Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega . -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
Talent Lineup & Tickets On Sale for Dega Jam at Talladega Superspeedway
Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Hank Williams, Jr., Billy Currington, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lee Brice, Martina McBride, Gary Allan, Tyler Farr and Many More at First-Ever Dega Jam Music Festival at Talladega Superspeedway , July 1-3, 2016 Tickets, VIP Packages and Travel Packages on Sale Now Early-Bird Pricing for 3-Day Passes Available for a Limited Time ( Talladega , Ala.) - October 25, 2015 – Dega Jam , the first-ever country music festival held at Talladega Superspeedway , announced a monster lineup for the first-time event. Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Hank Williams, Jr., Billy Currington, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lee Brice, Martina McBride, Gary Allan, Kip Moore, Tyler Farr and dozens more will keep the party rocking over Fourth of July weekend, July 1, 2 & 3, 2016 at the famed Talladega Superspeedway . Dega Jam, which will take place in the infield of the biggest NASCAR track in the country, will feature a huge music lineup over three days and nights, programmed on three specially designed performance stages. The mega-music festival will offer fans a thrilling new annual way to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday weekend. General Admission 3-day passes, VIP packages and travel packages are all on sale now. Early-bird pricing for weekend passes is available for a limited time. Camping opportunities will be available for purchase starting October 29. Visit DegaJam.com for all festival information, including participating hotels. The full 2016 Dega Jam lineup includes: Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Hank Williams, Jr., Billy Currington, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lee Brice, Martina McBride, Gary Allan, Kip Moore, Tyler Farr, Chase Rice, Chris Janson, Dwight Yoakam, Frankie Ballard, Jamey Johnson, Easton Corbin, Jerrod Niemann, Sara Evans, The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, and Ranger Doug Green, Montgomery Gentry, Marty Stuart, Eli Young Band, Colt Ford, Brothers Osborne, Brandy Clark, Clare Dunn, John Anderson, Kristian Bush, The Cadillac Three, Aaron Lewis, Pat Green, Josh Thompson, RaeLynn, Mac Powell, Rodney Atkins, Cassadee Pope, Shooter Jennings The Swon Brothers, Mo Pitney, Frank Foster, Whiskey Myers, and Ruthie Collins. Quint Davis, producer/director said, “Dega Jam is coming to join the thunder that rocks Talladega Superspeedway . From the opening night strains of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd to Eric Church and his mega-hit ‘ Talladega ’ on Saturday night, to taking it home with Kid Rock’s ‘Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long,’ the Dega Jam will live up to its namesake. A country festival like no other, Dega Jam headlines Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Hank Williams, Jr., and 40 more stars from all branches of country music. In the infield of the Superspeedway , on three stages for three days, country music will be celebrated from modern superstar Martina McBride, to legendary rocker Dwight Yoakam, and everything in between, including Lee Brice, Billy Currington, Gary Allan, Montgomery Gentry, Tyler Farr, native Alabamians Sara Evans and Jamey Johnson. Even Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill brings his Time Jumpers to the party. And a party it will be; for sure there is something for everyone. All tickets go on sale today. Be one of the lucky few that get to actually camp out in the infield, inside the Festival itself, where the party really never stops. Hey, it’s not just a music Festival, it’s Talladega !” “Being the biggest race track in NASCAR and having nearly 3,000 acres of unlimited camping opportunities, Dega Jam is uniquely positioned to become one of the – if not the – biggest country music festival in the country,” said Grant Lynch, Chairman of Talladega Superspeedway . “More than 70 percent of our NASCAR customers come from outside of the state, generating more than $380 million annually for Alabama tourism, and we expect Dega Jam to add significantly to this economic impact. When these fans make their journey to Dega Jam, they will find that ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ has lots more to offer, too. From delicious food delicacies to incredible road-trip destinations, Alabama has it all. We can’t wait for July 2016.” Just as it is for the races at Talladega , Dega Jam will allow fans to camp in the infield, literally inside the festival. A full-range of camping opportunities is available for virtually any budget, from pitching a tent to deluxe RV locations adjacent to the stages. Special VIP packages – the “Crew Chief VIP Experience” and “VIP Pit Pass” - will allow for a variety of special privileges, depending upon which package is selected: an exclusive upfront, golden-circle viewing area at the main stage and with VIP viewing at the other stages; access to the White Lightning VIP Club offering a comfortable hospitality tent and private cash bar; and other comforts and amenities. VIP packages will be available in limited quantities. Fans at the festival will also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their favorite country stars at artist meet-and-greets located throughout pit road and inside NASCAR garages. Numerous other features—a select festival menu sold from food booths and food trucks; carnival rides; arcade games; country-and-western merchandise; cool zone water elements; and more—will all be a part of the festival, as Dega Jam transforms Talladega Superspeedway into a festival-goer’s paradise. Be part of the Dega Jam community at any of the following: DegaJam.com DegaJam on Facebook @degajam on Twitter degajam on Instagram AEG Live along with Festival Productions, Inc. – New Orleans are partnering with the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to produce the Dega Jam . PLEASE NOTE: Artist b-roll video is available at https://vimeo.com/141839637 . Festival Contact: Matthew Goldman, 504-410-4100, Matthew@fpi-no.com Talladega Contact: Russell Branham, 256-315-4556, Rbranham@talladegasuperspeedway.com ### DEGA JAM WEEKEND FESTIVAL PASSES 3-DAY GENERAL ADMISSION WEEKEND PASS – ($179 early bird all-in pricing) • 3-day general admission; passes are non-transferable • Includes access to over 40 bands on three festival stages, a select menu of food and beverage offerings available for purchase from food booths and food trucks, carnival rides, arcade games, country and western merchandise, official festival merchandise, a myriad of shade and water elements and much more VIP PIT PASS - ($599 all-in pricing) • 3-day admission; passes are non-transferable • Access to the Pit, an exclusive upfront, golden circle viewing area at the Dega Jam Stage and VIP viewing at the Sweet Home Dega Stage and Honky Tonk Hall • Access to the White Lightning VIP Club, a private hospitality tent where guests can cool of in the shade with access to exclusive beverage for purchase, private merchandise stand, cell phone charging stations and more • Private air-conditioned flushable restrooms • Exclusive festival merchandise item • Express VIP entrance with re-entry all weekend • Exclusive opportunity to purchase a VIP parking space • On-site experience concierge CREW CHIEF VIP EXPERIENCE – ($999 all-in pricing) • 3-day admission; non-transferable • Access to the Pit, an exclusive upfront, golden circle viewing area at the Dega Jam Stage and VIP viewing at the Sweet Home Dega Stage and Honky Tonk Hall • Exclusive access to the Crew Chief Super VIP Deck at the Dega Jam Stage featuring a covered viewing platform with premium views of the main stage, open bar featuring select wine, beer and spirits, complimentary light snacks and refreshments, and air-conditioned restrooms • Crew Chief VIP-only exclusive festival merchandise items • Access to the White Lightning VIP Club, a private hospitality tent where guests can cool of in the shade with access to exclusive beverage for purchase, private merchandise stand, cell phone charging stations and more • Crew Chief VIP only festival merchandise item • Express VIP entrance with re-entry all weekend • Exclusive opportunity to purchase a VIP parking space • On-site experience concierge Plus a few surprises!
Best in-car audio from Talladega Superspeedway
Relive the best in-car audio from the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway .
Dale Jr.'s four wins in a row at Talladega Superspeedway
Go back in time and watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. win an amazing four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races in a row at Talladega Superspeedway from 2001-2003.
