Tag:Daytona International Speedway
Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:23 am

NASCAR slates fuel injection test at Daytona

By Pete Pistone

NASCAR has added another electronic fuel injection test on November 15 at Daytona International Speedway.

As the sanctioning body prepares to implement EFI for the full 2012 Sprint Cup Series schedule, NASCAR continues the process of gathering information on the new system.

Teams took part in a test on Monday at Martinsville Speedway and will now have an opportunity at Daytona the Tuesday prior to the season-ending Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR has so far been pleased with the progress made in testing the new system.

“I think most of the hurdles have been crossed with software and issues they had early on,” said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton after the Talladega test ten days ago. “It looked to me like the cars were responding to changes. We didn’t have any issues on the track. It looked like a regular day at the race track for the most part.”
Sprint Cup teams will return to Daytona in January for the annual pre-season testing session prior to beginning the 2012 season with Speedweeks in February.

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Posted on: July 5, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 11:15 am

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

By Pete Pistone

  David Ragan, Driver Of The #6 UPS Ford, And Matt Kenseth, Driver Of The #17 Affliction Clothing: Live Fast Ford,

My father had a strict rule – don’t complain about a perceived problem unless you have a solution. 

With all due respect to my dear departed father there is definitely a problem right now in NASCAR but I have no earthly idea on how to fix it. 

Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona was the latest example of what a mess restrictor plate racing has become. But short of tearing down the legendary Daytona and Talladega facilities there’s absolutely no answer on how to make things any different. 

The combination of the next generation Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars with the new asphalt paving at the two biggest oval tracks on the schedule has given birth to a style of racing that is tough to warm up to. 

There are some fans that actually like the two car tandems which have popped up in the last two years and enjoy watching two drivers run nose to tail as they rocket toward the front of the field. 

Others despise the concept and long for the 30-car packs of cars stuck together in the draft that made for side-by-side racing from nearly start to finish. 

Although the styles may differ the end result is basically they same – drivers have to draft with each other in order to stay in contention to win and once the checkered flag is in sight all hell breaks loose. 

That was the same scenario that played out time and again at Daytona and Talladega before the two by two drafting arose in 2009. No doubt it will remain in place once the track surfaces wear out and the inevitable return of pack racing is the norm. 

But tandem racing has created another issue for some fans who have seen the concept of teamwork go a bit too far for their liking. 

One teammate pushing another rather than going for the win himself isn’t exactly selling the concept of what NASCAR racing is all about. However with the advent of pairs racing it’s impossible for one driver to go it alone so organizations have begun to dictate who shall push and who shall receive the benefit. 

David Ragan could not have won last Saturday night without Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth literally pushing him across the finish line. Jimmie Johnson’s April win at Talladega would not have been possible unless Hendrick mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided the necessary push. 

All well and fine for fans of Ragan and Johnson but Kenseth and Junior supporters weren’t too pleased with those plans. 

These so-called team orders smack more of policies within Formula One racing than they do in NASCAR. 

It’s certainly understandable why teams take such an approach. Kenseth already has two wins and seems assured a Chase berth so why not take advantage of the situation presented and help Ragan to victory lane, potentially pushing him to a Wild Card spot? 

Even drivers tend to view the phenomenon differently depending on their vantage point. 

For instance Kenseth was not a huge fan of two car drafting when he first got a taste earlier this year during Daytona’s Speedweeks. 

“If you're the pusher, you can't see a thing and with going 207 miles an hour and pushing someone when you can't see, it's not a lot of fun," Kenseth said. "At the end there, I was the odd man out because I couldn't get with a group of two. 

"Everybody was grouped up in twos, and if you can't get with one other car in a group, you're pretty much done and you're just gonna fall back." 

However not surprisingly Kenseth saw things a bit differently last Saturday when he was able to assist Ragan to his first career checkered flag. 

“Made it through the race unscathed,” Kenseth said with a smile of relief. “Made a plan with David, and we both did what it took to work, not necessarily for ourselves, but realizing that the two cars were like one car and we had to treat it like that.           

“We both took care of each other's cars and the positions that we were in. We raced in front or in back of each other all night, every single lap of the whole race. Waited for each other after the pit stop. Did what it took to get the finish, so that feels good that the plan came together and worked out for us tonight.” 

Fans and drivers will have one more chance to pick a side on this kind of racing and make a plan this season when the final plate race rolls around at Talladega come October. 

There’s no reason to expect anything to be different than the first three restrictor plate affairs except for one small detail.

Talladega will be race number six of the Chase. 

That could have a pretty big impact on teammates wanting to work together with one another.

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Posted on: July 4, 2011 10:40 am

Around the circuit - weekend web wrap

Posted by Pete Pistone

News, nuggets and other perspectives from around the World Wide Web in the aftermath of the weekend's racing at Daytona International Speedway:

ORLANDO SENTINEL: "David Ragan wins Daytona in Fiery Finish" 

ROANOKE TIMES: "Pushing Racing Beyond its Limits"

GASTON GAZETTE: "Outhouse to Penthouse - Ragan Overcomes The Mistake" 

DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL: "Bayne, Edwards Runs into Trouble"  

FLORIDA TODAY: "Danica Proves She Can Drive" 

INSIDER RACING NEWS: "Will NASCAR Survive the Next Ten Years?"  

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: July 3, 2011 8:37 am

David Ragan, team post Daytona comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Q. Talk about winning here tonight. You came back so close in February, talk about winning here tonight with the Coke Zero 400.         

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, it was a tough one in February, and coming back here, we knew we didn't have a shot to win. I think there are 30 guys that can win this race. Just we felt good all weekend walking around. Went through practice, felt good about our race car, qualified great, the team did a nice job with our car when we qualified.           

That's probably the first time that I felt we've got a car that's fast enough that awe can win this thing if we make the right decision throughout the race. So we made a pact with our teammate Matt Kenseth that we're going to work together through thick or thin. I was a little worried about that too. Sometimes falling to the back and to the front, you get jammed up throughout the race.           

So I didn't know if that was the right decision or not, but bottom line, our car was fast. That's what wins these races. You've got to have luck, you've got to have pit stops and all that stuff goes into effect. But you've got to have a fast car, and our UPS Ford was fast. The engine ran flawless, and that's what won the race for us. I had Matt right behind us. I knew we had a good pusher. I knew we had the car to do it and not try to make any mistakes, and try to put ourselves in good position.           

And we wound up actually being in the lead on the last restart, and that was a winning moment for us to be able to start on the front row.           

THE MODERATOR: Also tonight with that win, you're 17th in points and you become a player for the Chase. Congratulations on that. Maybe your thoughts on that too.           

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, we feel like we've been a player for the Chase all year. Kind of disappoints me being 17th. We should be 13th in points. So we've got a lot of work to make up. We've got good tracks coming up. So I'm happy about the win. We should be higher in points than that.           

THE MODERATOR: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer has joined us as well. Drew, congratulations on the win. Talk about some of the things that you had to do to the car or some of the things on pit road that helped with this victory?           

DREW BLICKENSDERFER:  You know, when you do this two-by-two thing, you've got a partner that you come into pit road with especially in a green-flag stop. So you get together with those guys and you figure out what they want to do. Luckily we got a great teammate in Matt Kenseth and Jimmy Fennig. Jimmy and I were on the radio together deciding what we want to do, two, four, gas only and things like that. It was real easy when you've got someone with the experience of Jimmy talking you through it. I tell him what I wanted to do, and he said that's good. Let's do it. We stayed together all night. That was a great opportunity for us to work with two veteran guys and have that leadership with us.           

THE MODERATOR: Team owner Jack Roush. Jack, congratulations on this win here tonight. Came so close with the 6 car, with the Daytona 500, and the win here tonight. That's got to feel very, very good.           

JACK ROUSH: Happy to be here tonight with Drew and David. And they worked really hard, and Drew's a great coach, and David is a great recipient of the coaching and they've been working hard all year. They've had several occasions when they could have won a race.           

The Daytona 500 was a big disappointment the way it worked out, but it worked out for David. You know, the FR9 engine has done a great job. The Ford support behind the program has never been better than we have this year. You know, the engineers have all done a great job. You know, we've brought cars down here that we expected to have a chance to win with. And David was confident of that, and they used it well. They didn't waste the opportunity.            

Q. David, I don't want to harp on the Daytona 500, but you said after the race, the day of the race you said it will take us a long time to forget this one. The sooner we can win one, the sooner we can forget it. Did it take you until today to forget it?           

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, because all you guys want to talk about it on a regular basis. I was hoping to win one a little earlier than the July 4th race here, but it's a good feeling to come back here and kind of we got one back at Daytona. It would have been tough to lose another one.           

I thought about that actually under that last caution. I said, man, if we don't win this thing, I said I'm not going to talk to anyone afterwards. So we were able to win. That does ease the pain from February. It's still nice to think about that Daytona 500 ring, but it's awesome. This is a great race. Coca-Cola being a partner of ours, a lot of the of Ford guys are down here. This is a race that it's a total team effort, because the engine department has to do their job, the race car has to be good, and teammates helped us win. So it does ease the pain.           

To answer your question, we'll think about this one a lot more than we'll think about the Daytona 500.             

Q. What makes you so good on this track, and this tandem racing?          

DAVID RAGAN: When we first came down here my first year we finished fifth in the 500, and I thought, man, this is pretty easy. We can do this every time. We came back and we haven't been able to do that since. We've had Top 10s and Top 5s. But I think the biggest part, we've had good race cars. We were very fortunate to drive the Ford engines. Doug Yates, Robert, Jack have all done a nice job with our engine package where we've been able to run it to the limit and be aggressive. A little more so aggressive than others.           

I just don't know. Sometimes it fits someone's driving style. I hated this place the first time I came down here because I didn't like that you could just hold it to the floor and ride around. But once I learned there is a strategy behind the racing, it's actually some of the most fun racing you'll take part in.           

So I had a blast tonight. The race cars are good that I drive. I've been fortunate to have good spotters that have coached me well. Jimmy Fennig was a great crew chief at the speedways and he helped us out a lot. And Drew's done a good job of fine tuning and fluffing and buffing on the cars to get that extra little bit, and that's why we qualified so well, the details and Drew takes care of that. So I've been lucky to drive some good race cars here.            

Q. On that final restart, did you have anybody in on your radio tell you stay in your lane?           

DAVID RAGAN: Actually, I was on Matt Kenseth's radio that last restart and his spotter mentioned it. I said you don't have to tell me, so don't even say it. It kind of lightened the mood. Everyone's so tense there at the end. You don't know what to do. You don't know what's going to happen. If we're going to have another green and white checkered. I thought we were close on fuel.          

