Yep, it's been a year since Carl Edwards proved that reality is stranger than fiction when he pulled his own Ricky Bobby act at Talladega. We'll hear what drivers have to say about that, as well as what else is going on at the track in preparation for Sunday's Aaron's 499. So hang here all day while we bring you the news and notes from Friday's press conferences and happenings on the track. Check back often to keep up with the latest.
Here are some notes to get us started:
• Carl Edwards has yet to lead a single lap this season. In fact, since last April's race at Talladega, he's led just 122 laps total - 103 of which came in the June race at Pocono.
• This is an impound race. After qualifying on Saturday, teams cannot touch their cars. Teams guaranteed spots in the race will be in race trim for qualifying, while the go-or-go-home will be in qualifying trim. Expect some of the go-or-go-homers to qualify up front as a result, but they'll be sitting ducks against those in race trim once the green flag drops.
• Michael Waltrip will attempt to qualify for the race in the No. 55 car.
• NASCAR will determine the size of the restrictor plate based on how the cars run in practice today.
Press conferences are underway:
9:58 a.m. CT: When asked to comment on a Twitter post where he said "the media people crack me up" with their "theories." The theory that he's referring to is a report that he has burned all his bridges at Richard Childress Racing, a story that used anonymous sources.
"If you're going to quote a source, quote their name," Harvick said in his press conference at Talladega. "If they're too chicken to use their name, don't quote them. Anonymous sources are crap."
When asked directly about his relationship with Childress, Harvick said. "Richard Childress and myself have a great relationship. We've been talking about a lot of things for several months. It's not any different than what we normally do at this time.
"Richard and I have had many conversations over the last several months. Where all that leads, right now I'm driving the 29 car and we'll see."
10:05: Harvick on potential talks about his 2011 plans: "We're really trying to focus on what we're doing. I'm trying not to get involved in the middle of it like I have in the past. I don't think there's anything pressing time wise for anybody, whether it's the team, RCR or myself."
10:10: Considering his relationship with Chevrolet as an owner in the Truck and Nationwide Series, Harvick as asked if it's a safe assumption that he'll drive a Chevrolet in the Cup Series wherever he ends up in 2011.
"That'd be a good, fair statement," Harvick replied.
11:30: In just 15 words, Mark Martin summed up Talladega: "I don't care so much how my car runs. I just want to be lucky."
11:45: When asked if anyone has contacted him yet about driving for them in 2012, Martin, who last week said he will be looking for a ride when his Hendrick contract ends after next season, "Just trying to stir some things up. And just letting that little bit out did stir some things up."
11:55: Jeff Burton talked about the pit-road penalty he incurred last week when NASCAR tagged him for committing "too late." In that instance, Burton was debating whether to pit or not. When he made the choice to pit, Jeff Gordon had driven alongside him, squeezing Burton into the commitment cone.
"NASCAR's take is you guys waited too long. ... Our take, it doesn't matter when we make the decision, we should be allowed to get on pit road. ... I see both sides. I still think I'm right."
Burton's logic is this: Cars behind him should not be allowed to pull next to him at any point.
"That's way I interpreted it."
12:05 p.m.: Jimmie Johnson is in the media center and he was asked about last weekend's run in with Jeff Gordon:
"We're both greedy in ways. We [sometimes] put each other in spots we don't like, and I felt that way in Texas."
Johnson said they have talked and "we're all good."
Johnson added that Gordon is "very smart at putting guys in compromising positions. That's not a knock. ... He doesn't wreck guys. He knows how to just get in there and upset guys."
12:15: Johnson had an interesting tak on the restrictor plate this weekend. It gets a little technical, but stick with us for a moment:
Johnson said that when they tested at Talladega last month, the smaller restrictor plate actually increased speeds when in traffic. (A smaller plate seemingly would create less speed by allowing less air into the engine.) Yes, a larger plate increased speeds when running by yourself, but in traffic it was actually slower.
So, what will NASCAR do?
Here's what Johnson said: A smaller plate will create more opportunities to pass, high speeds, lots of crashes, but the drivers will hate it.
A larger plate will create less speed during the race. Drivers will love it, but it probably won't create the race fans want to see.
12:30: Kurt Busch announced that his new deal with Penske Racing is for five years.
Johnson said it comes down to "what is the safest race to put on for drivers and fans. You have to put a stick in sand and say, ‘This is why we're doing it.' " NASCAR may be criticized by people who want to see more action, "but that's where we are."
12:38: Busch said Sam Hornish Jr. will be driving for Penske next season.
12:42: Why is Busch switching from the 2 to the 22 next season? Because when Shell approached Penske about a potential sponsorship, they insisted that Busch be the driver, not Brad Keselowski.
1:43: David Reutimann sits atop the speed chart in the first practice, where speeds are approaching 200 mph. Reutimann's fast lap is 198.470.
1:55: Reutimann was fastest in the first practice. He was followed by Regan Smith, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Marcos Ambrose. Rounding out the top 10 are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2:48: Ryan Newman will have to go to a backup car. During the second practice, Newman had to check up because of slower traffic in front of him. When he did, Mark Martin tapped his rear bumper, sending him spinning toward the inside retaining wall.
3:30: Practice is over at Talladega, and Jeff Burton topped the speed charts (199.467) in the final session. Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Mike Bliss, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Max Papis, AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne.