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Truex worried hot weather could complicate 'Dega

May 01, 2012, Mark Aumann,

A triumphant trip to Talladega will not only be determined by temperatures, but by timing as well.

That's the opinion shared by Martin Truex Jr. as he keeps one eye on the weather forecast and the other on any possible technical bulletins handed down by NASCAR before this weekend's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

"With the temperatures approaching 90 degrees down there this weekend, I don't think we'll see a lot of two-car racing until the end. Even then, I don't think guys can go more than three or four laps."


NASCAR required major changes to the cooling system for the Daytona 500 -- including smaller capacity radiators and a reduction in system pressure -- in an effort to police tandem drafting. Even then, some teams had overheating issues.

And with Sunday's forecast topping out at 90 degrees, that's a major concern for nearly everyone in the Sprint Cup garage.

The key will be controlling engine temperatures while picking the right time to match up with a drafting partner. But Truex said things will go badly inside the cockpit long before fans start seeing white smoke trailing from a car.

"Just blowing up the engine's not the biggest problem at the end of the race, if you get together too early," Truex said during Tuesday's weekly NASCAR media conference. "When you start getting hot, you're losing all your power. So you're losing speed, too. There's kind of a fine line between getting together with somebody too early and waiting too long."

And until the cars get on the track Friday for drafting practice, Truex said drivers are just guessing as to how long they might be able to stay hooked together for one final sprint to the finish.

"The best-case scenario is that you get your engine cooled off with three or four laps to go, if you know that's how far you can go without pushing all of the water out of the engine and blowing it up," Truex said. "Everybody in practice will push as long as they can, and kind of get an idea of, 'OK, how cool was my engine when I started pushing and how many laps do I think I can run like this without losing all the horsepower?' "

In his three most recent trips to Talladega, Clint Bowyer has two wins and a second-place finish, so he's obviously doing something right. When asked whether it was more car, driver or luck, Bowyer admitted you can't win at NASCAR's longest superspeedway without a little bit of all three.

But the lessons learned at Daytona in February will certainly be applied on Sunday, Bowyer said.

"[There's] more room to get away with moves and things that you do on the race track," he said. "Temperatures are quite a bit higher than we had at Daytona, so it's going to be interesting to see if we have any temperature problems, and, if we do, what adjustments will be made to fix that and to help us along.

"We all get what they're trying to accomplish [by] keeping us from two-car tandems. But we can't be overheating, running in the pack as well."

So when Truex climbs into his car Sunday, he'll have one eye on his mirrors the other on the gauges, because he believes fans will see a return to the traditional Talladega pack racing on Sunday.

That should add more excitement but increases the potential for chaos exponentially.

"I think all 43 cars or however many are running at the time will be in one pack," Truex said. "It's just hard to say exactly how it's going to go down. I don't think the two-car tandem will be like it was last year with the cooling system regulations and all the things that they did at Daytona.

"With the temperatures approaching 90 degrees down there this weekend, I don't think we'll see a lot of two-car racing until the end. Even then, I don't think guys can go more than three or four laps. I think it's going to be a mix of pack racing, a little two-car tandem here and there, but there's no way we'll stay hooked up all day like we did last year."

No matter whether it's by working his way through the pack or getting a push from a partner, the driver who gets to Talladega's Victory Lane will be the one who seizes the moment before his engine seizes up.

"It's one of those deals where you have to be in the right place at the right time and hope it all works out," Truex said.