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Talk Of Speed Moves From Roads To Track

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011

Kyle Busch was caught speeding in a street car. And oddity or pro forma for race car driveres? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

The Sprint Cup cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway in today’s Coca-Cola 600 will be going 200 mph. But it was a run at 128 mph that has produced the most buzz around NASCAR this week.

The slower run was made by Kyle Busch early in the week. It was made on a back road in the Charlotte, N.C. area. It was made in an exotic street car and, unfortunately for Busch, it was made while a cop was watching.

The incident sparked questions which are asked all the time by fans and the media. That is, how do drivers who spend their weekend’s driving cars as fast as they will go, drive when they’re off the clock?

Here is what some had to say about driving their street cars:

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – “Yeah, we as drivers aren’t necessarily wired the same but I’d have to say anybody that buys a high performance vehicle gets in it and stands on the gas. Maybe not in the same situation but that’s why you buy whatever car. I’ve always joked with my friends and I have a collection of old cars that I cruise around in because I’ve always felt if I have an exotic

Jimmie Johnson says driving slowly can be a problem. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

sports car I would be doing stupid things and I don’t need to do that. I drove my ’49 Chevy Step-side pickup here today and I don’t think I broke 65 on the way up, just kind of cruising with the windows down and enjoyed the ride.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – “Sometimes you go a little fast, even away from the race track I guess. I’ve been guilty of the same thing myself just been lucky enough not to get caught.

“I don’t really know if I got that fast (128), I didn’t know if we had enough straight road in North Carolina to get going that quick, but, apparently there is a piece somewhere.”

Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “In my younger days I have driven a little faster, probably, than I should have a time or two.  I never got pulled over or never got a ticket for doing that, but the fastest I’ve gotten stopped is maybe 85 or 90 – something like that.  I think I got pulled over going 90 out in California.  I was on my way to the desert one time, going through the desert with tumbleweeds and was on Highway 8 or something like that.  That was probably the fastest I ever got a ticket for, but there is obviously a time and a place for going a little bit faster than we should at times.  You just have to watch your P’s and Q’s.”

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – “I think some people are their own worst enemy when it comes to being responsible as a person or as a business

Kevin Harvick not a speeder on roads. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

person or anything that comes with life’s responsibilities. For me, they won’t even let me drive down the highway because I drive five miles per hour over the speed limit and it tends to take us a lot longer to get to places. Since I’ve been about 16 or 17 years old, I haven’t been into really driving fast down the highway or anything reckless on the road. It’s not really the place to do that. I don’t really know how to answer that to be honest with you because I’ve never driven a vehicle 120 plus down the highway.”

Fast facts

What: Coca-Cola 600

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway; Concord, N.C.

When: Sunday, 6:15 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, 5:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Banking in corners: 24 degrees

Banking in straights: 5 degrees

Race distance: 400 laps/600 miles

2010 winner: Kurt Busch

2010 polesitter: Ryan Newman

Today’s polesitter: Brad Keselowski

First race: World 600, 1960

First race winner: Fireball Roberts

First polesitter: Joe Lee Johnson

Special memory

Jeff Gordon was asked this week about special victories in his career. The 600 came up.

Jeff Gordon has nice thoughts of the 600. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

“Obviously, my first win came here at this race Memorial Day weekend.  I’ll never forget that.  That was a very special day in my life, in my career.  I mean, winning a Cup race to me was what you dream of as a kid, as a race car driver.  That was a big goal of mine.  To achieve it that day was huge.  I’ll never forget it.”

Trivia time

Who was the last Ford driver to win the 600?

Track bits

Races: 104

Most victories: 6, by Bobby Allison, Jimmie Johnson and Darrell Waltrip

Most poles: 14, by David Pearson

Most top-fives: 23 by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison

Most top-10s: 31, by Richard Petty

Most DNFs: 36, by Dave Marcis

Youngest winner: Jeff Gordon, 22 years, 9 months, 25 days

Oldest winner: Cale Yarborough, 46 yeards, 6 months, 9 days

Races won from pole: 14

Last race won from pole: Fall race of 2009 by Jimmie Johnson

Narrowest margin of victory: .027 seconds

Marathon men

Matt Kenseth was asked The Question about the race: Does 600 miles seem longer than 500 in the car?

“It really depends how your car is handling, the weather, how you’re running or how many cautions there are – a lot of things play into that,” Kenseth said.  “I’ve been in some of those races where it seems like forever in a week and then I’ve been in some

Matt Kenseth talks marathons. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

600-milers where it didn’t really feel that much different than a 500-mile race to me, so it all depends.  Hopefully, your car is running good and you can stay up front and you’re not being pressured a lot to go down a lap or you’re falling back through the field where you’re really working that much harder.  Hopefully, you’ve got a setup with some speed in it where you can find a spot and get some of those miles clipped away.”

The keys

Howard Comestock, Dodge Motorsports engineer, on the keys to the 600.

Fuel Mileage: “Six-hundred miles at Charlotte tomorrow night will not be dictated by fuel economy as to who wins the race.  In this 600-mile race, so much happens and the scenarios are so vast.  The race is about track position, running in clean air, keeping the car clean and making moves at the end of the race.  I would be very surprised if after 600-miles the outcome is a result of fuel strategy”

Good Start: “You have to get off to a good start.  We’ve seen in the past that the early part of this race will run caution-free.  If you start in the back of the field and don’t have the setup to keep you competitive, you will get lapped fairly quickly. Getting behind early is really tough and the last thing you want is to be chasing your setup for 600 miles.”

Night Moves:  “We start the race at six o’clock.  It’s going to be a hot day and there will be a lot of sun load on the track.  This is one of the races that will get faster as the race progresses.  Lap times are fast and you better have your car dialed-in at the end of the race to have a shot a winning.”

Trivia answer

A Ford driver has not won the 600 since Mark Martin did it in a Roush car in 2002.

On Roush woes

Roush driver Carl Edwards was asked about his owner not winning at Charlotte in

Jack Roush will be looking to end skid at Charlotte tonight. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

nine seasons.

“That’s a stat I did not know,” Edwards said. “I’d say we’ve got a really good opportunity to end that streak, but I know I have run really poorly here.  There have been some races where we’ve really, really struggled.  I think the progress here is emblematic of the progress we’ve made overall.  I think it’s a really good sign because this has a place we’ve obviously struggled.  I didn’t know it was that bad, so for us to run the way we are right now here, I think is another little piece of evidence that we have made real progress.  This is not just a flash in the pan.  We have become better and that’s good.”

Next week

The Sprint Cup Series moves to Kansas Speedway.

It will be the first time the Cup cars have run a spring race at the 1.5-mile tri-oval as the track was granted a second race for the 2011 season.

In last fall’s race, Greg Biffle got the victory. Kasey Kahne started from the pole.

Biffle, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon are all two-time winners at Kansas.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011
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