Talladega up close and personal

Well r.a.s.n fans...we gotta get our acts together if we're gonna ever have reunions at these Winston Cup events. I went there looking for ICE dang it, and nobody showed up! ;) Really though, maybe a more concerted effort next time. So anyway,...

Well r.a.s.n fans...we gotta get our acts together if we're gonna ever have reunions at these Winston Cup events. I went there looking for ICE dang it, and nobody showed up! ;) Really though, maybe a more concerted effort next time. So anyway, on with the saga...

Friday Press Conference and Qualifying ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Friday dawned bright and early at 5:00 in the A.M., just in time to catch that 6:25 early bird flight out to DFW, thence to B'ham. Strangely enough, nothing peculiar happened on the flights out, nor on the ride to the track. That T'bird sure handled sweet, though...even through all the tire carcasses (blown 18-wheel retreads) on the I20 Coosa River bridge. :/

Got to the track just in time to catch the kickoff press conference in the Hall of Fame. Three cars and a portrait of Davey were presented and honors extended to the Allison and Bonnett families. One of the cars was the last one Clifford Allison drove in a competitive event. Another was the fully restored first late model Chevy that Neil drove competitively. The third was a Hermie Sadler #25 Virginia is for Lovers show car donated by the state of Virginia. The entire extended Allison family was on hand (including Clifford's wife and kids...Liz and Davey's children weren't there). The Bonnett's (including Neil's parents) were on hand as well. Both families expressed comments of gratitude. For those unfamiliar with these people, suffice it to say that they are *just folks*. It would not be unreasonable to say that they could be easily compared to any regular old person you'd run into at the grocery store or out fishing on the lake. All the more reason to accord them respect and treat them no differently than the way you'd treat your own family members. I taped the bulk of this conference (at least the pertinent parts about the families) if anyone's interested.

Speaking of injured racers...Stanley Smith considers his physical health as being 100% overall, but his vision and and mental capacities as being back only about 70%. He still suffers from double vision and facial numbness. He does not remember the wreck. He *does* want to come back and race again if he can.

They've made some changes at the Hall of Fame, adding some cars and removing some cars. The car Jamie Farr wrecked at Daytona this year the day before Neil's death is now piled in front of Michael Waltrip's pile of junk from his massive BGN crash a few years ago. Terrible reminders of the thin edge they all ride on. Then I had this obnoxious guy crunching ice in my ear, turned around to give him a look...it was Hermie Sadler (about as short as MM). "Howdy Hermie! Good luck (and stop chewin' that damn ice)!"

Track facilities have changed in response to safety issues and fan complaints. Top on the list: they no longer tolerate ANY object throwing in the stands (this includes tossing cans/chicken bones/whatever down to the bottom of the grandstand area). Offenders will be removed from the track. Furthermore, if anyone throws ANY object onto the track itself, they will charged with reckless endangerment (a felony by Alabama state law) and fully prosecuted. They mean business...and I didn't see a single can thrown all weekend. They also have added additional fencing and roads to better control traffic. This forced overnight campers in the outfield out of previously accessible spaces. It seemed to facilitate getting traffic in to park...I don't know how the getting out part worked since I was long gone on my secret departure route anyway. :)

Qualifying was full of no surprises...DE lucked out in getting a good 5 minutes of complete cloud cover over the entire track before his run to cool the asphalt down just a tad. Looked just good enough to give him the .5 second he needed to take the pole. Loy Allen made the first qualifying run of the day with a fully sunbaked track and *still* almost got the pole. Gotta give him credit for a dang fine run. John Andretti qualified with a Childress Racing motor and could be seen talking with DE quite often during the weekend. However, he went back to a Hagan engine for the race itself.

Saturday Practice and Fram Filters 500k ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Practice in the morning was quite the exercise in the search for good drafting partners. But there *were* some humorous interludes...heard from Brett Bodine: "Gordon must think we're racing, he's blocking the s#$t outta me!" "Wow...that 28 car is sure hooked up. Jeez, he blew by my like I was a f@#king anchor!"

Then Dave Marcis got really bent out of shape with his crew for being nowhere around whenever the car needed to be pushed somewhere (man, can I relate...): "You tell those boys if they see us pushing this car, they better get over and help or them SOBs can pack up and go home!" So I bet any volunteers may be quite welcome at Marcis Racing about now...

The BGN race was very exciting, but pretty much dominated by the Winston Cup fellas. Best shining light was Chad Little...his try for the lead late in the race failed when none of the big boys would help him draft at all. Ned Jarrett spotted for his son DJ...kinda nice hearing Ned's same old calm voice coming directly out of the scanner. Before Dale retired from the race, his CC found a loose oil line. The gist of the resulting conversation sounded a lot like Marcis' level of upset, "We're gonna talk about this back at the shop. Too much of this crap keeps happening...I don't care who did it, we just gotta stop this crap!"