Live chat: Talladega Superspeedway weekend
Chat with NASCAR fans while following the races at Talladega Superspeedway
Junior looks for more Talladega magic
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega RELATED: Qualifying order TALLADEGA , Ala. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a simple explanation for the fan reaction at Talladega Superspeedway , site of Sunday's GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). "If you go to a race at Talladega , your driver can literally, possibly take the lead at any moment in the race," Earnhardt Jr., a six-time winner at the 2.66-mile track, said Friday. "You can't say that anywhere else. "So, with that comes a responsibility, I think, as a driver to try to make that happen because when you come off Turn 4 you can see a big difference in arms in the air and people excited about what just happened when you take the lead. … You can't create that anywhere else. "And they want you to keep doing that all day long because they just want to celebrate all day. They want to have fun. When you get up there and mix it up it gives them what they want. So, I think that is why I like running here and definitely makes it a unique experience as opposed to any other track we go to." RELATED: Every Earnhardt win at Talladega When it comes to lead changes, Talladega is the hands-down, foot-to-the-floor leader in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In the spring race of 2010 and again in '11, there were an amazing 88 lead changes. In the fall race of '10 the lead changed hands 87 times. In fact, nine of the top 10 races for most lead changes took place here. Some of that can be traced to the rules packages of the day, but it's worth noting that the '73 race, held in the heat of the summer, featured 64 lead changes. Dale Earnhardt was one of the sport's best when it came to the 200 mph game of chance known as restrictor-plate racing, winning 10 times at Talladega and three times at Daytona. Maybe he couldn't really "see" the air as some thought, but the seven-time champion understood the nuances of drafting probably better than anyone. And Earnhardt Jr. has enjoyed similar success. Six of his 26 career victories have come at Talladega , where the Hendrick Motorsports driver is scheduled to make only two more starts. Only 17 races remain in the series' regular season, and 10 more after that, the playoffs that will determine this year's champion. Earnhardt Jr. has spent nearly two decades trying to reach the pinnacle of the sport and now just one final opportunity remains. RELATED: Junior opens up about retirement Twenty-fourth in points, winless thus far this season and with only a single top-10 finish, it's been a rocky start for the series' most popular driver. Three plate races provide three more opportunities, but no more than the others that have yet to be run elsewhere. If some feel this is a "must-win" race for Earnhardt Jr., he's not buying it. "That mindset might actually work and produce results for some guys," he said. "I don't know if that's probably the best way for me to go about it. But I definitely need to go in there and be aggressive and I know when I've won races here what approach I took that day that helped me get there. And I know I need to be a certain way mentally … to have success. "I don't buy the notion that we can't win anywhere but Talladega and Daytona; we have had a dry spell, I haven't won a lot of races, but we have won at other tracks in the past. But I think if I go in thinking this is a must-win, I'm probably going to make mistakes ... "I just know what I need to do, I'm going to go out there and try to do it. I've said it in the past, you've got to run the last 50 laps mistake-free. The guy that does that will win the race. … "Every move and decision and turn of the wheel has to be the right decision." There's concern, but trust too, he said. Trust in his team and crew chief Greg Ives and the Hendrick Motorsports organization for whom he has spent the last dozen years. "We've got a good set-up under the car and we are doing the best thing we can for ourselves to be competitive whether we are in the playoffs, whether it's the second race of the year or the last race of the year," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We take the best car we can and give it our best effort. "We just need to put together some races here. We've got to get a good handful of races under our belt that are finishes that we can be proud of and see where that nets us on the points deal, but it would be nice if we could just go ahead and get a win out of the way and get on with it." No matter the results, he said, "It's going to be a fun year." "I do think we can win some races," he said. "I really do." Earnhardt has seen the fans standing, arms raised in unison as he charged out of Turn 4 with the lead and the race on the line here at Talladega on numerous occasions in the past. Sunday, he hopes to see it once again. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Brad Keselowski shares secret to success at Talladega
