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Tag:Daytona 500
Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 6:59 pm
 

Daytona 500 speed read



Posted By Pete Pistone


RACE WRAP

There was a story book ending in Sunday's 53rd running of the Daytona 500 but it wasn't the one most were thinking about this week. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn't able to win "The Great American Race" on the 10th anniversary of his father's death. However a dream did come true for young Trevor Bayne who in his second career Sprint Cup Series start went to victory lane in the sport's biggest race. And Bayne did it behind the wheel of one of NASCAR's most iconic rides the No. 21 Ford of the Wood Brothers, who haven't had a car in victory lane since Elliott Sadle r turned the trick at Bristol way back in 2001.

The 20-year-old Bayne survived a crash-filled event that featured the two-car tandems that have been the story of Speedweeks 2011. The drafting phenomenon made the race a topsy turvy affair from the drop of the green flag with pairs of drivers taking turns jockeying for position at the front of the field. That led to a race record 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers.

But an unfortunate by product of the tight racing was another race record 16 caution flags, many for multi-car accidents that took out a laundry list of pre-race favorites many of them in a 17-car early pile-up that saw the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth swept up in the carnage.

But as the garage area filled up the tenacity on track built to a fever pitch as the laps wound down and in a mad scramble to the checkered flag in the second green-white-checkered finish attempt of the race. Bayne, who impressed the entire garage area all week and proved to be a valuable drafting partner despite his drafting inexperience, shoved his way to the front of the field to put his name in the record books.

Although not a complete artistic success with the multitude of crashes and cautions, overall the race will be remembered as exciting - different, but exciting. And the close finish plus feel good story of a young driver like Bayne winning stock car racing's Super Bowl should give NASCAR a jump start to generate more interest this year and maybe stem the tide of sagging television ratings and attendance, although selling tickets wasn't a problem on Sunday with nearly 200,000 people packing Daytona on a gorgeous February afternoon.

Some people like to believe the Daytona 500 is just one of 36 points races for the Sprint Cup Series each season but they'd be wrong. Sunday's race was a perfect example as to why.

RISERS

David Gilliland
Behind Bayne the next on the list of drivers who might get a "Who's He?" response from non-NASCAR fans is the veteran Gilliland, who piloted the upstart Front Row Motorsports entry to a third place finish. Giililand burst onto the NASCAR scene in a big way a few years ago when he drove an independent ride to victory in a Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway, parlaying that victory into a Sprint Cup career. A third place finish in the Daytona 500 might have already made Gilliland's season a success.

Bobby Labonte
The veteran driver hooked up with the JTG Daugherty Racing team this year replacing Marcos Ambrose and set out to prove to some to some doubters he was not washed up. The two-time Sprint Cup champ came out of the box strong with a fourth place finish on Sunday.

Kurt Busch
He wasn't able to pull off the Speedweeks sweep and follow his Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel win with a Daytona 500 victory. But a fifth place finish on Sunday was still a solid performance and Busch along with crew chief Steve Addington have established themselves as a potent combination that might be right in the thick of the championship battle this year.

FALLERS

Jeff Gordon
A pre-race pick by many to win on Sunday (including me), Gordon was swept up in the early race melee and just like that his post Steve Letart e career got off to about the same start with new crew chief Alan Gustafson . Gordon has to find a way to shake the bad luck that has been haunting him of late. He certainly had a strong car during Speedweeks but even a front row starting spot wasn't enough to find his way back into Lady Luck's good graces.

Jimmie Johnson
The five time champion's quest for a sixth straight title got off to a rocky start when he was also caught in the "Big One" earlier in the race. Johnson's 27th place finish wasn't as bad as previous Daytona 500 finishes but there's no denying "Five Time" is starting 2011 in the hole.

Dale Earnhardt Jr .
Completing the Hendrick trifecta of disappointment, Earnhardt appeared to be in contention to make a run at winning the race on the tenth anniversary of his father's death - an accomplishment that would have certainly generated one of the loudest cheers in NASCAR history. However it wasn't meant to be as a flat tire in the closing laps forced Earnhardt to pit road and out of the mix for the win. The upside is the Junior-Letarte combo platter clicked this week but the reality is Earnhardt has now gone 94 races without a Sprint Cup win.

