Drivers differ on how to race at Talladega

Associated Press Published: October 3, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — There's debate as to where a driver wants to be in the race to the Sprint Cup title.

Brad Keselowski likes the view out front.

Keselowski takes a five-point lead over Jimmie Johnson into Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway, the fourth of 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Keselowski doesn't care if the rest of the field is gunning for him because he wants to be the hunted.

"I don't know why you wouldn't want to be leading. I don't understand that theory at all," Keselowski said. "If you have a chance to be in the lead, take it and run."

That makes for an interesting discussion for Talladega, where drivers have varying strategy. Some sit back and wait until late in the race to make a push toward the front, while others aren't shy about mixing it up.

It's something Keselowski had thought long and hard about before the May race at Talladega, where he defied conventional wisdom to beat Kyle Busch. In doing so, he became the first driver in five races at Talladega to be leading on the last lap and hold on for the win.

No driver has wanted to be out front in the closing laps because it sets them up to have the win snatched away by the second-place driver. Because drafting is so important at restrictor-plate races, drivers have mastered the strategy of pushing a car around the track before pulling off the bumper at the last second and using a sling-shot pass to gain position.

Keselowski said after the win he had dreamed about the scenario, and he executed it with perfection to create a strategy he's not sure would work again Sunday.

"That was probably a one-time thing," Keselowski said, "there's way of beating that."

Figuring out where to be and when to make a move is half the battle this weekend, particularly for the Chase drivers.

Two-time defending race winner Clint Bowyer said his strategy will depend on how he qualifies, and at fourth in the standings, he's going hard Sunday after Keselowski, Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

But Kasey Kahne, who is sixth in points, said he hasn't yet figured out what he'll do beyond chasing points.

"You definitely need to think about it and try to figure out what you feel is best for yourself, for the team, and just trying to get all the points that we can," Kahne said. "What I've done the past two, three years is just tried to race and stay out front, as close to the front as possible. It's hard to sit in the back and just kind of sit back there, relax and wait until 10 laps to go."

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