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega EDITOR'S NOTE: In a rare first-person exclusive, Brad Keselowski gives his thoughts on racing at NASCAR's biggest track, Talladega Superspeedway . From racing the track on a video game to racing the pack in real life, Keselowski gives a glimpse into the "moves" that translate into Talladega success. Some drivers relish Talladega . Some drivers hate it. I still remember this time—it was probably 2003—and there was this video game called "NASCAR Racing 2003 PC." And I would run it and have a great time. There was this online community, and we would race all kinds of different tracks. It was a lot of fun, but there weren’t a lot of great drivers. I wasn't a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver then, but I was a decent online racer. We'd go to all these different tracks. We'd go to a Bowman Gray or a Dover or a Michigan, and I had a blast with that. But you'd only get maybe five or 10 guys who were any good, and the rest were intimidated, so it was almost like it was too easy. So this online league I was racing with started this thing where we would race on Tuesday nights, and we had this series where we would race on superspeedways, and like 80 to 100 people would show up and race it. Talladega was two of the races, and my bother (Brian) and I would race on it together. I remember winning those races and thinking, 'That's so cool to beat all these guys' and kind of almost falling in love with Talladega online. And so the first time I went there, it was a little bit of a shellshock being in a pack for real. It was a lot different from being in a pack on a damn computer—I can tell you that right now. But the moves and the techniques and all those things are really similar, and when you can slow it down and think of it as a giant chess match, where things aren't just happening—they're happening because you want them to, it starts to breed a lot of confidence in you. You feel comfortable at those tracks. And that why I’m looking forward to Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). MORE: Full Talladega schedule " 'Dega paint schemes You've still got to get over the wrecks and the big packs and all those things you know you’re susceptible to. You still have to get over that, and that's a tough challenge, but the moves to me are like a game of chess, and I enjoy that game. Learning the moves is like anything else in life. How do you learn to ride a bicycle? Sometimes you bust your ass. Sometimes you learn by watching somebody else and what they can do. What's interesting about Talladega is that it seems like every year—or maybe every three or four years—a new move comes out that no one has ever thought of, no one has executed before. That's what made Dale (Earnhardt) so special there. He was always creating the new moves. Because of that, he was always a step ahead. I think that continues to happen now. The great racers at Talladega are the ones that can innovate and create a new move that nobody knows how to defend. And that's really, really tricky. It takes a lot of research, a lot of timing, a lot of work, a lot of study. But some of it's just intuition and learning the hard way, too. STATS: Keselowski's 4 Talladega wins, more I guess what I’m trying to say is, like anything else in life, there’s a lot of ways you can learn. You can learn the hard way. Sometimes you learn because you just have a natural talent at it, or sometimes you learn from studying. I think it's really all three. In my first win in the No. 2 Miller Lite car, when I broke the draft on the final lap, someone else had made that move, but they made it at a time that wasn't critical to the outcome. Going into that race, I had that move planned, but not until the end when the timing was most beneficial. That won that race, and now that move is defunct. You always think you've found the next move, but you never know until the race is over, and it either worked or it didn't. But I can't tell you what it is—it's a trade secret. I think it goes in waves. I think you have a year or two where it’s like nothing's clicking, and you get frustrated. Then you find a new move, find a new technique, and things start to click, and you feel like you're in charge and dominant. And then everybody eventually catches up to those moves, or those moves are made irrelevant by rules changes and so forth, and you have to find a new one. I think there's a bit of an ebb and flow to it. At this point in time, we have a series of moves that are pretty strong, that have put us in a position to win a lot of plate races at Team Penske with a lot of things that Joey (Logano) and I have learned and worked on together. But those moves eventually will become irrelevant. There will be something different. Hopefully, it will last a long time, but history shows it won't. That's OK. I look at probably the last three years on the plate tracks, and I feel like Joey and I have been the most successful, and we hope to continue that. As told to Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Talladega finish line placement affects strategy
