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Franchitti starting in sixth in Talladega stock car debut

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dario Franchitti, in his first official
day in a stock car, qualified sixth Thursday for the ARCA RE/MAX
250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The reigning IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500
winner, who this week signed a multiyear contract to drive in
NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, will make his
race debut Friday.

"My initial impression of Talladega was from two years ago when
we were flying to Nashville and we went off course because of the
weather," said the Scot, who lives in Tennessee with actress wife
Ashley Judd. "We flew over the track, and it was just huge.

"Everything about Talladega is big. The banking is big, the
track is big. We flew in last night, and it was just getting dark
and all the lights were on, and again it was, 'Oh my God, look at
the size of that track.' It's an intimidating place."

But Franchitti didn't appear to be intimidated by the 2.66-mile
oval as he posted a lap of 183.740 mph. The pole went to Bryan
Clausen, a developmental driver for Ganassi, at 184.840.

Scott Speed, another open-wheel driver making the move to stock
cars, was right behind Franchitti in seventh at 183.480.

Speed, the only American racing in Formula One before losing his
ride with Scuderia Toro Rosso, has announced plans for a full-time
ARCA schedule in 2008.