No quick fix for Talladega

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has a solution to all of the problems at Talladega Superspeedway: Take a bulldozer to the 2.66-mile, high-banked oval.

In the aftermath of the vicious crash that saw the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards fly violently into the catch fence on the final lap of the Aaron's 499, Johnson joined a chorus of Cup drivers who expressed fear that unless something is done to dramatically change NASCAR's biggest track, a worse tragedy likely will result.

"I don't know how we fix it unless we take a bunch of tractors out there and knock down the walls, knock down the banking, and make the track where you have to let off (the gas)," Johnson said in a teleconference call this week.

For its part, NASCAR bosses are adamant that Talladega and Daytona -- the series' other restrictor-plate track -- won't be levelled. In fact those same officials are convinced that if drivers only drove more cautiously, the dangers at the two tracks could be lessened.

Johnson disagrees.

"I don't think they can control it," he said. "They can make some judgment calls, and say that was too aggressive and penalize people. Then they're going to open themselves to harsh criticism over making a call or not making a call.

"(Officials) can talk until they're blue in the face up there, but when we get in those cars we're going to race and try to get position. Regardless of the ass-chewing we get before we pull on the track, you're going to do what you have to do to win. I just don't see an easy solution."

It all comes back to the shape of the race track, according to Johnson, and until it is radically altered to remove the banking nothing will change.

"There's no way to get around it," he said. "The track is so big and there is so much banking and also the fact that the radius of the corner isn't sharp at all. You can run wide open with ease and that's what puts us in these big packs that creates these issues."

The blame game

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti is just three races into his return to IndyCar racing after a try at stock cars and he has brought a touch of NASCAR abrasiveness back with him.

After wrecking while attempting to make a pit stop during the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, Franchitti lashed out at 20-year-old superstar-in-the-making Graham Rahal.

Franchitti blamed Rahal for the crash, suggesting that the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver was brake checking as he drove into the pit lane on the inside of Turn 3.

"He braked really, really early," Franchitti told auto-sport.com. "That's one of the places you can make up time or lose time here. Things are so close on the track that you've really got to maximize your pit entries and exits.

"We were just brushing the brakes in sixth (gear), and Graham looked like he was hard on the brakes. I've no idea you could go in the pit that slow. I got on the brakes, the fronts locked, and it blew both front tires out."

Rahal, on the other hand, claimed to have given Franchitti lots of room. He said that he dropped his NHLR Dallara down below the white line to indicated to those behind him he was slowing down.

"I signalled that I was coming into pit lane by putting two wheels over the white line, and I did it right off Turn 2, and then I came back out to the white line and ducked in.

"I hit the brakes once I ducked, and it was pretty late -- later than I have ever hit the brakes going into a pit lane. And all of a sudden I see this flash (Franchitti) going by and straight into the fence.

"With the speed he was carrying, he wasn't going to make it anyway whether I was there or not."

Not only did the crash ruin Franchitti's day, it also cost him the championship lead. He dropped from first to third behind new leader Tony Kanaan.

A huge loss

The extended NASCAR family was stunned this week with the passing of veteran jourmalist David Poole. The 50-year-old Poole, who covered NASAR for the past 13 seasons for the Charlotte Observer, died at his home of an apparent heart attack.

Poole had just returned home from covering the Aaron's 499 at Talladega, Ala. Poole also hosted a NASCAR-themed daily morning show on the Sirius Satellite radio network. His passion for the sport and the people in it was legendary. He also had collected many honours for his writing, including being named writer of the year four times for the National Motorsports Press Association.

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STAT OF THE WEEK

Records held at Richmond International Raceway:

Most Races (career): 63 -- Richard Petty.

Most Wins (career): 13 -- Richard Petty.

Most Wins (active): 3 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte.

Most Poles (career): 8 -- Richard Petty, Bobby Allison.

Most Poles (active): 5 -- Jeff Gordon.

Most Top 5s (career): 34 -- Richard Petty.

Most Top 10s (career): 41 -- Richard Petty.

Oldest Winner: Harry Gant, 51 years seven months 28 days, Sept. 1991.

Youngest Winner: Richard Petty, 23 years nine months 21 days, April 1961.

Most Laps Led by a Leader: 488 -- David Pearson, Sept. 13, 1970.


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