Earnhardt feeling better about title hopes

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RULE CHANGE: NASCAR’s version of the postseason has brought a tweak of the rules at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR ordered an increase in the size of the restrictor plate that will be used in the Oct. 23 race. The larger holes in the carburetor plates should lead to an increase of horsepower that could make the cars 2 to 3 mph faster.

NASCAR also ordered an adjustment on the pop-off valve in the cooling system that should lower the maximum water temperature in engines. A threat of overheating could prevent cars from staying hooked together for too long.

The changes came as part of an effort to limit the two-car tandem racing that has dominated at the track.

“I think with the new rules, it’s a step to make us pass more,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I don’t think we are going to be able to stay connected as long. Any time you put a bigger plate on the cars it allows for a larger closing rate with more opportunities to pass with more power.”

The larger restrictor plate could push speeds over 200 mph, but the combination of the pop-off valve change likely means the cars won’t be able to stay locked together for as many laps.

“I don’t think we’ll be staying together as long we’ll be changing out more often which could lead to us being in a big pack like some of the fans want to see,” Johnson said. “We’ll get down there and see what happens. I don’t care what the rules are. I learned a long time ago to stop worrying about that stuff. I just go.”

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GETS HIS KICKS: Joey Logano hit the track and field this week _ the football field.

Logano, of Middletown, Conn., and his Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Greg Zipadelli, of Berlin, Conn., returned to their northeastern roots on Thursday when they visited the New England Patriots. The paired toured Gillette Stadium, met players and staff and checked out the three Super Bowl trophies.

Logano even attempted some field goals after getting tips from Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

“I’m going to stick to driving race cars and not kicking any time soon,” he said.

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OWNER RACES: Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman will race the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia in the Petit Le Mans sports car race Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta. Co-drivers Rui Aguas and Justin Bell will join Kauffman for the 1,000-mile, 10-hour endurance classic that serves as a finale to the American Le Mans season.

“Our plan is to expand our sports car racing in the United States,” Kauffman said. “Running in this race is a big step toward that goal.”

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