Who can knock Team Penske off its Talladega pedestal?

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – OK, so Stewart-Haas Racing placed all four of its cars in the top four starting spots for today’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Now comes the challenging part.

How will SHR — or any other team for that matter — beat Team Penske, which has won six of the last eight races at Talladega?

“The same way we did (in qualifying),” Clint Bowyer said. “You’ve got to have fast cars. You’ve got to be faster than they are. You have to handle better, you have to do your job in the car and the communication with the spotter, the whole total package aspect of it comes to play.

“You’ve got to be good with your spotter, you’ve got to be good at call them blocks or call them whatever, catching those runs before they get to you in a timely manner, don’t miss them, don’t be late, capitalize on all those runs in your mirror and things like that, and when you’re behind, which you will be, make sure you make the right moves, whether that’s going up the middle, the outside, the bottom. 

“It’s such a work of art to try to imagine where … you need to be and then put yourself in that position.”

So often Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have put themselves in the right position. Each has won three times during Team Penske’s reign at this 2.66-mile track, which requires persistence, patience and power. Logano won here in April, leading the final 42 laps. Keselowski used a last-lap pass to win this playoff race a year ago. Logano and Keselowski have combined to win each of the last four fall races at Talladega.

But that’s merely history to Keselowski.

“We can talk about it, but then you’ve got to put up, so hopefully we can do that,” he said of his organization’s role as a favorite.

While Kurt Busch (pole), Bowyer (second), Kevin Harvick (third) and Almirola (fourth) will be able to control the front of the field at the beginning, Team Penske will start toward the middle fo the pack. Keselowski qualified 18th, Ryan Blaney 19th and Logano 20th. 

“I’m not terribly concerned about it,” Keselowski said of his starting spot. “Of course I’d like to start a little further up but not terribly concerned.”