Talladega: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing April 25, 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series There have been a total of 73 restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona since their NASCAR introduction in 1988. Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 21 Little ...

This Week in Ford Racing
April 25, 2006

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series

There have been a total of 73 restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona since their NASCAR introduction in 1988. Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 21 Little Debbie/Motorcraft USAF Fusion, is one of only three drivers to have competed in every one. This weekend, the series visits Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, for the Aaron's 499, the second of four restrictor-plate races of the year, but first with NASCAR's new so-called "soft bumper" modification. Schrader won at Talladega in 1988.

KEN SCHRADER -- No. 21 Little Debbie/Motorcraft/USAF Fusion

DO YOU THINK THE NEW BUMPER AT TALLADEGA WILL DO WHAT IT'S EXPECTED TO DO? "I got to believe it's going to be nothing but a plus. We had bumpers that were bigger than Martinsville bumpers, and there was just an obnoxious amount of bump drafting going on. That's what caused some of the wrecks. It's not a cure-all, but it's a big, big part. I think it will be good."

IS THE WHOLE BUMP-DRAFTING CONVERSATION IN THE MEDIA PRETTY ACCURATE TO WHAT REALLY IS HAPPENING ON THE TRACK? "Yeah, it's idiotic out there. It's one thing to bump draft when you're second in line or in your lane and you want to get the lane going, but you'll be eighth or ninth in line and people will bump draft you. Everybody's not going to hit everybody in time to make it down the straightaway and gain anything. So, yeah, it wasn't really exaggerated about what was going on."

SO, WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT GOT IT TO THIS POINT? WAS IT GRADUAL? "It's been gradual. Then the cars starting getting built differently, as far as bumpers and stuff. You can't mess up the front end there and have any kind of day. So when they took the bumpers away from them, it's going to be critical."

YOU HEAR ALL THE TIME THAT AT TALLADEGA A DRIVER CAN'T LIFT ON THE ACCELERATOR. IS THAT A LITERAL STATEMENT? UNDER NORMAL RACING CONDITIONS, DO DRIVERS LIFT THERE, EVEN FOR A MOMENT? "You never lift the whole day, all day long."

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR RIGHT FOOT AND LEG FROM CRAMPING? "You got to be careful and you got to get the throttle in position where all the way down is comfortable. I back my throttle up at Talladega because you don't want your leg in the stretch to get all the way down."

SO, THAT'S THE TRICK? "It's not a trick. It's because you're going to be wide open all day."

IF YOU LIFTED FOR EVEN A SECOND, HOW MUCH DAMAGE WOULD THAT DO? COULD YOU LOSE THE FIELD IN THAT ONE SECOND? "You could lose 'em pretty quick. Yeah, you could lose 'em in a second. First off, if you lifted for a second, you're going to get run over anyway because the guy behind you didn't expect you to lift because nobody lifts."

IS IT A DIFFERENT MINDSET THERE IN TERMS OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN IN TERMS OF YOUR POSITION ON THE RACE TRACK, EVEN IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING WRONG? "Yeah. It's just everybody lines up and decides to go one way, it doesn't make any difference what you did. We won a race there one year, and the next week I went to thank Rick Wilson for helping me, and I knew he didn't finish second, but he pushed me pretty much the whole last lap. I knew he didn't finish second, and I said, 'Man, Rick, thanks a lot for helping me,' and he kind of laughed. And I said, 'Where'd you end up?" (Wilson finished fourth in that 1988 race.)

DOES THAT MAKE YOU DRIVE MORE DEFENSIVELY THERE, IN THAT YOU TRY HARDER TO STAY IN FRONT OF THE CARS BEHIND YOU INSTEAD OF TRYING TO PASS THE CAR IN FRONT OF YOU? "Well, it makes it a big decision as far as 'do I worry about this spot or worry about losing five?'"

***

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Fusion, moved into the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points lead following a third-place finish Sunday at Phoenix. Kenseth, who drove Fusion to its first Cup victory in February at California, finished third at Talladega last fall, his best career showing at the 2.66-mile track.

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Fusion

DO YOU SEE ANY EVIDENCE THAT FORD IS CLOSING THE GAP ON THE RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS? "Yeah, I think we've been more competitive in the last year and a half. I think we've been a lot better. I think Doug Yates and those guys have found some power and I think everybody in our R&D department and wind-tunnel stuff has taken some drag out of our cars. So I think all the way around our stuff is much better on the speedways than it used to be."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Ken Schrader