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Three Will Surely Be A Crowd Today At Talladega

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011

Those hoping that two-car drafts were just a fad at Daytona this year got bad news during Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Talladega is back and so is the type of two-car drafting that made the 2011 Daytona so, um, memorable.

It’s been called “Pairs Racing”, “Noah’s Ark Racing”, “Dirty Dancing” and, courtesy of Dale Earnhardt Jr., “Crap”.

From the grandstands and couches, some fans liked it, some hated it, some think it’s boring, some think it’s cool.

There is little debate about the fact that the very mention of it sets off emotions before and after the race in the garages.

During the race? Well, the drivers kind of have their hands full so most just drive and cope and curse.

And with drivers and teams hooked into the radios of other drivers and teams, the cursing should reach new levels of creativeness.

Several drivers were asked this week about their emotions during the kind of two-car drafting which everybody expects will occur in today’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega. Here is what a couple had to say:

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “I guess over time I’ve learned to really disconnect and really enjoy just being at the track and enjoy the experience and worry about when it’s

Jimmie Johnson prepares for the emotional and physical battle which drivers endure at Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

time during the race. I used to over worry a lot, especially when I come back in the fall the way we’ve been the last five years fighting for the championship that statement of it being easier said than done is very true. You’re worried about everything and you know that the race is coming and you can’t get around it and you need to finish the race to have a shot at the championship.”

Ryan Newman, No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet: “It’s more mentally, and therefore, emotionally challenging, than other races. When I got out of the race car at Texas, I was a whipped puppy. I think a lot of guys were. It was way more physically demanding than I thought it was going to be. Every race is mentally demanding, but this, here and Daytona, pretty much top it. And there are places like the road courses where it is mentally challenging because it takes a lot of discipline on the physical part, but that discipline is on the mental part too; like you mentally can put yourself in a physically bad position is what I’m getting at on one of those road courses.”

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet: “It is still more mentally draining to deal with you guys (the media) than it is to drive the cars here.”

Trivia time

There will be only one driver in today’s race who has made more than two Sprint Cup starts at Talladega and has had zero DNFs there. Who is it?

Fast facts

What: Aaron’s 499

Richard Childress and driver Jeff Burton kept an eye on the action on Saturday at Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Where: Talladega Superspeedway

When: Today, 1:15 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, noon ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 2.66-mile oval

Banking: 33 degrees in corners, 16.5 degrees on frontstretch, 2 degrees on backstretch

Race distance: 188 laps/500 miles

2010 winner: Kevin Harvick

2010 polesitter: Jimmie Johnson

Today’s polesitter: Jeff Gordon

First race: The Talladega 500 in 1969

First race winner: Richard Brickhouse

First polesitter: Bobby Isaac

Technically speaking

This comes from Howard Comstock, Dodge Motorsports engineer:

“If you liked Daytona in February, you ought to really like Talladega this week.  The racing at Daytona was on a surface smooth enough that drivers could go flat out all day without the fear of handling issues holding them back.  It made for a pretty spectacular day. The good news with Talladega is that it’s always been like that.  It likely won’t be handling issues that drivers will complain about this week.  The slickest and most aerodynamic body shape and the best power you can make with your engine, despite the horsepower-robbing restrictor plate, will go a long way in deciding if you’re going to be the winner at Talladega.”

Track tidbits

Youngest pole winner: Jimmie Johnson (26 years, 7 months, 4 days)

Two-car drafting will make its second appearance of the season this afternoon at Talladega. Some can't wait, others can't stand it. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Sharon Ellman)

Oldest pole winner: Ricky Rudd (47,7,13)

Youngest race winner: Bobby Hillin Jr. (22,1,22)

Oldest race winner: Harry Gant (51,3,26)

Races won from the pole: 13

Last race won from the pole: Spring of 2007 by Jeff Gordon

Active driver with most starts: Bill Elliott with 55

Narrowest margin of victory: .0388 seconds

Most wins: Dale Earnhardt with 10

Most top-fives: Dale Earnhardt with 23

Most top-10s: Dale Earnhardt with 27

Second opinion

Last week, Carl Edwards threw his mom under the lunch wagon. Edwards was sick during the race at Texas and when asked what the problem was, he said he thought it was a meal his mom had made him in his motorhome.

Here is the rest of the story as told this week:

“It turns out my motorhome driver and his wife – Wayne and Rosemary drive my motorhome – and they called my mom and said, ‘We ate the rest of that food and we’re fine, so it wasn’t your food.’  So I had to apologize to mom.  She thought it was pretty funny, though.  She won’t have to cook for anybody anytime soon.  She’s been offering everywhere she goes to cook for people and it’s funny because they’re like, ‘No, that’s OK.’ ”

Fond memories

One of the most memorable finishes at Talladega came two years ago when Brad Keselowski

Carl Edwards' run to the finish is part of the lore at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

flipped Carl Edwards car into the fencing. Keselowski continued on to get the victory. Edwards got out of his wrecked car and ran to the finish line ala “Talladega Nights”.

Keselowski was asked about that race this week. He said:

“A lot has happened to me since my Cup win at Talladega in 2009 – so much so that it seems like it has been much longer than two years. I’ve been able to win the Nationwide Series championship and have moved over to drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. Would any of that have happened without the Talladega win? Probably not. It is, obviously, the biggest win in my career and it validated all my beliefs that I could win at this level, but I’m not one to rest on my laurels. I want to win now and I feel like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and I are starting to hit on a few things that could put us in position to do just that.”

Guest speaker

Tony Stewart, of all people, was apparently asked to speak to college journalism students in Alabama recently.

What did he tell them?

“I gave them the list of the hit-list media and I’m sure they will be interviewing you guys soon. Not that you guys didn’t know that already.”

Trivia answer

Kevin Harvick is the only active driver with two or more starts at Talladega who has not had a DNF at the track.

Up next

The Cup Series takes next weekend off.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011
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