Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (17835)

Pos No Name Make Best Time Best Speed Session
1 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 45.316 198.605 Day 3 PM
2 22 Kurt Busch Dge 45.322 198.579 Day 3 PM
3 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 45.515 197.737 Day 3 PM
4 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 45.515 197.737 Day 3 PM
5 20 Joey Logano Tyt 45.517 197.728 Day 3 PM
6 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 45.533 197.659 Day 3 PM
7 4 Kasey Kahne TYt 45.533 197.659 Day 3 PM
8 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 45.549 197.589 Day 3 PM
9 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 45.550 197.585 Day 3 PM
1 20 Joey Logano Tyt 45.566 197.516 Day 3 AM
2 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 45.567 197.511 Day 3 AM
3 14 Tony Stewart Chv 45.582 197.446 Day 3 AM
4 39 Ryan Newman Chv 45.583 197.442 Day 3 AM
10 99 Carl Edwards Frd 45.592 197.403 Day 3 PM
1 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 45.716 196.868 Day 2 PM
2 14 Tony Stewart Chv 45.719 196.855 Day 2 PM
3 20 Joey Logano Tyt 45.757 196.691 Day 2 PM
5 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 45.828 196.386 Day 3 AM
4 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 45.873 196.194 Day 2 PM
5 31 Jeff Burton Chv 45.954 195.848 Day 2 PM
6 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 45.955 195.844 Day 2 PM
1 00 David Reutimann Tyt 45.970 195.780 Day 1 PM
2 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 45.971 195.776 Day 1 PM
7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 46.037 195.495 Day 2 PM
8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 46.037 195.495 Day 2 PM
9 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 46.054 195.423 Day 2 PM
6 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 46.089 195.274 Day 3 AM
10 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 46.170 194.932 Day 2 PM
11 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 46.239 194.641 Day 3 PM
3 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 46.312 194.334 Day 1 PM
4 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 46.312 194.334 Day 1 PM
11 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 46.468 193.682 Day 2 PM
5 14 Tony Stewart Chv 48.165 186.585 Day 1 PM
12 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.583 185.250 Day 2 PM
16 16 Greg Biffle Frd 48.627 185.082 Day 3 PM
7 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.688 184.850 Day 3 AM
8 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 48.694 184.828 Day 3 AM
6 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 48.744 184.638 Day 1 PM
13 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 48.791 184.460 Day 3 PM
9 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 48.802 184.419 Day 3 AM
1 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.855 184.219 Day 1 AM
10 5 Mark Martin Chv 48.876 184.139 Day 3 AM
14 09 Bill Elliott Chv 48.889 184.090 Day 3 PM
7 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.923 183.963 Day 1 PM
15 5 Mark Martin Chv 48.927 183.948 Day 3 PM
8 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.937 183.910 Day 1 PM
16 88 Josh Wise Chv 48.943 183.887 Day 3 PM
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 48.945 183.880 Day 1 AM
13 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.946 183.876 Day 2 PM
14 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 48.953 183.850 Day 2 PM
17 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 49.009 183.640 Day 3 PM
11 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.019 183.602 Day 3 AM
18 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.020 183.599 Day 3 PM
19 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 49.022 183.591 Day 3 PM
9 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 49.031 183.557 Day 1 PM
20 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.038 183.531 Day 3 PM
10 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.043 183.512 Day 1 PM
11 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 49.053 183.475 Day 1 PM
12 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.054 183.471 Day 3 AM
3 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.079 183.378 Day 1 AM
12 20 Joey Logano Tyt 49.087 183.348 Day 1 PM
21 6 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.123 183.214 Day 3 PM
15 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 49.125 183.206 Day 2 PM
13 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 49.132 183.180 Day 1 PM
22 09 Marcos Ambrose Frd 49.135 183.169 Day 3 PM
14 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.140 183.150 Day 1 PM
4 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 49.146 183.128 Day 1 AM
23 6 David Ragan Frd 49.157 183.087 Day 3 PM
13 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 49.162 183.068 Day 3 AM
15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 49.177 183.012 Day 1 PM
5 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 49.181 182.997 Day 1 AM
14 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.196 182.942 Day 3 AM
6 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 49.204 182.912 Day 1 AM
24 13 Casey Mears Tyt 49.215 182.871 Day 3 PM
16 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.230 182.815 Day 2 PM
15 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.240 182.778 Day 3 AM
7 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.263 182.693 Day 1 AM
16 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 49.264 182.689 Day 1 PM
16 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.267 182.678 Day 3 AM
17 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.268 182.674 Day 1 PM
25 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.272 182.660 Day 3 PM
8 20 Joey Logano Tyt 49.279 182.634 Day 1 AM
9 31 Jeff Burton Chv 49.287 182.604 Day 1 AM
10 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.294 182.578 Day 1 AM
18 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.298 182.563 Day 1 PM
17 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.301 182.552 Day 3 AM
19 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 49.305 182.537 Day 1 PM
20 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.306 182.534 Day 1 PM
18 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 49.308 182.526 Day 3 AM
19 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 49.314 182.504 Day 3 AM
11 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 49.330 182.445 Day 1 AM
21 31 Jeff Burton Chv 49.340 182.408 Day 1 PM
12 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 49.341 182.404 Day 1 AM
20 88 Josh Wise Chv 49.342 182.400 Day 3 AM
22 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.352 182.363 Day 1 PM
23 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.370 182.297 Day 1 PM
13 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 49.376 182.275 Day 1 AM
17 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.377 182.271 Day 2 PM
26 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.379 182.264 Day 3 PM
21 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.382 182.253 Day 3 AM
14 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.387 182.234 Day 1 AM
15 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.390 182.223 Day 1 AM
18 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.392 182.216 Day 2 PM
22 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 49.396 182.201 Day 3 AM
16 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.409 182.153 Day 1 AM
17 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.409 182.153 Day 1 AM
19 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.409 182.153 Day 2 PM
18 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.410 182.149 Day 1 AM
24 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.410 182.149 Day 1 PM
25 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.424 182.098 Day 1 PM
23 6 David Ragan Frd 49.437 182.050 Day 3 AM
24 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.474 181.914 Day 3 AM
25 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.483 181.881 Day 3 AM
19 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.484 181.877 Day 1 AM
26 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 49.506 181.796 Day 3 AM
27 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.515 181.763 Day 3 AM
26 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.519 181.748 Day 1 PM
20 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.520 181.745 Day 2 PM
20 6 David Ragan Frd 49.528 181.715 Day 1 AM
21 14 Tony Stewart Chv 49.573 181.550 Day 1 AM
21 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.573 181.550 Day 2 PM
22 9 Marcos Ambros Frd 49.575 181.543 Day 2 PM
27 6 David Ragan Frd 49.590 181.488 Day 1 PM
23 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.590 181.488 Day 2 PM
24 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.597 181.463 Day 2 PM
28 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.620 181.378 Day 1 PM
22 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.628 181.349 Day 1 AM
25 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.661 181.229 Day 2 PM
23 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 49.668 181.203 Day 1 AM
29 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.687 181.134 Day 1 PM
24 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.688 181.130 Day 1 AM
26 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.698 181.094 Day 2 PM
30 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 49.706 181.065 Day 1 PM
31 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.739 180.945 Day 1 PM
27 00 David Reutimann Tyt 49.743 180.930 Day 2 PM
25 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 48.744 180.926 Day 1 AM
26 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 49.750 180.905 Day 1 AM
32 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.752 180.897 Day 1 PM
27 00 David Reutimann Tyt 49.762 180.861 Day 1 AM
28 6 David Ragan Frd 49.768 180.839 Day 2 PM
28 4 Kasey Kahne Frd 49.781 180.792 Day 1 AM
29 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.845 180.792 Day 1 AM
29 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.790 180.759 Day 2 PM
28 13 Casey Mears Tyt 49.801 180.719 Day 3 AM
30 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.850 180.542 Day 1 AM
30 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.854 180.527 Day 2 PM
33 13 Casey Mears Tyt 49.874 180.455 Day 1 PM
31 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 49.894 180.382 Day 2 PM
32 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.900 180.361 Day 2 PM
33 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.925 180.270 Day 2 PM
31 13 Casey Mears Tyt 49.933 180.242 Day 1 AM
32 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 49.971 180.104 Day 1 AM
34 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 50.036 179.870 Day 1 PM
34 13 Casey Mears Tyt 50.241 179.137 Day 2 PM
27 66 Michael McDowell Tyt 50.310 178.891 Day 3 PM
33 77 Steve Wallace Dge 50.418 178.508 Day 1 AM
29 66 Michael McDowell Tyt 50.958 176.616 Day 3 AM

