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NASCAR America: Talladega strategy pays off for Joe Gibbs Racing teammates

Joe Gibbs Racing is the first team to have four drivers advances to the Round of 8 in the Chase, and they were able to do so because of their extremely conservative strategy at Talladega.

Aside from Joey Logano’s win and Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch’s tiff Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, one of the biggest stories to come out of the Hellmann’s 500 was Joe Gibbs Racing’s plan for three of its cars to avoid dangerous entanglements.

Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth spent the majority of the 192-lap race riding together a good distance back from the main pack. The trio of drivers, who transferred into the Round of 8, never engaged in the main action of the race.

“Situational awareness is really important,” NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton said on NASCAR America. “As a race fan, which by the way I am, it sucks. I hate to watch people ride around in the back. But they did what they had to do in order to advance. Remember the goal is to win the championship.”

Analyst Steve Letarte agreed that watching the Gibbs cars drive in the back wasn’t fun to watch but approved of the plan.

“I understand why it’s unpopular, I didn’t enjoy watching it, but if I’m Adam Stevens (crew chief for Busch), if I’m Jason Ratcliff (crew chief for Kenseth), that is the exact strategy I would have (executed in Talladega),” Letarte said.

The former crew chief also addressed whether the JGR’s plan violated NASCAR’s “100 percent” rule that was introduced following the Michael Waltrip Racing scandal at Richmond in 2013.

“The 100 percent rule means you cannot throw your race way to try and change someone else’s day,” Letarte said. “They employed a strategy to earn the finish that those three Joe Gibbs cars needed. Not the one everyone wanted. The one they needed.”