Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Toyota on Talladega

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Driver Martin Truex Jr. grew tired of watching it rain in Texas early this week so he’s now turning his full attention to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Michael Waltrip Racing team arrived at Texas Tuesday morning for a two-day test but rain cancelled all activity. While it debates a makeup test, the No. 56 team leaves Thursday afternoon for Talladega where it qualified second and finished seventh in May.  After 17 Sprint Cup plus four Nationwide starts on the Alabama restrictor-plate track, Truex has the perfect strategy for a good finish: “Pray and then let it all hang out,” laughed Truex.

TRUEX ON TALLADEGA: “I probably feel the same way as the other 42 drivers feel. You keep your fingers and toes crossed. You say a few extra prayers in the hopes you will make it to the end. I always look forward to it. It’s an interesting race. We’ve tried everything when it comes to strategy. I have been wrecked going for the lead. I have been wrecked riding around in 35th and everywhere in between. It’s important to be up front. I feel like it is one of those deals where it is tough to hang back and take care of your stuff all day because it’s hard to get up to the front when it’s time to go. Hopefully we will be able to put ourselves in position to make something happen.”

TRUEX ON THE NAPA TEAM: “I sure would like to take my NAPA team back to victory lane this weekend. Right now, they deserve something good to happen. We’ve had a rough go of it lately. But it always could be worse. Hopefully all of this bad stuff is behind us and something good will come out of it. I believe it will. We’ll move on and make some good things happen.”

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Michael Waltrip isn't behind the wheel of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine often but when he is the two-time Daytona 500 champion is as good as any restrictor-plate driver.

The 50-year-old’s fourth 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup start comes Sunday on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway. After a 22nd-place finish in the Daytona 500, Waltrip finished fourth at Talladega in May and fifth at Daytona in July. 

He’s had a long list of Talladega accomplishments. Waltrip won this race in 2003 and nearly repeated the feat last October. His  bid for the lead in the fourth turn of the final lap ended when Tony Stewart turned down across the nose of Waltrip’s No. 55. The contact triggered a 25-car accident that left Waltrip with a 25th-place finish. He’ll be at the front of the pack again Sunday.

WALTRIP ON TALLADEGA: “I have always enjoyed racing at Talladega. Having won there before and almost winning there last fall I always look forward to going back there. It’s rough racing at Talladega. It’s really hard to survive and keep your car in one piece. I have been able to put myself in position to win a Talladega a few times and have been wiped out in the closing laps. We have been really strong at the superspeedways this year and I am really looking forward to racing this weekend.”

CLINT BOWYER: No.15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer says Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway could go a long way in determining the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

He points to a last lap crash and 23rd-place finish at Talladega and a later Phoenix crash as reasons he ended the 2012 Chase 39 points behind champion Brad Keselowski in second place.

This year Bowyer ranks eighth in the Chase, trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 63 points with five races remaining. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver hopes the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway could be the place make up that deficit. 

BOWYER ON TALLADEGA: “Talladega is the race that can win or lose you the Chase in a fraction of a second. It’s a traffic jam at 200 mph. You have to survive until the end, which is easier said then done, all while putting yourself in the right position to win and get as many points as you can. You have to drive aggressive and be defensive all at the same time. You worry about what you are doing and keep track of who is around you. If you make a mistake chances are you’ll end up with a wrecked race car. On the other hand if you are as far back in points as we are right now - if something happens early in the race it can put you right back in this thing. You just have to race and hope it all works out in the end.”

BOWYER ON LAST SEASON’S CHASE: “Looking back on last year’s Chase, it was Talladega that hurt us the most. We tried to stay out of trouble for most of the race and put ourselves in a good spot, but we went from a top-10, maybe even a top-five, to wrecked and 23rd. That is a big points swing with only a couple races left.  If we could have made it out of Talladega with a better finish then maybe I don’t put myself in the same position at Phoenix. Those were the two races that cost us most last year. In the other eight races we averaged a top-five finish and that will typically win you a championship.”

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