NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                   === This Week in Auto Racing May 3 - 5 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Talladega, AL (Sports Network) - When NASCAR comes to Talladega Superspeedway,
 it's  usually  a wild weekend  of racing. While  the Sprint Cup and Nationwide
 Series run at Talladega, the IZOD IndyCar Series heads to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 Aaron's 499 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
 
 NASCAR's  new Sprint Cup Series race car, the Gen-6, will be a big topic again
 this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
 
 The  Gen-6 wasn't  exactly a  hit in  the first  restrictor-plate race  of the
 season,  the  Feb. 24 Daytona 500.  The somewhat disappointing race at Daytona
 International Speedway featured just 28 lead changes due to a lack of passing.
 In  fact,  there were  long periods  of drivers running  in single file before
 things got dicey in the closing laps.
 
 Talladega  and  Daytona  are  both  restrictor-plate  tracks  in  NASCAR,  but
 Talladega is slightly bigger and wider than Daytona.
 
 So,  will we see more passing and side-by-side racing at Talladega compared to
 Daytona?
 
 "I  would expect the  racing to be similar to Daytona," said Matt Kenseth, who
 won  the  most recent race  at Talladega last October.  "Now, I dropped out of
 Daytona  in the  last 50 laps (due  to engine failure), but I would expect the
 racing  to  be similar, because  there were no rule  changes. The tracks are a
 little  bit different.  There's more room at Talladega. I don't think handling
 will be a huge issue, although it actually kind of was for some cars. I expect
 it to be the same.
 
 "But  I  will say  that in  Daytona, it's not  that people  don't want to take
 chances. It's not like you don't want to pass. If everybody could go up there,
 have  a shot at leading, they will go do that. It's just circumstances and the
 way  the car  was  and the  way  the draft  worked. It  just  made the  racing
 different.  You had to  be much more patient than you had to be last year. You
 had to be much more calculating with your move."
 
 Kenseth, who made his first start in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in
 the  Daytona  500, led  a race-high  86 laps before  his engine expired, which
 resulted in a 37th-place finish.
 
 Sprint  Cup teams will  find out how fast and how well the car handles at this
 2.66-mile  track during  Friday's practice  sessions. Qualifying  for Sunday's
 race is scheduled for Saturday.
 
 "I'm  certainly  very anxious to  see, because  it's a bigger, wider racetrack
 compared  to Daytona," said Hendrick Motorsports driver and six-time Talladega
 race winner Jeff Gordon. "In Daytona, I felt like we learned a lot about being
 very  patient and  picking and choosing your  moments to try to make passes. I
 certainly  tried to  make some  that didn't  work  out and  cost us  a lot  of
 positions.  We saw single file through the middle section of the race, but yet
 still be extremely exciting in the closing laps. I think that you are going to
 see certainly that at the end.
 
 "The  unknown  is with this  bigger, wider  track. Are we  going to be able to
 complete  those passes  that we  weren't able  to do  at Daytona?  We did  see
 handling  be a bigger issue at Daytona, when you were around other cars on the
 longer  runs.  That doesn't normally  seem to be the  case at Talladega, so we
 won't  know  until we get  there, get in practice,  start drafting and run our
 race."
 
 While  there  is a lot  of curiosity about the  car's first time at Talladega,
 drivers  are more  concerned about making it through the 500-mile race without
 being  involved  in "the  big one." When  NASCAR comes to  this track, you can
 expect one or more major crashes to occur.
 
 That  was certainly  the case  here seven  months ago  when a  25-car accident
 occurred  on the final  turn of the last lap. Tony Stewart, who was leading at
 the  time, triggered the  wreck when he drove down the track and into the path
 of  Michael  Waltrip while trying  to protect his  lead. After Waltrip hit him
 from  behind,  Stewart's car  spun around  and then  flipped over onto several
 other vehicles. Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion during that wreck and
 had to miss the championship Chase races at Charlotte and Kansas.
 
 "Someone  described  racing on the superspeedways  of being a combination of a
 science  project and the luck of a casino, and it's exactly that way," Stewart
 said.  "You do  everything  in your  power  to  take care  of  the science  or
 technology side, do everything you can to build the fastest car you've got.
 