Yeah, that's one thing that I did not have to be reminded of. When you're on the bottom, you don't have to worry about that. I wasn't going to run through the grass.            

Q. Is that you picked the bottom?          

DAVID RAGAN: I picked the bottom because Matt was behind me. That Ford engine was fast. I knew he would push me to the end, and I wasn't going to take my left side tires off the yellow line.            

Q. One last question, how will you celebrate this? Have you had your eye on eBay, something bizarre to buy?          

DAVID RAGAN: If Jack will rent me space at the shop. I've run out of room. I don't have anything.           

No, I guess I'll go back home and hang out tomorrow. I was planning on cutting some grass and cleaning up around the house tomorrow. I got an appearance in Atlanta on Monday, so we've got to work Monday. So I guess I'll hang out, maybe, I don't know. Go over and see Drew or go have some dinner somewhere. Hang out. See what happens.           

I might not leave Daytona. I might just stay down here for a few days.            

Q. Jack, what is the status of the relationship with UPS? Are you in negotiations with them to bring them back beyond this season? What does a night like this do for the team after you've had kind of a rough week with sponsor news with the Crown Royal announcement?           

JACK ROUSH: Certainly we're hopeful that UPS will carry on in a meaningful regard with the sponsorship of the 6 car. Now that we are in negotiation, we don't have assurance that that's going to be the case. But David has arrived at the upper echelon. He's a winner now. And he's given a win to UPS, and hopefully they'll consider that as they think about the value of the program and what it means to all their employees and what it means to their customers to have this association.           

It certainly means a lot to us. But to finally have David in the winners column is a really big thing for us. He's had several poles this year and been close a number of times.           

We've been snake bitten with this last five laps where the caution comes out. You take two tires, no tires, gas only, stay on the racetrack, and all of our programs have not done as well as some of the others in making that judgement. We let several of them get away, but happily we've got this one landed and it's something that UPS will think about when they make their determination on what they'll do next year.            

Q. Right before the final restart you talked about finding a partner, and you found it ironic that after running that many laps with Matt you might split up. There seemed to be a common theme among a lot of guys on the radio out there. Is it just because how you might lineup or what was going through your mind at that point?           

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: I heard that on the radio, and I immediately went to Matt to hear if Matt was talking about that, and he wasn't. I think that was idle chit-chat on the spotter's stand or something. I don't think it had any indication with not coming and helping us.           

We made a commitment a week ago or two weeks ago when Jimmy Fennig came to my office that we were going to stick together through thick and thin if we could. And we showed it at the beginning of the race. We were willing to drop back and pick up Matt from our qualifying spot and ride in the back if we had to or whatever it took.           

Matt's a great teammate. And in no way I thought after listening to him, it wasn't going through his mind. I think that was a what-if scenario.           

Q. Can you talk about your father, your grandfather, and the family ties you have here in Daytona in racing?           

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, my grandfather, I never met him. He owned a car, never drove any, but he owned a car in the '40s, and '50 and ran here on the beach course. Jack Smith drove some races for him.  That's ultimately how my father and his brother kind of was around the racetrack at a young age, so they started racing some.           

He owned a bumper-to-bumper automotive repair shot, so they did a lot of the work for the local racers. They were able to run Nationwide and Cup races and made some good friends along the way. That's ultimately what sparked my interest.           

Obviously Daytona is a special place for any racer. You know, this is better than Indy. This is better than Sebring or any of those other big races that they have. So Daytona means a lot.           

Coming down here as a kid, going to the beach, going to the racetrack it just kind of went hand in hand. The Daytona 500 is our biggest race of the year. Coming back here in July, the middle point of the year, the July FireCracker 400 is a big race.           

To come back down here and win the Coke Zero edition, and finally get into Victory Lane here at Daytona is a special place. That is kind of the birth place of NASCAR. It's neat to win here, even though this race does pay the same amount of points as winning Kentucky or New Hampshire or Pocono or any others, but it is a special race. Very fortunate to get our first win here.            

Q. Jack, can you explain a little about what happened to Carl's car tonight and the carbon monoxide situation? Is there any thought of requiring -- I know he doesn't like using the air box or anything like that -- but with the carbon monoxide combined with the heat situation at this time of the year, do you think having a scrubber of some sort in a car as a precaution is thoughts in the future?           

JACK ROUSH: We certainly will think about that. We'll look at what happened in the car and think about what we can do to make him more comfortable.           

They knocked the crush panels out of the tub, the sheet metal that separates the car, the exhaust, and the things that are happening on the right side of the car from the passenger compartment or from the driver's cockpit. And that seal was broken by the contact he had with the right quarter panel. Until they got that fixed, there was serious contamination inside the cockpit.           

When it got to be to the point of real serious discomfort for Carl, the crew chief, Bob Osborne, was monitoring it, and they agreed together he'd come down pit road and they'd take however long to fix it.           

But whether there is something that can be used to clean the air better for him, I'm not sure. We'll look into that. We'll take that situation apart the same as we do everything bad that happens at the a race track for a race car. We'll take it apart next week, and come up with the determination if there's something we can do to make it safer for the driver. If there is, we'll do it.            

Q. You're an engineer. The verdict is out among a lot of the fans about this two-car drafting sort of thing. From an engineering standpoint is there something that can be done to the cars so they are not two car drafts out there. Or do you like the two car draft from an engineering standpoint, what do you think about that?           

JACK ROUSH: You fix the front and the back of the car so if they have contact, there is an inclined angle that would drive the rear wheels off the ground to stop it. It's easy to stop it if NASCAR really wants to stop it.           

They organized the front and the rear plane, vertical planes of the cars so they could be conducive to push one another, and they wouldn't have that problem that they had before.           

I thought in Daytona, I thought in February that we'd be happier having these cars paired up two at a time, and the drivers would be more in control of their circumstances and less likely to be involved in a wreck that wasn't their own problem. I think that it's about the same.           

I think when you come to these restricted tracks, there is such a premium for keeping your foot on the gas and to maintain your momentum that you're inclined to not use reason, sometimes, and get out of the gas and separate yourself from the risk that would be there for you.           

But it's exciting racing. Daytona and Talladega both have been known for the fast speeds and for all of the excitement that is unique to those two racetracks. And we've got something now that I think is no less exciting than it's been, and it's no more hazardous or less hazardous than when we had the 30-car drafts.  I think that's what we'll have to deal with when it comes to Daytona or Talladega.            

Q. David, first of all, you seem to be like your throats -- were you hollering and screaming or were you crying? What was your reaction?           

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if I've got some water in my ear or champagne or something in my ear to knock me over a little bit. It's like I hear myself echo. Maybe it's talking on the radio so much. We typically don't talk during the race, but I haven't heard myself talk this much. It will get better soon, don't worry about it.            

Q. I know we've beaten the whole redemption thing to death. But how deep is the sense of redemption for you?           

DAVID RAGAN: To get that win would have felt great. If we would have won at Martinsville this year, I would have said, man, we've moved on past that Daytona race. But coming back here to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted. Kind of like to show the Daytona racetrack, here's what we've got. So that makes it a little more special.           

I think a win anywhere on the circuit would have been great, and we would have moved on and talked about it, probably. But coming back here to Daytona, being able to run the same type of race we ran in February, and you know learning from our mistake, not making a mistake. We had a couple opportunities to do it on the last few restarts, and I didn't do it. So that's gratifying that we were able to come back to Daytona and kind of prove to the racetrack that we're better than that and we can take you and it feels good.            

Q. You've had a young guy, Trevor, win the 500, David wins tonight. You have to feel good about that next level of drivers coming up for you and for Ford, I would assume.           

JACK ROUSH: Yeah, we're really excited about the way Ricky Stenhouse has won, and of course Trevor has run this year, and of course David finally winning a race. But David has been in position to win a number of race this is year. It hasn't been for lack of performance or lack of sound judgment on the way the car's been prepared. So it was just a matter of time for that.           

But as far as the group of new drivers that are coming along, I think Ford is in very good shape for having a good quadray of young talent coming. If we can find sponsorship for them and keep the programs going, we'll be able to really have a harvest in years to come.            

Q. You talked about David's redemption. Do you feel any redemption? It's been a few years since you've won a Cup race as well?           

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Of course. You want to be a winner. I was real fortunate right of the get-go to win a couple of races. I probably had 34, 35 races in a row --           

DAVID RAGAN: Who's counting? 34, 35? Are you counting (laughing)?           

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Yeah, I felt like I failed quite a bit. Yeah, I counted every one of them. And to come back and get a second opportunity, it's something that Jack told me from day one that I'd be up here when the time was right again. It's been really nice.           

Coming over here, ten races to go in the season last year, I felt like we gained some momentum. Then working this year with David and the guys, I think our mindset's gotten better throughout the year. We felt like we were a top 20 team to start the year, and a top 15, and 10, and now we sit here as the winner. I think that momentum keeps building. Definitely feel a little redemption.            

Q. David, I was listening to the radio, and they were pretty much telling you that Matt was going to stay behind you and stay on the yellow line -- or stay right there on the inside. Did you have any question in your mind at all that Matt wouldn't pull out and try to win the thing?           

DAVID RAGAN: I had a little question. Matt's kind of sneaky sometimes. But after I was just kind of watching the replay on ESPN as Drew was talking, and it just worked out to where those guys jumped up on the outside, and then another group jumped up on the outside and we were three-wide.           
We talked about it earlier. We start moving around, trying to block a run that's coming and that leaves the bottom open. It kills your momentum. We only had two laps, and I think we were just satisfied with staying on the bottom and whatever was going to happen is going to happen.           

When we came off turn four, I didn't know where the other cars were at, how close they were. And Matt came on the radio, and said I'm going to stay with you, so I assume that he had someone on his outside.           

It's not like Matt to push and push and push and run second. But I think this is the first speedway race that Matt's finished this year. So he did tell me before the race he wanted a first finish. So I'm glad he was able to come across the line in second.           

That's cool for Ford to sweep the front finishing order here at Daytona here in July and in February, and really says a lot for our team. It shows the team work does win these races, and we proved it tonight.            

Q. David, I know that you're maybe more of a laid back type of guy or easier going guy. But you just did win your first Cup race. Normally a lot of other guys seem to be a little more excited. You seem to be more calm or composed.           

DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, I guess that's just my character. A lot of people when we won a Nationwide race a year or two ago, they said, man, you don't seem that happy. It's going to feel so good. I probably won't go to sleep tonight. I'm going to get back and watch some of the race, and try to, you know, just stare at that trophy maybe for a little while.           

I don't get up and jump up-and-down and act crazy and foolish. I'm kind of already thinking about Kentucky a little bit, that's an important race for us.           

