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Talladega Notes: Bumping Bumped

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2009
This would be considered a no-no during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

This would be considered a no-no during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Drivers get black-flagged by officials in Sprint Cup races for goofy driving all the time. But during practice?

That is exactly what happened at Talladega Superspeedway as NASCAR called Michael Waltrip into the pits during practice.

Officials had warned drivers about dangerous bump-drafting at Talladega prior to the practice and when Waltrip started banging on the rear bumper of Jimmie Johnson’s car, out came the black flag.

Johnson didn’t sound surprised.

“They told us before practice started that they were not going to allow that stuff,” the Chase points-leader said. “And when he got on my bumper and was pushing me, I’m like I don’t know what I can do here to stop this, so I’ll just hang on and run a fast lap. And they certainly black-flagged him after that.”

Sprint Cup series director John Darby said NASCAR will not hesitate to bring out the black flag for bump drafting during Sunday’s AMP Energy Drink 500.

At Talladega, where the race lead can change hands several times on each lap, starting from the pole does not mean a whole lot in terms of going on to win the race.

But it does mean something.

Jimmie Johnson, who will start the race from the pole because rain washed out qualifying and he is the Chase points leader, said his place in front of the field represents a real bonus or two.

“It’ll give us a chance to try to get five points, which is nice,” he said. “The safest place really, is leading. So it we’re able to stay up front and ride around up there for a long time, to do it the whole race would be great. But there is so much here that is out of control with not only the crashing aspect that we’ve all been talking about, but the draft and how impatient guys are going to want to be to lead a lap.

“With all 12 Chase drivers there, especially with the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) behind me and the No. 5 (Mark Martin) next to me and so forth and so on, everybody’s going to be trying hard at the beginning to get a lap led. So we’ll just be smart and take it as it comes. Obviously it’s a great pit stall pick down at the end of pit road in that first stall. So hopefully we can use all that to our advantage.”

Elliott Sadler took his first laps in a Ford during practice on Friday since he drove for Robert Yates Racing back in 2005.

He took those laps because his current team, Richard Petty Motorsports, is switching over the Fords.

“We learned a lot yesterday in practice,” Sadler said. “We learned a lot of stuff yesterday and I think our guys learned a lot about the Ford Fusion and how you work on it and the adjustments we can make to it.  We don’t have winter testing anymore, and the Daytona 500 is one of my best races and it is the Super Bowl of our sport, so I’m glad the teams were able to get together and put this deal together where we can come here and race and learn some things about the Ford COT car, which I have never been in and Kasey (Kahne) has never been in and A.J. (Allmindinger) has never been in.  So we wanted to learn these things as best we can before we get to Daytona in racing conditions.

“There’s only so much you can learn at a test anyway, if you even had it, but now that we don’t have it, this is a great test session for us.  It’s like they told me yesterday, I was a lab rat this weekend – learning what we can learn for our race team for next year.  We’ve already learned some cool things that we think we can do better to our cars before we go to the Daytona 500, so even before we drop the green flag it’s already been a success.”

North Wilkesboro Speedway, a cornerstone in stock car racing’s foundation and a track that occupies a special place in grassroots racing fans’ hearts, will reopen next year with a date in the USARacing Pro Cup Championship Series, it was announced Saturday.

Scheduled for Oct. 3, 2010, the race will be on the traditional fall weekend that for many years hosted NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series from NASCAR’s inception in 1949 until the track closed after its fall race in 1996.

North Wilkesboro’s two Cup dates were moved to New Hampshire and Texas. But with the dawn of the 2010 racing season, the 0.625-mile track will again host auto racing.

“We are extremely pleased to be the first national touring racing series to return to the true roots of stock car racing,” USARacing Managing Partner Larry Camp said. “We know the people of Wilkes County and the surrounding area of North Carolina have missed stock car racing on this storied track.”

Both Dodge and Chevrolet unveiled their 2010 Nationwide Series cars this weekend at Talladega.

Dodge will run the Challenger and Chevrolet will run the Impala SS.

Said Dave Bailey, senior manager, Dodge Motorsports Engineering, “Dodge is the performance brand of Chrysler LLC and the Challenger is the production vehicle that went out to market in 2009. We see this as the perfect opportunity to come in and launch into this (Nationwide) series the look of the car and get that connection back with the fans of this high-horsepower performance car. We’re real happy about the Nationwide Challenger’s design and characteristics and can’t wait for it to hit the track.”

Shane Martin, GM Racing program manager for the Nationwide Series, said, “A lot of work went in to this new NASCAR Nationwide Series car. Chevrolet is fully behind the safety features of the current car (Impala SS) that is running in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Moving the driver more inside, that is what this is doing. We were given strict parameters for the aero targets for all four manufacturers and they gave us a little more window to work with than in the Cup cars does for brand identity.

“Our marketing and branding departments chose the Impala and we were given the Impala design to meet in the parameters and we worked very hard. There was a lot of wind tunnel testing, numerous that we went through to get this car to be close with all the other cars.  I think the difference between all four is I think three horsepower of drag and just a few pounds of downforce. So, we are in a very tight window.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Jerry Hall says:

    I had to write in to leave a comment. I worked hard on Sat. to be able to set and watch the NASCAR race on Sunday. What a let down! Was the boringest race I have ever watched. What kind of racing is it when drivers set in the back of the field and not race until the last few laps? Let them race! They are race car drivers, the best in the world if you listen to the commetators. Take the plates off and figure a way to keep the cars on the ground. I watched highlights of races past. You only had a hand full of cars at the end of the race that were together. The field was spread out and not all bunched together. With todays technology and the new safety meassures in place, safer barriers, better saefty equiptment for the drivers, why not let it happen. Take the plates off and let them go. You could even come up with something like a smaller cubic inch engine with no plate and see what happens. There has to be a better way of racing and until they do I will not watch another race at Talledaga. Thanks.

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