 "But  if  you don't have  the luck to  go with it, even  if you don't have any
 drama  with getting  the car touched -  nothing happens to the car - if you're
 just  in the  wrong spot at the wrong time  at the end, it can take you out of
 whatever  opportunity you had. You can have the best race car in the field and
 not get the chance to get through to the front."
 
 While  Kenseth  was quickly declared the  race winner, it took nearly one hour
 for  NASCAR to  review the video of  the final lap and determine the finishing
 order.
 
 "I  don't think  I've ever  seen  a race  at  Talladega that  wasn't a  great,
 entertaining,  edge  of your seat race,  so I don't  see why that would be any
 different," Kenseth said.
 
 Kenseth's  JGR teammate,  Kyle Busch, avoided the big wrecks at Talladega last
 year, finishing second in the spring race and third in the fall event.
 
 "I  would  say Talladega is  80 percent mental  and 20 percent physical, while
 most  other non-restrictor-plate  races are 80 percent physical and 20 percent
 mental,"  said  Busch, who turned 28  years old on Thursday. "Both races there
 last year, we survived the big wreck but just came up short both times, so I'm
 hoping  to be in  position with our (car) on Sunday to give it another shot at
 the win."
 
 Danica  Patrick will  compete in a Sprint  Cup race at Talladega for the first
 time.  Patrick, in her  first full season in the series, won the pole position
 for  the  Daytona 500.  She became  the highest-finishing  female ever in that
 event  with  an eighth-place  run. She  was running  in third  on the last lap
 but lost momentum, as she was shuffled back in the pack.
 
 "I  feel like  I've learned some lessons  from Daytona about the draft and how
 that  unfolds  at the end, if  you are in the  right place at the right time,"
 Patrick  said. "I think that, when we talk superspeedway racing, there's a lot
 of luck involved. Like I said, right place at the right time - there are a lot
 of  people who have a good chance of winning Talladega, I think. Hopefully, we
 are  one of them at  the end of the race. But, we won't know that until end of
 the race."
 
 Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Aaron's 499.
 
 
 Nationwide Series
 
 Aaron's 312 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
 
 When  the  Nationwide Series races  at Talladega Superspeedway, it's usually a
 wild affair.
 
 Big  wrecks and  close finishes generally happen in a Nationwide event at this
 2.66-mile racetrack.
 
 The  race here  two  years ago  featured a  track-record  56-lead changes,  11
 cautions  and two  red flags  for extensive  cleanup efforts.  Kyle Busch  was
 involved in a 21-car accident late in the race, but he somehow bounced back to
 win  it. The event was extended with two green-white-checkered finishes. Busch
 propelled  to  the lead on  the final  lap when Joey  Logano bumped him to the
 front.  He remained  the  leader when  the  race ended  under  caution for  an
 accident.
 
 Last  year, Logano edged  Busch to the finish line by just 0.034 seconds after
 Logano  made  a sling-shot pass  on Busch for the  lead as they approached the
 line.  The race ended in a green-white-checkered finish after a vicious 10-car
 crash  took place on the backstretch in the closing laps. Eric McClure slammed
 head on into the inside retaining wall at a high rate of speed, forcing NASCAR
 to  halt the  event briefly, as track safety personnel attended to McClure. He
 suffered a concussion during the wreck and missed the next five races.
 
 There  are three restrictor-plate races on the Nationwide schedule each season
 --  two  at Daytona International Speedway  and one at Talladega. These events
 feature tight packs of cars, which can be a recipe for disaster.
 
 "I  wish  I could decide more  when and where  wrecks are going to happen, but
 it's  always a surprise when they do, and they happen at really random times,"
 said Brian Scott, who drives the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
 "It's  so  hard to  miss them  when they do,  other than  the fact that you're
 running  in a pack all close together. I hope that everybody keeps their cool,
 and we make it to the end of the race before things get wild. And I hope we're
 in front of it."
 
 When the series competed at Daytona on Feb. 23, a horrifying accident occurred
 on the frontstretch during the final lap, injuring dozens of spectators in the
 grandstands.  Rookie Kyle Larson flipped around and sailed into the catchfence
 before  coming back down  on the track. Race fans were struck by flying debris
 from  Larson's car  and the fence. Track personnel worked throughout the night
 to repair the fence in time for the Daytona 500.
 