Now that we've got this win, it lets a lot of pressure off in some sense. We finally got our first win at a points race here at Daytona. We've got a chance to make the Chase. But now there is even more pressure to go out and stay in that top 20 in points, to perform well at these upcoming races.     

I'll enjoy it. Maybe catch up with me tomorrow afternoon, and we'll be hanging on out having a good time. But it's still sinking in that we've done it. When we get that trophy back and go see all my guys, I'm sure they're tearing the car down in tech now, that will be pretty special.            

Q. Want to follow up on the question about the engine. Next time we come back here instead of being carbureted, we're going to be fuel injected. Do you think that's going to have any impact on the way we're going to be racing next year? Have you had a chance to think that far ahead that are we going to have restrictor plates on these? Is that going to affect the new format of the engine? More for Jack than anybody else.           

JACK ROUSH: We're going to take the fuel injected engine as a group to Kentucky to test it next week and I'll know more -- I'll have a greater impression of what we've got really to work with after that test and we see how it works.           

Really excited about the McLaren decision that NASCAR made for the ECU, for the computer program, and I think Bosch is coming along to be the injector supplier. I hope that's true. The wiring harnesses are pretty much figured out, so most of the hardware is determined.           

The calibrations will be somewhat left to the teams to figure out what the air to fuel ratios are. You're still going to have an opportunity to burn the engines up if you want to, which makes me happy, because I need to have that amount of risk in my life for decision making to know how bad that's going to feel when that happens.           

But when we came back here, the base plate, the throttle plate is pretty much like a carburetor. It is bolted in the same pattern as a carburetor. And I haven't heard specifically, but my expectation is that we'll have a throttle plate that is large, like the one we use unrestricted for a carburetor, and they'll put a restrictor plate under it like we use for Daytona and Talladega.           

The indication is that the engines make about the same power with the same amount of air restriction through the throttle plates, ask they make a bit less torque thinking that they maybe don't cool the air quite as much, the fuel being injected halfway down the airstream rather than the carburetor and following the air all the way down.           

We don't expect a performance difference. I'm sure NASCAR will achieve the same kind of parody they've got with the carburetors. I think it will not be a non-issue. All the owners will be a little lighter on their step because of what all this stuff is going to cost. But, except for that, they'll be pretty much the same we've seen.            

Q. I've watched three of these two-car draft races now, Daytona twice and Talladega. For the life of me -- I can understand the last 30 laps or last 20 laps?           

JACK ROUSH: How many races was that?            

Q. I think it was just three, right but I don't understand the strategy and tactics as you start the races. You guys just go out there and go up to the front and go to the back and go to the front, or do you try to lay in the back? I don't understand this.           

DAVID RAGAN: We don't either. I don't think we understand it either.           

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Certain people want to go to the back. I think you see that. The Hendrick cars want to run up front for a while. When the first pit stop came, they went to the back. The 42, and the 1 does that. There are some drivers that like that.           

David and our partner and I, Matt, both like to be towards the front. They feel if they're in the front and the wrecks happen, they're in front of them. I think they're just as big of risk being in the back and not being able to get to the front.           

Also, if you haven't raced around the lead pack and raced for the lead and understand that, I think sometimes you can learn at lap 20 going for the lead something that might help you towards the end. Our plan was if we can see the front, we're going to stay there as long as we don't get too far back.           

There was one time tonight we got shuffled with seven or eight groups in front of us, all two wide and felt that's a little hairy, so we fell back a little bit. But it didn't take long for the two Fords when they were wanting to go, they were right up in the front.           

I think it's a strategy among the drivers whether they want to stay in the back and try to stay away from the wreck or go to the front and try to race it out.

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:59 am

Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano post Daytona comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

THE MODERATOR: Our post race for tonight's 53rd annual Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola here at Daytona International Speedway, our race runner-up is Matt Kenseth. He drives the No. 17, Affliction Clothing Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Matt, certainly I know you made a trip by Victory Lane to congratulate your teammate David Ragan, but certainly great racing up front today by the Roush Fenway duo, you and him.            

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, we had really fast cars together, you know. It's almost like you're a team. You know what I mean? It's almost like two cars are one cars, so in a way I feel like we won. So that was good.           

But our cars were really fast together. We got up front early and led. Kind of made a plan last week. Jimmy and Drew worked together to make a plan, and David and I talked a lot yesterday and today. We both got up there and got our bonus point. We both led. Kind of got shuffled out one time and went to the back and waited a little bit.           

When we wanted to we were able to make a charge and get up the lead. Couple cautions went, and the green and white checkers mixed up the order a little bit. One time I was leading with three to four to go. And the way the restart worked it got him back in the lead and lined us up for the green and white checker.           

It was a good night for us. I'm glad it worked out. The two speedway races have been a disaster so far this year, so I'm happy to not get wrecked tonight and finish second.            

Q. At the end of the day or end of the night, I guess, what is the frustration factor, because this seems to be just a crazy, haphazard wild car that -- what happens at the end, obviously, with all the wrecks and everything?           

MATT KENSETH: Well, for me I'm not frustrated at all. The first two speedway races we wrecked and finished -- I don't know where we finished, you guys probably know, probably high 30s or something. And those have been our big problems. We just couldn't get anything to work. Got destroyed in both of them.          

So I'm not frustrated at all. I feel like one of the luckiest guys here. I guess the second luckiest guy here. Made it through the race unscathed. Made a plan with David, and we both did what it took to work, not necessarily for ourselves, but realizing that the two cars were like one car and we had to treat it like that.           