On the way back to B'ham on I20, the Hardee's racing van blew by me going well over 80 (okay, I admit it...I was moseying on pretty good myself). Maybe they should have tried to qualify the van instead...maybe they would have made the show. :|

Sunday - Diehard 500 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fanatic that I am, I hit the road for the track at 6:00AM. If you want to avoid traffic jams going out there, that's the way to do it. I cruised right on in with absolutely no problems whatsoever. Gates to the day parking areas opened at 6:30 sharp. Temps were cool at 72 degrees then, but had risen to 80 by 7:30. Get this though...they never hit 90 because of the cool westerly breezes, ahhhhh.... At least those in the hospitality tents got to enjoy pumped in A/C, but they really didn't need it.

If you want to vote for your favorite driver in McDonald's All Star team competitiion, they had tables set up for that purpose at every major grandstand entrance. Track management was a little touchy about their logo painted on the front stretch grass, "Those of you touring the pit road area please stay off our nicely groomed logo blah, blah blah." Really now guys...

As for the race, here's the scanner poop:

Rusty on his last lap (after detonating) sounded more like a group therapy counselor trying to calm the team down and make them feel better.

When DW fell back early, his CC said, "Don't worry about it. It'll be a long time before that fat lady gets up and sings."

When Michael Waltrip first lost the lead draft in T1, he had this to say, "As General Schwarzenegger once said, 'I'll be back'." Michael is known for his ontrack irreverencies...last May he was forever hollering "Yeeeeehhhaaaaawwww!" every time he passed someone... In complimenting a crew member for all his negotiations with other crews, Michael said, "Mark puts more miles on pit road than the CBS crew." :)

Loy Allen had all kinds of handling problems and was soon in danger of being lapped. His CC tried to make him feel better, "Just hang in there several more laps, just hang in there." Loy, "Oh, yeah..." Not necessarily convinced if you ask me...

On lap 99 Wally worked really hard to pass Schrader. Kenny finally let him go by, saying, "I didn't see any sense pushing the issue. We'll just catch 'em faster now." When JS passed him later, Kenny said "I just got outta the way..."

Then there was poor Handsome Harry on lap 101... "It just keeps getting slower, and slower, and slower..."

The lap before Tim Steele finally pulled off the track, he wanted to know "Y'all got that backup lined up? I'm about to lose it right NOW!" They told him to pull on in right away. Someone mumbled something about "Just make sure there's a doctor on hand over there." He'd suffered from flu-like symptoms all week.

Larry and Ernie had a wonderful discussion throughout the race, it was the first time I didn't hear Ernie losing his composure (methinks DE dropping out eased the strain considerably). Ernie kept saying, "It's driving good Larry, a little loose maybe, but driving good." Larry again kept repeating "Remember the big picture..." to which EI never responded with more than a "10-4".

Sterling lost patience several times with those in his pack when they kept dicing around for position, "Tell those dumb mother f$%#ers to get in line!!!" His spotter said, "I told every one of their spotters, and they all just shook their heads." The #4 team fully expected to come on strong and win the race a la Daytona 500.

Bobby Hillin screamed and hollered the whole race at Marcis for not letting him by. Jeff Burton was upset with those in his backmarker pack for screwing around and not cooperating to draft effectively. Kenny Wallace and his crew performed magnificently...as did the #43.

Jimmy Spencer came out of nowhere at the end. I had written him off at the midway point because he was way back in the middle of the pack without drafting help. Ernie smelled it coming though, because he asked Larry where that 27 was at about lap 125. Overall, this was an excellent tactical race.

Other Tidbits ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Best part of the whole trip: I got carded when stocking up on MGD! :) :)

Worst part of the trip: I didn't hook up with any r.a.s.ners. :(

Hooters should recruit at Talladega. Period. ;) (Miss Teen Hooters, too)

Best T shirt: "Yes I'm bald. Yes I love it. Yes I shave it. No you can't feel it."

Worst T shirt: "I'm not drunk, I'm a race fan"

Best souvenir value: used Goodyear slicks at $20 a pop. Saw one guy hauling one around in the B'ham airport Monday morning. I would've *loved* to have seen how he got that into the overhead compartment...

Barrey, did you get thrown in the pool at The Red Horse? John, I came by to see ya, did your buddy tell you as much? Danno, I waved...didja notice? Roger, I had a beer for ya...(well, maybe 2 or 3). Pat.......uh......hope the conference was fun. ;) Brian, you shoulda changed that dang flight! Bob, someday your day will come...

--- Mark A. Breland - Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) Information Systems Division | voice: (512) 338-3509 3500 West Balcones Center Drive | FAX: (512) 338-3900 Austin, Texas 78759-6509 USA NB#51 | internet: breland@mcc.com

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Brett Bodine , Jeff Burton , Michael Waltrip , Jimmy Spencer , Kenny Wallace , Chad Little , Ned Jarrett , Dave Marcis , Hermie Sadler , Tim Steele , Clifford Allison