RADIO WAVES

(Choice communications between drivers and crew chiefs)
"I don't know where I'm going!" - Trevor Bayne after winning and trying to find victory lane.

"The racing out here is chaos." - A.J. Allmendinger

"Thank God that $&@!# 7 car is pitting!" - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"I was pushing Dave and he started changing directions in the corner." - Michael Waltrip after accident with teammate David Reutimann

"Im watching these guys ahead of me playing bumper tag." - Jeff Gordon

RACE RATING

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I'll give Sunday's Daytona 500 a four. Believe me the rating wasn't anywhere near that high in the opening laps when the tandem racing kicked in almost instantly and then a giant wreck took out what seemed like half the field. But as things moved on and the drama increased as well as the racing action, this Daytona 500 started to climb its way toward possible classic status. Bayne's win in a thrilling finish is a great story and NASCAR should be very happy about the way the season has started, especially after the memories of last year's "Pot Hole 500."

DOWN THE ROAD

The real season now begins next week with a trip to Phoenix International Raceway, a track that is completely the opposite of Daytona. PIR is a flat, one mile oval that has characteristics closer to a short track than a superspeedway. But the momentum of the 500 will make the trip out to the desert interesting.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 20, 2011 9:18 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 9:19 am
 

2012 Daytona 500 date to move

Posted By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The date of the 2012 Daytona 500 will slide back a week from recent years.

Track president Joie Chitwood and NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O'Donnell made the announcement Sunday morning in the Daytona International Speedway media center.

"This move shortens the racing season by one week, which is something the teams and competitors will surely enjoy, and it eliminates the off-weekend typically scheduled in March, which many fans and media partners have said created a drop in momentum in the early part of the racing season," said Chitwood. The decision to kick-off the NASCAR racing season one week later was made in close partnership with the sanctioning body, our broadcast partners including FOX, community partners and others within the industry."

How the move impacts the rest of Speedweeks is yet to be determined and dates for next year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona sports car race as well as the Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 qualifying will be announced later.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 20, 2011 8:46 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 12:56 pm
 

Daytona 500 prerace blog

8:30 a.m. ET

Made it to the track. It's a beautiful day here at Daytona International Speedway. During my walk in, I saw/heard Brad Paisley warming up. He sounded excellent.

Martina McBride also ran through a rendition of the national anthem. Flawless.

Pete and I will be sending little nuggets through this thread all morning, so check back often.

9 a.m. ET

In case you haven't heard, officials just announced that next year's Daytona 500 is moving back a week to Feb. 26. More details here.

9:30 a.m. ET

My pick for today -- Clint Bowyer -- was the first one to pass through inspection and be placed on the grid. That team is feeling confident I tell you.




9:45 a.m. ET

The World Famous Thunderbirds are here in the media center. They will do the flyover today - their second time handling those duties. Martina McBride singing the National Anthem and she just finished her warm-up on the PA and sounded awesome. Christina look out!

10 a.m. ET

There's a time capsule in the start/finsih line -- it reads "Time Capsule Placed September 2010". Fans can also be seen signing the start/finish line prior to the race.

 


10:10 a.m. ET

Spoke with Daytona president Joie Chitwood told us attendance for all Speedweeks events are up attendance-wise this year over last and although the 500 is not sold-out, it's "very close." Apparently the fear of a Pothole 500 hangover has surpassed and fans have turned out this year despite last year's debacle. The weather this Speedweeks has been close to ideal which has to be a variable in the attendance increase equation. And early feedback from the garage on pushing the start of next season back a week has been nearly overwhelmingly positive. Eliminating the off-weekend the third or fourth week of the year in March should help the sport's momentum.

10:20 a.m. ET

Grand Marshals Josh Duhamel and Rosie Huntington stopped by the media center. Both star in the upcoming Transformers movie that comes out this summer. Huntington is from England and admittedly knows nothing about NASCAR (but we are still glad she's here trust me) while Duhamel has a racing background as a fan. He grew up in North Dakota and was a regular as a kid at Nodak Speedway. Duhamel has been to Daytona before (with wife Fergie of Black Eyed Peas fame) and thinks Tony Stewart has a chance today after his win in the Nationwide Series. Hey a grand marshal who actually know a thing or two about NASCAR - rare indeed.



10:30 a.m. ET

National Anthem performer Martina McBride in the media center. She's sung the anthem at other NASCAR events and will return to Daytona for the July Coke Zero 400 weekend with a special one hour pre-race concert set. Today's crowd will be the largest McBride has ever performed in front of and she admits to being "a bit nervous." She was also asked about Christina Aguilera 's Super Bowl issues and said she certainly "felt for what Christina was going through." My guess is there will be nothing close to that mess in today's pre-race ceremonies and Anthem.



10:45 a.m. ET

Brad Paisley in the house and he'll perform a pre-race show before today's 500. Daytona president Joie Chitwood presented Paisley with a guitar created by renowned artist Sam Bass designed with the Daytona International Speedway logo. Paisley got a laugh when a reporter with a British accent asked why the country music and NASCAR fan bases are so similar when he answered "You're not from around here." Paisley grew up in West Virginia and has been a long-time NASCAR fan. "Something about cars, gasoline and country music. It just feels like America," he said.

12:55 p.m. ET

Just walked down pit road through the sea of people out in the infield for the Brad Paisley pre-race concert and driver introductions. This is the best day weather-wise for the 500 I can remember in more than a decade and the crowd - not quite a sellout we're told - is massive. There will be close to 200,000 people here. There's a very different vibe at the Daytona 500 than other NASCAR races and really I get a more heightened sense of enthusiasm and anticipation for this year's race than I have for the last few editions of the race.


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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
 
Posted on: February 19, 2011 2:48 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Smaller grille opening for 500

Posted By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -  NASCAR will open up the front grilles of Sprint Cup cars for Sunday's Daytona 500.

Earlier in the week the sanctioning body instituted a rule change to close up the opening in the front air dams on Cup cars in an effort to attack the two car drafting tandems that have dominated Speedweeks.

That led to higher water temperatures and now NASCAR has allowed teams to increase the opening to three inches by 20 inches, a half inch larger than what was used in Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races and subsequent practices.

Teams will run the new opening in Sunday's race without the benefit of any track time.

Temperatures are predicted to be near 80 with bright sunshine on Sunday which will impact the water temperatures inside engines.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 19, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Daytona 500 -- Predictions

DAYTONA 500 WINNER


Pete Pistone's pick

Jeff Gordon The veteran driver has been in a winless drought since he took the checkered flag at Texas back in April of 2009. That will change on Sunday when he rolls into victory lane for the fourth time in his career as a winner of the Daytona 500. Gordon came so close to victory lane several times last season in a year that was nothing short of frustrating for the four-time series champion. But the off-season personnel move by team owner Rick Hendrick to pair Gordon with new crew chief Alan Gustafson will pay immediate dividends by not only ending the winless streak but will do it in the biggest race of the year. Gordon has been fast all week, will start from the front row on Sunday and has figured out the two car drafting phenomenon. That should all add up to the No. 24 rolling into victory lane on Sunday.

Brian De Los Santos' pick

Clint Bowyer Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick have all been stout for Richard Childress Racing throughout Speedweeks. Burton led a race-high 32 laps in the Shootout and a race-high 17 laps in Duel 2 en route the victory. In Duel 1, Harvick led a race-high 20 laps. Burton and Bowyer have especially worked well together. It's time Bowyer gets in on the fun of leading and winning. I expect he'll be hooked up with Burton for much of Sunday's race, but this time Bowyer edges his teammates for the victory in the "Great American Race."


DARK HORSE


Pete Pistone's pick

Trevor Bayne The highly touted young driver has adapted to racing a Sprint Cup car at Daytona almost instantly. Bayne has superstar written all over him but not many expected to see him make the jump from the Nationwide Series to NASCAR’s top level so quickly. He has 17 races with the Wood Brothers on the Cup program in addition to the full Nationwide schedule for Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne proved to be an adept drafting partner in the Gatorade Duel with veterans like Gordon teaming up with the youngster. Ford power has also proven to be stout this Speedweeks so the No. 21 will not have a problem keeping up with the pack. The Daytona 500 has made the career of several future stars throughout its stories history and Bayne has a solid opportunity to add his name to that list.

