*Talladega Hosts First Restrictor Plate COT Race *Chevrolet Familiar With Talladega Victory Lane *Earnhardt Jr. Still Searching For First Win New Car Makes Restrictor Plate Debut At Talladega DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2007) -- The Car of ...
*Talladega Hosts First Restrictor Plate COT Race
*Chevrolet Familiar With Talladega Victory Lane
*Earnhardt Jr. Still Searching For First Win
New Car Makes Restrictor Plate Debut At Talladega
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2007) -- The Car of Tomorrow program will take a major step forward this week when the new car debuts at Talladega Superspeedway. It will mark the first time the car will be raced on an oval track longer than 1.33 miles.
The car has competed in 13 events this season on short tracks and road courses. Two more events are scheduled after Talladega -- Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. The car will be run full time in 2008.
Teams participated in a two-day test at Talladega in September in preparation for Sunday's race. One of the advantages of the new car is that teams can use the same car at a short track and superspeedway -- something that was not possible with the spoiler cars.
Although the car is the same that has been run in all other COT events, there are some slight modifications for Talladega.
The first is the use of a restrictor plate on the carburetor. This is the same process that was used in the spoiler cars at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega, but the plate size will be slightly larger. Teams will begin the weekend using a 31/32 inch restrictor plate -- the same size they tested with last month. The teams used a 7/8 (28/32) inch plate the last time they raced at Talladega in May.
"This car will allow us to open up the restriction a little bit on the engine," said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. "They'll make a considerable amount of horsepower more than what they have raced at Talladega and Daytona in the past."
The increase in plate size is expected to add 75-80 horsepower, which will give the driver more throttle response and help make up for the additional drag the new car creates.
NASCAR also has mandated a minimum rear wing angle of 10 degrees for the event. NASCAR will supply the wings at the track, as it has done in all previous COT races. NASCAR also will issue the teams' end plates at the track, which has not been done before. This is to ensure a level competitive playing field at the superspeedway.
Other changes include a taller wicker on the rear wing (one inch compared with 3/16 inch in the past), which will help add drag to the car. And for the first time, there will be a mandated gear rule for the event.
"With the COT cars, it's going to change the element of how Talladega races and I think it will be twice as exciting," said Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). "Whoever does the best at reacting to all the changes we'll face will probably have the best shot at winning. Like we've been saying all year long, we look to be up to the challenge."
Busch certainly knows what it takes to succeed at Talladega -- he has posted six top fives and 10 top 10s in 13 career starts at the track.
Chase Notebook: Chevrolet Has Dominant Talladega History
A trip to Talladega Superspeedway usually brightens the spirits of teams in the Chevrolet camp. Chevrolets have dominated competition at the track, winning 16 of the last 17 races.
"Much of Chevy's success on restrictor-plate tracks stems from the fact that all our teams have focused very heavily on their plate engine programs for many years," said Pat Suhy, GM Racing NASCAR group manager.
With the move to the new car this weekend, Suhy is not worried about Chevrolet losing its status atop the restrictor-plate competition.
"I think it'll be a matter of who can adapt the fastest to the way they have to race to make these cars drive to the front," Suhy said. "I'm confident between our great drivers and crew chiefs, and the teams they have behind them, that the Chevy guys will be leading the pack again this weekend at Talladega."
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) are the only Chase drivers who have won at Talladega.
Other notes of interest:
* Greg Biffle (No. 16 Dish/Starz Ford) became the 16th different driver to win a race this season, the highest total since 2003 when 17 different drivers won a race. Nineteen different drivers won a race in 2001, the highest total in the Modern Era. Jeff Gordon led all drivers with six wins that season.
* Biffle's win also extended his winning streak to five consecutive seasons. Gordon (14), Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) (nine), Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) (all with six) are the only drivers with streaks longer than Biffle that have won this year.
* The 14-point margin between first and third is the closest after three events in the Chase's four-year history.
* Eleven of the 12 Chase drivers changed positions in the point standings after Kansas. All 12 positions changed after Dover.
Keeping The Streak Alive: Earnhardt Jr. Searches For First Win Of Season
Entering 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) had won at least one race in seven consecutive seasons -- the third-longest active streak. With only seven races remaining, and no wins under his belt this season, Earnhardt is running out of time to continue his streak.
This weekend's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway may be his best chance to get that elusive victory.
Earnhardt has five career Talladega victories, tying him with Jeff Gordon for most among active drivers. He won four consecutive races at the track from 2001-2003, the longest streak ever.
"This would be the best time for us to get another victory," Earnhardt said. "I so badly want to win one for my fans and sponsors and especially for my entire team."
Adding to the urgency to win at Talladega is the fact that this will be crew chief Tony Eury Jr.'s last race at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Eury, Earnhardt's cousin, will be moving to Hendrick Motorsports to begin planning the 2008 season, when he will be reunited with Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
"It would be so great to get out of the car and give him a big hug after a win," Earnhardt said. "That's what this is all about: making the people around you happy. I mean, that's the best to see the smiles and how satisfying it is for them."
Eury has worked for DEI since 1991, when he swept floors and built crush panels for Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s NASCAR Busch Series cars. Eury Jr. spent years as car chief under his father, Tony Eury Sr., before taking over as crew chief in September 2005.
Tony Gibson will finish out the season as crew chief for the No. 8 team. Gibson filled that role for six races earlier this season while Eury was serving a suspension. During that time, he guided Earnhardt to three top-10 finishes.
"We'll be fine, but it would mean a lot to get one last one with Tony Jr. in his Budweiser shirt on top of that pit box," Earnhardt said.
Locked In: No. 22 Toyota of Bill Davis Closing In On 35th Position
Key To Victory
Talladega Superspeedway is the longest oval track on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule and is one of two tracks needing a restrictor plate. With the new car running for the first time, there are a lot of questions to be answered.
• Friday's practice is key; Teams will need to find out how their cars react in big packs.
• Dynamics of the draft might change; The leaders may be more vulnerable to passing than in the past.
• Pit strategy is crucial; Crew chiefs need to make the right call and avoid pitting alone. Mistakes on pit road can cost you valuable track position.