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Drivers Are In Conservation Mode At Talladega

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 5 2012

Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress discuss taking care of business, and cars, at Talladega on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Talladega Superspeedway was a lonely place Friday afternoon.

After 43 drivers participated in opening practice for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, only 32 took to the track for Happy Hour.

And 19 of those competitors turned less than 10 laps on the 2.66-mile trioval during the final tuneup for this weekend’s 188 lap event.

“You don’t want to go out and tear the bumpers off your car,” said Kevin Harvick, who turned just six laps all day on Friday. “You definitely won’t spend as much time most likely on your back-up car that you would on your primary car because there really is only four (restrictor-plate) races and there is only so much time and you have to prioritize things.

“You can help control that by not getting your back-up car out of the trailer by not practicing. There is really no reason to practice. We have all most done this a fair amount and you want to make sure you don’t have any problems and no vibrations and things like that. That is really all you need to do.”

He hails from North Carolina, but there is no driver more popular in Talladega than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A sluggish start to the Chase has the third generation driver sitting seventh in the title standings and 39 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.

That has left Earnhardt thinking he’ll need to go full bore on Sunday and for the other remaining six events this season.

“We can’t be conservative at all,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve really got to take a lot of risks. With just a few races left and as good as everybody is running, like Brad (Keselowski) and Jimmie (Johnson) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), we really have to get pretty aggressive and that should play right into this race track’s hands.

Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne at Talladega. Another year on the track for Gordon. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan

“It’s a place that really kind of asks for that and you’ve got to really take some risks and be pretty daring out there to make some things happen.”

As he struggled to achieve on-track success while fighting back problems, four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon began fielding questions about hanging up his helmet three years ago.

But a resurgence in performance over the past two seasons and a berth in the Chase this year seems to have rejuvenated the 41-year-old driver.

Earlier this week, Gordon learned that sponsor AARP has renewed its sponsorship for 2013.

So what does that do for any potential talk of retirement?

“At this point in my career, I don’t take it year-to-year. I take it based on where we’re at with sponsorship,” Gordon said. “I look out and plan if sponsors are saying we want to do a three-year deal or two-year deal or five-year deal we’ll sit down and have these conversations and talk about if where they are at is where I’m at.

“I feel good. Things are going well. We’re competitive. I’m as good back-wise and health-wise as I’ve been in a long time, so there is no reason for me to think any different than saying yes to their offer of going through 2014 right now.”

NASCAR confirmed on Friday that the Nationwide Series won’t return to Montreal in 2013.

“NASCAR appreciates the support and enthusiasm the great fans of Montreal have shown during our six years of exciting racing at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve,” NASCAR said in a statement. “It’s been a great run for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at this historic venue. NASCAR was preparing to return for 2013, however we were unable to come to an agreement to renew the Sanction.

“We’re in the process of finalizing the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for next season. Our fans will continue to see the competitive racing the series is known for, featuring some of the best young talent in NASCAR.”

Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris scored the quote of the day when asked the length of the new sponsorship deal his company inked with defending Cup champion Tony Stewart.

“We just horse trade a little bit at a time,” Morris said with a laugh as he glanced over at Stewart. “We might know how long it is, but we don’t want all of our bankers to know just yet.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 5 2012
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