Talladega II: News of note, schedule

* Aerodynamic rules adjusted for this week's race * Ernie Irvan coaching Boris Said at Talladega * MBNA Bonus $65,000, Winston Leader Bonus $290,000 *Victory Lap tributes resume at Talladega NEWS & NOTES * Charting the NASCAR Top...

* Aerodynamic rules adjusted for this week's race
* Ernie Irvan coaching Boris Said at Talladega
* MBNA Bonus $65,000, Winston Leader Bonus $290,000
*Victory Lap tributes resume at Talladega

NEWS & NOTES

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Matt Kenseth continues to lead ... Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) has a series-leading 22 top-10 finishes in 28 races this season. Look no further to figure out why he's been No. 1 in the NASCAR Top 10 for 25 consecutive race weeks, a string started in March at Atlanta. ... Michael Waltrip dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 after Dover; he's 11th this week in points. Waltrip had been one of only two drivers to be in the NASCAR Top 10 every week this season. Jimmie Johnson, No. 3 this week, now holds that distinction alone.

* "Aerodynamic package" adjusted for EA Sports 500 ... The aerodynamic rules package for restrictor-plate races has been adjusted slightly by NASCAR since the previous restrictor-plate race (Pepsi 400 at Daytona in July). This week at Talladega, restrictor plates' openings for all 2003 makes will increase from 2.222 cm to 2.301 cm (0.079 cm increase) and spoiler heights will be raised 1.27 cm on all 2003 cars, to 2.657 cm. The aim is to increase throttle response but also give cars more drag -- and hopefully make passing easier to accomplish. "We'll put a taller spoiler on it so we've still got a handle on the speeds but essentially it's a matter of putting a little more drag on the car and a little more horsepower underneath the hood," said NASCAR Winston Cup Series Director John Darby.

* Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte take Victory Lap honors at Talladega ... One hall of fame driver and past NASCAR Winston Cup champion will lead the way for a future hall of famer and two-time champion this Sunday, as Bobby Allison and Terry Labonte will be honored at Talladega Superspeedway as part of NASCAR's 'Victory Lap' tribute to the NASCAR Winston Cup era and series sponsor R.J. Reynolds. Prior to the EA Sports 500, Allison, the 1983 champion, will tour the 2.66-mile tri-oval followed by Labonte, who is amid a comeback season and is currently ninth in the NASCAR Top 10.

* Tony Stewart looks to off-track time with Alabama legend Red Farmer ... Red Farmer is one of the last members of the legendary "Alabama Gang", a winner of three consecutive (1969-71) championships in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division -- now known as the NASCAR Busch Series -- and more than 700 races overall. In recent years, reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart has become friends with Farmer. The older man has gotten the younger one interested in the outdoors. This week, Stewart said, fishing is the main off-track activity planned. "It's a good release," Stewart said. "It's like hitting a reset button. And Red's a lot of fun. The one thing we don't talk about is race cars. It's not even something we talk about not talking about. We just know when we go out there, that we're there to fish and enjoy the outdoors. Neither one of us wants to talk about race cars."

* Season sweeps: It's happened six times at Talladega ... In the 33 years of NASCAR Winston Cup racing at Talladega Superspeedway, a driver has won both races there in the same season on six occasions: Pete Hamilton (1970), Buddy Baker (1975), Darrell Waltrip (1982), Dale Earnhardt (1990 and 1999) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2002).

* First time at Talladega was not a charm for Jr. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s current string of four consecutive Talladega victories has buried this surprising statistic: in his first Talladega race, the 2000 DieHard 500, Earnhardt finished 42nd.

* Ernie Irvan: Call him "Coach" ... Ernie Irvan, named one of "NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers of All-Time" in 1998 will return to the garage area this weekend at Talladega. Irvan will be at the track coaching road-racing specialist Boris Said, who is making his superspeedway debut, trying to qualify for Saturday's ARCA Series race. Said's Talladega appearance isn't about this weekend only, though. Said wants to ensure he gets approval next February to race in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Raceway. The Shootout features the previous season's pole winners; Said won the pole at the Infineon Raceway road-course event in June. "No doubt, Boris will be able to handle this," said Irvan, who had two victories and five poles at Talladega. "He did a good job at the [recent] test session. He knows how to go fast but I did tell him it doesn't matter how fast you go -- the most important thing is to get approved for Daytona. I explained to him that he can't get over-anxious and try to set the world on fire. It's all about getting approved for Daytona. Sometimes patience is the hardest thing to learn and the easiest thing to forget." Added Said: "Ernie gave me sound advice at the test session and I am sure counting on him for this weekend. This is not going to be easy -- I've never drafted before or driven in a restrictor-plate race. ... "I really want the shot at driving in the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona. That would be a dream come true."