We both took care of each other's cars and the positions that we were in. We raced in front or in back of each other all night, every single lap of the whole race. Waited for each other after the pit stop.           

Did what it took to get the finish, so that feels good that the plan came together and worked out for us tonight.            

Q. What would have had to have happened for you to have an opportunity to win short of your teammate faltering? Was there a move you could have made?           

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, the biggest thing is the 20 was too close. I mean, really the move I could have made -- coming through three and four, I believed the 29 was right on me, pushing me hard, while I was pushing David. If I wouldn't have had a car outside of me -- which I still did -- if I wouldn't have had a car outside of me, that would have been my chance to move outside and the 29 would have pushed me and I maybe could have made a run to the finish there.           

But I think that was coming to the white, and really I think Joey was too close. I couldn't have made a move on David, one car on one car I don't think without Joey splitting us and winning the race. I figured he won since he spun me out last week. I figured he would have cut me a break tonight.           

THE MODERATOR: Joining us now is Joey Logano. He finished third in tonight's race. He drives the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Joey, certainly you had a good weekend here at Daytona. Won last night in the Nationwide Series, and certainly had a chance here tonight and finished third. Talk about that.           

JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, really good weekend for us. Winning last night, and tonight had a good run. It's crazy out there, you know, you think we'd ride around for 350 miles, but we don't. We just keep going out there.           

Me and Kyle were committed to each other from the beginning of the race. We worked good last night together, and we decided to just keep going with that. We did good. We didn't lead a ton of laps, but we ran hard where we needed to and just kind of stayed with the group all day.           

There was a wreck there. Jeff Gordon and all that happened, and Kyle was put in the fence there and he wrecked, knocked his fender in, and cut his right front down, and I was alone, and Kasey Kahne was alone out there too.          

So the restart there, me and Kasey hooked up with each other, the two lead group cars, which was David and Matt. And I don't even know who the other group was. I think it was the 31.           

I was in the middle group, got back down, and the inside lane had a lot of cars lined up, and I was able to push that line ahead. We were able to do a good job side drafting and breaking up some other cars.           

Getting in line third and fourth, you know, I was hoping we'd get a run down the back straightaway and these guys would try to go to the outside of three, and tried to pull them apart to win the race. Just couldn't get there.           

It seemed that they got down the back straightaway, and I started forming a little bit of a run and I was just about to make my move, and we just pushed them ahead a little bit. It was enough to stay out there. David and Matt were loyal to each other all day. They were working with each other all day long, so you knew nothing was going to happen there at the checkered. They were going to work together to make sure one of them won the race.           

I wish it was more exciting than that toward the checkered flag. But either way, it was still a really good race for us, and I'm sure it was entertaining for the fans.            

Q. Matt, you've been with David Ragan ever since he's been with Roush. Can you describe what he's gone through and what this win should mean to him?           

MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, he'll have to tell you what the win means to him, but I've seen David mature a lot and learn a lot. When he came in here and started driving the 6 car, I don't know David's whole racing history, but he didn't have a lot of experience, especially driving big, heavy cars. He's had a couple of different crew chiefs and car chiefs and crews and groups until they found a good mix that worked really well with him. I don't know why it is like that, but you've got to get that right mix of people together. Get all them people working right together. It seems like he's got that right now.           

They've had really fast cars all year. He's sat on at least one pole, maybe more. He's been the fastest in practice a lot. They've had really fast cars and you could kind of see it coming. So I think just getting the right group of guys together for him, and I think just getting more experience and learning.            

Q. I've got two questions for you, Joey. David's a good friend of yours. We're going to make a lot about the redemption. What did he go through after the Daytona 500? I know you guys probably talked. And two, going back to last night with you, another good run, I guess you're excited now to be going to Kentucky where I figure you've got the most experience of anyone in the Cup series.           

JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, as far as Kentucky, we have a lot of momentum going into there. So that is going to really help. You know never. You get different cars there, another year on the racetrack. Also the new Nationwide cars are going there for the first time. So you never know what's going to happen.           

I feel like I know what I need to go faster, and I know what I need to do in practice to make sure my car's good. So hopefully all that stuff's still the same.           

As far as David, David and I grew up together. Since I was 9 years old we've raced against each other. I went over to Victory Lane and congratulated him. He deserves it, for sure. I know how he felt after the 500 this year. I can only imagine how tough that's got to be, you know.           

But he definitely redeemed himself today, so that's really cool for him. I know how cool it was last night winning here at Daytona, I couldn't imagine what it is one level up against the best of the best. That's got to be really awesome. So congratulations to him and the team. They really, really deserved it.           

It's cool. His family's in there. Adam's in there. His whole deal, so it's really cool to see.            

Q. Matt, were you just, was it in your mind that they were just going to stay behind David the whole way around those last two laps?           

MATT KENSETH: Well, it depends on the circumstances. I thought that was going to be our chance for one of us to win. If we would have had a 20-car-length lead coming off four, I would have tried to figure out how to make a single car move and beat him to the line.           

But when I saw Joey, Joey was too is close. If I would have made a move on David, Joey would have passed us both or we all would have wrecked or something. Something would have happened.           

So when I came off four, and I looked to see where Joey was, I could see he had good speed. I could see he was being pushed. Me and David were on the same radio and I wasn't standing on the yellow line. I'm going to keep pushing you. I'm not going to leave you and try to pass you, because I knew that one of us weren't going to win.           

