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Chase Viewer's Guide: Round 4
Who to WatchWhen we look at the history of the Talladega Superspeedway, we almost have to discount the previous records because this is the debut of the Car of Tomorrow. Quite frankly, we don't know what's going to happen.
What to Watch
Pit PerspectiveEverybody respects Jacques Villeneuve's talent and what he's accomplished. That's not in question. The question is why wouldn't he pick a place like Richmond, Martinsville or Atlanta to attempt his Cup debut. There's a lot of apprehension among the drivers at a track where you have to trust the guys next to you, in front of you and behind you. You have to know what they are going to do. There's just little to no confidence in knowing he'll be able to stay there. For the most part, the Cup regulars know each other's tendencies. That's where the trepidation comes in. Nobody is insulting the man's record, which speaks for itself. It's just why debut with white-knuckle racing at Talladega? The only reason that I can pin it on is getting him superspeedway experience for the Daytona 500. Watching another former open wheel driver, Dario Franchitti, announce he's coming into the Sprint Cup Series, the sport has acquired quite a gentleman with a lot of integrity. It's the biggest challenge of his career, and that's why he's doing it. He was very humble and extremely well-spoken, and it speaks to where our sport is. Not that we don't hit a bump in the road every now and then, but it speaks to where people want to be. Franchitti is 34 years old, but he wants to race in NASCAR, just like a few other Indy 500 winners like Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr.
Finish LineBe there at the end. Tires shouldn't be part of the equation. They're pretty hard here. The track is very smooth. David Reutimann had a great run in the spring, and he lost an engine and a certain top-10 finish late in the race. If you can be in the lead pack with 10 to go, you've got a shot to win. Look at what Kevin Harvick did on the last lap of the Daytona 500. He came off of Turn 2 and wasn't really a factor all day. Then, all of the sudden, he won the race. That's even truer at Talladega because handling isn't as important as it is at Daytona. Talladega is about brute horsepower and pinning the gas pedal to the mat. Or like Sterling Marlin likes to say, "Let it eat."
|Speed Mail Steve|
Dale Jr.'s good causeDale Earnhardt Jr. is trying to win a race and prepare for a brand-new endeavor next year. At a time of year when drivers and in the middle of the longest stretch of racing of the season, I'm impressed that he's going to devote time to raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Tuesday Oct. 23 in Charlotte with Dale Jr.'s Celebrity Sports Auction. Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme is going to be there as well, and he's in the middle of his season. This particular fundraiser is very important to Dale Jr. because his father was very involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In a larger sense, I'm really impressed with how drivers are starting foundations. Kyle Petty is certainly the most well-known with the Victory Junction Gang Camp, but so many drivers are starting foundations that benefit so many different efforts and worthy causes. I admire them for giving their time. Click here for more information about the Dale Jr.'s Celebrity Sports Auction. You can purchase tickets for the event through Wednesday, Oct. 17.
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NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.