* Jarretts a father-son show at Talladega ... Robert Yates Racing will field a third car during this weekend's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Jason Jarrett, son of Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), will make his NASCAR Winston Cup debut this weekend. It will mark just the second time the father and son have started a NASCAR event together, but the first in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Dale and Jason's lone start together in a NASCAR event was the NASCAR Busch Series event on May 23, 1998 at Lowe's Motor Speedway where they started 11th and 12th, respectively. Jason will drive the No. 98 Ford this weekend.

* MBNA bonus at $65,000 ... The MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award is worth $10,000 to the leader of a race's halfway point (among teams participating in the MBNA contingency award program). MBNA also pays a $5,000 bonus if the halfway-point leader goes on to win the race. If the bonus isn't collected, the $5,000 rolls over to the next event. The MBNA bonus has reached $65,000. The last time it was collected was at Infineon Raceway in June when Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) led at mid-race, went on to win and got the bonus, which had grown to $15,000 at Infineon.

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $290,000: Only Kenseth can collect ... After 28 races this season, no one has been able to collect the Winston Leader Bonus, thus the bonus has reached a record $290,000 going into Talladega. The bonus -- paid to a race winner who also leads the NASCAR Winston Cup points -- starts at $10,000 and increases in $10,000 increments each week if it isn't collected. The last time it was collected was March 2002 at Darlington Raceway by Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). Kenseth is the only driver with a chance to collect the bonus.

* Restrictor-plate rundown: Seven with "perfect attendance" ... Since the advance of carburetor restrictor plates at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in 1988, there have been 63 races at those two tracks. Seven drivers have competed in all 63: Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers-UAW Dodge); Terry Labonte, Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford), Ken Schrader (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge), Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and Michael Waltrip.

* Qualifying key at Talladega ... History shows that qualifying is extremely important at Talladega. In the track's previous 68 NASCAR Winston Cup events, the winner has started in the top three 34 times -- exactly 50 percent.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK -- WHEN IT COMES TO QUALIFYING

Having already examined drivers who have had good finishes at Talladega, here's a look at the top Talladega qualifiers:

* Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) has scored three Bud Poles at Talladega, driving for three different teams: 1996 fall race (Cale Yarborough); 2000 fall race (Penske-Kranefuss); 2003 spring race (Ray Evernham).

* Mayfield's teammate Bill Elliott leads all drivers with eight poles at Talladega. Between 1985-87, the pre-restrictor plate years dominated by Elliott, he had six consecutive poles at Talladega.

* Sterling Marlin has three poles at Talladega.

* Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek (No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet) and Ken Schrader all have two poles at Talladega. Those three, along with Elliott, Mayfield and Marlin, are the only active drivers with more than one Talladega pole.

QUOTEBOOK

* "I am a pretty tall guy to race a car -- the [roof] hatches are going to be very well welcomed in our sport. Once again, a great innovation in NASCAR Winston Cup racing." -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford), on the latest safety initiative announced by NASCAR.

* "It's just pretty much pedal to the metal and go." -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), describing the Talladega Superspeedway experience.

* "Little things make a big, big difference at Talladega ... it's kind of funny when you think about it. This is our longest, biggest, widest track but the littlest things can determine how well you run there." -- Ken Schrader.

* "I've always said driving a car around Talladega [at 190 mph] is not that big of a deal. Doing that with 42 other cars out there, well, that's kind of where the trick comes in." -- Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific-Brawny Dodge).

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Part of Talladega's lore is based on the pre-restrictor plate days of all-out speed. But the track also was the site of another record-setting run after the advent of plates. The 1997 Winston 500, won by Mark Martin, is the fastest NASCAR Winston Cup race ever run. Martin averaged 188.354 mph. (He covered the 500 miles in only 2 hours, 39 minutes, 18 seconds.)

The race, as you might have guessed, was caution-free.

FAST FACTS

What: EA Sports 500 (NASCAR Winston Cup Series race No. 29 of 36.)
Where: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama
When: Sunday, September 28, 2 p.m. ET.

U.S. TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET.
U.S. Radio: MRN/XM Satellite

Race length: 804.5 km/500 miles/188 laps.
Track layout: 4.27994 km / 2.66-mile paved tri-oval.

Pre-race schedule (all times CT/local): Friday--Practice, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Qualifying--3:05 p.m. Saturday--Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:10-11:55 a.m.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Jason Jarrett , Ray Evernham , Bobby Allison , Robert Yates , Buddy Baker , Cale Yarborough , Red Farmer , Mark Martin