Notebook: At Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. will throw caution to the wind

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- As far as Dale Earnhardt Jr. is concerned, Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway won't be a race for the faint of heart.
Seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 39 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, Earnhardt has an aggressive mind-set toward Sunday's race, even though there are seven races left in the Chase.
"I feel pretty good, I guess because I have nothing to lose," Earnhardt told reporters Friday at Talladega. "And that fits right into how you race this racetrack. It's kind of a no-holds-barred, lay-it-out-there kind of thing.
"Anytime you're cautious, you tend to get yourself in trouble, and the guys that are a lot more aggressive seem to find themselves toward the front of the mess when it all goes down and end up being the ones that, for some reason, will finish. But we're just going to throw it all out there, man."
Accordingly, a conservative run, trying to maintain contact with the series leaders, isn't part of the No. 88 team's plan.
"We're in a position where it really doesn't matter," Earnhardt said. "We can't be conservative at all. We've really got to take a lot of risks. With just a few races left, and as good as everybody is running, like Brad and second-place Jimmie (Johnson) and the No. 11 (third-place Denny Hamlin), we really have to get pretty aggressive, and that should play right into this race track's hands.
"It's a place that really kind of asks for that, and you've got to really take some risks and be pretty daring out there to make some things happen."


Even though recent rules changes have minimized tandem drafting, it's still important to have allies on the track in a restrictor-plate race.
Chase leader Keselowski knows he'll have one friend on Sunday -- and perhaps only one.
Keselowski and Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. are the only two Dodge drivers in the field. If Keselowski needs a push or room to change lanes during the race, Hornish will provide it.
"I'll be glad to have Sam's help, that's for sure, and I know that he's been a good teammate," Keselowski said. "I'm looking forward to working with him. I think we've worked pretty well together this year, whether it's Nationwide or Cup.
"But as far as the other drivers, I go into the race not expecting to have any help from anyone and playing it from there."


The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, both have significant streaks in danger of ending this year.
From 2002 through 2011, Kurt won at least one race per year in the Sprint Cup Series. So far this year, in the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by James Finch, Busch has a best finish of third at Sonoma. He'll race for Finch Sunday at Talladega before starting his tenure at Furniture Row Racing Oct. 13 at Charlotte.
Kyle's eight-year winning streak in the Nationwide Series likewise is in jeopardy. Driving for his own team for the first time this year, and sharing Nationwide duties with Kurt, Kyle is winless in 17 starts. Kurt has the only Nationwide victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports, having triumphed at Richmond in April.
In four years of Nationwide competition for Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008 through 2011, Kyle accumulated 40 of his series-record 51 wins, with a high-water mark of 13 in 2010. The Nationwide Series has this week off but will run companion events with the final five Chase races, starting Oct. 12 at Charlotte.
In JGR's No. 18 Cup car, Kyle extended his Cup consecutive-season winning streak to eight with a victory at Richmond the day after Kurt won the Nationwide race there.

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