Originally created 05/01/06

Will Ferrell stays busy at Aaron's 499



TALLADEGA, Ala. - Comedian Will Ferrell mugged for photos, signed autographs and even gave the order, "Gentlemen, start your engines."

While the drivers at the Aaron's 499 sat through a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Ferrell was all over the track promoting his new NASCAR movie.

The race was finally postponed until Monday, but Ferrell at least had a productive day.

What in the name of Ricky Bobby was the star of "Old School" doing at a NASCAR race?

Well, he served as grand marshall. And he's starring in the upcoming "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," due out in August.

Eat your heart out, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Ferrell filmed race scenes for the movie at Talladega's UAW-Ford 500 last fall. He and the film crew did extensive research on racing films.

"Oddly enough we watched 'Kramer vs. Kramer,' which had some great driving footage," quipped Ferrell, wearing an untucked long-sleeve shirt and fluorescent blue sneakers.

OK, so his movie is not "Stroker Ace" or "Days of Thunder" or even Sylvester Stallone's "Driven."

The title character wasn't modeled after Dale Jr. or Jeff Gordon or any other driver.

"Ricky's kind of all the drivers and none of them at the same time," Ferrell said in a mock-serious tone. "He kind of came out of my brain, which is a messed-up place."

Ferrell said he didn't know much about NASCAR before making the movie, but now tries to keep track of NASCAR races each Sunday.

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FREE AGENT: With Kevin Harvick close to locking up a deal to remain at Richard Childress Racing, the free agent focus now turns to Dale Jarrett.

Michael Waltrip turned the heat up on Jarrett this weekend when he admitted he is courting the veteran to drive for him next year. Waltrip will field two cars under the Toyota umbrella in 2007, one for himself and one for another driver.

But Jarrett, who is in the final year of his contract at Robert Yates Racing, hasn't been in the mood to discuss his future.

"Rumors don't concern me," said Jarrett, who starts fourth in Monday's rescheduled race at Talladega Superspeedway. "What people have to say and speculate doesn't bother me at all. My job is to drive this race car and try to make us better."

Jarrett has been at RYR since 1995, and driving for sponsor UPS since 2001. The 49-year-old Jarrett has said several times this season that he wants to drive two more years, then retire.

"I said a number of weeks ago that I've had quite a few people talking to me over the last five or six months and that's no secret," Jarrett said. "People know when the last year of your contract is, so they start talking and seeing what your interests are, especially in my case."

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SPARK PLUGS:A small contingent of NASCAR officials planned to travel to Montreal this week to scout the city for a possible Busch Series race there next season. NASCAR expanded into Mexico last year, and Canadian officials have been trying to get on the schedule. Spokesman Jim Hunter said series officials will tour several different venues, and any expansion would be strictly for the lower-tier Busch Series..... Among the guests at Talladega on Sunday was Randal McCloy Jr., the sole survivor of the West Virginia mining accident that killed 12. McCloy and seven family members were guests of race sponsor Aaron Rents, Inc.

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AP Motorsports Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.