So that was the plan to work as a team all night. It just so happened he was in front of them. Both of us were kind of unselfish all night, worked together really good, I thought. I was leading with three to four to go, and those were the circumstances. Restart that got him back in front, and I was fine with that too. We made a plan and we stuck to it. It worked well.           

If the circumstances would have been different, like I said, if we would have had a big lead where I knew we wouldn't get passed, we were still going to finish first and second regardless and make a move to win the race.            

Q. Joey, does anybody ask you about the Mark Martin deal? You saw when Mark pulled out in front of you, he said he was trying to hook up with you because he didn't have partners?           

JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, you know, he started like that. I didn't have no friends and he didn't either. But I was going to try to shoot through that gap and see if someone could push me. You know, I had my nose in there. It's one of those deals towards the end of the race there. I probably could have backed off and let him get in there.           

But I was all about that group in front of him was coming down across, too, so I was just going to shoot through there and see if we could find something.           

That's just the racing deal. That could have gone either way. I probably could have done something to stay out of it and he could have stayed up. So it's just one of those deals. It's no one's fault, really. You know, just either one of us could have done something to avoid it.            

Q. Given all day, it's been a tough road for David. He's struggled. This year he's been fast, the Daytona 500 happened where he pulled down and all that. Given all of that, what do you think this means to him to have this moment and have redemption from all of that?           

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I think it's got to be pretty big for him to win that race, stepping in the 6 car after Mark leaving and all that stuff isn't exactly probably the easiest job in the world. So it took a little while to find the group of guys that he seems to work the best with.           

You know, ever since they kind of mixed that up and Drew got over there, and they switched some guys around, and their performance has really picked up. You could see it coming. I know it's at a speedway, but you could see it coming to other tracks too. He's been running better, and they've been faster in practice, they've been racing better and qualifying better.           

They've been improving. It's really hard to win at this level. You can see that they've been, you know, improving along with the organization, so I'm happy for them to get that win, because he deserves it, like I say, especially after the 500 as well.            

Q. You talked about this yesterday, but the last two weekends now, poles, finished at Sonoma, Nationwide win, here third place. I know people have asked you if you feel like things are turning around, but confidence certainly must be up?           

JOEY LOGANO: Oh, for sure. I need something to turn around here. Recently it seems like everything's been going the wrong way. Ever since we got that pole last week and won the West race and had a good run there in Sonoma, coming here and getting a first and a third.           

Going into Kentucky was a really good racetrack for us, at least we think it is. We'll see when we get there. But there is definitely a lot of momentum on my team side. Me, personally I needed a lot for self confidence, but it definitely helps out a lot with the team too. You know, not feeling as desperate out there in what we have to do. We definitely can relax out there and do what we need to do like we did last year.

Q. Matt and Joey, it was discussed early on after Carl's wreck that he didn't have a cool box, and didn't have a filter, I guess, for the carbon monoxide situation. I understand that caused some serious issues with him early on before they could repair the car. I know we talk at this time of the year about how important it is for you all to run the cool boxes to keep yourselves cool, but how important is it to have the scrubbers in the cool box to help with the carbon monoxide situation as well?           

MATT KENSETH: I don't know. I bet you Cale Yarborough never had a cool box or a scrubber. I don't think it's that big of a deal on lap 20, not when you're in the shape Carl's in. He's in the best shape of anyone in the garage. He never runs a cool box, he runs a CO2 filter and a little air to his helmet. If that was part of the wreck, I'd be surprised. It could be.            

Q. (Indiscernible) even know back in the day they didn't.           

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it's like having air conditioning in your home. If you can have it, why wouldn't you? I like running it. I'm not nearly that tough. So I like to run it. I figure the more fresh you are and the better you feel at the end of the race, I feel like you do a better job. So you try to stay in shape, and stay cool and hydrated to be the best you can be at the end as well.           

JOEY LOGANO: I agree with that. You can live without the AC. The filter may be something you want. These days you're trying to keep so much air out of the race cars that the stuff builds up. I've had a few friends of mine that run late models and stuff like that that don't run a blower in and they get carbon monoxide poisoning. It seems like it's a really bad deal. And I hear once you get it once, it's easier to get it over and over again.           

I think you want the filter, for sure. But it's like he said, you know, Donnie Allison, and all those guys back in the day lived without it, so it must be all right.           

MATT KENSETH: And they still had enough energy to fight afterwards, too.           

JOEY LOGANO: Damn right. (Laughing).                         

JOEY LOGANO: I guess I can go over it again. Basically, it was on the restart. I was shooting on the center, and Mark was trying to come down in front of me. You know, as I said earlier, it could have gone either way. I could have backed off a little bit and let him in.           

In the race I was wide open, I didn't care. And he was coming down across me. We were going to try to team up there if we were able to do that, but I was going to go in there guns blazing and see what the heck happened on the other side and try to find a partner once I got over there.

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:32 am
Edited on: July 3, 2011 12:48 am

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

By Pete Pistone



Opinions about the new tandem drafting that is now the norm in restrictor plate racing vary. 

Not surprisingly those views are impacted by a driver’s performance. 

David Ragan, who won Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, for instance is a fan. 

And why not? After suffering major heartbreak at last February’s Daytona 500 when his chance to win “The Great American race” went out the window when he was penalized for changing lanes before a restart, Saturday’s first career Sprint Cup win was sweep redemption for the Georgia driver. 

