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The Trouble with Talladega
Charlie Young

With the tragic death of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, and a 19 car pileup in the season opening Daytona 500, drivers are more than a little leary about heading to Talladega Superspeedway. The superspeedway, home of the April 22 Talladega 500, uses the same rules that contribute to the very close racing that many feel is unsafe.

Several weeks ago, there was even rumor of a boycott by a few of the top drivers. Bobby Labonte, the 2000 Winston Cup Champion, stated that his sponsor, Interstate Batteries, had given him the okay to skip the race. However, now only one week from Talladega, a boycott looks unlikely but NASCAR refuses to budge on their rules packages for the tracks of over 2 miles in length.


Gordon's win at
Talladega last year

Rumor has it that instead of boycotting, many teams have another solution: go to Talladega and try to run with a altered rules package that will produce less drafting. If NASCAR tries to stop them, they plan to protest for approval as much as possible.

It's pretty obvious that drivers are worried about racing at Talladega, but they always have been.

"Oh, I always have concerns going back to Talladega," said Jeff Gordon, "When we left there last year I said, 'That was not great driver's skill, that was pure luck' ... When you run three and four wide every single lap, that's pretty intense. And when you're out there, you're in disbelief of what's going on. It's a tremendous show for the fans and when it's all over and nobody's wrecked, it's the greatest thing you've ever been a part of. But you know it's too good to be true."

Gordon, the winner of the 2000 spring race at Talladega, is looking to contend for a title this year. A title contender must run every race, and have a strong showing in most of them.

"Right now, I think our team is extremely strong. We've been in the top five every weekend," Gordon said. "You knock on the door enough times and eventually it's going to open. If this team gets on a roll, there's no telling what we're capable of doing also."

Gordon will go into this weekend's race 123 points behind Dale Jarrett, the points leader. Keep in mind that anything can happen in the blink of an eye at Talladega, and that it doesn't take that long to make up 123 points.

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