Throw strategy out the window
by By Matthew Gruber
Oct 07, 2012 | 2931 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Gordon talks with teammate Kasey Kahne during practice on Friday.
Jeff Gordon talks with teammate Kasey Kahne during practice on Friday.
TALLADEGA — The Big One can happen anytime on a restrictor plate track. Lap 1. Lap 50. Lap 188. Drivers have known this fact for years but seemingly with every visit to Daytona and Talladega, many drivers swore they had a strategy to avoid their day ending with mangled sheet metal and hurt feelings.

Some reasoned that they could avoid trouble by staying out front. Others decided to run in the back in smaller packs with drivers they trust until the end of the race.

Based on comments after Saturday’s qualifying for today’s Good Sam Club 500, strategy seems to have been thrown out the window faster than Brad Keslowski’s water bottle.

When asked if there is any such thing as a best strategy here, Greg Biffle, who has never won at Talladega but starts fifth today, quickly replied “Nope,” and then cited his own history as an example of how the best-laid plans can go awry.

“I’ve been running third here, and a guy went flying upside-down across my hood,” Biffle said. “I thought being at the front was the safe spot, but I’ve been in wrecks in the middle and back. We’re so tight in there racing each other that one guy makes a little mistake or one guy thinks he’s clear or the wind blows a car around little, so things can happen quick.”

Third-place qualifier and two-time Talladega winner Clint Bowyer — who once crossed the finish line in the Daytona 500 on his roof — echoed those sentiments.

“You just get down to the end, and it all happens at the end,” Bowyer said. “The biggest thing you don’t want to do is get caught up in a wreck early. It doesn’t matter what your strategy is … There’s a tremendous amount of guys on different strategies all across the board.”

Another chaser, Martin Truex Jr., will start ninth today seeking his first restrictor plate win in Cup, and is at a loss on the best strategy to avoid trouble here.

“I’ve tried them all, and I’ve crashed here more than not, so we’re going to go out there and race,” Truex said. “I’ve been crashed here going for the lead, and I’ve been crashed here trying to ride around the back, so there’s no safe place.”

Denny Hamlin, who enters today as one of the favorites to win the Chase, also has never won a restrictor plate race and is looking for answers.

“I haven’t found the formula yet on these superspeedways of what exactly to do,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been in a lot of great positions with a couple of laps to go, but still the wreck always seems to find us. … We’re going to get a top-five or end up in a heap, so we’d like the first part to happen.”

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Throw strategy out the window by By Matthew Gruber

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