Brian De Los Santos' pick
 
Michael Waltrip -- He snagged an emotional victory in Friday night's Truck race, 10 years to the day Dale Earnhardt Sr. died on the last lap of Waltrip's 2001 Daytona 500 victory. But whenever something good happens to Waltrip, inevitably there's something that happens to sap the joy from the occassion. This time it was the fact his rear spoiler broke on the last lap, which may have been just the assistance he need to get by Sadler for the win. We all know he's a strong restrictor-plate racer. Maybe, just maybe, he can win a race at Daytona that doesn't carry some sort of baggage.
 

SURPRISE TOP 10


Pete Pistone's pick


Regan Smith The one car Furniture Row Racing operation is headquartered in Denver – Colorado not North Carolina. That makes things difficult for the organization in terms of resources and being connected to the hub of the sport in and around Charlotte. But it hasn’t hindered the preparation of fast race cars and a solid restrictor plate program. Smith is a former Rookie of the Year who has demonstrated keen drafting talent coming close to pulling off an upset win at Talladega a couple of years ago when he went below the yellow out of bounds line while taking the checkered flag. He’s been lightning fast this Speedweeks and has fostered alliances with some of the best in the sport including Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and the Richard Childress Racing stable. If there’s a made scramble at the end of Sunday’s race, don’t be surprised to see the nondescript black No. 78 in the middle of it.

Brian De Los Santos' pick


Paul Menard -- It's easy to forget he's part of what is now a quartet over at RCR. He hasn't proven to be as strong as his veteran mates during Speedweeks, but he should have picked up a few pointers the last few days that may just help him stay in the hunt Sunday. In seven Cup starts at Daytona, he has never finished in the top 10. In three Daytona 500 starts, his best finish is 13th.


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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 19, 2011 9:11 am
Edited on: February 19, 2011 11:53 am
 

Daytona schedule -- Saturday, Feb. 19

Here's today's schedule of activity at Daytona.

10:30 a.m. ET -- Final Daytona 500 practice

1:15 p.m. ET -- Nationwide Series race

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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
 
Posted on: February 18, 2011 8:48 pm
 

Stewart: New drafting gives drivers more control

Listen to audio (18 minutes, 7 seconds) or read transcript below


TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET met with media and discussed what the drivers have learned in the two two-car pairings, how the Nationwide and Cup Series differ, how the driving is back in the driver’s hands, and more. Full Transcript:

 

ON HIS WEEK SO FAR AND THE OUTLOOK FOR BOTH THE NATIONWIDE AND SPRINT CUP RACES

“It’s definitely been different. And we said that after the test session. We knew it was going to be different racing down here. But I’ve kind of enjoyed the part where we’re out of the pack and not sitting there just stuck in a line. You actually have the ability to help or hurt your cause, depending on who you get with and how quick you do the exchanges and how you play the runs on guys from being the third or fourth group back. So it’s a different style of racing and it’s definitely something we’ve had to adjust our mindset to for sure, and definitely have had to practice a lot of things that we’re seeing that seem to be changing daily on the race track with what it takes to go fast and be good here.”

 

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TODAY VOTED TO CONTINUE ALLOWING THE ARMY TO SPONSOR NASCAR. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT VOTE? WHAT ARE YOUR CONCERNS ON THAT DISCUSSION?

“We’ll, we’re obviously pretty excited about that. I didn’t think that it would be anything different. But it’s obviously a program that works for them or they wouldn’t be a part of this sport. It’s been a very successful tool for the U.S. Army and luckily we get to continue that program with them. Definitely from the car owner’s side, that was good news today.”

 

WERE YOU WORRIED?

“You’re always worried when you don’t know what can happen. Anything that’s out of your control, you always worry about.”

 

NASCAR’S OBJECTIVE WHEN THEY MADE THE CHANGES TO SHRINK THE GRILL SIZE AND LOWER THE PRESSURE ON THE POP-OFF VALVES WAS TO BREAK UP SOME OF THESE TWO-CAR DRAFTS.  AND YET IN THE DUELS, WE SAW STILL CARS BEING ABLE TO PUSH EACH OTHER FOR SUSTAINED PERIODS OF TIME, PARTICULARLY THE FORDS. DO THE FORDS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE IN THEIR COOLING PACKAGE?

