IROC Minus Earnhardt

TALLADEGA, Ala. – The second of four races that make up the 2001 International Race of Champions series will be held Saturday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway, but this one will feel a bit odd to everyone. The late Dale Earnhardt, one of the greatest drivers and champions in IROC history, will not be in his usual role as the guy everybody’s gunning to beat.

In a fitting tribute, the car Earnhardt would have competed in Saturday will not race, leaving an 11-man field for Talladega and the remaining two races.

"Dale Earnhardt was a great champion and we feel it’s a fitting tribute to run one man shy," explains IROC President Jay Signore.

Tony Stewart will lead the field in identically-prepared Pontiac Firebirds to the green flag from the pole thanks to a Thursday morning drawing.

If the season-opener at Daytona is any indicator, it should be a good race as Dale Jarrett goes for his second victory of the year.

On Thursday, there were seven drivers who took part in a pair of brief test runs, including defending Busch Series champion Jeff Green.

“These cars are about five seconds slower than we run,” said Green, who qualified 12th for Saturday’s Busch Series race at a speed of 185.632 mph. “The cars drive awesome. They’ve got a bunch of laps on the tires, but they still feel like they've got brand new tires on them. It’s just who helps you (draft) and who doesn’t help you that will determine what happens in the race.”

Open-wheel drivers Scott Goodyear, Buddy Lazier, Kenny Brack and Eddie Cheever were on hand, in addition to IROC test drivers Dick Trickle, Jim Sauter and Andy Hillenburg.

One of those was trying to figure out the 2.66-mile track for the first time.

“I’ve not raced here before, so just getting here and getting an opportunity to run on the track is a thrill,” Goodyear joked. “I’ve watched it on TV for years. It's only my second IROC race or stock-car race, or race with any kind of roof on it. For me, it's exciting learning about these cars and this track. It’s similar to Daytona, but Talladega has its own characteristics. I'm having a lot of fun with it and learning from the guys who are experts with it.”

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