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega TALLADEGA , Ala. -- There are several marked differences between Talladega Superspeedway and its sister restrictor-plate track, Daytona International Speedway. For one thing, Daytona has tighter corners. Handling is more of an issue at the 'Birthplace of Speed.' At Daytona, driving double-file through the corners is about all most drivers care to risk, whereas at Talladega , with its sweeping turns and higher banking, three- and four-wide is possible without calamity. Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two speedways is the placement of the start/finish line. At Daytona, its location in the center of the tri-oval is typical of most large tracks. At Talladega , on the other hand, you don't get to the stripe until you exit the tri-oval, past the exit from pit road. NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. wanted to give fans seated in the frontstretch grandstands at Talladega plenty of opportunity to see cars slingshot past each other in the tri-oval as they raced toward the checkered flag. And the location of the finish line certainly affects where drivers make their moves on the final lap. "That extra distance creates just a little bit different finish," said NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Brennan Poole. "Guys can try to set up a little differently and make some moves and make some things happen and wait a little bit longer. "It's still all about timing. If the start/finish line was in the tri-oval, maybe guys would do something a little bit different, and time it a little bit different." "They moved it there to bring the tri-oval more into play," added Elliott Sadler, who is competing in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend. "It just adds more excitement coming down to the start/finish line -- definitely." &lt;/p&gt;
Kennedy knocks rust off to record fourth at Talladega
RELATED: Race results TALLADEGA , Ala. -- Ben Kennedy said he needed to "knock the rust off" his restrictor-plate prowess during Saturday's Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway . For the 25-year-old driver, that meant posting a career-best fourth-place result in only the second XFINITY Series start of his career. "Really happy with the finish," Kennedy said post-race. "Got to Joey (Logano) there at the end -- you're really only as good as whoever's behind us and how close they are behind us when they're all single file there for a while. We even lost the pack, just running wide open. So, it was a lot of fun and got a lot of out of it." Kennedy has a nearly-full plate this season, splitting 21 races between driving Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 Chevrolet (nine races) and with GMS Racing (12 races). His next turn behind the wheel comes up quickly at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27 with GMS Racing. "I'm just looking to be competitive," Kennedy said. "My goal was, laying out the options over the offseason, to go be in something that we could go win races in, no matter what series." While Kennedy has three full-time Camping World Truck Series seasons (2014-2016) on his resume, Saturday's Talladega race was his first start in one of NASCAR's three major series this season. Waiting for his turn has been "long," he joked. "It kills you sitting on the sidelines watching Truck and XFINITY races," Kennedy said. "But at the same time in the back of my head, I knew good things were to come, with RCR cars and running GMS as well. I'm really looking forward to the season. It was tough -- I still stayed busy with some Legends stuff -- but it's good to be back at the race track for a reason." With the 300-miler at Talladega marking only the second XFINITY Series race of his career (his series debut was at Iowa in 2016), Kennedy does believe he'll experience some growing pains as he continues throughout his season. "Honestly, just trying to get back in the car and get used to things again," Kennedy said. "This XFINITY car drives so different from what I'm used to. That's going to be a whole new learning curve." That being said, a fourth-place at always-menacing Talladega doesn't hurt a driver's self-confidence behind the wheel moving forward. "This (finish) gives you a lot of confidence and momentum and it's just one of the first times I've had some good fortune here at Talladega ," Kennedy said. "So, it's rare, but I'll take it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Part 2: The Intimidator's Day at Talladega
Editor's note: This story was originally published Oct. 21, 2015. MORE: READ PART 1 HERE The Build-up "That's what we've been wanting is being able to draft up and race these guys. I think the things they've done and changes they've made will make a difference. I think you'll see a better race, a closer race." -- Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR teleconference, Oct. 11, 2000. Bobby Labonte was steaming toward his first premier series championship, heading into Talladega with a commanding 252-point lead -- more than any driver could earn in one race under the former Latford points system -- over Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt ranked third, 258 points off the top with Dale Jarrett further back in fourth, 388 points in arrears. Dunlap: I think he saw those upcoming races as a real chance for him to make a run. ... Earnhardt was so focused on getting that eighth championship and, I think, at that moment that late in the season he had kind of felt it slipping away. Bobby Labonte: At the time where we were in points, it was risk over reward and if you were the chaser, it was easier to make those risks. If you're being chased, this is one of those places where you bide your time and you wait toward the end of it more. Dale Jarrett (driver, Robert Yates Racing No. 88 Ford): It was such an unknown. I won't say that I dreaded the race because I looked forward to racing there. We had been very successful at Talladega , but with the unknown and being in the midst of a championship battle was something that we were a little bit leery of in