The value of versatility: Talladega latest challenge in different tracks, configurations DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 26, 2005) -- In the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, each week brings a new challenge, the principal one, of course, keeping pace ...
The value of versatility: Talladega latest challenge in different tracks, configurations
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 26, 2005) -- In the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, each week brings a new challenge, the principal one, of course, keeping pace with one's peers. As the series heads for Talladega Superspeedway and this Sunday's Aaron's 499, the importance of versatility looms.
As in being able to master a totally different track each week.
Since tackling the first back-to-back short-track races since 1999 several weeks ago, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams have switched from Bristol Motor Speedway's and Martinsville Speedway's demanding half-mile surfaces to one of the series' fastest tracks, Texas Motor Speedway, on April 17. Following Texas' high-banked, 1.5-mile environs, the series visited Phoenix International Raceway last Saturday night, Phoenix being a compact, flat one-mile track that hosted its first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event under the lights.
This week's task? Another shifting of gears, this time the series' longest track, 2.66-mile Talladega, which demands a completely different set of skills, equipment and preparations. One of two tracks where carburetor restrictor plates are mandatory, Talladega's big straightaways and steep banks foster speed.
"I love Talladega," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), who has five career victories at Talladega. "Love going there, love racing there, love winning there."
"The important thing is to be there at the end and see what happens," said Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), who finished sixth at Phoenix. "We had a good run at Phoenix, and, hopefully, we can capitalize on that momentum, although there's obviously a difference between a one-mile track and Talladega. It's just totally different."
This week's Aaron's 499 does mark a return to one of the series' two longest tracks; drivers' last 2.5-mile experience came in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and although Daytona 500 polesitter Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) knows the two tracks look alike -- except for Talladega's extra 10th-mile in length -- he insists they don't act alike.
"Handling is a big thing at Daytona and you're looking for a lot of downforce," Jarrett said. "Talladega is almost the opposite in that what you're concerned with as far as set up is sheer speed."