The Top Five: Breaking down the Talladega playoff race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway…

1. Actually, it wasn’t a bad race

Talladega was a restrictor-plate demolition derby unlike anything we’d seen in a long time.

— Only 14 cars were still running at the finish — 14! — and only eight of those were still held together enough to actually race for the win.

— The 11 cautions tied a race record! Yep, none of the 96 other races run at Talladega have ever had more cautions than Sunday.

— Kyle Larson was a lap down — and finished 13th! Trevor Bayne, whose car appears on the crash report twice, finished third!

Given all that, it’s understandable if people look at the results and go, “Ugh, what a joke.” Not to go all #WellActually on you, but it really was a good race up until the point the carnage broke out.

Think about it: The first Big One didn’t take place until there were 17 laps to go. Prior to that, the field was two-, three- and even four-wide in a brilliant display of how good plate racing can be. There were lead changes and strategy and dicey moves, and no one spent time hanging at the back trying to avoid the wreck.

They actually raced.

Only at the end, when it was Go Time, did it really get crazy and kind of ridiculous. But that’s not really a surprise; after all, it’s Talladega.

As long as cars aren’t flipping or flying — which they didn’t on Sunday — the rest of it is just side effect of what was a pretty thrilling show.

2. Master Kes

For a last-lap pass, there didn’t seem to be too much excitement from the crowd at Talladega. The fans seemed deflated after Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh, so even Brad Keselowski’s thrilling move didn’t save the day for them.

But it was fitting that Keselowski won Earnhardt’s final plate race, because it was a symbolic passing of the torch from the best plate racer of this generation to the next.

Keselowski has now won at Talladega five times and six wins overall in restrictor-plate points races. Earnhardt finished his career with six Talladega wins and had 10 plate wins in points races.

Though Talladega unquestionably contains a lot of randomness in surviving long enough to be there at the end, the actual winning moves often require a very specific skill. And Keselowski might be the best at it.

We often see the race leader be able to block a late run. But Ryan Newman couldn’t do it — granted, he had some degree of nose damage — and Keselowski ended up playing the finish perfectly. He deserves a ton of credit for the execution.

“You’d love to be able to pat yourself on the back and say it’s all skill, but there is some luck that’s involved in this,” Keselowski said. “… You know when you come here that probably three out of every four races you’re going to get caught up in a wreck or something like that happens.

“But the races where you have the good fortune, where you don’t get caught up in a wreck or you don’t have something break or any of those things, you have to take those races, run up front and win them. And I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Junior Nation probably doesn’t give a crap about all this, given their disappointment, but it’s important to recognize we’re watching a rare and unique talent when Keselowski has the chance to win at Talladega.

3. Playoff race?

Fans still give Kyle Busch a hard time for saying Talladega and Daytona aren’t “real” racing. But seriously — is it? And does it belong in the playoffs?

Those questions are likely to pop up after a day when only two of the 12 playoff drivers finished on the lead lap.

“I’m sure there are a lot of competitors who say they wish (Talladega wasn’t in the playoffs), because you can’t control your own fate,” Denny Hamlin said after finishing sixth. “In no other sport does your competition make a mistake and it cost you. In our sport, it does.”

Hamlin suggested to NBC Sports last week that Talladega should be the regular season finale instead of a playoff race.

And indeed, that seems like a better solution. It doesn’t feel right in a lot of ways for the outcome of a championship to be impacted by an event with so much randomness. Because, let’s be honest: Kyle Busch was right.

Whether it’s “real racing” or not, though, it definitely won’t be changing anytime soon.

“I don’t know that there’s a desire to have a different product here at this type of racetrack,” said Ryan Newman, who was once one of the most outspoken drivers against plate racing.

4. Dale Jr.’s health

There were tens of thousands of people rooting for Earnhardt to win his final restrictor-plate race, which felt like his last, best shot at a victory before he retires.

Personally, I was just hoping he made it through the race without getting another concussion.

That sounds sort of dark, but it’s the truth. All season, I’ve thought in the back of my head: “I wonder if he can get through the plate races without suffering a huge hit.” And — luckily — he did. He had to make it through three close calls to do it, but he survived.

“This was one that I was worried about in the back of my mind,” Earnhardt said afterward. “I was a little concerned. But you can’t win the race if you race scared, and I’ve raced scared here before, and you don’t do well when that happens. So you have to block it out and just go out there and take the risks and hope that it’s just not your day to get in one of those accidents. And it wasn’t.”

Earnhardt fans didn’t get the win they wanted, but this was also a victory: Their driver competed for the win all day and left with his health intact, meaning he just has to make it five more races.

Wrecks can happen anywhere, but the chances sure are a lot lower at other tracks.

And along those lines, Earnhardt felt that by racing hard, he proved something to the critics who charged he has been too timid at times this season.

“Anyone who questions our desire to be here and compete this year and our desire to run hard and face can look at the risks that we took this afternoon, knowing that any of those crashes would have probably given me a bit of an injury that would have held me out of the rest of the season,” he said.

5. Pointed situation

Kyle Busch might not make it past Round 2 of the playoffs.

That’s crazy, isn’t it? All year long, it’s pretty much been a Martin Truex Jr./Busch/Kyle Larson show. Those three seemed to be the main title contenders going into the playoffs, and the conventional wisdom was Busch was at least a lock for Round 3 thanks to his 41 playoff points.

Welp…

Busch is currently seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final playoff spot entering Kansas. And Matt Kenseth is just one point behind him, so it’s not like he can focus just on beating one or two drivers next week.

Yeah, he could go win there — Busch has five straight top-five finishes at Kansas, including a victory last year in the spring. But there’s a very real chance he could fail to make the cut.

On a similar note, Johnson could be out if he doesn’t have a good run — which is also hard to believe.

I doubt many of us would have predicted two of the elite Toyotas or the seven-time champion would be in danger of failing to make it past Round 2, but that’s the case. And it’s going to make Kansas a very interesting cutoff race.

DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: Talladega playoff race

I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission.

Last race’s results: Played $4 Brake Pad contest. Finished 650th of 1,300. Won $0.

Season results: $97 wagered, $104.50 won in 25 contests.

This week’s contest: Due to stupid Alabama law, I cannot submit an entry this week.

Talladega strategy: Don’t look at practice times, just look at qualifying and focus on place differential. In this year’s Daytona 500, the perfect lineup was made up of drivers who all started 30th or lower. Try to find drivers in the back of the field who can make up spots, regardless of how much salary cap money you leave on the table. It’s all about place differential.

Talladega picks: 

— Aric Almirola ($6,300): Since the start of last season, Almirola has the third-best average finish in restrictor-plate races of any driver (11.67, which is behind only Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.). That makes him worth including, especially since he starts lower (26th) than other expert plate drivers.

— Michael McDowell ($6,000): He starts 29th in his first plate race since finishing fourth in the Daytona July race. He crashed in the Talladega spring race, but was 15th in the Daytona 500, 16th at Talladega on year ago and 10th in last year’s Daytona July race. Another good value pick.

— David Ragan ($5,800): A past Talladega winner who has finished 10th and sixth in his past two restrictor-plate races — and he starts 33rd? Put him on the team.

— Landon Cassill ($5,600): He starts 30th and his Talladega history in the last three years includes results of fourth and 11th (twice). Even if he gets a top 20, that’s picking up some decent points for you.

— Brendan Gaughan ($5,300): His three restrictor-plate races this season in the Cup Series include finishes of 11th and seventh. Pretty incredible value if he can do it again at Talladega after starting 35th.

— Cole Whitt ($5,000): He starts 38th, but that’s an opportunity. Before blowing an engine in the July Daytona race, Whitt’s previous restrictor-plate finishes were 16th (at Talladega in the spring), 18th (Daytona 500), 11th (July Daytona race last year) and 18th (Talladega spring race last year). So…hello!

Stage points will change the face of Talladega race

Sunday’s race has a chance to be the most action-packed playoff event at Talladega in years — at least from start to finish.

That might sound like hyperbole — the kind you see in all the TV commercials that try to get people to tune in — but there’s reason to believe it might actually be true.