After two days of testing at a chilly and overcast Daytona International Speedway, drivers were ready to stick by each other’s sides on Saturday.

Two-car drafting was the theme of the day as the sun finally made an appearance. Teammates took to the track to test the pull, push and grip of the newly repaved 2.5-mile speedway during the third and final day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona – a three-day series test in preparation for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20.
During the morning session, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota) swapped spots tailing each other and set the day’s top speeds with just over 197 mph.
I feel like we’ve got a decent speed in the Home Depot Toyota,” said Logano, who had the morning’s fastest lap (197.516 mph, 45.566 seconds). “Usually in single-car runs we were probably a 15th-place car, but I feel like we’re a top-five car in single-car runs right now. That’s exciting to know.”
Numerous teams opted for two-car drafting, including Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet) and Ryan Newman (No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet), Earnardt-Ganassi Racing’s Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) and Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge) and Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).
NASCAR Managing Director of Competition John Darby wasn’t surprised that teams avoided multi-car drafting, instead relying on two- and three-car combinations.
“Obviously the guys are working on the tandem deal knowing that’s faster than the draft,” Darby said. “Everybody’s working on a little different agenda, and it’s all trying to find that edge to win the Daytona 500.”
Darby says it wasn’t about what teams and NASCAR learned during this week’s test, rather more about what fans can expect on Feb. 20.
“I think this test has done more in building confidence,” Darby said. “There’s always some anxiety around what happens when a track repaves.”
Last year’s repave – only the second at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and the first since 1978 – began after the NASCAR Sprint Cup event on July 3 and ended in early December. A Goodyear tire test on Dec. 15-16 was the first time teams drove on the repaved surface. This past week was the second time.
“All it has done is amplify the beautiful job they have done on resurfacing Daytona International Speedway,” Darby said. “The grip is at an all-time high, the drivers are comfortable – that’s why you see a lot of the stuff on the race track, because they are comfortable in the cars. Sometimes there’s a fine line between comfortable and cocky but that’s what makes the race exciting. That’s one of the things that’ll make this Daytona 500, I think, different than any one I’ve been able to watch.”
One driver already comfortable in his new No. 22 Penske Dodge was 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch.
“It’s gonna be one heck of a Daytona,” Busch said in the garage during the afternoon test.


Q.  Some teams have talked about the fact that they don't plan to draft at all here this week.  How do you guys stand on that?  And I guess they're concerned about getting in a wreck, losing a car, or whatever.  Is that    would you not learn enough from being in a big pack on the new surface with a lot of cars to equal that out?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I think for us we came with a checklist, don't care what the score board says, don't care if you hit on something, you're going to run down the checklist, you're going to run through the things that you want to run through, and that's it.

I mean, that's what we're going to do.  We're not going to draft.  We felt like they did what they needed    they learned what they needed to learn at the tire test down here with Paul and Jeff, so it's    you're going to get plenty of time when you come back for Speed Weeks to kind of do whatever you want, but practice is just not going to be at a premium like it used to be here because of the fact you don't have to worry about the tires, you don't have to worry about handling of the car, you just have to play the game and try to get yourself in position and get the most speed out of your car that you can.

This is    what's the date today?  It's late.  It's almost February.  So that's    these cars, it's unbelievable the amount of time and preparation that go into these particular cars.  You know, a normal race car you can put a body on in four days, and these particular race cars will probably take twice that long just in the fab shop, and these cars all run through the wind tunnel once or twice at a minimum and then you take them and usually run them somewhere in the desert.

So there's just hours upon hours put into these race cars, and they're not like a normal downforce car.  So when you tear one up, you're looking at putting yourself behind a month on one car to properly do it.

Sure, you can build the car and you can paint it and you can put it all in there, but the final details of the car take months and hours and hours.  It's just not in the rotation at this point in the season to tear your car up.

Q.  This 500 will mark the ten year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's passing.  As his successor, can you talk about that legacy?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, you know, I think it's been    you guys all know, I was very uncomfortable with it in the beginning, didn't like it, didn't want to be a part of it, and you know, as the last three or four years have come, I've learned to become more comfortable.  And I think the biggest reason is we've been able to accomplish a lot of things on our own.  So that for me is something that makes me a little bit more comfortable with it.

And the hardest part for me to learn was just the fact that a lot of times it wasn't somebody trying to make you do something like he did, it was just somebody complimenting on things that he did and things that we've been able to do.

So it's just    you know, the day was tough for everybody at RCR and everybody involved in it and for the whole sport in general, but as we look back ten years, I think when you look at the safety of the tracks and the safety of the cars and the attention that NASCAR has paid to those things that have changed really the racing world, not just NASCAR in general, it's changed the world of racing from top to bottom.  And those are the things that you can draw so many positives now out of something that was so devastating for the whole sport.

A lot of things changed on that day.

Q.  Turn 2 and Turn 4, the transition, Tony Stewart and I think Martin Truex were both saying that it's even more abrupt than what it was before.  It's real smooth and you guys would like to run three wide through there, but can you talk about Turn 2 and the way it drops off under you?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think the higher you get the more abrupt it is off of 2, but that's basically how it used to be.  It's just    the hardest thing for me is the lines are    the yellow line like at Talladega is actually painted I believe on the racetrack and the one here is off the racetrack on the apron.

So yesterday I touched the apron and about wrecked, so I think that that's going to be the biggest deal is just keeping your car off the apron because it seems like as you go into the corners there used to be a little bit more transition as far as the banking, leading up to the actual banking itself.  That, or it was just so wore out that you couldn't really tell.

But it seems like the apron is going to be a big deal if you touch it.

Q.  I have two questions, two totally different topics.  The first one is what you were saying when you were uncomfortable those first few years, why?  What about that was difficult for you?  And the second question, much lighter, how has the adjustment been working with Budweiser?  How have you enjoyed that, settling into such a different realm of sponsorship?

KEVIN HARVICK:  You know, I think the transition has been easy.  We'll answer that one first.  Obviously our sponsor Budweiser has been in the sport for a very long time and has just a    it's an iconic brand worldwide.  Everything that's happened has been a lot of fun to say the least, and it's fun representing a brand that's    you enjoy representing, so that makes life a lot easier.  It's one of those things that when you look at the back at the drivers and the people that have been in the Budweiser car, it's just part of NASCAR, and to be in that car and have the car black and RCR is pretty cool.  We've definitely had a lot of fun, and we will continue to have a lot of fun.

But as far as being uncomfortable with the Earnhardt stuff, I think everything we did was backwards.  I went into 2000, and we never had anything.  We had always    beat my own path as we went along.

Same thing happened in 2000 with starting the Nationwide program, get to 2001 and you're planning on racing for a championship in the Nationwide Series and then coming out and running a few Cup races, just signed a new sponsor for Cup the year after that, and then it all changed.  Instantly it's like everybody knows your name, everybody knows what you're doing, so you start from the wrong end of the spectrum and you don't have time    a lot of times when you come into something new you have time to learn.  You have time to learn what you're supposed to say, when you're supposed to do things, how you're supposed to do it.

I think as we went into that situation you start off with the biggest press conference that you'll ever have in your whole career and you have more fans than you'll ever have and you don't know how to manage your time, you don't know how to manage your money, you don't know what to say, and all of a sudden you have all that stuff at once.  So instantly I just put up my defense and it was easier just not to talk about it.

So I was 25 and didn't really know exactly what direction that life was going to go, and instantly you had everything that you wanted but you didn't have to do anything for it.  So it just didn't all make sense to me.

And I think as I went through the years and we were able to kind of do the same thing as we had done in the previous parts of my career, I think I became more comfortable with that just because it wasn't anybody just trying to tell you how to do something, it was everybody trying to compliment you on doing a good job.

You just happened to be in that car and that car is important to the sport, and the history that Richard and Dale made will always about at RCR, so it's not something you need to try to get away from, it's something that you need to understand and respect, and I think as you look at the sport, it's the same way.  There's always going to be a part of the history of the sport and a big reason for the sport is at the level that it is today.

So I think it's important to kind of continue that legacy at RCR, and so far it's going okay.

Q.  Coming off a season with momentum, this season what would be a dream season for you and, conversely, what would be a nightmare season for you?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, you can look back two years and see the nightmare.  You can still remember that, and I still think that's a lot of what drives the whole company, including myself.  Those are the things that you don't want to experience is 2009 all over again.

But the biggest thing is it's all about winning a championship at this point, nothing else.  Nothing else is good enough at this particular point in time.  So it's great to have a good year, and we had a good year last year, but in the end it's all about taking home the one trophy that we don't have, and that's the championship trophy.  It's been a long time for Richard and it's been a long time since we've been able to experience that as a company, and we've experienced that a lot together as far as Nationwide championships and things like that, truck championships as owners.  But those aren't good enough, either.

So I think it's just one of those things where I felt like the last ten weeks last year taught us a lot about who we were and who we need to be and what we need to do to race for those championships, because it's just different.

And to keep that level for ten weeks is something that we'd never done before, and we did that last year, and I felt like we learned from those experiences.  And whether we win or lose again, you still know in your mind how it needs to go and how the preparation needs to be from a team standpoint and from a mental standpoint, from a driver's standpoint.  It's a different level.

Q.  What does Daytona mean to you?  You seem to be one of these guys that really loves this place rather than it's just another racetrack.  You seem to have a real connection here.

KEVIN HARVICK:  This is not just another racetrack.  This is our biggest race.  This is what the backbone of our sport is on a week to week basis as far as racetracks go.  To win a Daytona 500, we've been fortunate to experience that.

There's no comparing it to any other race.  A lot of people talk about the Brickyard, and you look at the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard, and there's no comparison to those two, either.

It's just our biggest race and it leads off the year and the anticipation coming into the Daytona 500 every year is bigger than any other race times ten.  So from a driver's standpoint, there's nothing like rolling to the green flag at the Daytona 500 because you have a whole winter of anticipation, you have your shiniest, best new car, everybody has got everything brand new and it's the best that anybody will be prepared for the whole season.

There's no better feeling than getting through Speed Weeks and rolling to that green flag for the first time.

Q.  You had sort of an emotional attachment to this place?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, when you look at RCR in general, this place has been good to us from start to finish, from the first days of Earnhardt coming here and winning races, and they won a lot here, and we've been able to win some races here and always run well here.  So it's just    Richard puts a lot of effort into these types of races, and with effort comes success.

Q.  How much do things change or not change between the end of last season and now, and how much do you know like you had the year that was bad, you did so well last year, other teams may have caught up, you may be making changes during the off season yourself, changes at Richard Childress Racing, you have a fourth team.  How much can you really expect to worry about or think about how things have changed since we left Homestead Miami, including being in a new car that may change your perspective on how you feel about everything?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I think when you go through those types of things and you're as hungry as our team is to try to accomplish what we didn't accomplish last year, we didn't change anything.  I tried not to get out of my routines.  I work out on the same days, I went and had my physical on the same day I did last year, and we're doing the same things that we did last year.  The only thing I did was change my phone code to 4848 so I don't remember who I have to beat.

Q.  You guys have been pretty successful in getting sponsorship at a time when sponsorship isn't exactly that easy to get, and there are some teams, let's face it, that have pretty much a lot of the same performance you guys do on the track who are struggling to find sponsorships.  What do you think the key is?  What are you guys doing differently, without revealing maybe any secrets, but what do you think is different that's making you guys    helping you guys be so successful in that area?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, we're very aggressive as far as if somebody has got    every company in the world has a different budget, and some people have small budgets and some people have big budgets, but I think we're good at adapting to whatever your budget is to make it work and make you get something out of it.  Because the bottom line is, if it doesn't work for both sides, they're not coming back.

So you've got to stake a chance every once in a while on somebody saying that they're going to come in small, and a perfect example for us is    I guess Ring would be a good example.  They started at the quarter panel on my Cup car and now they're 35 races on the Nationwide car, half of that being with Menards this year.

You just    truck racing in general is a gamble on a week to week basis.  You're not going to settle for a full season.  If you do, you've hit the jackpot and it's probably not going to happen again.  I think truck racing has been a very good training ground for us because you have to put week to week sponsorships together, you have to go in market and put small packages together so that you can sell your primaries for less.

So it's just being creative and being aggressive, and I'm on them every day as far as somebody is going to have to tell me what they did today, and we only have one guy, so it's not real time consuming.

Q.  Everybody is talking about how crazy the 500 is going to be and how it's going to be big packs all day and hard to get away.  Is this going to be a race that's going to be determined by who doesn't make mistakes more than what you do positively to win the race?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think it's definitely going to be one big pack, and you're going to have    it's going to be    it's Talladega but narrower.  That's really what it is.  It's going to be the big pack and you're going to have the guys that don't want to race hanging out in the back and then trying to make time at the end.

But the thing that doesn't work quite as well here is the two car breakaway.  It seems to not be as effective as it is at the Talladega.

So it's going to be exciting.  You have all that.  On top of it you have just the first race anticipation and everybody is jacked up.  And everybody brings their fastest cars, and this year everybody is going to bring their best stuff and their shiniest stuff and you're going to come to a new racetrack, and everybody is aggressive.

And it's going to be    could be one of the best races you've ever seen here in a long time, just the fact that nobody is going to get away unless they intentionally want to get behind, and that's the only way you're going to get away from the pack.  So it'll be fun.

Q.  NASCAR is supposedly going to change the points schedule next week and announce that.  First of all, do you think there needed to be a change in the points system?  And do you like what you're hearing about what they're going to do?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, I have not    I only read and hear what I see from you guys on the points thing.

For me, and this is just putting it into perspective, as you look at I got done with the season last year, and I got a text from Joe Girardi, he says, Hey, man, great year, good job; I don't understand how you can have the best year and not win.  I don't understand your points system.

And for me, I think if you look at the new point system, I think it's easy to understand.  And those are the people that need to understand it are the people who aren't here every week, live it, breathe it, and really understand how the sport works.  It's the casual fan that we need to recapture and make it exciting and easily understandable.

So however that point system works out, I want it to be easy to understand for those types of people.

That just caught my attention as the season ended there.

Q.  What was your reply to Joe Girardi?

KEVIN HARVICK:  You know, at that particular time, it was the same day that the season ended, so I didn't really    honestly, I couldn't even tell you what I replied.

Q.  What do you expect out of KHI this year, and are you comfortable that you're at the level you want to be at with the organization?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I feel really good about our Nationwide cars.  Bringing Elliott in is going to give us our first good shot to race for a driver's championship.  We've been competitive for the last couple years and racing for wins and building it to that point, but we've never had that experience behind the wheel.  We took Ernie Cope and the old 33 team and put them with Elliott, so you have a really experienced team to race for a championship, and that's really what it's all about.

You know, as far as the 33 team we brought David Hyder in with a lot of experience, and then you have myself and Clint and Paul and Austin behind the wheel at a lot of the races.  So you still have that same experience on that team.  So as far as the Nationwide program, I feel very good about where it's at.

Short program was a total disaster.  I know we won seven races between the teams last year, but, in my opinion, that's just not good enough.  And it was just a wreck.

Ron struggled, not because Ron struggled, Ron struggled because the trucks just got into total disarray as the year progressed at the end of the year.  I feel good about the direction that it's gone over the winter bringing in Jeff Hensley and Chris Carrier, promoting a car chief from the 33 car to the 2 truck, is    it feels good in the shop.  You never know until you get to the racetrack, and right now we're just trying to get everything back organized and correct, and I think when they unload at Daytona they'll be ready to go, when they unload at Phoenix they'll be ready to go.

It's just they're a little bit further behind because we just had to revamp the program.  There was just too many people, too much change inside the organization last year as far as people go to get Ron where he needed to be, and I feel like he and Jeff are comfortable with each other.  They've had a good test last week at Orlando.

And I feel like that's where it needs to be.  As far as the winter goes, we added Nelson Piquet to come in.  He was up to speed last week right off the bat last week.

So everything has been good.  The truck program is a lot of work over the winter.  It's always a lot of work on the sponsorship side just to keep them on the track.  But it just feels a lot better than it did halfway through the season, and looking at the wind tunnel numbers and all the things that go with that, it's just    there was nothing there to support what Ron needed to race for a championship.

And I feel like over the winter we've put all those things back into place and should be good.  There's a lot of experience down there, and that's what you need in truck racing.

Q.  Just personal dealings, is there a favorite memory that comes to the surface when it comes to dealing with Dale Earnhardt on or off the track as far as that goes?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Probably one of my favorites was just the first time that we went and tested his car in Homestead.  It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time we got in trouble for testing his car.  But we went to Homestead in    I guess it was 2000, right at the end of the year, and we went down and tested and we ran really fast.  And we got to Phoenix the next week and he was irate because we had gone and tested his car and nobody told him, so he had    he drug myself and Kevin Hamlin and Richard, and I don't know why Dale Jr. just happened to be in the trailer that day, but he was really pissed that nobody asked him to go.  And Hamlin, I'm sure    you guys all have talked to him, you know how he talks, in this kind of smart aleck way    he says, Well, every time I ask you, you just don't want to go.

So we went anyway and ran faster than anybody else, and he was mad because everybody was asking him when he was going to retire and why people were testing his car and why he wasn't putting an effort in.  So he was mad that day.

Q.  Helton and Pemberton are coming in in about a half hour.  We assume they're going to talk to us about the points as far as drivers declaring which points they're going to go for.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Oh, okay, those points.

Q.  Yes, those points.  (Laughter.)  Obviously you've seen your license application, you know the rule what do you think of it and what does it do as far as the chances of Sadler winning the title?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think as far as Elliott running for a championship, I think that's why we're so excited about what Elliott brings to the table.  I feel like he could race for a championship either way just with the experience that he has and the experience of the team.  You just don't go win races in the Cup Series, whether it was six, seven years ago, last week.  You don't win those races and not know how to win at that level.

So he knows how to win.  He's won    he won a truck race last year.  He ran well in the one Nationwide race that he ran, and we expect to go out and be competitive.  I think anything less than him being competitive for the Nationwide championship will be a disappointment.

KEVIN HARVICK:  I don't know what rule you're talking about.  I didn't read my form.  I just signed it.  Every time I'd look at it, it's already all filled out.  If it was on there, I'm assuming somebody must have done that.  Am I supposed to read that stuff?  I just sign it and figure I'm going to have to sign it anyway if I want to race.

CREDIT: Chevy Racing PR

Day 2 PM - Drafting Practice

Daytona Intl Speedway - 2.500



1 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 45.716 196.868

2 14 Tony Stewart Chv 45.719 196.855

3 20 Joey Logano Tyt 45.757 196.691

4 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 45.873 196.194

5 31 Jeff Burton Chv 45.954 195.848

6 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 45.955 195.844

7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 46.037 195.495

8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 46.037 195.495

9 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 46.054 195.423

10 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 46.170 194.932

11 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 46.468 193.682

12 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.583 185.250

13 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.946 183.876

14 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 48.953 183.850

15 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 49.125 183.206

16 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.230 182.815

17 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.377 182.271

18 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.392 182.216

19 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.409 182.153

20 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.520 181.745

21 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.573 181.550

22 9 Marcos Ambros Frd 49.575 181.543

23 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.590 181.488

24 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.597 181.463

25 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.661 181.229

26 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.698 181.094

27 00 David Reutimann Tyt 49.743 180.930

28 6 David Ragan Frd 49.768 180.839

29 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.790 180.759

30 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.854 180.527

31 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 49.894 180.382

32 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.900 180.361

33 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.925 180.270

34 13 Casey Mears Tyt 50.241 179.137


Credit: NASCAR Statistical Services

Jet dryers, not stock cars, steamed across Daytona International Speedway all Friday morning, beating back moisture from overnight storms.

But NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams roared to life early in the afternoon, hitting the track for the second day of Preseason Thunder at Daytona – a three-day series test in preparation for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20.
While the action heated up late on-track, plenty preceded it. Several drivers visited Daytona’s infield media center during the morning delay, followed by NASCAR President Mike Helton, Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton and Managing Director of Competition John Darby, who participated in an update session during Friday’s scheduled lunch break.

Among the topics: Helton confirmed that drivers now have the opportunity to pick the national series where they want to contend for a championship.

Expect drivers to continue to compete in all three national series, he said, but declaring a championship stake in one series means broadening opportunities for future stars.

“The hope for this is…there is a level of focus and a level of exposure offered to younger drivers who have personalities that deserve to get attention and be developed along the way [in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series],” Helton said.

Possible changes to the NASCAR points system also were a discussion topic. Helton said it’s an ongoing process, but an enjoyable one.

“The main goal is to get one that's just easier to understand and simpler, but you have to do that with credibility around the championship,” he said. “And we're getting a lot of great input from the drivers about the tweaks that would go along with something like that, so it's actually been fun to work on.”
Even more fun, Helton added, is participating in all the discussions.

“This is the 53rd-annual Daytona 500,” he said, “but after 30-some years in this business, I still get excited to pull inside this tunnel, and walking through the garage area and talking to the guys in the meetings, the owners and the drivers in particular and, quite frankly, a group of drivers that represent NASCAR's future. There's still a high level of energy and enthusiasm to get the season started but more importantly to do it in Daytona in the Speedweeks environment.”

Others are just as eager. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet), who finished third in the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, said he’s ready to climb two more rungs in the final standings.
“The biggest thing is it's all about winning a championship at this point, nothing else,” he said. “Nothing else is good enough at this particular point in time. So it's great to have a good year, and we had a good year last year, but in the end it's all about taking home the one trophy that we don't have, and that's the championship trophy.”

Harvick knows how to win championships – he has two NASCAR Nationwide Series titles to his credit, as well as the 2007 Daytona 500 win. He’d gladly take another of the latter.

“It's just our biggest race and it leads off the year and the anticipation coming into the Daytona 500 every year is bigger than any other race times ten,” Harvick said. “So from a driver's standpoint, there's nothing like rolling to the green flag at the Daytona 500 because you have a whole winter of anticipation, you have your shiniest, best new car, everybody has got everything brand new and it's the best that anybody will be prepared for the whole season.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Steve Wallace, son of 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace. The younger Wallace is entering his fifth season as a full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor for Rusty Wallace Racing, and thanks to a points agreement between his father and Penske Racing owner Roger Penske, Steve Wallace will become the second generation of his family to participate in the Daytona 500.

He’ll make his series debut in this year’s traditional season-opener.

“This is the Daytona 500,” Steve Wallace said. “I'm a rookie at this. This is my first race. I'm not coming down here to win the race. I'm coming down here to have a strong finish, run good, get some respect, don't crash the car. Finish the race. If we can do that, I feel like we'll have a shot at it.”

DAVID RAGAN, driver, No. 6 UPS Ford FusionYOU HAVE HAD A DAY ON THIS NEW SURFACE, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HOW IT FEELS OUT THERE? “The first time we were on it was like driving on glass. It was smooth all the way around with maybe a little bump here and there, but nothing that would change the handling of the car at all. Coming back down here this weekend, the difference is that one little bump has maybe gotten a little bit worse, but nothing compared to how it was at last year’s Daytona 500 or even the race in July.  The track has a ton of grip. Goodyear obviously brings a safe tire down here and they don’t wear a whole lot. I think you will see a lot of strategy, two tire stops and fuel only stops. That will play differently this year than what we have been accustomed to in the past. I think the track is great and will only get better in time. Hopefully over the next few years it will age some and handling will come back into play and we will have to put tires on every pit stop.”

WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT TO SEE IN A MONTH AT THE 500? “In years past here at Daytona you would get everyone really tight together for a few laps and then once the tires started to wear out the cars would bounce around. Some guys were loose, some tight and they were all over the race track. You would have to start lifting and the pack would stretch out some, so there would be a car-length gap here and a few feet there. Now, all the cars are going to handle so good that everyone is going to be three-by-three on top of each other all day long. It will be a different Daytona 500 than you have seen in the past and the last 20 or 30 laps will be totally insane. I think every inch of the track will be used and there will be a lot of pushing and shoving. You can see some of the guys hooking up already with the two-car packs like they do at Talladega. That is still going to be a little different because Daytona is a different style race track. It is tighter and a little narrower. It will be a good Daytona 500 and something we haven’t seen in several years.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PROPOSED POSSIBLE POINTS CHANGE? “I think that has been long overdue. I think the points system has been confusing not only for the fans but the drivers and the teams. I think that simplifying it is a good thing. I think you still need to reward the winner a few more points than the second and third place guy. If you get those points too close together, it takes a little of the fame of winning out and getting those extra bonus points. I am sure NASCAR will make the right decision. They are in the right ballpark with the figures. I think it is very understandable that 43 to 1 point meaning first to last makes sense. As long as we get bonus points for leading laps and winning the race, I think it will be a good move.”

