Tag:Daytona 500
Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:27 pm

Greg Biffle leads opening Daytona 500 practice

By Pete Pistone


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Ford camp fired the first salvo in Daytona 500 practice as Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose put their names on top of the speed chart in Saturday's first session of the weekend.

Drivers spent most of their time in single file laps as they prepared for Sunday's qualifying session.

Biffle turned a lap of 193.395 mph to top the session with Ambrose next at 193.349 mph.

Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard completed the first five.

A second session is slated for Saturday afternoon at which time pack drafting is expected.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 3:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:28 pm

Jimmie Johnson's car fails inspection

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 2012 season has not started well for Jimmie Johnson.

The No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection for this year's Daytona 500 as NASCAR cited unapproved modifications to the C-Post area of the car.

The sanctioning body cut off and confiscated the sheet metal in question and immediately put the pieces on display behind the NASCAR hauler as is customary.

"We noticed they had modifications to that area that is not permitted," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharpsaid. "We cut off the C-post and we confiscated the C-post. We're allowing them to fix it. And when we get back home (to NASCAR's Research & Development Center), we'll look at it again and see if there needs to be anything further."

The infractions were found on both side of the car on the C-Post, which is a designated area measured between the roof and quarterpanel. 

“It was an obvious modification that the template inspectors picked up on,” said Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. “We did some additional inspections and found that they were too far out of tolerance to fix.”

Hendrick Motorsports is sending a new piece from its North Carolina headquarters to Daytona and the 48 car will be inspected again on Saturday.

NASCAR will not announce any further penalties or action until after the Daytona 500.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:03 pm

Bayne brings back Daytona beach memories

By Pete Pistone

  2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne Drives

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne took a drive down memory lane Friday with a trip around the historic beach course that preceded the Daytona International Speedway.

Bayne piloted the iconic Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford from a portion of the old beach course through the streets of Daytona Beach before delivering the green flag to be used in next Sunday's Daytona 500 to DIS.

"This is probably the coolest thing I've gotten to do outside of actually racing on other tracks," Bayne said. "This is an unbelievable feeling, being on the beach where it all started. This is history right here. I almost want to bottle up the sand and take it with me because this is where it started for Daytona. This is where it started for NASCAR.

"Being in the No. 21 car here, I feel like I'm part of history." 
More than half of the temporary track was sand, a pair of turns and a long strip of beach linked to Route A1A’s pavement. It was unique to say the least but ultimately drew tens of thousands of post-war race fans to Central Florida before Speedweeks was shifted a few miles northwest to Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

"It was just like a dirt track," said NASCAR Hall of Fame member Glen Wood, who won three sportsman races on the beach and finished 11th in his only NASCAR premier series start in 1957. "The turns were like a half-mile track – one bank to the other."  
Bayne drove his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford over a section of the beach course to the track’s former north turn. Following a press conference, Bayne went on to the speedway.
  Racing began on a 3.2-mile course in 1936. Daytona Beach racer Sig Haugdahl promoted the first two events, which weren’t commercially successful. City officials gave promotional rights to Bill France, who wore both a promoter’s hat and a competitor’s helmet – and with the latter won the Labor Day event in 1938 and a July race the following year.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:42 pm

New FanVision device set to debut

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR fans have an opportunity to enhance their at-track experience through technology this season.

FanVision, a next generation hand-held device that will replace the previous FanView system, will make its debut in 2012.

It will offer a wide array of broadcast content and deliver an extensive menu of audio and video features and services available. 

“Improving the fan experience at-track is a key component of our five year industry action plan,” said Steve Phelps, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for NASCAR. “By upgrading to FanVision, we will be offering the fans who attend our races an enhanced live event experience that allows them to further engage in the sport. This will certainly not be the last upgrade we make at track but it’s certainly a significant one that will have immediate impact on how the sport is consumed.”

