Bad Medicine

It's white knuckle time again in the NASCAR world as the NEXTEL Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway.

No other track on the schedule, not even Daytona, generates the split emotions that the mammoth Talladega Superspeedway does among drivers, crew members, car owners, media personnel and fans.

Racing at Talladega is at once the most exciting thing you'll ever witness, while at the same time warrants having a gallon bottle of Pepto Bismol at your side.

And now we throw in championship implications as the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" rolls in for the third playoff race. It's enough to make even the calmest person in the garage area a little unsettled.

"Everybody knows that I'm not the world's biggest fan of restrictor-plate racing," said Mark Martin, who is oddly the only driver in the "Chase" to have a Talladega Cup win to his credit. "I know that it's really exciting for the fans and I know that if I were at home you couldn't pry me away from the TV, but for the drivers it can be pretty frustrating, because nothing is really in your control."

It's that out of control thing that provides the double-edged sword. You know something can happen in the blink of an eye and even when you want to look away, you can't.

"The first thing that comes to mind when I think about returning to Talladega next weekend is that I hope I don't hit anything!," said Matt Kenseth. "It's the same as always when we think about Talladega, but I think we've got better cars than we've ever had for our speedway program."

The retiring Rusty Wallace will be leaving Talladega in his rearview mirror after Sunday's race, never having to return to the track that has been a major obstacle over the years.

"We always go into the Talladega races expecting to keep our noses clean and come out of there with a good finish and that's certainly the case again this weekend," offered Wallace. "But we're smart enough to know that with this brand of racing, anything can happen. We've had our share of ups and downs at Talladega."

Not everyone has the sense of impending doom when the calendar rolls around to Talladega time.

"The Talladega weeks are always fun weeks for me because I go fishing and it's a week where I don't turn my cell phone on and I don't worry about the race car," said Tony Stewart. "It's just a week to kind of hit the reset button, and by the time I get to the track, I'm fresh and ready to go. I always have fun when I come to Talladega."

But for most drivers, the only fun part of a Talladega weekend comes when the motorhome is driving out of the track on Sunday night.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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