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. But I know that’s what NASCAR’s intention was (to break up the two-car drafts). It just shows how quickly everything can evolve. What drivers have figured out each day has progressed. It’s tough that NASCAR can’t predict how we’re going to react. The hard part is it hasn’t been able to accomplish what they were wanting to accomplish of getting guys out of that two-car deal. I don’t know necessarily that it’s a bad thing. I think it’s definitely different.

 

“And you don’t have 30 cars in a gigantic ball. But at the same time you look at how safe it’s been for the drivers. If somebody has a problem it’s normally been single car incidents out there with the exception of the Shootout the other night that I think had four or five cars involved in that one deal. But for the most part it’s been a lot safer for us from that aspect of it even though the speeds are up. The speeds haven’t been a drama. The pushing has taken some getting used to. Being pushed hasn’t been a big problem. It’s learning how to push and the visibility of it. That side of it has been a little tricky. That’s where we rely on the spotters a lot and I think everybody has learned how to make the adjustments to make it work.”

 

CAN YOU SPEAK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE THIS STYLE OF DRAFTING TO THE MASS PACK DRAFTING AS FAR AS THE PRECISION AND THE TIMING YOU HAVE TO EXERCISE WHEN YOU’RE DOING YOUR CHANGES?

“Yeah, it’s definitely put a lot more back into the driver’s hands, for sure. Where you’re at, with the partner you choose to run with out there at the time; where you place your car and where you make the changes, it’s all about what the drivers are doing. It’s not the car doing the exchanges anymore. I like that aspect of it. Historically in the past, it’s been just hoping you got in the right line and hope that it went forward enough that you could switch and go back and forth; kind of like being in a traffic jam. At least we’re out of the traffic jam now and have a little more control over our own destinies. I like the aspect that at least it’s put some of the driver back into the equation.”

 

FROM THE DAY JUNIOR JOHNSON FIGURED OUT THE DRAFT IN 1960, THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN GUYS WHO WERE GOOD AT DRAFTING. WHAT MAKES YOU GOOD AT THIS? WHAT MAKES A DRIVER A GOOD PLATE RACER OVER OTHER GUYS?

“I don’t know that I’m that good at it. I’m not sure if I’m not good at it or I just don’t know what day to be good at it. I’ve got Saturday figured out; I just can’t figure out Sunday. We’ve had really good luck in the Nationwide Series at this race and we’ve always been able to get ourselves close to the front when we needed to and sort it out from there; but trying to figure out what to do to convert that to a Sunday win has been the hard part. That’s been the hard part where you look over the past 12 years here and you say, okay, these are the opportunities we had and these were the missed opportunities and those are the ones that you set there and beat your head against the wall over trying to figure out what you could have done differently. We’ve seen Brian Keselowski get in yesterday. It’s hope that if you get in with the right guy that you do a good enough job you can get yourself in position to win the race.”

 

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW’S RACE? DO YOU SEE IT BEING SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT AS FAR AS HOW THE RACE IS GOING TO EVOLVE? WILL THERE BE SOME DRAFTING PACKS IN THAT RACE?

“I think so. We saw a little bit of it in practice. The difference is I’m not sure that there are as many people; you know where the Cup field, everybody’s doing it. On the Nationwide side, I don’t know that more than eight or 10 guys practiced that yesterday. So I think you will see some separation there. And I think you’re going to see guys that are going to be trying it for the first time in the race. That’s what the good part is about having Cup drivers is it helps teach those guys how to do the things they need to do to be a Cup driver. So it’s definitely going to be interesting. They knocked so much power out of them that it made it harder to pass yesterday and it seemed like it was a little easier for the cars to hook up, but I don’t know that they really took off and had the speed like we’re seeing with the Cup Series. It didn’t seem like when two cars got together they got as big a run and momentum.”

 

BACK IN 2004, THEY TRIED A DIFFERENT RULES PACKAGE AND YOU REALLY LIKED THAT. NOW WITH THE TWO-CAR PACK WE HAVE IS JUST CONVINCING FANS THAT GOOD RACING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE 40 CARS LINED UP IN ONE LONG FREIGHT TRAIN?

