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Chase Elliott exudes cool confidence heading into turbulent Talladega

NASCAR America previews the next Cup Series playoff race at Talladega and examines how drivers should approach the restrictor-place race

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Chase Elliott rarely gets riled up, whether it is because of the genes passed from his father Bill or a lifetime in racing and seeing the ups and downs that can happen.

So finishing last at Dover a week after winning at the Roval didn’t phase him. He also didn’t let the engine failure at Dover bother him because the moment he laments his place in the standings — seven points out of the final transfer spot — he can tell himself “Well, we should have won more races in the regular season and it wouldn’t matter.”

It’s that mindset that keeps him calm heading into Sunday’s playoff Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) even as there could be much turmoil on the track. In few other races do drivers anticipate being in a crash. A multi-car accident could devastate or help a driver’s playoff chances. It just depends on who is collected.

Elliott won’t let the fear of the unknown at Talladega bother him.

“I think as you get put in bad positions throughout the playoffs, really and truly your situation just becomes clearer as to what you have to do,” Elliott said Friday. “Especially, when you get in the hole early, it just becomes very evident that you have to go do a really good job the next two weeks to make it through.

“Obviously, we don’t want our season to be over after Kansas, so we have a lot of emphasis on these next two weeks. I’m going to do the best job I can do, my guys are going to do the best job they can do, and we’ll see where it ends up.”

Whether Elliott, who won here in April, is in a must-win position is dependent on what happens to other playoff drivers.

“I don’t think we’re in a position where we have to win right now to make it through this round,” Elliott said. “I think we’re really close. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather win than be stressing about stage points. But I don’t think we’re to that point yet. If we can have a good day on Sunday, I think that would really help. Who knows, we’ll see.”

Asked about having a positive attitude entering this weekend, Elliott notes: “I think we all have a level of just tolerating it.

“When you hit something really hard multiple times, you don’t enjoy that and nobody does. At the same time, that’s part of it and I don’t really know what you do about that. We’re going really fast, we’re in an enclosed circuit and there are walls on the outside and inside. The odds of you hitting something at some point I’d say are pretty good.

“I just think we have to take it for what it is and like I said, it’s a toss-up whether you make it through the race on Sunday. But somebody is going to make it through the event, somebody is going to get the win, and somebody is going to get the points that come along with it. You would certainly rather that be your team than watch somebody else. I just think you have to keep that in mind as much as you may not enjoy it, that’s the reality of it.”