THIS IS A BIG YEAR FOR YOU, ONE THAT YOU HAVE SAID YOU NEED TO BE MORE SUCCESSFUL. WHAT KIND OF EXPECTATIONS HAVE YOU PUT ON YOURSELF FOR 2011? “We have a lot of expectations on ourselves for this year. The last couple years we have been real inconsistent with a few runs here and there but we could never get in a rhythm where we knocked off top-5 and top-10 finishes. That is what gets you in the Chase and gets the most points. We have got to run a lot of mistake free races. The biggest thing is that we have our race cars really fast at Roush Fenway racing. I think the engine department is really prepared more so today than they have been in a couple of years. Our race cars are very nice and lightweight and seem to be very fast. That gives us a lot of confidence going into the year and that is a good thing. We all put pressure on ourselves because this is an important year for us and for our team. We want to get Ford back into victory lane and get UPS into victory lane. I want to win a Cup race very badly. To win a few Nationwide races a couple of years ago and have some success there was good. I didn’t see the last couple of years coming and we have really been in a slump. The pressure we put on ourselves is a good thing and we have the resources to make it happen. It is a very important year and we are looking forward to Daytona but also Phoenix, Vegas, Bristol and those next few races that will set the tone for the year.”

HOW HAS THE ORGINAZTION AT ROUSH FENWAY RACING CHANGED FROM THIS POINT LAST YEAR TO NOW? “We are so much more prepared today than we were a year ago at this date. Last year we were switching the engines back and forth it seemed like every week and trying to figure out what kind of race cars we were going to build. We had the Richard Petty merger and we were building cars for them. We were working just to get ourselves out of a hole and now we understand what to do and how to do it. I think everyone back at Roush Fenway racing and Jack Roush and Robbie Reiser really have a good plan of attack. I think our race cars are as good today as they have been in a couple of years and that will show everyone that we are back to win some races and that we can all have a good season. Better than what we have had in years past.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CREW CHIEF DREW BLICKENSDERFER AND HOW YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS EVOLVED FROM LAST YEAR TO NOW. “I am really glad we made the change when we did last year. It gave us six or seven races to get used to each other. We expect to win and to run in the top-10 and be one of the best Ford teams out there. He has been able to gel with all our guys on the team and rally the troops the last few races. We had some good qualifying runs and good finishes last year that gave everyone some good momentum to get through the off season. I think that the morale of the No. 6 team is as good as it has been in a couple of years. We all expect to come out to Daytona and be a fast car, lead laps and be there at the end. Drew has done a nice job and it was good to run a few races last year and have the off season to build on that. We should be able to hit the ground running.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO COME AWAY WITH THE CHECKERED FLAG HERE IN THE 500?  “That would be big. That would be a great start to the year. A checkered flag at Daytona is something else. You count on winning races and you want to win races. You never think about how you want to win at Atlanta versus Martinsville, you just want to win. To think about winning at Daytona is just something that you probably don’t get a good feeling for what it is like until you really do win it. The 500 is a special race. We have been in the top-5 and top-10 a couple times and that is a good feeling but to win the race would be a huge start for our season and something that we have just as good a shot to do as any other team out here.”

DREW BLICKENSDERFER, crew chief, No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion
– YOU HAD A FEW RACES LAST YEAR TO WORK WITH DAVID, HOW DID THAT HELP YOU GUYS GOING INTO THIS SEASON?  “I think it prepared us to see what we needed to focus on over the off season. It got us a head start on making the first part of this year more valuable. The first 10 or 15 races are extremely important and having that kind of jump start prepares us better for those first 10 or 15.”

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WORK OUT ALL THE LITTLE THINGS IN CREW CHIEF TO DRIVER COMMUNICATION, LEARNING TONE OF VOICE, ETC.? “It takes some time. David isn’t as excitable as some drivers are, so I think tone of voice and knowing what you need loose versus tight versus other things takes some time. I think the six or seven races we did together last year prepared me to get a jump ahead on all of that. It takes more time with certain drivers to understand what they mean than others and I am glad we got a jump on that last year.”

HOW WILL THE NEW NOSE AFFECT THINGS ON YOUR SIDE AS A CREW CHIEF? “I think it is pretty early to tell because we get limited testing. Other than this deal this weekend we won’t get much short track testing and our testing is in a controlled lab environment. We know what we think we can expect when we get there but the last 25-percent or so, how the grill is going to get cluttered with debris or little things that don’t come up in a controlled environment we will just have to see when we get to the race track. The new nose is a little of a question mark but we are happy with it. We are happy the way it turned out but we need to get to the track at Phoenix and Vegas to put the stamp on what we have got for sure.”

WITH THE REPAVE HERE AT DAYTONA, DO YOU BASICALLY JUST TOSS OUT ALL YOUR OLD NOTES ON THIS PLACE AND START FROM SCRATCH? “Yeah, for the most part. You basically put away your Daytona notes and get out your Talladega notes. Talladega is so smooth that it compares more to this track now than the old Daytona. On the old Daytona you would come down here for qualifying and try to get as much speed as you could out of the car and then you go to race and you are worried about handling. Now you are worried about having the most speed for qualifying and the most speed for the race. That is more similar to Talladega now than anything. You can pretty much toss the old Daytona stuff to the side.”

HOW MUCH COMMUNICATION DO YOU HAVE WITH THE OTHER CREW CHIEFS IN THE ROUSH FENWAY CAMP? “There is a ton of collaboration. We all get along really well and have an open book and open door policy with each other. We are constantly having meetings and talking about things. I would say that probably 10 times a day another crew chief will go to another one and talk about things. We are constantly together and always talking about what we plan on doing and we kind of know what each other have as far as the game plan and what our thoughts are.”


EDDIE WOOD DESCRIBED TREVOR AS HAVING AN “IT” QUALITY. DO YOU SEE THAT AS WELL? “Yeah, for sure. From the time he got in the car at Texas last year to the end of the race, he is just one of those guys that just has this knack. The part I liked about Texas was he did a real good job of racing for us. A kid like that, he has the speed, a lot of times it takes some of those guys to get the racing part down but I think he already has that down. Just from the way he raced at Texas, racing around the other cars and the way he was able to pass cars and not just sit and ride behind cars was a good thing. He searched until he found a way to get around cars. I think that is something that you can’t teach these young kids; they just have to learn it on their own.”

YOU HAVE WORKED WITH TREVOR SINCE THE TEXAS RACE. HOW HAS THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU TWO EVOLVED AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL EVOLVE? “I think it is like anything else. Guys that work together for a long time build a relationship and it makes things a lot easier, especially when it comes to race time and making adjustments. A lot of times you can tell from a driver’s voice how bad or good something is. That is something that will take time for us, but as the races go on this year I think we will build that. His feedback is good. His feedback from the race at Texas was good and it has been good at the test here. If he keeps giving us good feedback then we will be able to make the car better which is what you have to do to win races.”