“That starts in this room (Media Center) right here. So you guys are the whole key to that. I don’t think it’s bad. It’s taking more skill to do what we’re doing now than ever before. There is an element of danger that we’ve never had before where you can’t see where you’re going. There is plenty of exciting stuff about what we’re doing and stuff to write about. You guys can bring that to the fans.”

 

HOW HAS THE CREW CHIEF’S ROLE CHANGED WITH THIS NEW PACKAGE?

“You probably should talk to a crew chief more than me. But what we did see yesterday is handling did become a factor. We got loose during the race and that’s the first time that we had the car do anything that we didn’t like over SpeedWeeks. I think if we have the same weather conditions that we’ve had the last two days on Sunday, I think handling will be a factor in it a little bit. It’s obviously not going to be as big of a factor as it’s been in the past but I think there is potential for handling in this package. By yourself, It’s not at all. Everybody in the Media Center can drive if you could get in one (laughter); but everybody could drive it around here. But the two-car part is where it gets a lot trickier. The front guy keeping the car straight and it’s harder to do it down the straightaways than it is in the corners; and then the guy in the back making sure that he’s smooth and not getting that front car out of shape. So there’s a lot of driving going on when you see two cars taking off by themselves.”

 

ON DYNAMICS WITH YOUR SPOTTER AND WHO MAKES THE CALLS ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON BEHIND AND IN FRONT OF YOU WHEN IN A TWO CAR DRAFT?

“Teammates have been able to put their team car frequencies on each other’s radios and that has been a big help.  And in the case of Ryan and I we have used my spotter when the two of us have gotten together no matter where and who was in position.  And other teams have done the same thing and I don’t know if they have switched to whoever was leading at the time but you know as far as when you get with guys that are not on your team, instead of a direct link from driver to driver, it’s from driver to crew chief to the spotter, back to the other spotter back down to the driver so the spotters are really busy up there and you will see them shuffling around trying to find the guys that they are running with just to make sure that they can communicate that information as fast as possible.”

 

IS IT DISCONCERTING TO THE DRIVER THAT YOU HAVE TO RELY ON THE OTHER SPOTTER FOR THE DRIVER AHEAD OF YOU TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THE TRACK?

“It’s kind of what we have always done.  It’s not as exaggerated as in “Days of Thunder” obviously but we have always relied on spotters to get through things ahead of them but the thing that the spotters are having to do is to not drive the cars for us as much as to just let us know…..because they have to be the eyes for us around the backside of the car they are now having to do that around the front too.  Their role has become more crucial now in Speedweeks too.”

 

ON DALE EARNHARDT JR’S SUGGESTION THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO DOWN TO TALLADEGA AND HERE AND DO A BIG TWO DAY TEST AND TRY A LOT OF STUFF TO CHANGE THIS TWO CAR STUFF

“If I remember right, when we came down for the open test he did single car runs the whole time he was here so if he felt that way, why didn’t he do that in the test while we were all here together? 

 

“We tried getting in big packs for three days down here and we couldn’t get people to quit doing single car runs and worrying about trying to make the race cars go fast.  In the big pack you want master of your own destiny……..I don’t know where he got that from because you have always been relying on the guy behind you so if you want to be the master of your own destiny, take the restrictor plates off.  Figure out how to let us drive race cars again.”

 

WHEN YOU ARE COMING DOWN TO THE END, DO YOU WANT TO BE THE GUY BEHIND OR IN FRONT?
“I am not going to give that secret away right now.  I would be more than happy to tell you what I think but I am not sure that I have totally sorted it all out as far as where you want to be.   I guess the good thing is what we saw in the Shootout is how things can be and can happen.  What you had are two guys that were leading the race is when Denny pulled out and got the run on Ryan and cleared him before the start/finish line but at the same time you had two cars that stayed together and they were able to keep that momentum on the outside so it’s really……….that last lap of the 500 is going to be critical as far as knowing not only what you are going to do if you are in that lead group but if you are that guy in second you have to really think about what the possibilities are of what can happen if you have that second group that is anywhere close then they have that shot and the guy in third could easily win the race if the guy in second makes the move to early.”

 

ON KEVIN HARVICK PROCLAIMING THAT HE THOUGHT THE GUYS RUNNING IN SECOND DURING THE GATORADE DUELS MADE THEIR MOVES TOO LATE AND YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT NOT WANTING TO MAKE YOUR MOVE TOO EARLY

“I think it depends on what is going on behind you.  I mean you can still…….they didn’t get by the guy that they were trying to get by but at the same time I think if you do it too soon you are going to break so much momentum that the guys that stay together……. just like in the Shootout when the 22 car came ripping around the outside and they stayed in line and carried that momentum.  When you get those two cars side-by-side……now not only are they not pushing each other but they are punching a bigger hole in the air and it helps that second pack get a run.”

 

ON THE NEW SURFACE AND THE DIFFERENCES FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS

“It's definitely polar opposites on the scale.  We went from a really wavy, bumpy surface that didn’t have a lot of grip to all the sudden a very perfectly smooth surface with a ton of grip so all the racing we used to do you can take all the notes and throw it out the window and none of it pertains to the cars that we are racing this time around.  It’s probably been one of the biggest changes as far as a track repaving that we have ever seen in history as far as when I have been in the sport as far as what you had and it being a total opposite package from the year before.  There wasn’t anything about it from last year that you could take to this year.”

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 18, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 5:50 pm
 

Kenseth has 500 drafting plans set

Matt Kenseth met the media Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway

CAN YOU TELL US HOW THINGS HAVE GONE FOR YOU SO FAR LEADING UP TO SUNDAY?

“It has gone alright. Saturday was disappointing because we didn’t get in the right place and had a disappointing finish. Yesterday was good. I think that was the best finish we have had in a 150. We were in position to have a shot at the win and the late caution took us out to fourth. I was happy with that. The car is in one piece and we had good speed and worked out most of the things that we could work out with the way the track is and the rules and all. Everything seemed to be going pretty good and it has been pretty smooth so far.”

 

CAN YOU PUT INTO WORDS WHAT IT WAS LIKE COMING BACK TO DAYTONA THE YEAR AFTER YOU WON IT?

“It was fun. We came down a little early and did some media stuff which was fun because when we came back last year, well it has been almost two years since we won a race now, we are kind of on a dry spell. It was fun to come back and be the defending champion. You got to think about the year before and it put me in a better mood for the season. It is fun whenever you can win a race, especially one as big as the Daytona 500. The sport is still more of a what have you done for me lately deal. It is more about what we can do today and tomorrow and down the road.”

 

YESTERDAY YOU WERE ABLE TO DRAFT FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME. WHAT IS THAT ATTRIBUTED TO IN YOUR MIND?

“I don’t think our stuff is any different or we have any advantage over anybody necessarily. There are probably a few circumstances where I got some air in there and kept it kind of cool or maybe didn’t take care of that engine as much as I would the 500 engine because I knew we were going to change engines anyway and I didn’t care if it got overheated. It was more important to me to keep our car in position and get a decent starting spot for Sunday. I didn’t want to be in the back and get wrecked. I wasn’t as careful with it as I should have been. I don’t know how you get away from two car drafts, whether they are good, bad or indifferent. You kind of knew it was going to be that way since the last Talladega race and Jeff Burton and I got in front and kept swapping positions until we finally couldn’t get back together for whatever happened there. That is the way the ending the last couple of races there have been. You knew when they paved this place that handling wasn’t going to matter for a lot of years. With these cars and the way they are set up, two cars pushing each other is faster than a big group of cars and that is what everybody is going to try to figure out how to do.”

 

AS A DRIVER, CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE IN THE PAVEMENT FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR?

“It is totally different. The old pavement was like driving down a gravel road and the new pavement is like driving down a freshly paved road with your street car. It is really that extreme. With the old pavement you could run wide open for five to 12 laps and then you had to start letting off the gas and it was almost like a plate race for 5 or 10 laps and a big track race after that where you had to start hitting marks exactly right. Toward the end of the run a lot of people would be lifting and you could pass by yourself. It was a lot different race. There is so much grip right now and they are so good at making asphalt now so I think it will be like that for a long time. Handling is such a non issue that you can run 210 or 215 at least before you have to start getting off the gas. It is going to be more of a Talladega style race.”

 

CAN YOU TELL IF THE MOMENTUM ROUSH FENWAY HAD THE SECOND HALF OF LAST SEASON HAS CARRIED OVER TO THIS YEAR?