Why? Because two major changes have made it to where playoff drivers simply cannot afford to ride around for 500 miles and wait to race until the end.

First of all, Talladega is now the second race of Round 2 instead of the elimination race. That means drivers have less of a points cushion than they would if two races were already under their belts, so they can’t just try and protect a lead.

Second, the stage points are going to be a massive factor in shaping the race. Playoff drivers absolutely cannot afford to lay back and pass up the opportunity to get a potential 20 stage points.

That means the scramble for stage points at the end of Stages 1 and 2 — which conclude on Lap 55 and Lap 110, respectively — might be extremely dicey.

“We’ve seen in the past that drivers come in here and say, ‘I’ve just got to finish 25th,'” Joey Logano said Friday. “Then they just ride around the back all day until it’s the end of the race and they go up and finish 25th.

“Well, that’s pretty boring. Fans don’t want to see that, so NASCAR has made some good decisions, I think, by making this not the final race in this round, and then also adding the stages you can’t afford to give up those stage points.”

Let’s say a driver gets a fifth-place finish but ends up with no stage points. That’s only 35 points, which Logano noted isn’t that great of a day considering five drivers scored more than 40 points last week at Charlotte.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who needs to rely on stage points to overcome his current deficit, predicted “at least 10 of us racing really hard for that.”

“There are a lot of us within 20 points of each other, so I think that’s gonna be key is how hard we’re gonna race for those stage points,” he said.

Stenhouse isn’t the only one looking at stage points as a key factor in the race. Chase Elliott said his philosophy has been his team needs to use stage points to make up for a lack of playoff points at the start of each round.

“Stage points are really our only way of catching up,” he said. “That’s something I have looked at and something everyone else is looking at, too.”

That said, Elliott doesn’t think those points will be worth making an overly aggressive move at the possible expense of the overall finish.

“I definitely think there is going to be some emphasis on running well in the stages, but I just hope that everybody will want to get to the end as much as they want to have stage finishes, too,” he said. “So I really don’t know, but I could see it being pretty wild to try and get those points.”

 

 

Was Parker Kligerman too aggressive? He explains winning strategy

En route to taking the underdog No. 75 truck to a win at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Parker Kligerman ruffled feathers with some aggressive pushing that left drivers complaining on the radio.

Christopher Bell, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger were among the drivers who told their spotters to tell Kligerman to back off at various points during the race.

“Try not to let that 75 get behind me,” Rhodes said at one point.

“Get him off me, man!” Bell said late in the race. “Get him off me!”

So were all the complaints justified, or were those drivers just not used to taking a push?

“There’s some incredibly talented drivers out there, but I think we forgot how to tandem a little bit,” Kligerman said when asked. “We’re not allowed to tandem, but if you watch Joey Logano in the Xfinity car (at plate races) in the last couple years, he does that tap-tap-tap thing.”

That “tap-tap-tap thing” is a borderline bump draft, but legal because the vehicles are not locking bumpers. So as long as the bumpers aren’t together for more than a couple seconds, NASCAR is fine with that.

Kligerman decided if he could make that happen with the current rules package, “then we’ve got to do that.” And the best time to do so would be in the first two stages, when there were built-in cautions to help with experimentation.

His reaction to hearing a few drivers were upset?

“Whatever. I thought we were here to race,” he said. “… I didn’t spin anyone out, so I think it worked. We passed a lot of trucks and got ourselves to the front a couple times. And when it came down to it, all of them were doing the same thing. So I don’t see any harm or foul.”

Chris Carrier, Kligerman’s crew chief, heard the question and asked if he chimed in. His take was decidedly more blunt.

“I’ve been a crew chief for 40-some years,” he said. “The guys I see complaining are the guys who want to be Sunday drivers. They’d better grow up. If you don’t want to cut the grass, you’d better not mind getting grass in your shoes. That’s part of it, like it or not. Grow up.”

Brennan Poole on his future: ‘I don’t have anything set’

Brennan Poole’s 2018 plans were the subject of conflicting reports this week. First, Motorsport.com reported Poole was out at Chip Ganassi Racing and could be heading to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 car in the Cup Series. But then Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates told Sirius/XM Radio the Xfinity Series driver would likely be returning to CGR next season.

