Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.
That’s the mantra this week at Talladega, where any number of playoff drivers feel like it’s win or else and the other playoff drivers feel like they just need to stay out of trouble and finish.
It could make for an interesting day at what it always the least predictable track in the sport and the one race where every single driver in the field believes he can win.
If he wants to.
Or has to.
Dover was a disaster for Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Even with another race before four drivers are eliminated, those three and 10th-place Clint Bowyer enter Talladega needing to win.
You could make the case that Alex Bowman and William Byron need to win at Talladega too, since seven of the playoff drivers have won at the next track, Kansas. Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner there.
The carry over from Dover is that Kyle Larson can coast this week, and the other drivers at the top of the playoff standngs — Martin Truex, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick — could also hang out in the back of the pack without risking “the big one” up front.
Of course, the other carry over from Dover is Hamlin calling Logano “an idiot,” which is certainly filed away in Logano’s to-do list, something that doesn’t bode well for Hamlin in the long run.
Logano’s not a guy you want on your bad side or in your rear-view mirror.
He won’t take Hamlin out this week. He’ll wait for Kansas. Or better yet, Martinsville.
No one exacts revenge at Talladega, well not since the Carl Edwards-Keselowski feud a decade ago.
This is a race for survival, literally and figuratively. And while a handful of playoff drivers and all the non-playoff drivers will be trying to win, a small group of others just might sit this one out and wait until the big wreck before tip-toeing to the front.
The biggest races are still down the road. This one only feels like the biggest race of the year because it’s on the biggest track with the fastest speeds and the sheer insanity of Talladega.
The lead drivers will lead at the front in fearless four-wide racing, and the hopefuls outside the standings will follow in the shadows.
And those with insurance and good sense will watch from afar.
Maybe not out of the draft but certainly out of the way.