Photo: Christian Koelle/Frontstretch

What the Playoff Contenders are Saying: Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Six drivers enter Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega still needing to lock themselves into the next round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, but only four spots remain.

Justin Haley and Grant Enfinger are safe heading into the wild card race, but the outlook for the remaining playoff drivers is still up in the air. All six addressed their thoughts heading into the 94-lap event that will determine who moves on and who will be left on the outside looking in.

Johnny Sauter (+40 above cut-off – starting fifth): “I guess anything can happen, so I’m a glass half empty kind of guy, so tomorrow, you just never know what’s going to happen…We just have to play a smart first stage or two and hopefully we can accumulate some points. I’m kind of in the same boat Stewart (Friesen) is in, I’m not going to worry about it. Things are either going to work out or they won’t.”

Noah Gragson (+23 points – starting 13th): “You want to try and survive. We’re still on the good side but we can’t go hang around in the back because if those guys have really good point stages, and we get collected in the final stage in a wreck, we might not make it. It’s not offense or defense.

“For me personally, I have worked really hard with my crew chief Rudy (Fugle) preparing for the different situations points-wise, and how the race can lay out. We’re just trying to eliminate a factor of question when we’re out on the race track. I want to be in the know as much as possible. We’ve been working really hard on situations and what it can come down to. I feel like we’re in a pretty good place right now.”

Brett Moffitt (+18 points – starting eighth): “I have been fortunate enough to run Daytona a few times. This is plain and simple an easier version of Daytona in a way. The handling doesn’t come into play quite as much as it does at Daytona. It gives me confidence here. Our first few runs I was just trying to figure everything out through the Tri-Ovals, which are a little touchy here due to that seam above the first grove. You really have to work through there careful and make sure you’re not pushing through there. It’s plate-racing. My plate-racing history is terrible right now. Hopefully we can change that.”

Matt Crafton (+7 points – starting ninth): “It’s Talladega. At the end of the day, you’re always a little bit on edge when you get here. By yourself, it’s simple, but when you get out there in the draft and then everybody gets more comfortable, then they step it up and everybody gets crazy.

“I’m just going to go out there and race and try to get as many stage points as I can. It is what it is. If we’re meant to be, it’s meant to be. We’re just going to go out there and drive our butt off all day long tomorrow and see what happens and how it shakes out at the end.”

Ben Rhodes (-7 points – starting 14th): “This is going to be a very challenging and tricky race at Talladega because our entire season is coming down to this one race – to know if we’re going to advance in the playoffs or if we’re going to be falling short. Unfortunately, luck plays a big part in this race, but you also have to be smart – team and driver.

“For us, we have to be cautiously aggressive. That means we have to be running in the top-five to top-10 the entire race, scoring as many stage points as possible. At the same time, survival is the biggest element here. Any of the drivers not locked in to the next round could fall out of the playoffs here, and it could possibly come down to who wrecks out first this weekend. We have to be careful, we have to play it safe, but we also have to be going for every point we can get.”

Stewart Friesen (-10 points – starting 11th): “We know what we have to do. We have to make a lot of points, so we have to race our own race. Whatever Crafton and Rhodes there are doing, it doesn’t force our had any which way. We’ve got to race hard and collect some stage points and be there at the end too.”

The green flag for the Fr8Auctions 250 is scheduled for 1:00 pm ET on FOX.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.