making the right choices and the right calls, so, as always, you're on edge racing at Talladega . In addition to the ratcheted-up championship pressure, teams and drivers also faced polarizing new aerodynamics rules that altered the looks of the cars and the type of racing they produced. McReynolds: The aero package was interesting. NASCAR had been searching all throughout the early part of 2000. ... In the summer of that year they took about 10 or 12 of us down to Daytona to do a test, and it was really an open sheet of paper. We went down there and they told us to bring all types of spoiler material and aluminum. I don't know that they really knew what they wanted to try and we just started trying things. Helton: We'd kind of eased up to it, but back in those days, we would kind of settle in on what we would use at the Daytona 500 by the Talladega race and use it there so that everybody would get used to it or we'd find any hidden ghosts and goblins in it before we unveiled it at the Daytona 500 . Bobby Labonte: I think we were there for the test and it was like some people liked it and some people didn't. If I went from 18th to first on the last lap, I loved it. I didn't like it quite as good at the end of the day. Childress: As good as I can remember back, we had the package with the wicker on the spoiler and the wicker across the roof. It was a whole new package and the cars really drafted, really raced. Nemechek: We called that the old taxi cab strip and they put a lot of drag in the car and turbulated a lot of air. … Once the air hit that thing on the roof, there were some very unique things going on with that, and I think between our two teams we were able to understand that quicker than most. Kenny Wallace (driver, Andy Petree Racing No. 55 Chevrolet): Andy Petree was by far, in my opinion, the best at getting the most out of his race cars on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega . He was the king of aerodynamics and getting the car low to the ground. Petree: I loved it. In my opinion, it was one of the best packages that we ever had for restrictor-plate racing because it kept the cars obviously in a big pack, but it made a big, huge hole in the air and it took a lot more power to push that aero package, so the car had more power, more response and I thought it was one of the best packages they ever had. Bobby Labonte: Back then, we didn't run a pack of 43 cars in a full pack like you do today. I don't think we circled it as much as these guys do, say in the last five or 10 years, but it was somewhere you knew that just whatever happened, you could be running in the top five one lap and then 18th the next lap. Hailey: There was a tremendous amount of unknown with the new wicker bill across the top of the car. We had no idea what we were in for. A new aero package had drivers and crew chiefs wondering how their respective cars would react in traffic. This No. 3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo had no problem adjusting. The vehicle that carried Dale Earnhardt to his final NASCAR victory still resides in the team museum. Though the aerodynamic devices were intended to slow and bunch up the cars, the speeds shown in early practices were deemed too fast. That led to NASCAR officials making a change to the size of the restrictor-plate openings -- from 1 inch to 15/16ths -- just before final practice in an effort to further slow the cars. The modification added an extra layer of intrigue to what was already shaping up to be a true wild-card race. Petree: They had a restrictor-plate size, if I recall correctly, it was a one-inch plate that we started with, which made quite a bit of power. So we sat on the pole with the 33 car (Nemechek) and that one-inch plate changed everything as far as restrictor-plate motors. Helton: I don't think it would be called unprecedented, but it wasn't something we did every superspeedway race, but we also watched very closely the top speeds, and so if I recall correctly, it seems to me like this package during practice produced some speeds that had crept up and the aero package around the car was still such that the lift-off speed was critical to us. We shrunk the plate in the middle of that event to get the speeds in a better position for the event. Skinner: The aero platform, the whole rules thing with the engine package that they brought, for some reason everything was perfect on our car that weekend and we were extremely fast. And then NASCAR decided to put a smaller plate on, and I went up into the NASCAR truck and raised hell. It didn't take Mike Helton long to come out of his chair and explain to me that NASCAR had been there long before I was and it will be there long after I'm not. His job is to make sure that we don't put cars in the grandstands and keep our fans safe, and he basically just shut me right up and they did what they wanted to do anyway. Hailey: At that time, I was actually the dyno operator in the shop, so it was my job to run the engines on the dyno. We did a lot of testing before each race because we always had the idea, 'They may go a little smaller restrictor plate or they may go a little larger.' So we had a little background. We knew kind of what to do if they changed restrictor plates as far as the engine, as far as the tuning and everything, so it wasn't a big surprise that we had to change it. We were ready.
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