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Home and track: Irvan's dual roles

On those days when the needle on the speedometer doesn't go much higher than, say, 65 mph, a NASCAR driver's time is pretty routine, a melange of family and business. Only on Sunday (or any other day he's strapped into his stock car) does life rev toward the red line.

"On an off day," Ernie Irvan, the 1991 Daytona 500 champion, said from his Concord, N.C., home, "well, we've got four dogs and four ducks, and the cat, too. So we've got to get the animals fed. And us, too. Then I'll take Christopher (4{) to preschool and head to the shop where my Busch Grand National car is."

For the rest of the morning, Irvan oversees the set-up of his car and does the usual paperwork and phone work associated with running any business. After lunch with Kim, his fiancee, he heads to a nearby gym for a workout, then runs errands, makes and takes a few more phone calls (a NASCAR driver is invariably going to do a few interviews each day). At 4 p.m., Irvan retrieves Christopher, spends some time playing with him at home, then the two of them settle in for dinner with Kim.

"Race day, now that's a whole different world," Irvan said. "Take Daytona. It's all running around and noise and all. I'm usually up by 6 and at the track by 7. First thing, I'll look the car over with Tony (Glover, his crew chief). We go over the plan for the day.

"We talk about the chassis set-up, what we've learned from the last couple of practices. He's slept on it. I've slept on it. We pretty much know exactly how we want it. We'll evaluate it again, decide how we want the car and he'll put it in."

Before he leaves the garage area, Irvan will make sure all the "small stuff" he needs is on the driver's seat _ gloves, earplugs and so on.

Two hours before the race, there's a meeting where track officials will, one last time, go over all the rule changes and tell the drivers what's expected of them. Meanwhile, the pit crew is getting organized at trackside.

"After that, I head back to the truck and spend some time with Kim and with people on the crew. For 45 minutes or so, we just try to relax _ talk about our families, how the week's gone, what everybody's doing. Usually I'm signing autographs this time, too."

Half an hour before the race, Irvan and the rest of the drivers have to be at their cars for the introductions, then Irvan makes a quick visit to his pit. "I just want to make sure I know who all of them are. Tony and Marty (McClure, his car owner) are in charge of making sure everybody knows what to do.

"Then Kim and Tony walk me down to the car. Kim makes sure I put my seatbelt on, gives me my last kiss, and Tony shakes my hand, puts the window net up, we start the engine and I go racing for the day."

The next 3{ hours or so are organized chaos _ Irvan and the rest of the drivers weaving in and out and around each other, the drivers and their crew chiefs chattering back and forth on their radios, pit stops for fuel and tires and perhaps repairs "When the race is over, what you do next depends on how you've done," Irvan said. "Either it's a trip to Victory Lane and pictures and champagne and interviews, or we're back in the garage, standing around talking about the race and what went wrong, maybe talking with some of the other guys you've just been racing against.

"Then we'll jump in my plane," Irvan said. "After two weeks at Daytona, it's time to go home."

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