So what’s the deal?

“I don’t have anything set,” Poole said via phone on Friday. “Like I don’t really have any plans. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I haven’t really had an in-depth conversation with Ganassi. So I really just am not sure.”

Poole said he’s “definitely open to all opportunities,” but insisted he sincerely doesn’t know where he’ll be racing next season. That murky future includes whether sponsor DC Solar will continue to align with him.

“Honestly — honestly — I really don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had a great relationship with them over the past several years, but there hasn’t been any talks. So I really just don’t know.”

What the 26-year-old does know, he said, is his team has a great chance to win a championship this season — and that’s where his attention lies after three straight top-five finishes helped him breeze through the first round of the playoffs.

“I’ve certainly been flattered with everything that’s happened course of this week, and my name being out there and tossed around,” he said. “But really, I’ve just been focused on a championship this year.”

A driver whose career once seemed completely done, Poole got the opportunity to run part time in the Xfinity Series in 2015 when co-owners Harry Scott and Ganassi offered him a ride a month before the season began. His results were impressive enough to land him a full season in the series last year — when he finished eighth in points — and he then returned this season.

After a rough start, Poole has scored 10 top-10 finishes in the last 13 races and was the highest-finishing playoff driver in two of the Round 1 races.

“We didn’t have the best start to the season, but the past couple months have just been outstanding,” he said. “We’ve been bringing really fast race cars and putting ourselves in position to win. I think it shows a lot about where our team is at and how much I’ve grown as a driver.”

That’s why Poole said he “wouldn’t say I’m nervous or anything” about his 2018 plans. He’s confident that if he can go win the title, the future will take care of itself.

“I’ve got four races left to get this championship done,” he said. “We have what it takes. I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen on the track and what’s next for me.”

Social Spotlight with Paige Keselowski

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Paige Keselowski, wife of Brad Keselowski. Note: This interview is not available in podcast form this week due to a microphone malfunction. Apologies. 

One thing that you’ve been part of over the last year are these Facebook Live visits that Brad has been doing, where you and Brad will go out to the campgrounds and surprise people and bring them goodies. You’re usually the camera person. So how did that all get started?

It started in Watkins Glen over a year ago. We didn’t have the baby for the weekend and we were like, “Oh, let’s do something, because it’s too late to go anywhere.” So Brad was like, “Why don’t we just ride around the campgrounds?” I said, “Oh, that sounds fun.” I’ve always liked to ride through with the scene and see everyone having a good time, especially at night, chilling here. It’s a good time.

Brad said, “We’ll take a few gifts and maybe we’ll see some 2 fans and we’ll surprise them.” I said, “OK, that sounds good.” And he said, “Why don’t we try it on this new Facebook Live?”

So that’s really how it got started and it was really a successful thing. There were like thousands and thousands of views, a lot of people commenting. At the time, I used to try to read off questions so Brad would answer them. Because at first, the plan was, “Let’s turn on Facebook Live, drive around and if you see someone, then we’ll stop.” So we kind of searched people out as we were driving and we were able to just have a Q and A with Brad.

And then as it’s kind of evolved, we’ve done it a little differently. Brad will tweet out that we’re gonna head out to the campgrounds and fans will tweet us their locations. So now we try to choose someone and we literally go out and search for their campground. That makes it a little more exciting, trying to find them. Like at Bristol this year, we had a family tweet us and they had literally put up directions to their campsite. Like they would have signs in their campground area all the way to their little campsite. Unfortunately, we made a huge effort to go find them, but the track wouldn’t let us in their area with the golf cart, so we actually did not get to meet them.

Now, even like for weeks before, people are like, “I’ll be at Dover, I’ll be at campsite such and such. Here are my directions, please come see us.” They’ll like tweet us pictures. It’s evolved.

(The campers) are really cool because they’ve been at the same campgrounds for years and they know all their neighbors. So when you get there, it’s actually like their neighbors are benefiting, because they’re like, “This is my friend Joe! He’s been here with us for years. Can you get a picture with him?” It’s a really cool thing. They become family out there and they’re enjoying our sport, and that’s what really matters.