The new FanVision will feature:

-       High-definition video

-       Larger screen (4.3 inches)

-       More video channels

-       Improved, fan-friendly interface

-       Richer statistics

Fans will be able to purchase or rent the system at select NASCAr races this season beginning with Speedweeks activities in Daytona. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:55 pm

Repeat definitely on Tony Stewart's mind

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Make no mistake, Tony Stewart has his eyes set on a second straight Sprint Cup Series championship.

Stewart's impressive performance down the stretch to win last year's title has the three time champ pumped up about his prospects for 2012. Even though his stirring run to win the crown at Homestead was more than three months ago, Stewart remains sky high on the eve on the brand new season.

"I mean in all honesty we have still been riding that high, but we really didn’t sit there and say hey we are celebrating a championship," Stewart explained at Thursday's Media Day session.  "That lasted through the banquet then it was right back to work.  I mean we were immediately back on the job of trying to figure out how to do the same thing this year.  It was easy to do that having Zippy (Greg Zippadelli) and (crew chief) Steve Addington come on board, guys that weren’t really with us when we won the championship at the end of the year.  Their focus was on what we were going to do this year so it kind of got the whole mindset of the shop to not get lazy and think about what we accomplished last year and get working on what we can do to try to repeat this year.”

As for scoping out this year's competition and handicapping the field in this year's title derby, Stewart will need some time to see exactly what his re-tooled race team has for 2012.

“I don’t think we know until we start," he said  "The hard thing is you have to improve through the winter and all the teams will improve.  It is just a matter of if we get five percent better and someone else gets seven percent better is that enough to put them ahead of us.  I don’t think you really know until you get two or three races into the year exactly see what the results are from the winter and the hard work.”

Don't ask Stewart how he was able to take a so-so regular season effort and turn it into one of the sport's most dramatic runs for teh championship when he won five of the final 10 Chase races to edge Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker.

“I can’t, I still can’t," he said.  "I wish I could explain it.  The way our year went, it was like the first 26 weeks anything that could go wrong went wrong, something went wrong every week.  The days that we didn’t have a problem, we just missed it on the set-up.  The days that we were good, something would happen, we would have pit strategy go wrong or something would happen.  Those last 10 weeks, with the exception of Dover, everything kind of went right.”


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Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:30 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 5:35 pm

Confident Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready for 2012

By Pete Pistone

  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Driver Of The #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, Speaks
(Earnhardt Jr. is unsure about what to expect in this year's running of the Daytona 500 - Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes his improved performance of 2011 will lead to even better things this coming season, beginning with the Daytona 500.

After making the Chase for the first time in three seasons and finishing seventh in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings, Earnhardt carries a lot of confidence into teh new campaign - his second with crew chief Steve Letarte calling the shots.

“I feel pretty good," Earnhardt said. "I’m frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating."

Although he has always enjoyed racing at Daytona and showed restrictor plate racing prowess during his Sprint Cup career, Earnhardt is somewhat cautious about his chances in this year's Speedweeks because of the new two car drafting style of competition.

"Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here," Earnhardt said. "This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.” 

There was a time when Earnhardt was considered an automatic contender to win at Daytona and Talladega but the recent changes in plate racing has made things much different today. But Earnhardt says he's fine with the evolution and like everyone else, will deal with the new style of racing.

“That’s just the way it is," he said. "We did a lot of work this off season. To NASCAR’s credit they’ve been working really hard trying to put it back into the driver’s hands and give the driver’s control of their destiny instead of pairing up and having to take care of each other out there on the race track all the time. You want to be stubborn and looking out for yourself only, that’s how you want to do it so they are trying to go in that direction.

"I give them a lot of credit for trying really hard and hopefully we made a lot of good changes so we will see. Everybody is really gotta be anticipated, it’s got to be exciting for everybody, fans, media anticipate what’s going to happen tomorrow and the Shootout Saturday night. There should be a lot of people glued to the action.”

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:39 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 6:02 pm

Jimmie Johnson focused on championship return

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Johnson is determined to bring the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet back to title contention)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson's title run coming to an end last season definitely registered with the five-time Sprint Cup champion.

