Teamwork could again play a factor in helping a driver advance in the Chase

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Chase Elliott said it best Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway.

“It’s great to have teammates, especially when you come to the plate tracks,” Elliott said any of potential race strategy. “We have seen groups or teams work together in the past to try to help a guy have a good run or help an organization to have a good run as a whole.”

Sunday, Elliott may need to rely on one of his teammates, Jimmie Johnson, to advance in the Chase. Elliott enters the Sunday’s race 25 points out of the final transfer spot. Johnson has already locked himself into the next round.

Elliott expects the two to sit down later this weekend to discuss how they can help each other.

“I think the biggest thing is just to not hurt one another,” Elliott said. “At the end of the day you can be in situations, and it can be hard to help somebody so to speak, but there are sometimes where you could hurt them a lot easier. So I think just trying to avoid the hurt side of that and just be as helpful as you can be without getting yourself in trouble.”

Stewart-Haas Racing finds itself in a similar situation. A win last weekend at Kansas Speedway advanced Kevin Harvick in the Chase, while teammate Kurt Busch is fifth on the Chase grid. Busch has a 17-point advantage on the final transfer spot.

Team owner Tony Stewart, eliminated after the first round of the Chase, admitted he has one agenda for his last Talladega race.

“All I care about is Kurt,” Stewart said Thursday during a Mobil 1 media event. “That’s the only one I care about this weekend. (Toyota) They won’t help us, so why would we help them? That’s the scenario that it’s been put into. I’m only worried about him. Kurt’s the only one I’m worried about now. I’ll sit in the back, and I’ll cruise, and that way if they have a bad pit stop or get disconnected from the pack, I’ll be back there to pick him up and make sure we get him back where he needs to be.
“You see it and see how it plays out most of the time better than I do there. It’s got the potential to be really chaotic because of the cutoff this week. There’s a lot of guys who had a bad week who are having to make up for it. I don’t think it’s going to be a very calm, peaceful race this weekend. I think there’s going to be a lot happening.”

The goal for the likes of Elliott and Johnson, as well as Stewart and Busch, will be to replicate what Team Penske accomplished in 2014. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski perfected their teamwork in the Talladega cutoff race to advance both cars in the Chase.

Logano was already locked into the third round while Keselowski was in a must-win situation. The two controlled much of the race by drafting together and working every lane the pack formed. As the race wound down, Logano and Keselowski were not only at the front of the field, but Logano played blocker for his teammate. Keselowski won.

“Brad was in a do-or-die situation, and I was locked in, so our main goal was to get Brad through,” Logano said of that race. “That was our goal. There was a lot of talk about how we help each other and how we can put him in position to make the moves at the end of the race. I gave him my commitment that I was going to be there for him. I was going to push him along. I was going to do everything that I knew how to do to help him win.”

Logano and Keselowski will be in a different situation Sunday as neither has locked into the Round of 8. Logano is in the final transfer spot, tied with Austin Dillon, who’s ninth. Keselowski is 11th on the Chase grid, six points out of a transfer spot.

“That situation will happen throughout a lot of other teams this week, but it’s something Brad and I need to have an understanding that, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to help each other as much as we can, but we both kind of have to win,’ ” Logano said. “It’s a little bit different than (the 2014) race, but at the same time, we’re good teammates. We’re going to race each other, and we’re going to help each other like we do every single week.”

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NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.