“Sometimes it fits someone's driving style,” Ragan said after his historic victory. “I hated this place the first time I came down here because I didn't like that you could just hold it to the floor and ride around. But once I learned there is a strategy behind the racing, it's actually some of the most fun racing you'll take part in. 

“So I had a blast tonight. The racecars are good that I drive. I've been fortunate to have good spotters that have coached me well.” 

Then there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s perspective. 

Junior has been an outspoken critic of the pairs racing and clearly misses the old pack style of plate racing. 

That opinion didn’t change after he was shuffled out of the lead draft in Saturday night’s overtime finishes. 

“You guys need to get your own frickin' opinions and write what y'all think about it," Earnhardt said to the media gathered after he crawled from his car. "Because I think (those opinions are) pretty damn close to mine. So stop putting my damn foot in my mouth with y'all and getting my ass in trouble. Y'all write what y'all think, man. C'mon. Y'all are good. Y'all got an opinion about it; I read y'all's (blank). 

Earnhardt and the Hendrick Motorsports team was questioned when teammate Jimmie Johnson, who had drafted with Junior all night long, pitted for fuel after the first overtime caution flag flew. 

Earnhardt had no idea why the team’s strategy had shifted. 

“I'm driving my car, do what I'm told," he said. "They decided to do something different. I can't run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn racecar. I'm just doing what I'm told out there. I don't know how that affected us, if it did at all. It probably didn't."

There were 41 other drivers outside of Ragan and Earnhardt who had opinions about Saturday night’s racing. 

It’s a pretty safe bet all were on one side or another.

There’s no place for anyone to be in the middle when it comes to restrictor plate racing.  



Joey Logano 

On the heels of his dramatic Nationwide Series win Friday night at Daytona, Logano rebounded with a Top 5 run in the Sprint Cup Series effort. Back-to-back strong weekends for Logano should have his confidence rising as he tries to perform under scrutiny and speculation about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing. 

Kasey Kahne 

Did Team Red Bull General Manager Jay Frye a major favor by hooking up with teammate Brian Vickers and keeping the stable’s pair of entries at the front of the field. Kahne came home fourth to help showcase the team’s potential for possible new investors and along the way notched up a few spots in the point standings. 

Paul Menard

As he did at Daytona during Speedweeks, Menard proved to be a worthy drafting partner to his Richard Childress Racing teammates and kept himself in the mix as a potential winner down the stretch.



Trevor Bayne 

The Cinderella story for Bayne ended early when the clock struck Midnight less than five laps into the race.  Got caught by a shot from Brad Keselowski and then into the wall to fall from Daytona 500 winner to 43rd place four months later. A bitter pill for Bayne to swallow but yet another dip in a roller coaster season. 

Carl Edwards 

Came into the race as the points leader and poised to make up the one position that kept him from a Daytona 500 win in February. But was the victim of a bad push from teammate Greg Biffle as the duo raced off turn four and Edwards lost his shot at being a contender to win the race when he slammed the inside retaining wall. 

Martin Truex Jr.  

Spent plenty of time at the front of the field drafting with Michael Waltrip Racing teammate David Reutimann and looked like he’d be in the mix for the win. That is until the night’s first green-white-checkered finish and Truex was caught up in the “Big One” that left him with a destroyed Toyota and an animated description of his feelings.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

“Guys, we'll make something out of this, even if it's just a finish! I appreciate you guys working!" – Carl Edwards after his early exit 

“Junior, we're surrounded by a bunch of guys who don't do this all that often. We need to get the (blank) out of here." – Jimmie Johnson 

“Morons! How stupid do you gotta be?!" – Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

"It's always somebody's fault but it's never my fault. I just get (blank-ing) destroyed. I'm tired of this (blank)." – Martin Truex Jr.



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 a two. Restrictor plate racing has always been an acquired taste but the two-car drafting style is not a pleasant one for me. Since the advent of the tandem draft, races have been nothing more than pairs of cars riding around and swapping positions between one another until the very end when all hell then breaks loose. Sure the multi-car packs had many of the same elements. But whether you loved or hated them, the boredom factor was never an issue. It is now. Spending two-plus hours waiting for a demolition derby to decide the outcome is not the best kind of NASCAR “racing.”



After years of waiting and clamoring for a Sprint Cup Series race the fans of Kentucky Speedway finally get their wish next Saturday night with the inaugural Quaker State 400. The race is already sold out and the buzz around NASCAR’s first appearance at the Bluegrass State track is sky high. Now the question is what kind of racing will the 1.5-mile track produce? 

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Posted on: July 1, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 6:43 pm

Mark Martin earns 50th career pole

By Pete Pistone

Mark Martin is now eighth on the all-time Sprint Cup Series pole list after earning his 50th career top spot Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. Martin, who also won the pole for the 2010 Daytona 500, will lead the field to green in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400.

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will start outside the front row while defending Coke Zero 400 race champion Kevin Harvick will start from the 32nd starting position:


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Posted on: June 30, 2011 8:43 pm

Marcos Ambrose tops Daytona practice

By Pete Pistone

Marcos Ambrose led Thursday's only Sprint Cup Series practice session at Daytona International Speedway. Heavy rains washed out the day's first session and NASCAR officials were forced to cut the Happy Hour practice to 45 minutes as teams prepared for Sunday's Coke Zero 400. Ambrose led the way in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. Qualifying to set the 43-car field is slated for Friday afternoon.


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