NASCAR

Communication a challenge at Talladega

Who will win at Talladega? The 3 Wide gang has some ideas.
Who will win at Talladega? The 3 Wide gang has some ideas.
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. 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.

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TALLADEGA, Ala.

With the necessity of choosing a partner to tandem draft at Talladega Superspeedway, the challenge for teams has been how many drivers frequencies can fit on one radio.

In the past, it was necessary for a driver to hear his crew chief, spotter and owner. Through evolution on multicar organizations, other teammates soon became part of the channel surfing.

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For some at Daytona International Speedway, the other track on the schedule with similar style racing becuase of the use of restrictor-plates, there was a cacophony of unfamiliar voices interrupting the airwaves.

When Juan Pablo Montoya was asked whether he wanted to communicate with other drivers during the race, his answer was simple: “Hell no!”

“The only person I really wanted to have on the radio is (teammate) Jamie (McMurray) because that was the focus; in the 500 that was the focus,” Montoya said. “I would assume as a team, we are going to do the same here.

“You plan so much and everything, and I end up pushing Kurt Busch at the end of the race. You plan everything and you get a restart, and the guy in front of you is a different guy . . . you make a decision, and sometimes you make the right ones and sometimes you make the wrong one. But I will always try to be very loyal.”

The loyalty question also comes into play. Clint Bowyer, who won the fall race at Talladega, said his preference would be to draft with a fellow Richard Childress racer. He knows with RCR current restrictor plate package, his best odds are running with one of his teammates. But if Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton or Paul Menard are not available, Bowyer will find the best partner.

“I know going into this thing my best shot at a good run is to be with somebody with an ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) engine under the hood,” Bowyer said. “I know how much work our guys put into this racetrack, how much pride we take in being good here. So my best opportunity, I think, (is) going to be with my teammates.

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“Now, if something happens, you are forced to find somebody else, and it is important to be able to have that range on the radio so you can do that. I think it is a safety measure. I think it helps everything run smoother and be a lot more methodical with everything if you are able to communicate with whoever you are working with.”

As Bowyer will attest, the dancing on the spotters’ stand can be as entertaining as the action on the track, as the eyes in the sky move from perch to perch trying to negotiate the best deal.

Now, the spotters have the responsibility of not only brokering the deals but deciding which voice will take the lead.

“Well, in the past you were yelling at your spotter saying, ‘Go down to the 14 spotter and see if he will work with me or go down there . . . ’ and you are at his mercy now,” Bowyer said.

“You can be able to flip over (channels).”

Bowyer lost Burton as a partner at Daytona when the No. 31’s engine blew up. Temporarily, he was at odds until he hooked up with Kyle Busch. However, finding Busch’s frequency was not easy.

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“We couldn’t communicate as good with one another the way we would have liked, and if we could have, the outcome could have been a lot better,” Bowyer said. “It’s hard, but hopefully at the end of the day, you will have a restart or whatever else . . . you will have time to find him on the radio.

“I guess you just go through and say, ‘Is this Kyle?’ and they say, ‘No, get off my radio.’ . . . And you just keep switching till you find him. But like I said, its going to be interesting at the end of this thing. I would say it will be quite humorous.”

During the first Cup practice, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson left their teammates behind and opted to draft with each other. The pair ended up third and fourth, respectively, on the speed chart during first practice with equal laps of 193.713 mph. For Sunday, Busch will work with two radios — the maximum that NASCAR allows competitors to carry in their cars.

“I’ve worked with my guys and my radio guys, being able to put the radios together where you can do everything you want to be able to do,” said Kyle Busch. “I did that on the Nationwide side in Daytona and it was able to help me, so I got it done for my Cup car and I have the same thing here.

“If I could, I’d have all 43 on my radio, but that radio isn’t legal to go into the race car. You have to have a channel radio, which I think it only allows you 15. So if (Kevin) Harvick has 20, I want to know what radio he has. I have my teammates on my primary radio, and then on my secondary radio I have my teammates again so I can hear them and then I have about 13 — I think I have their backup channels — so maybe 12.”

 

Wanna hook up?

Carl Edwards didn’t think twice about who he’d pick for his Talladega dancing partner.

After Trevor Bayne outraced the veteran to win this year's Daytona 500, the Roush Fenway Racing teammates quickly found each other during practice for Sunday's Aaron’s 499 (Coverage begins at noon ET on FOX).

“Trevor Bayne went from a guy who surprised everybody at Daytona in practice and then leading up to everything in the race to now he’s pushing me around as the Daytona 500 champ here at Talladega,” Edwards said. “I think everyone will be looking to him particularly as a guy that they can work with.”

Bayne, 20, quickly gained the trust of four-time champ Jeff Gordon during practice sessions in Daytona, but the No. 24 was collected in a wreck on Lap 30 and wasn’t a contender after that. NASCAR's 2000 Cup champ, Bobby Labonte, ended up pushing Bayne in the closing laps of Daytona.

Despite the yellow tape on Bayne’s bumper, he’s not surprised about the attention from his fellow competitors as well as his sudden popularity in the garage.

“Yeah, I suppose there will be guys coming by to talk about teaming up,” Bayne said. “I think that everyone is anticipating it to be a race a lot like Daytona, and Ford and my team gave me such a great race car there that I am sure people will assume we should be fast again at Talladega. We were so fast at Daytona the whole time. My crew really put together a great car for that race. After those practices and the Shootout and everything, I think guys started noticing and guys were coming up to me and talking about hooking up in the race, so I am sure that if we unload quick that there will be guys coming to talk about Sunday again.”

On Friday, Bayne drafted with Edwards, Brian Vickers and David Gilliland, who finished third in the 500.

Edwards, who is leading the Sprint Cup point standings, was complimentary about both of Roush’s proteges, Bayne and Nationwide Series points leader Ricky Stenhouse. Edwards drafted with Stenhouse during the Nationwide practices Thursday.

“I really think Jack has two guys there that are the future of Roush Fenway,” Edwards said. “That’s cool.”

 

Home cookin'

Nancy Sterling took quite the ribbing last week when her son Carl Edwards attributed her cooking to his sour stomach after the race at Texas Motor Speedway.

On Thursday morning at a nearby hotel, Sterling said, “You can see I’m not cooking today."

Sterling said the comments were all in “good fun,” though some of her friends insisted that Edwards offer an apology to his mother.

Edwards did that Friday.

“It turns out my motorhome driver and his wife — Wayne and Rosemary drive my motorhome — and they called my mom and said, ‘We ate the rest of that food and we’re fine, so it wasn’t your food.’ So I had to apologize to Mom,” Edwards said. “She thought it was pretty funny, though. She won’t have to cook for anybody anytime soon. She’s been offering everywhere she goes to cook for people, and it’s funny because they’re like, ‘No, that’s OK.’”

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