 In  wake  of the Daytona incident,  the crossover gate areas at Talladega have
 been  reinforced  as part of  new safety measures.  Daytona will also make the
 same changes to its fence in time for the July races there.
 
 Logano  will try  to defend his race  win at Talladega. He is making his first
 Nationwide start this season. It will also be the first time the Penske Racing
 driver gets behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang.
 
 "It's  been a long  time coming for sure," said Logano, who won the most races
 in  the series last  year with nine. "I really enjoy running in the Nationwide
 Series,  and  to sit there  and watch all  of the races  up to this point this
 season  has been hard. I'm a racer, and I just want to be out there running as
 much  as I  can. So, I'm pretty excited  to finally get a chance to get behind
 the wheel of the car and check out these Ford Mustangs."
 
 Kurt  Busch,  Kasey Kahne and  Danica Patrick join  Logano as those Sprint Cup
 regulars  scheduled  to compete  in this  race. Patrick will  drive the No. 34
 Chevrolet  for  Turner Scott  Motorsports. She  drove that  car in the season-
 opener  at  Daytona, finishing 36th due  to engine failure in the early going.
 Kyle Busch, winner of four races this season, is not competing at Talladega.
 
 Forty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Aaron's 312.
 
 
 IZOD INDYCAR SERIES
 
 Sao Paulo Indy 300 - Streets of Sao Paulo - Sao Paulo, Brazil
 
 There  have been  three IndyCar Series races  in Sao Paulo, and Will Power has
 won all of them.
 
 Power  will not only try to win in South America's largest city for the fourth
 consecutive  time but  also snap a one-year long winless streak in the series.
 Once  dominant on the road/street courses, the Team Penske driver has not been
 to victory circle in the last 14 races.
 
 When  the series  first  raced on  the 2.536-mile,  11-turn  Sao Paulo  street
 circuit  in 2010,  Power survived  a  spectacular opening-lap  crash and  then
 endured  heavy  rain before making  a winning pass  on Ryan Hunter-Reay in the
 closing  minutes for the  win. The race was scheduled for 75 laps, but IndyCar
 officials  placed  a two-hour limit on  the event due to numerous cautions for
 accidents and a brief halt for a thunderstorm.
 
 With  the 2011  race delayed  one  day due  to  heavy rain,  Power once  again
 survived  a rash of accidents and dealt with wet track conditions. He took the
 lead  for  good with 10 minutes  remaining in the timed-event and then crossed
 the  finish  line almost five seconds  ahead of his closest competitor, Graham
 Rahal.
 
 Power  continued his dominance  in Brazil last year, leading 63 of 75 laps. It
 was  his  third consecutive  victory  of  the season.  He  had  won at  Barber
 Motorsports Park and on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. prior to Brazil.
 
 "Brazil is probably the best street course that we go to," Power said. "It has
 the  most  passing opportunities,  and a  massive crowd is  there. It's a cool
 street circuit, and it's a lot of fun."
 
 Power  has  started on the  pole in  the last two  races in Brazil. He started
 fifth in the inaugural event.
 
 Right  now,  Power is  eighth in the  point standings. He  is 37 points behind
 leader  and Penske  teammate Helio Castroneves, who is one of three Brazilians
 competing in this race. Sao Paulo is Castroneves' hometown.
 
 "It's  great  to be in Sao  Paulo, because it's an awesome place," Castroneves
 said.  "The fans  love it.  The fans  going there  just shows  that Brazilians
 really love race cars and IndyCar there."
 
 Ana  Beatriz, who drives  for Dale Coyne Racing, is also from Sao Paulo, while
 KV Racing Technology driver Tony Kanaan is from Salvador, Brazil.
 
 "I  love it, and I love to race in front of my fans, my family and my friends,
 everybody  who doesn't have  a chance to come to America and watch us," Kanaan
 said. "I definitely have the biggest fan base when we go race there."
 
 After  scoring  his first career IndyCar  victory two weeks ago in Long Beach,
 Takuma Sato moved up to second in the rankings. Sato, in his first season with
 A.J. Foyt Racing, is just six points behind Castroneves.
 
 "This  is just the  start," Sato said. "Now we're going back to Brazil. It's a
 different  street  course, but I  hope we have a  strong package and just keep
 continuing with it."
 
 Twenty-five teams are entered for the Sao Paulo Indy 300.
 
 05/02 16:55:00 ET

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