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The Radio Chatter 500? Drivers have mixed emotions. From Dale Jr.'s 'silly,' to Tony's gung-ho. Talladega!

  Can Daytona surprise Trevor Bayne surprise again? Why not -- it's Talladega (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   For Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season is a make-it or break-it season: no more excuses.
   And if there is any place on the NASCAR tour where an Earnhardt victory would be more appreciated, more wildly appreciated, than Talladega, well, it's hard to imagine.
   But there's this two-car drafting thing....which Earnhardt calls "just silly."

   Maybe that's why Earnhardt seems rather detached about Sunday's 500.
   Radio channels -- some drivers are going hog-wild adding radio channels to their cars, because working with a partner in these two-car drafts is critical...and the guy running second is, without radio communication, simply driving blind.
   Earnhardt doesn't like that whole thing.
   "I never change a channel," Earnhardt say bluntly. "I just hope I can work with Jimmie (his teammate, Johnson) or anybody with a Hendrick engine under their hood.
   "But to consider having pretty much the whole field in your radio...I'm hoping this kind of racing goes away fast. It's a mess."
   It's been a while since Earnhardt won. Is it really almost three years now, since that June 2008 win at Michigan?
   At least he's doing a little better this year than last. "A C-plus or a B-minus," Earnhardt says of his performance in the year's first seven races.
   "I think we've got all the pieces of the puzzle, and getting them in the right place."



Brian Vickers' NASCAR radio channels. Wonder who's missing here? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Greg Biffle, not expectedly, has just re-signed with car owner Jack Roush for another tour. Biffle said there aren't many options out there these days, even for top drivers. So Biffle is with Roush through 2014. Roush called it a four-year deal, apparently referring to an option year
   Roush of course gave Biffle his big NASCAR break, taking a leap of faith, after a push from the late Benny Parsons on Biffle's behalf.
   "This is our 14th year, and we've had a great run," Roush says. "He stands the prospect of being the first driver in history to win the championship in all three categories (Trucks, Nationwide and Cup)."
   Key to the new contract -- sponsor 3M, also renewing.
   And what might rookie Trevor Bayne do at Talladega? The Daytona surprise qualified 11th, showing speed in the Wood Brothers' Ford.
   "Now we've got people asking us if they can be on our radio channel," Bayne says of his whirlwind time on the tour.
   Radio chatter? Matt Kenseth, the Texas winner, breaking a long drought, says no thanks: "I'd rather just stay on my own channel and listen to my own spotter and crew chief. 
   "There is a time where I guess it could help you. But the only thing I put in my radios is our three team cars.
    "I know there are some people we gave permission to get on our frequency...but there's potential for a lot of things to go wrong. 
    "I'm not the smartest guy in the world;  I get confused real easy...and I hate to switch channels."
    Tony Stewart, on the other hand, says "I am open to having more channels. It was a better feeling if you were the guy behind (in a two-car draft) knowing that you could hear what was going on.
    "The sharing of spotters wasn't a bad thing.
    "You are going to see guys flipping (channels) all over the place. We will be as busy wearing the radio dial out trying to find different drivers' channels as we are driving the car."
     Pole starter Jeff Gordon, though, concedes "I'm not totally comfortable with it...but I think it makes sense -- because you are basically blind when you are the car behind. So it's really up to the guy in front, and that spotter.
    "I hope I'm the guy leading more than the guy being pushed...except on the last lap. I want to be the guy pushing on the last lap because I think the guy in second is going to win."
   If this is a mind-game 500, like Gordon's predicts, rather than a sheer horsepower display, well, he likes that:
    "The mindset, the strategy, the chess match that it becomes is the most interesting part about it. And I like that.
    "I like that you've got to think a lot about what is going on out there.
    "But sometimes you still just have to be super-aggressive. That's why I don't mind the two-car draft (as opposed to the huge drafting pack Talladega has been known for).
    "I wish we could better portray what's going on in the driver's mind when he is inside that cockpit, and the intensity, because I'm telling you it's intense. It's crazy...and it's not always fun.
    "There are moments where you are scared, hell, yeah. When all of a sudden the guy in front of you is slamming on the brakes and juking left and juking right, and you don't have a clue as to where he is going to go or to what is going to happen
   "But that's part of racing."
    Racing at Talladega...


   Scary Friday weather.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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