And I think for Brad, it means a lot to him to be able to go and have a personal conversation in a comfortable, relaxed, fun setting with his fans who appreciate him and want to tell him about who they are, and he gets to really know their families and people around them.

I will say that sometimes, it makes me a little anxious going out there just because it’s usually at night and everyone’s been drinking and it’s like a big party. You’re going out to this campsite and you don’t know these people and you have no idea who the people are around them. They’re either really excited or they’re really chill. You don’t know what you’re gonna get.

And then it’s like a domino effect. The whole campground finds out Brad is there and it’s just like bees — they start swarming. I’m like, “Oh no! How are we ever gonna get away?” But everyone has been so nice, so welcoming. It’s really kind of an exciting thing. I don’t really say a whole lot on the camera, I just like to video and I like to take in everyone’s reaction to Brad showing up.

So in general, how do you see your role with Brad’s fans? Do you consciously try to keep people informed, or are you just being yourself?

I guess maybe I’m trying to figure out a role  — if there is a role. I don’t feel like I’m here to really inform them. I tweet out things when I want to about Scarlett or the three of us, just because I like it. I’ll like this picture, this video of her, and I just want everyone else to get a smile or laugh because of something that she’s done.

But other than that, I think Brad does a pretty good job himself of keeping his fans informed of who he is or what he cares about and what he thinks about things. I just feel like my role is to be a mom and support the Miller 2 Crew. So when I have to opportunity to put things out, I’ll do it. Other than that, I try to just enjoy social media myself. I don’t want to be part of the PR team.

So your Twitter is public. You have other private accounts as well, so obviously you don’t want to share out everything in the world. What is the balance? How do you manage privacy on social media with such a public platform?

It’s funny you say that, because we’ve been having these discussions lately with Instagram accounts, because I have Instagram and I do have Facebook, but both of those I basically keep private.

But I’ve been pushed lately — not in a bad way — to open my Instagram or to open an Instagram for our family that Brad and I would do together. Then I’ve had people ask me, “Why don’t you open your Instagram? You have so many good things on there and your (Instagram) Stories of Scarlett are so funny.”

I want to be able to post whenever I want to post and not have people going, “Ugh, you post all the time,” or, “Why is she posting that picture?” I feel like for Instagram, I hope it stays around for a long time so it’s like an album that I have of all my photos, you know? And if you want to follow them, fine; and if you don’t because I post too much, you don’t have to follow me.

But I guess that’s why I keep it private, it’s because I post so much on there and I enjoy it. I think Instagram is probably my favorite social media (platform).

You seem like an opinionated person, from what I know of you. Sometimes you may have an opinion of something that goes on during a race. Have you ever gotten in trouble from one of your tweets?

Yes, I did get in trouble for one of my tweets. And I didn’t even think it was that bad. The funny thing is, I feel like I barely tweet, and when I do tweet, it’s not about controversial things. It’s mainly of Scarlett or…what do I tweet? I don’t even know myself.

But yes, I got in trouble, and it was over the NASCAR app where you can listen to the scanners during the race. And I just said it was disappointing that (the app) was behind when we were trying to listen — and I got told that I need to shh and enjoy the sport. So I said, “OK.”

And it’s stuff like that that makes you not want to be a part of social media and be involved with the fans, because when you’re involved with the fans, you want to be honest with the fans. You want to have authentic, real conversations with the fans. You don’t want to just tell them this because that’s what other people want to hear. You want to be open.

So a lot of times, that’s why I don’t tweet a lot, it’s because I feel if I tweet something and it’s not what other people want to hear, then you’ll get in trouble with it. And that doesn’t make social media enjoyable, if someone takes 140 characters that you type and they dissect it all to what they think it might mean. So I guess in that sense, it’s why I don’t tweet a lot and I just stay off of it; then I don’t have to get the tweets saying how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s interesting that people would think you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you grew up in a racing family and your dad still races. You sometimes post about his victories and his races in eastern North Carolina. Do you feel like your history helps inform your opinions about racing?