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT DEALING WITH A ROOKIE DRIVER AS OPPOSED TO A VETERAN GUY? “There are some things that I think I can contribute to him at some places we go that will open his eyes to certain things about the track, its characteristics, how it will go during the race. That way he can focus on how we need to adjust the car the right way for him. I have worked with a lot of young kids over the years. It is a relationship you have to build as time goes on. Trevor is a real good kid. He is very respectful and he wants to do well and has a tremendous amount of desire and talent.”

FROM A CREW CHIEF PERSPECTIVE, HOW HAS THIS TRACK CHANGED SINCE THE REPAVE AND EVEN THE TIRE TEST IN DECEMBER AND WHAT DOES THAT DO TO YOU FOR THE 500 NEXT MONTH?  “It is kind of hard to tell right now because we have really only done single car runs. As we get into speed weeks I think we will be able to tell more. I don’t think it will be anything near what it was down here before where handling was a big issue. The track is going to have so much grip that you will have trouble trying to get the car to run free through the corner. I don’t think it is going to be a deal to where you get a big push or get real free or something like that. I think the track has so much grip that the first race will be a lot like Talladega, just raw speed.”

Credit: Ford Racing PR

Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland will be back behind the wheels of their Front Row Motorsports Fords for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The Statesville, N.C.-based team announced Friday that the veteran drivers will return for the organization's third full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, with Kvapil racing the No. 34 Long John Silver's Ford and David Gilliland in the No. 38 Taco Bell Ford. The team plans to enter its third car, the No. 37 Ford, in select races during the 2011 season.

"I'm thrilled to have Travis and David back," said Bob Jenkins, owner of Front Row Motorsports. "We're going into our third season running full-time in Sprint Cup racing and we're really starting to build something here with these guys. Our drivers are back, (Taco Bell team crew chief) Peter Sospenzo is back, (general manager) Jerry Freeze is into his third season running the team for us. So, I'm really excited to keep building with this core group."

Front Row also made two important additions to further the team's growth and competitiveness on track. The team appointed Derrick Finley to the newly created position of competition director and named Bill Henderson crew chief of the No. 34 team.

Finley is a degreed engineer who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Front Row. He has held leadership roles with some of the most storied teams in the sport's history, including Dale Earnhardt Inc., Bill Davis Racing and Petty Enterprises.

"I'm really excited to join Front Row and especially to be back working with Ford," said Finley. "It's ironic that I'll be back in the same shop where I cut my teeth in racing with (former NASCAR team owner) Travis Carter, and working again with the engineering staff at Ford Racing. Ford has a lot of great new tools and significant resources for their teams, and I can't wait to use them to help Front Row move up the grid."

New crew chief Henderson brings the No. 34 Long John Silver's team more than 12 years of experience in the NASCAR garage, most recently as general manager for Prism Motorsports and crew chief for the team's No. 66 entry. His racing resume also includes crew chief roles in the Nationwide Series with FitzBradshaw Racing and in the Sprint Cup Series with drivers Kyle Petty and Dave Blaney.

Sospenzo will be back atop the pit box of the No. 38 Taco Bell team, kicking off his third season with the Front Row organization. He was paired with Gilliland for the final 12 races of the 2010 season in what proved to be a successful driver-crew chief relationship that produced several strong runs on the track. The late-season boost sent the team into the off-season feeling optimistic they can return even stronger in 2011.

In addition to solidifying its team roster, Front Row Motorsports made some off-season advances in its equipment, setting the stage for improved performance in 2011. The team will begin using Ford's new FR9 engines, provided by Roush-Yates Racing Engines, and has upgraded its racing stable with the recent asset purchase of 34 racecars from Richard Petty Motorsports.

"I'm pretty excited for this year," continued Jenkins. "We've got the newer engine and upgraded our equipment, we've got our core people back and added some new talent, too. All the pieces are in place and we're ready to go."


Credit: Frontrow Racing PR

EDDIE WOOD, co-owner, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford FusionHOW DID IT COME TO BE THAT TREVOR BAYNE WOULD DRIVE THE NO. 21 FOR YOU THIS YEAR? “I guess it started at Texas. We raced him there and he had a really good run. It just kind of fell together from there. I am not really sure how it all started or how it all came about, it just started to gain momentum. We are really pleased with Trevor though and look forward to having him with us.”

PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT TREVOR HAS ‘IT’, WHATEVER ‘IT’ IS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT TREVOR THAT MAKES HIM SUCH A SPECIAL DRIVER AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? “For one thing, he is very mature for his age. He is very aware of what it takes to be a race car driver in the Sprint Cup series. I think he understands that really well.  He is just really good with his feedback in the race car and all-around is really ready to go racing, in every single aspect.”

DO YOU THINK YOU WILL HAVE TO GET USED TO DEALING WITH GUYS, MAYBE COMMUNICATION WISE, WITH A ROOKIE DRIVER AS OPPOSED TO VETERAN GUYS YOU ARE USED TO? “Trevor has been racing since he was five-years old, so if you do the math he has 15-years of experience racing. Racing is racing. The communication that he and Donnie (Wingo) had at Texas and as well as the tire test here at Daytona in December has been great. They are communicating really well. They seem to really be good with where each other are at. That is where it starts, making sure that the crew chief and engineers and the people that are controlling what is in the car and why it is in there mesh with the driver. So far it really seems to be doing that. It is one of those things that you can’t really make happen. It just is or it is not. Fortunately for us it looks like it is and I think we will be fine.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE SOME REALISTIC GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR WITH TREVOR BEHIND THE WHEEL? “We have a whole new program in place now that is different from the past. We are going to be tapping into Roush engineering and running Roush equipment this year. That is different than we have done in the past. In the past we have built our own race cars and did our own engineering. This should really make things easier and better because we have a larger group of people to pull from and I am really excited about that. That is going really well.”

HOW ARE THINGS ON DAY ONE OF TESTING? “It seems to be going really well. We are going through a lot of engine related test runs right now. I don’t think we have gotten into very many things with the race car itself yet. Those things will come later this afternoon and tomorrow.”

HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS TEST WITH A ROOKIE DRIVER AS OPPOSED TO THE VETERAN DRIVERS YOU HAVE HAD IN THE PAST? “It is really no different. You come down here and you have a list of things that you are going to do and try. The crew chief and engineers come up with all that. Basically it doesn’t really change from one to the other because you are just making laps and making single car runs. Those things are really easy.”

