F1 star Trulli keeping his eyes on NASCAR

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.



Jarno Trulli descended from the No. 47 transporter Friday clearly pleased with what he's witnessed.
Trulli has visited NASCAR tracks in the past. And although it's the first practice at Phoenix International Raceway, the 35-year-old Formula One pilot is looking at stock cars in a whole different light — with the possibility of driving one instead of being a spectator. "It's really nice because I can get an idea of the real racing up there," Trulli said. "Steve (Hallam, director of competition for Michael Waltrip Racing) has pointed out what to watch and gave me a better idea of what to look for (on the track)." For Trulli, who has attended races as a guest at Michigan and Homestead, understanding the logistics of a NASCAR race weekend is part of the learning curve. "It's a brand new series and the weekend is run in a very different way," Trulli said. "I'm trying to understand technically as well the approach of the drivers and the teams towards the race weekend. The practice of this morning, the meaning of the practice and the work they do during practice and then qualifying and what happens on Saturday. It's all the basic concept of understanding the weekend. "The race is the race. The race is on Sunday. Before you get there, there's all the processes, all preparations to get there and ready to fight." Hallam, who has worked with some of the top drivers in the world including last year's World Champion Lewis Hamilton as well as F1 legends like Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Mika Hakkinen, is more than happy to help Trulli learn. "Jarno is interested in racing as is most of us that work in it," said Hallam, who was the lead engineer at McLaren Mercedes F1 team prior to coming to NASCAR. "He's interested to know how it works and why we do certain things on Friday morning in practice. What the purpose is? What the objective is? What we out there running, why are some cars running two laps and why are others running 10 laps? "I'm just trying to paint a picture for him so he understands Fridays at a racetrack for us — which is important because it all leads to qualifying. That's a need point in the weekend because of the changes that take place — some people stay and others go home. In " Last week Trulli was fitted for a seat at Michael Waltrip Racing. Next week he'll be testing at International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla. "To say I'm excited is an understatement," Trulli said. "I can't wait to get the experience done. I think it's going to be great. I'm expecting a good day and I'm going to enjoy it. "For the moment, it's just a test. I want to keep the doors open. You never know what's going to happen. But I'm extremely excited." In 13 seasons in F1, Trulli posted one win (Monaco 2004), 11 podium finishes and four poles. Trulli finished eighth in the championship points this season with three podium appearances while driving for Panasonic Toyota Racing. But with Toyota's decision to discontinue its F1 program, Trulli's plans for 2010 are still undecided. Trulli said he has followed the progress of Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Speed since their departures from F1. Prior to practice Trulli spoke with Montoya, who left F1 in 2006 to pursue a stock car career with his former CART team owner Chip Ganassi. Montoya is currently sixth in the point standings. Trulli has been impressed by the progress that Montoya has made in such a short period of time. And while Montoya's success is encouraging to potential open-wheel drivers contemplating a switch to stock cars, including Trulli's name on that list would be premature. "Since Juan Pablo came to NASCAR he's attracted a lot of interest because of the switch," Trulli said. "It was such a big switch and he's doing very well."
Tagged: Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Waltrip, Scott Speed

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