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From the notebook: 'Dega a throwback Nationwide moment

April 21, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Conway's arrangement with Nemecheck forces driver to rethink season schedule

Johnny Davis and Joe Nemechek have a Busch Series championship on their resumes -- so it wasn't like what the two current Nationwide Series owners accomplished Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway was uncharted territory.

Nemechek has nine poles and two Busch Series wins at Talladega, so he knows how to get it done on NASCAR's biggest track. Ditto for Mike Wallace, JD Motorsports' driver, who has a half-dozen restrictor-plate wins at Daytona and Talladega in Trucks, Busch and ARCA Racing series events.

"... we took our little JD Motorsports race team, which has hardly any money whatsoever, and we worked so well with NEMCO Motorsports, another little team without much money, and we legitimately drove to the front ..."


But this is 2011 and what Wallace and Nemechek did last weekend at Talladega was almost akin to what walking on the moon in 1965 would've meant.

Nemechek paused when asked to sum up his Saturday, which started in a low-key 20th position but led to him leading four laps after he and Wallace teamed-up in a two-car draft that got them to the front.

"I'm trying to think of the right words," said the guy who's devoted his life to the sport and currently using a portion of his life savings to keep his team going. "It was just a huge boost to our team, and I think it showed that the smaller teams -- the independents -- still have a shot at running well."

The No. 87 team ended up with a third-place finish and Nemecheck made a lengthy visit to Talladega's media center -- a weekly rite last experienced in 2004 after a win at Kansas.

Proving that reality does sometimes bite, Wallace didn't get the real payoff for a case of pure cooperation by two independent owners. Wallace was wheeling a car Davis had taken "on loan" from fellow owner James Finch. Finch's car -- driven by Jamie McMurray -- had already dropped out.

But in a last-lap scramble, Wallace was contending for the win when he got turned around at the end of the backstretch in a drafting melee. The car spun and turned over but landed on its wheels. In shades of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 1997 (with a slight twist), Wallace found out the car still ran and hustled it to the start/finish line, completing the race in 18th place.

"The end result was horrible," Wallace said. "But what you've gotta look at is, we took our little JD Motorsports race team, which has hardly any money whatsoever, and we worked so well with NEMCO Motorsports, another little team without much money, and we legitimately drove to the front and had a shot to win the race on the last green-white-checkered.

"We just didn't anticipate being part of it."

That feat got Davis a full minute of face time during the race broadcast.

"I've got to thank James Finch -- that was his race car," Davis said. "Brad [Parrott, crew chief] done a heckuva job in the pits, Mike done a wonderful job driving, Jason Jarrett did a heckuva job spotting and Joe Nemechek kept us going all day. We couldn't have done it without Joe pushing us."

And it provided two of the best moments in the garage after the race. One of them was heard on TV.

"It was close but no cigar for us, but that's why we work 18 hours a day and seven days a week at my shop with only about eight people," Davis said. "So it's very rewarding to come here and do this. We're struggling to pay our bills, but we get a lot of help from both the Cup and Nationwide garages.

"I guess we'll have to pay James for a race car, now -- but I know him and Nick [Harrison, crew chief] and his boys are smiling for us, too."

And you can believe Davis was smiling, like when a NASCAR official returned the radio from Wallace's car, which had been ejected from the car when it flipped. And later, when one of his guys playfully chided Davis for not mentioning his sponsor, G&K Services, in the interview.

"If they gave me more money," Davis said, "We'd be there more often and I'd learn how to do it better."

On Saturday, they proved they already knew how to run up front.

When congratulations pour in

Wallace had to politely interrupt an interview Saturday at Talladega to take a phone call. When he came back, he laughed and said the brief exchange was with Kevin Gundaker, owner of Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. Gundaker was a foe of Wallace's when they both raced dirt cars at Tri-City. Gundaker also briefly diversified into pavement in ARCA.

Conway's schedule diversifies

Nemechek had a lot of praise for Extenze after the sponsor let him drive the No. 87 Nationwide car rather than its product spokesman, 2010 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Kevin Conway. Conway drove a NEMCO Cup car at Talladega and said that hooking up with Nemechek had caused him to rethink his 2011 schedule.

Conway had originally opted into the Camping World Truck Series as his series of record, but he said when that potential deal didn't come to fruition -- and with more races available with Nemechek in both Cup and Nationwide races -- Conway announced at Talladega that he planned to switch his points paying series to Nationwide.

With Conway bringing Extenze money to the team at Nashville, he'll drive NEMCO's No. 87 and Nemechek, who was in the top 10 in the drivers' standings, will sit out.

FAS Lane opens up road course opportunity

Look for Boris Said to announce a Sprint Cup road course opportunity some time in the near future after FAS Lane Racing owner Frank Stoddard announced that the driver's seat for his No. 32 Ford is available for two Cup events at Infineon Raceway in June and Watkins Glen International in August. FAS Lane currently sits 34th in the Cup owners' standings.

"We have some exciting opportunities available for these two road course races," Stoddard said. "We have had some pretty good success on the road courses in the past and I am very confident that our package this year gives us a great opportunity to run up front in these two races. We want to find a driver and sponsor combination that gives us the best chance for success."

Circuit de la Sarthe (Getty Images)

"Le Mans is a circle with a whole bunch of quirky turns stuck in the middle of it, like a chicane and then two lefts and a right."


Clapprood working with Bliss

Veteran mechanic Paul Clapprood, who spent the past three years alternately working as a car chief or crew chief at TRG Motorsports, started working at Talladega last weekend as Mike Bliss' crew chief at TriStar Motorsports.

Waltrip tests at Le Mans

Michael Waltrip -- who after semi-retiring from stock car racing -- has taken advantage of his spare time to diversify into sport car racing, planning to test this week at Le Mans for the famed 24-hour race in June. Waltrip, who will also compete in Denny Hamlin's Short Track Showdown charity event on April 28, had a typically zany take on the Circuit de la Sarthe, in France.

"Le Mans is a circle with a whole bunch of quirky turns stuck in the middle of it, like a chicane and then two lefts and a right," Waltrip said. "That means one thing: There is going to be a whole lot of speed. Every time you get to a corner you're going to be hauling ass.

"The challenge for me is learning the circuit. There are a lot of turns -- there's very few places where there is just one turn. It's like you get there and there are three or four turns right when you get there and then you fly down another mile or so to hit another set of turns."

Truex Jr. staying low-key

One of Waltrip's drivers, David Reutimann, will race a third Nationwide Series car at Nashville for Rusty Wallace, debuting new sponsor, Flatout Flatbread. Teammate Martin Truex Jr. plans to stay closer to his roots.

"I am going to enjoy the weekend off by doing absolutely nothing," Truex said. "I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but with the amount of traveling we do during the season, I'm in favor of staying home if Sherry [Pollex, his girlfriend] will let me. Sherry says we're staying home.

"I've checked out the weather forecast and it's looking ideal for fishing. They've been biting good, so I'm all about doing that right now. I've also got some R/C boat projects in the works. Home on the lake is where you will find me. I'm looking forward to it. It will be a great way to recharge and get ready for next week's Goodyear Tire test in Indianapolis and the launch of NAPA's Ultimate Tune-Up promotion." Related: Reutimann, Stremme, Bowles to share driving duties of No. 64 Toyota

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.