of confidence in themselves. "We know we can do this. We're coming into a race track that we know we're good at. We know we can win here. Is the situation different? Obviously, it is. Last year, we were locked in. There was nothing to worry about. This year, we're not, but we still have the same goal, so why should we approach the race any different?" Logano opened this second round of the Chase with a 36th-place finish at Charlotte and rebounded with a third-place effort at Kansas Speedway last weekend. Interestingly, when asked if he felt any pressure racing for his championship life at perhaps the most unpredictable venue in the Chase, the 26-year-old reminded that his approach is full throttle. Never defensive. "I don't really think about how people are trying to knock me out, I think about how I'm gonna knock other people out,'' Logano said. "That's my attitude. If I'm on defense, we're not gonna win. We better stay on offense. That's what this 22 team does. We're gonna go out there and race hard because that's what we know how to do when we come to speedways. "Some guys can do it good the other way but, for us, we're gonna go out there and race hard and try to stay up front, try to keep making our car better for the end of the race and to be there at the end." There is reason to believe Logano could solidify a Chase position. He has had solid, if inconsistent, results here outside his victory. And Logano's Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski won at Talladega this spring and at Daytona this summer. RELATED: Keselowski unfazed by Talladega pressure When asked what matters more, skill and preparation or just plain luck -- as many have suggested -- Logano didn't hesitate. "I think it's all skill and preparation -- 100 percent in my opinion,'' Logano said. "You create your own luck. That's what I think. There might be a chance you run over something or something happens, but some things are just meant to be and some things aren't. But if you can work and do everything you can do and prepare yourself to go out there and be the best, then that's all you can do. I feel like that makes it, in my opinion, a lot about preparation." As for Logano, he seemed completely optimistic, perhaps even confident about his chances Sunday afternoon. "Speedway racing isn't as much of a crapshoot as a lot of people like to believe it is,'' Logano said. "It sounds like it's just an excuse to me. I think there is a lot of strategy and a lot of knowledge that has to go into playing this game. "We've had a good, solid speedway program at Team Penske the last couple years and when you come to Talladega you get excited about it. It's not quite like that for everybody, but for us, we get excited about speedway racing and the opportunity that presents itself this weekend, so we're ready to get on the race track and see what we've got.''
Full schedule for Martinsville
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series will gather for a doubleheader showing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Check out the full schedule below. Note: All times are ET FRIDAY, OCT. 28: ON TRACK -- 11 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 12:30-1:25 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 2:30-3:50 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 4:40 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 10:30 a.m.: Sprint Cup Series -- Noon: Camping World Truck Series SATURDAY, OCT. 29: ON TRACK -- 9-9:55 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, CNBC ( Follow live ) -- 10:15 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- Noon-12:50 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions ( 200 laps, 105.2 miles), FS1 ( Follow live ) SUNDAY, OCT. 30: ON TRACK -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 (500 laps, 263 miles), NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live )
Behind the scenes in TV booth with Dale Jr.
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- An NBC assistant in the broadcast booth had an urgent message to deliver, one of huge importance. As 40 drivers barreled around Talladega Superspeedway at 200 mph a few hundred feet below him, he grabbed a marker and started writing on a dry erase board. "17-13," he wrote. "Final 5th straight win." He showed this to Dale Earnhardt Jr ., a guest analyst for NBC's coverage of the race. Upon reading it, Earnhardt Jr. turned around, away from the track, and smiled broadly at Tyler Overstreet, his road manager, and pumped his fist. The handwritten note purported to report the score of the Washington Redskins, of whom Earnhardt Jr. is a big fan. Alas, that news was premature. A few minutes later, the same assistant showed him another dry erase board, this one apologizing for the first and reporting that the Lions had come back to win the game. Junior half smiled, half grimaced and turned his attention back to the race track, where he wished he could be on this sun-kissed fall day. Earnhardt Jr. has missed the last 14 races, and he will miss the rest of the season, with concussion-related symptoms. But talking about the race was the next best thing, and the hour-plus he spent in the booth was vintage Earnhardt -- funny, insightful and candid. Wearing dark-framed glasses, sneakers, jeans and a blue and gray plaid shirt, he sat atop a stool between NBC analysts Steve Letarte, his former crew chief, and Jeff Burton , against whom he raced hundreds of times. They lapsed into a conversation like old friends. His eyes darted from the track to the TV screen in front of him to Letarte to Burton. His body language was almost exuberant. He smiled often and at one point raised his hand excitedly when he wanted to interject a point. He seemed relaxed and at ease with Letarte, Burton, play-by-play announcer Rick Allen and the race's producers. "Has he got in the top 10 yet?" Earnhardt Jr. joked off camera about his replacement, Alex Bowman . "Damn, I told him everything I know." As his appearance wound down, NBC announced Junior would return to the booth at next week's race at Martinsville Speedway . Producer Matt Marvin, who was just outside the track in the production truck, keyed the microphone that allows him to talk with the broadcasters off air and told Junior what a great job he had done. He paused for just a second and said, "Next time, if you're not as good, we'll kick you out early." Junior laughed at that. This was the Earnhardt Jr. that fans have loved for more than a decade -- living and dying with the Redskins, offering transparent insight into his life and breaking down racing like few others. Consider this exchange with Burton at Lap 68, when Earnhardt Jr. discussed his drafting philosophy: "I look at the air coming off of the front of the car as a boat wake. And it's very dense coming off of around the headlights of that car that you're trying to side draft. So you don't want to continue to be beside that guy as you get toward the front, or pretty much dead even, because you run into that dense air coming off of the lead car. So you have to 'jump' that wake, much like if you were water skiing. You also have to get away from him so that he cannot side-draft you, because then you're both sort of bouncing back and forth. That's why it's so much easier to side-draft on the outside, because you can pin the guy on the bottom, side-draft him, drive up the race track and take the lead." Burton: "Now, you know all the drivers are going to play this race back and listen to all of this, right?" Earnhardt Jr.: "From what I've seen, these guys have got it all figured out." After months of his public appearances being focused almost exclusively on his health, it was refreshing to see him confident and comfortable. At least for this hour, the pensiveness that saturated so much of what he has said lately was gone. And on the topic of his health, he sounded upbeat. The simple fact he was able to make the appearance was a sign of improvement. In previous comments he has said large crowds sometimes trigger his symptoms, and it's hard to imagine a larger crowd than Talladega. His doctors have encouraged him to challenge himself, and certainly being on live TV would accomplish that. "I'm feeling great and all of the progress that we've made over the last several months has been really good," he said. "Obviously, I'm able to get out and do things. I'm having so much fun at the race track, and to be able to come up to the booth has been a lot of fun for me." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;