TALLADEGA, Ala. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows exactly what strategy he needs at Talladega Superspeedway. He needs to go for broke and get a win.
His championship hopes fading, Earnhardt is among a handful of drivers who believe Sunday’s race could be the one that lifts them back into title contention. There’s some separation in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, and three drivers at the front are pulling away after three races.
Earnhardt, who sits seventh in points, knows chipping away probably won’t get the job done. He’s 39 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, with Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin keeping pace at the front.
“We’re in a position where it really doesn’t matter. We can’t be conservative at all,” Earnhardt said. “We really got to, you know, take a lot of risks. With just a few races left, as good as everybody’s running, as good as Brad and Jimmie and the 11 car (Hamlin) have been running, we have to get pretty aggressive and that should play right into this race track’s hands.”
It’s the same attitude Clint Bowyer, the defending race winner, will take into Sunday.
“We have to use this weekend to put ourselves back in the hunt,” Bowyer said. “There’s three cars that have been breaking away here and this is the one track, the one opportunity that can change things. I’m looking forward to going there and seeing how it all shakes out. We all know what we’re getting into going into this race.
“This is a track that can really swing the points 20-30 points one way or another. So in my situation I have to use this as an opportunity. This is a race that can win the championship for somebody.”
He used to be an odds-on favorite at Talladega, where he’s got five career victories.