My daddy’s been racing since well before I was born — dirt racing and now asphalt — and he still does it today. That’s basically his hobby and that’s what we did every weekend, even when I went to college. I felt like I needed to be there to support him. So you go on Saturday night, you watch your dad race, you drive back and then you go out with your friends or catch up. And I did that often, and even now Brad is good about getting me back to be able to see some of his races and bring Scarlett to share that with him. So since I know a lot about the sport, I know a lot about racing — I don’t know it all, and that’s OK, too. I just like to share and be a part of it.

Do you ever have moments where you see something that Brad has tweeted or shared, and you cringe and go, “Honey, why did you go there?”

Yes, I do that to him all the time. I’m like, “Oh, Brad.” And it’s not that I disagree with what he’s saying, I just know what’s coming behind it. I’m like, “Alright, let’s get through this.”

What happens when that negativity comes your way? At times when people are hateful or negative, how do you deal with that?

I block people.

You’re a blocker?

I’m a blocker. It’s funny, because we went out to dinner last night and I was telling Brad that I had with interview with you today, and I was like, “Yeah, I went to my Twitter to see how many people I have blocked.” It was 37, which is not a lot. I had 37 blocked, and two muted.

He was like, “Wow, let me see who they are!” So he started scrolling through and was like, “These are the same people I have blocked!” I’m like, “I wonder why?” (Laughs)

So I just block people. If you say something mean to me, if you say something to me about Brad, you have free right to say that. But whatever you want to say and you believe, I have just as much right to not want to read it. And I don’t. I don’t want my social media filled with negativity or mean remarks about my family, because that’s not fair to me, and so I’ll just block you.

That’s another reason why we’ve had the debate over Instagram, why I haven’t opened it: Because it’s going to be another opening of the floodgates to people who put negativity in your life, and that’s really sad, because you want to share these things. There are people out there who genuinely care or who are just interested in your life and watching Scarlett grow up, and they feel this connection to Brad because they’ve been a fan of his for years and now he has a family. And I don’t mind sharing those things; I’m happy to share those things. I love them.

But I don’t want to have to deal with the negativity, because that gets to wear on you. It’s like, come on. It just gets depressing at times, and you’re like, “Geez, is there nothing else in your life that you’re grateful for and you have to be negative towards someone else?”

I feel the same way. I’ve recently changed my philosophy, because I was just muting people, and now I’ve just decided, like you, to block them.

I don’t really know all the ins and outs about the mute, but definitely the block button. And Brad sat there last night as we were reading through them and he’s like, “I’m just gonna unblock some people tonight.” I’m like, “OK…” He says, “Everyone deserves a second chance. People change.” I’m like, “That’s why I love you.” (Laughs)

What’s the future for you on social media? As you navigate all this stuff, as Scarlett continues to grow up, do you feel like you’ll still want to continue to be on it or do you feel like you’re back off at some point? How do you think it’ll turn out for you?

I feel like in some ways, I have backed off. I’m less active, especially on Twitter. On race days, I’m here in the bus with Scarlett and I usually try to time it where she naps and I get to lay around and watch the race. So I’m definitely on Twitter during the race. Occasionally I’ll tweet my opinion, but I’ll probably cut back on that now since I got shushed.

I really rarely get on Facebook to look at things. Occasionally, I will post photos on an album. A lot of my Facebook is people from back home who don’t have Instagram or don’t follow me on Instagram. They always like to be in the know of what’s going on. But Facebook’s always out of order, and I can’t keep up. I’ll take time scrolling through and it’s like, “I’ve already seen these 10 posts.” So I’m not very active on there.

Now Instagram, I’m pretty active on it. I love to scroll through and look at pictures while Scarlett’s playing outside or whatever, taking a nap, and I love to follow her around. But I feel like from before she was born to now, I’ve been off of my social media a lot more.

But as far as Instagram, we’re still debating in the Keselowski household if we’re gonna open it or not. Brad wants me to, but we put out that poll a while back (asking fans whether they should make Brad’s account public) and everyone basically was like, “Just keep it closed.”