TREVOR BAYNE, driver, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford FusionYOU ARE OFFICIALLY WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS FOR 2011, 17 RACES ON YOUR SCHEDULE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THIS YEAR? “I am just glad to finally be able to show my excitement. I have had to keep it bottled up for a few weeks as we worked toward this. To finally get it done and announced is pretty incredible man. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be with to start out with. It is a lower pressure situation being a one car team. They can really focus on this car, which is great. I think Donnie Wingo is a great crew chief to work with a young driver and even though the Wood Brothers have never had a rookie driver before I think it is a great fit and I am really looking forward to it.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DONNIE. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE? “It is awesome. I think he has good experience because he has kids my age. He keeps me in line because I think he looks at me like I am one of his kids sometimes. I love hanging out with Donnie, going to the shop and hanging out there. There is so much to learn from everyone in this organization. Even Leonard Wood, I love going and hanging out with him while he is building lawn mowers and RC cars and all kinds of stuff. The relationships here are almost overwhelming because it is so easy. Everybody is really personable here, especially Len and Eddie Wood. They are great owners and I couldn’t ask for a much better situation.”

THERE IS A CONNECTION THIS YEAR BETWEEN WOOD BROTHERS AND ROUSH FENWAY THIS YEAR, HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU IN YOUR ROOKIE YEAR? “I think it is great. I signed a deal with Roush last year to drive for them in the Nationwide series and I didn’t know what the Cup side held. Here I am with the Wood Brothers, and that is really cool. It is a great relationship and I think Ford has really helped that a lot to form that relationship between the organizations. To have other cars out there that we can rely on with the RPM cars and Roush cars is great. It is great to have all those people to bounce things off of.”

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THIS NEW SMOOTH SURFACE WE ARE HEARING ABOUT OUT THERE? “It has settled a little bit more now. I was actually shocked today to see the difference from the first test to this test. It has settled a little having other series cars on it making laps. I think we will see those characteristics start coming back out and we will get to what we have always loved and seen here at Daytona. It is a lot more racy than when we were here last time. I think you can get three or four-wide without worrying about it too much. I think it is going to be good racing.”

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS GOING INTO THE YEAR? HOW HIGH DO YOU SET THE BAR FOR YOURSELF? “I think I just go out there and race. That is what I did at Texas. We went out and had to make it on time there which is different for the first five races this year because we have points. We will be able to work on race setup those first five and try to knock out a top-15. If we can run top-15’s those first five races then that would set us up to be decent on the points. That is what we need to do to try accumulating more sponsorship to keep going. We are gunning for 17 races, but if we can get more sponsorship we can keep going. We want to do as well as we can in the first five to help us set up the rest of the season.”


Credit: Ford Racing PR

1 00 David Reutimann Tyt 45.970 195.780

2 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 45.971 195.776

3 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 46.312 194.334

4 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 46.312 194.334

5 14 Tony Stewart Chv 48.165 186.858

6 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 48.744 184.638

7 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.923 183.963

8 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.937 183.910

9 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 49.031 183.557

10 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.043 183.512

11 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 49.053 183.475

12 20 Joey Logano Tyt 49.087 183.348

13 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 49.132 183.180

14 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.140 183.150

15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 49.177 183.012

16 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 49.264 182.689

17 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.268 182.674

18 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.298 182.563

19 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 49.305 182.537

20 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.306 182.534

21 31 Jeff Burton Chv 49.340 182.408

22 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.352 182.363

23 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.370 182.297

24 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.410 182.149

25 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.424 182.098

26 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.519 181.748

27 6 David Ragan Frd 49.590 181.488

28 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.620 181.378

29 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.687 181.134

30 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 49.706 181.065

31 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.739 180.945

32 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.752 180.897

33 13 Casey Mears Tyt 49.874 180.455

34 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 50.036 179.870


Credit: NASCAR Statistical Services

Blue skies, warm air. Cars on the race track.

That’s how the 2011 edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona kicked off Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, the first of a three-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test.
At stake are preparations for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20 and important data-gathering on the track’s brand-new asphalt surface.
And – oh yeah – anticipation.
“It's going to be wild,” said Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 NAPA Toyota) of the Daytona 500, the series’ traditional season opener. “It's going to be fun. I love racing here. Here and Talladega (Superspeedway) are some of the (most fun) races for us as drivers until you get in a wreck, and then you're just pissed off, and you're pissed off until you come back and hoping to finish the next one.”
History wasn’t lost on drivers who turned the year’s first official laps.
Last year’s repave – only the second at 2.5-mile Daytona and the first since 1978 – began after the NASCAR Sprint Cup event on July 3 and ended in early December. During a Dec. 15-16 Goodyear tire test open to all series teams, those attending validated Goodyear’s compound selection for the Daytona 500.
“I thought the neatest part was they sent us a piece of the old racetrack,” said Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford), who, like Truex, visited Daytona’s infield media center during Thursday’s lunch break. “That's pretty cool to get in the mail. To think of everything that happened on that old pavement and to have a piece of that at home was really special.
“It's definitely a new day, and the paving job is as beautiful and perfect as it could be.”
Aside from first laps on new asphalt, Thursday also marked the first day of at-track work for new crews, new team members and new personnel combinations. Also, the getting-to-know-you process with several technical changes: NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are sporting a reconfigure splitter and will use Sunoco Green E15 fuel in 2011.
“The sport is so competitive that it's not just about seeing how fast your car is now,” said Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet). “It's trying to figure out the strategies and techniques we have to use as drivers with the bump drafting and playing the chess game to figure out where you've got to be at the right time.”
Even after only a few hours, some of those learning processes were underway.
“You want to try to improve on your fuel mileage because I think you're going to see a lot of fuel-only-type pit stops,” said Kurt Busch (No. 2 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge). “So you just have to try to bank as many thoughts as you can in your mind about how you're going to react and apply those.”
Five-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) remains the man the rest of the field pursues.
On Thursday, he said he intends to continue in that role.
“I think that last year we learned a lot more about ourselves and kind of validated our core beliefs and stuck to what the 48 team is known for,” Johnson said. ”And what we believe in and were still able to overcome a lot of adversity and win a championship. I feel like we'll be stronger and better, but we just don't know until we get into the meat of the season and the first goal is obviously to make the Chase and from there figure out how to win again.”
Johnson’s closest pursuer from 2010 – series runner-up Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota) – has his championship checklist for 2011. Better qualifying results is at or near the top.
“I can't start dead last every single week like we did last season,” Hamlin said. “Those are things that are going to help us finish better and obviously give us better chances to win more races.”
He also cited his first five series seasons as an encouraging precedent.
“Obviously there's only one more spot to go,” Hamlin added, “but I feel like we've done a really, really good job over the last three or four years learning from the mistakes that we've made and not repeating them over again.”
Thursday’s final media center visitor was 2004 Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet), who begins 2011 hoping to regain Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility with new crew chief Steve Letarte.
“I was joking with somebody in the truck earlier,” Earnhardt said. “I was sitting in a seat up in the lounge, and they asked me if that was going to be my seat, and I told them I'm not exactly sure where my seat is yet, it's sort of floating around. That's the way I feel about my team. Everybody is still learning; the guys are still learning who does what, what their personalities are.
“It's been fun getting to know Steve more. He's got a great personality, a lot of energy, and hopefully I can depend on that energy in certain times throughout certain races.”
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