“I think you have to at least get through Phoenix, Las Vegas and probably a couple races further than that down the road to really see where you are at compared to your competition. I do feel like we are prepared for Daytona. Although qualifying was disappointing, it seemed like we had good speed out there. I don’t think that will matter a whole lot because of the draft, but I would still rather have a fast car than a slow one. People will want to hook up with you more if you are fast. At the end of last year we got much stronger and finished the season on a good note with Carl winning a couple races and Greg winning a couple races. We were more competitive toward the end of the year even though we didn’t win, so that has our hopes up for this year.”

 

HOW DID YOU GUYS ARRIVE AT YOUR PRACTICE DECISIONS FOR TODAY?

“We didn’t, Jimmy did. Basically we just changed engines today and put a couple laps on our 500 engine to make sure there were no vibrations or oil leaks or anything. Tomorrow we will practice a little bit to make sure the cooling system and everything is okay. Try to draft just a little bit. We did the tire test for two days and the other test for three days and with the amount of grip you have here, there are no handling issues to work on. Once you get the car trimmed out and the platform right and the aero and all that stuff, there is really not a lot to work on. The rules are pretty tight and they don’t allow you to work on much, so there isn’t much reason to put a bunch of laps in practice. I don’t think a big group is going to win the race, so I don’t think you want to go out there and get behind 15 cars to see how your car reacts. Maybe you want to push and look for a car your car reacts well with and go out there and race.”

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK NASCAR COULD HAVE DONE TO PREVENT THIS TYPE OF RACING AND DO YOU THINK NASCAR MIGHT CHANGE ANYTHING BEFORE TALLADEGA?

“First of all I don’t know that it is a bad thing. We had a really good finish to the shootout. It is just different. Once they paved it, we knew this is how it would be like. I guess if they don’t like the product and want to change it I don’t know what they would be. I guess you would have to go test stuff at Talladega to see. I don’t know that there is a lot more they can do this week to get a big group together, although I will say that in the second 150 there was a bigger group and the cars got shuffled and didn’t lose a couple spots, they lost eight or 10 spots. I think when you get twice as many cars out there; the potential is there to have a lot bigger pack and more jockeying for position. I think you will get some groups in the front that get locked up, but I think you will have a lot more action and a bigger pack.

 

WAS THERE ANY DROP OFF IN TIRES YESTERDAY AND HOW FAR DO YOU THINK YOU CAN RUN ON THEM?

“I think you could run the whole race on one set of tires with absolutely zero issues. There have been no tire issues at all. I think people will get tires just because if you are getting 16 or 18 or 14 second of fuel, or you get a yellow then you might as well put tires on. I think that honestly you could go the whole 500 miles on one set of tires because we didn’t see any wear at all.”

 

NASCAR HAS BEEN TALKED ABOUT IN TERMS OF TV RATINGS AND LENGTH OF RACES. WHAT CAN HAPPEN IN THIS RACE ON SUNDAY TO REVERSE THAT TALK?

“How do I answer this one?  I think the product is pretty good. Last year I think was the closest Chase in history and there were a lot of really exciting races. Texas comes to mind. There was a fight and a guy flipping off an official and two lead changes in the last two laps. There was a little bit of everything. I think the product has been really good. As far as being picked apart, you guys do that. The media writes the stories. I know you guys don’t create TV ratings and attendance numbers, but you guys do that more than we do and that is your job. I think that last year the racing was pretty good and pretty competitive. The Chase was competitive right down to the end. I know we have a different point system this year, but I thought last year was good with different winners. Denny dominated most the season and Jimmy came on at the end and won again. I thought that was pretty exciting.”

 

HOW IS KATIE DOING AND TO WHAT DEGREE HAS THE IMPENDING BIRTH AFFECTED YOUR SPEEDWEEKS?

“She is doing pretty good. I am probably doing better than she is, but she is doing alright. It hasn’t affected me yet. I told her to wait until Monday and she always listens to me, so I am not too worried about it. I hope it will be next week.  I am not a woman, but I would assume when you get to the end of a pregnancy that you are ready for it to be over. Hopefully that happens next week when we are getting ready to go to Phoenix.”

 

 

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