Kenny Irwin Talladega Preview

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES TALLADEGA, Ala. - Just one short week ago, Kenny Irwin and his Texaco/Havoline teammates were preparing for an event at Martinsville Speedway, the slowest and shortest track they race on. Just a few...

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES TALLADEGA, Ala. - Just one short week ago, Kenny Irwin and his Texaco/Havoline teammates were preparing for an event at Martinsville Speedway, the slowest and shortest track they race on. Just a few days later, they're focused on this Sunday's DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the fastest and longest circuit for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. "It's totally different," said Irwin, the 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "We use different cars and need to develop a different mindset, literally overnight. When you leave Martinsville you're still thinking about how to improve for the next race there. You're replaying the race in your mind. When you get up the next morning, you need to have that slate wiped clean and be focused on a totally different scenario." Indeed, as speeds will more than double - going from an average speed in last years spring race at Martinsville of 70.709 mph to an average of 142.428 in last spring's race at Talladega. With top speeds at Talladega's 2.66-mile high banked oval approaching 200 mph, the drivers are more like pilots. "We just steer," said Irwin. "With the speeds we travel there, we are flat out the whole time. But so is everybody else. The crew really gets a chance to shine at Talladega. The adjustments they make and the speed of our pit stops will translate into positions on the track as much as anything I do. "We feel like we have a good set-up package for the Texaco/Havoline Ford. We're using the same car we used in the Daytona 500." Irwin drove that car to an impressive third-place finish in the ‘99 season-opener in February at Daytona International Speedway, the only other superspeedway on the Winston Cup circuit. Irwin's car suffered mechanical difficulties at Talladega in 1998. He was running in the top five in both races before the problems developed. "That was disappointing," said Irwin. "Falling out an early last year hurt us in the experience department, but our confidence level is definitely high with the run we had at Daytona still fresh in our minds. We made some changes to the car which should make it even better this weekend." So, in the span of less than five days, the Texaco/Havoline team will have changed not only race cars, but made the adjustments in their minds necessary in going from a half-mile oval to a 2.66-mile oval, in traveling 90 mph compared to almost 200 mph. "We're ready," said Irwin. "We are always focused on the next race and what we've got to do to get to Victory Lane."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup