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

Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have already clinched a spot in the Round of 8, while others need to either play it safe or take chances in order to ensure their participation in the Chase continues.

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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