I was shocked at that. You ask people whether you should open a personal Instagram account to the public and people were like, “No, you have the right to privacy.” I was floored by that. I thought everyone would be like, “Yeah, we want to see more!”

We were, too. I was really shocked. I think Brad thought he was gonna win that because he’s like, “We’re gonna put a poll out, and if they say no, then we won’t, but if they say yes, we’re gonna open it.” I’m like, “OK.” And I thought I was gonna lose, honestly. But then we got back and we were just sitting there staring at it. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this!” So I don’t know.

They said no, so that’s fine, but we still get pushed from different angles for us to open it. And I told him if we did open it, I wanted it be our family account –maybe with some stuff from the Checkered Flag Foundation to be posted up there — and for the two of us to run it. It’d be really who we are in our day-to-day lives.

MORE: Social Spotlight with Brad Keselowski

Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers Power Rankings: Week 3

Each week during this season of Survivor, I’ll be ranking the castaways in terms of best chance to win the game. Last week, Simone was voted off after being ranked No. 17 of the 17 remaining players.

Week 3 Power Rankings: 

1. Ben (Last week: 1): He seems open to working with whoever he needs to in order to advance, as evidenced by his potential new partnership with Chrissy. He’s playing a smart game so far.

2. Ryan (Last week: 2): Nothing so far leads me to believe he won’t make a deep run, so no reason to drop him down the list.

3. Chrissy (Last week: 4): The former Mom Squad member looks like she removed herself from the bottom of the Heroes tribe last week and I’m more optimistic about her prospects now that she has Ben’s ear. She seems to be very smart and thinks several steps ahead.

4. Joe (Last week: 15): I originally had Joe at No. 2 to start the season and dropped him all the way to 15th last week after he was over aggressive in the first episode. Now that he seems to have calmed down — and found an idol with the help of Cole — I feel a bit better about his chances of making a run.

5. Ali (Last week: 8): She continues to be the most pleasant surprise of the season for me and is obviously a smart player. For example: When Simone was on the outs, she saw it as a potential opportunity. That’s just good gameplay (although Simone was ultimately given the boot).

6. Mike (Last week: 5): I’m worried he will be targeted by Joe before the tribes swap, which could lead to an early exit. But if he survives that far, he should be a key player because no one will look at him as a target.

7. Devon (Last week: 3): I still really like his partnership with Ryan, but Devon himself doesn’t seem like the kind of strategic player who could ultimately win it all. If he makes the merge, he’ll have to win a lot of immunity challenges to take the whole game.

8. JP (Last week: 6): His ability to stay calm and try to be a provider by catching fish is very wise at this point in the game. Ozzy has made several decent runs that way, so that model could work for awhile.

9. Ashley (Last week: 7): She’s still plugging away. For now, she just needs to keep her head down and let Alan be a bigger target on the Heroes tribe.

10. Cole (Last week: 11): He helped Joe find the idol, but then Joe seemed to hint at wanting to get him out at some point soon after. Plus, it’s hard to tell whether his potential showmance with Jessica will hurt his game.

11. Lauren (Last week: 9): It looked like she could have a potential alliance with Ali, which isn’t a bad thing since she professes not to be much of a people person.

12. Roark (Last week: 12): It’s still hard to get a feel for her game, as she hasn’t been featured much on the show so far. That said, she’s not an obvious target in the next couple weeks.

13. Jessica (Last week: 13): Her relationship with Cole is still concerning, and I don’t know how much that will affect her game.

14. Desi (Last week: 14): She seems like mostly a non-factor so far.

15. Alan (Last week: 16): The former football player was happy he created suspicion at camp by targeting JP and Ashley. That kind of game play might work at times, but it’s not the recipe for a $1 million win.

16. Patrick (Last week: 10): He’s starting to run wild, annoy people and wear on everyone’s nerves at camp. Not exactly a recipe for the ultimate winner of Survivor.

 


Eliminated: 

Week 1: Katrina (ranked No. 6 of 18 remaining players)

Week 2: Simone (ranked No. 17 of 17 remaining players)