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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Safety features put to test
By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Forecasts, depending on the source, call for mostly dangerous with a 50 percent chance for apocalyptic today at Talladega Superspeedway.
The purported improved safety features of the Car of Tomorrow will be tested in their first race on the 2.66-mile, high-banked expanse of Talladega Superspeedway, where carburetor-choking restrictor plates are needed to keep speeds less than 200 mph.
The cars, never used at a plate track before but rolled out for a Chase for the Championship race, "suck up" to each other much more quickly than their predecessors, drivers say. Sight lines are confined. Wider bumpers virtually fit together, eliminating the possibility that a now-standard bump draft could lift the forward car off the track and spin it. But that creates an opportunity for a different kind of mayhem.
Welcome in: Sam Hornish was leaning against a stack of tires Friday in his modest corner of the Nextel Cup garage, wiping sweat from his eyes and swishing down a pink sports drink as his crew worked on his No. 06 Dodge under the tent of what is their makeshift garage.
All the garage bays filled with full-time cars, the three-time Indy Racing League champion's car was relegated to the equivalent of the kids table at Thanksgiving. Still debating whether he wants to switch to NASCAR full time next season, Hornish was a nobody at this event despite his record three IRL titles, 19 wins and 2006 Indianapolis 500 victory.
Then Kyle Petty made him feel like somebody.
"Hey, man, I just want to say I'm glad you're here," Petty said. "I'd shake your hand, but mine's broke. You'll get it. You're this close."
Hornish, who didn't qualify for the third time this season, will attempt at least four more Cup races this season.
Spark plugs: Michael Waltrip won the pole with a best lap of 189.070 mph (50.648 seconds) as Toyota claimed the top three spots. The top seven qualifiers needed to make the race on time and used qualifying trim. The pack behind them is in race trim and should make a charge in the opening laps. Zephyrhills' David Reutimann qualified fifth. ... Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve, whose attempt to qualify for his first Nextel Cup race at such a volatile venue had unnerved much of the Chase field, qualified seventh. "In Europe, it would have been 10 times worse," Villeneuve said of the reaction. "They didn't say anything bad. They are fighting for the Cup, they are in the Chase, they don't want anything they don't know getting in the way." ... Tony Stewart, fourth in points, 117 behind leader Jimmie Johnson, was the highest-qualifying Chase driver. He starts 11th. Johnson starts 19th. ... The cars of Kyle Busch and David Ragan were found to be too low in post-qualifying inspection, and the times were disallowed. Busch is ninth in the driver standings and starts 41st. ... Former series champion Dale Jarrett said he will announce Thursday his driving plans for 2008. He said he will drive "some races."