Johnson is still smarting from what he considers a disappointing effort in 2011 that saw his impressive streak of championships run out.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver says he learned a lot from the effort of a year ago and has spent the off-season figuring out how to come back even stronger.

“I didn’t realize that over the five years or six years that we didn’t change as much maybe as we needed to and evolve," Johnson said during Thursday's Daytona Media Day.  "It’s tough to leave a successful road map and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and the team and I have been good at reinventing ourselves each year.  But until the streak was broken looking back at this off season what we have been through and trying to rebuild the team and make sure we are looking at everything we can, we have a different depth.  I’m focusing on my interaction with the team, how I provide information with the team, what information I’m looking at, there are a lot of things I haven’t done in the past and I felt like I was one of the most in depth drivers out there.

"I’m trying to even take that steps further now, so because of the loss we have been able to dig deeper and get away from the road map we’ve built and challenge ourselves more. At the same time the garage area has been extremely focused on everything the No. 48 car has done over the last six years, so maybe years three or four a lot of guys came out direction and really paid attention to what we were doing and they caught us and we got beat.  We have to reinvent ourselves in some ways this year and we are ready for it.”   

Johnson believes starting the year on a positive note will go a long way in helping re-establish himself as a title contender this season. However he also understands the difference between Speedweeks, the Daytona 500 and then the rest of the grueling season so is not putting too much pressure on himself or the team.

But of course Johnson will still be gunning hard for a win a week from Sunday.

“Yeah, it’s important, I look at the Daytona 500 as we are only here to win the race if we finish fifth, sure the points are nice, but I like a lot of others will do anything to win this race even if it means a last lap crash and you finish 40th," said Johnson. "Once we get out of this race, then a quick start, I think means a lot.  It reflects on the off season and what the teams have done there.

"Anytime you can get points in your back pocket and start separating yourself from tenth or win a race or two to fix that wild card scenario and try to lock yourself in.  It makes you sleep better.  Nobody likes to go to Richmond stressing about that race. That mindset starts at Phoenix and you really start thinking about things then.  The [Daytona] 500 it is the biggest race we have so you’re going to do anything and everything you can to win it.” 

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:12 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 10:28 pm

Danica Patrick comfortable in NASCAR world

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.- Danica Patrick is set to embark on her full-time NASCAR career and says she feels comfortable in her no longer new surroundings.

She'll run a complete Nationwide Series program from JR Motorsports in addition to a 10 race Sprint Cup Series schedule, beginning with her first career Daytona 500.

The former open wheel regular is keeping realistic expectations of her initial appearance in "The Great American Race."

“I think that with a race like Daytona, well first off it’s the Daytona 500 and everybody wants to win it of course," Patrick said. "It’s just going to depend on the looking back at the picture of the race and did you run up front at all, what happened, did I make any mistakes, but let’s face it great drivers don’t have great big speedway races because it depends on so many other factors like the tandem running or like staying in touch with the pack or like a pit stop or something like that or staying out of trouble. Like I said you can get caught in an accident that you just couldn’t see through to miss and your day is over.

So I don’t think there is a position that you can put on a race like this because it’s wide open for various levels of experienced drivers to do well. Ultimately we all want to win but at the end of the day it’s going to depend on probably looking back at the race and assessing my mistake level probably.”

Patrick is relieved to have some NASCAR experience under her belt - both behind the wheel as well as simply dealing with the stock car racing culture - and hopes that will be beneficial to growth in 2012.

“Yeah, and I think that comes from learning how it works and getting comfortable and familiar," Patrick said. "I’m very good when I know what’s coming. When I get surprised and things getting added on the schedule is when I get frustrated because expectation levels are everything for me. But not only from my perspective am I more comfortable now but from my assistant’s perspective and the help she gets from Junior Motorsports and Stewart-Hass, I think we all have a much better picture of how to do everything and how to keep it in line and how to help you folks do your job.”
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