Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (17151)

What are your goals this year with your teammate Brian Vickers?

“Just working together, he (Brian Vickers) wants to. I want to. Our teams (have goals), and to me it’s a good relationship and it should be all season long. I think we can both get a lot out of it. That’s the goal of having teammates. I think it’s going to be good.”


Will this be a hard year for your knowing you will only be with the team for one season?

“It’s different than some situations -- or than most situations -- but it’s what we have. Red Bull was really excited about it. I was really excited about it. Kenny Francis (crew chief) and the team -- to me it’s a good thing. I think it’s going to be just fine. One year, we’ll do all we can to do it right and have a great season and go from there. You never know what’s going to happen in racing. You never know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. It’s kind of always up in the air, but I would say that we can do a lot this year and really have a great year.”


How happy are you to have this ride with the current economic struggles in NASCAR?

“I’m really happy. Something would’ve happened for sure this year. Mr. (Rick) Hendrick was behind it and told me it would (work). So, that’s basically why I made the decision I did for kind of the next five years. When he told me (about) Red Bull, I was like, they weren’t having a good season. It wasn’t much of a year for them, but I know what they have here and what they do. I know a lot of the people, so I got excited pretty quick. Once I started going over there, even prior to driving for them, and just knowing what was going on, talking to some of the guys, I was like, ‘Man, this is actually going to be a really good spot for me.’ So, it’s been exciting. I think we can do a lot in this one season, as a team and as a company together.”


Do you think the type of drama that happened last season helps NASCAR?

“I don’t think it hurts. There’s 43 guys that want to win the race and if something happens -- somebody gets used up or done wrong, then they’re definitely going to have an issue with that. I was able to watch a lot of it and I kind of laughed at a lot of it and thought it was pretty good. I think I was maybe in one myself and it was pretty easy going and kind of over. There was definitely some good ones. There was some exciting stuff that went on that isn’t bad. It’s just showing the drive and things that each one of these drivers and teams have to win races.”


Does the one-year deal with Red Bull give you more incentive to be successful?

“It definitely makes you want it pretty bad. I think I will as long as I’m in racing. I’ve always wanted to just do everything I can to win and this is one of those years where you go into it really confident because of the off-season and because of the way that Red Bull is preparing for this season. I’m really excited. I think we can do a lot. I think we can run strong and have a lot of fun at the same time. I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait to get started.”


Do you think there needs to be more attention focused on the drivers instead of on the race cars?

“I think things are actually -- the car itself to me is a blast to drive. It’s created a ton of great racing over the last few years, especially this last year. I thought it was some of the best racing that I’ve been a part of since I’ve been in NASCAR. I like what we have. I like how it keeps getting better, and to me it’s a great car. I think there’s a lot of personalities in NASCAR, from the drivers and things that are pretty good. I don’t know exactly what to do there, but I think that the car itself -- I love what I do. I think it’s some great racing.”


Have you talked with Brian Vickers about what he’s gone through to be able to come back to NASCAR?

“I’ve known Brian (Vickers) for a long time. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends or anything, but we’ve definitely been friends for a long time. Myself, I take off a month and a half during the offseason and I can’t wait to get back in the car. I do and I’m so excited for a couple days to just be back in a race car and get to feel it, whether it’s any type of car and especially our Sprint Cup cars. To me, I couldn’t imagine being out for eight months at this time of your career. I’m not sure how old he is, but whatever he is, that’s a great time in his career and where he’s at in racing. I think it would be really difficult to be out, but at the same time things happen, you get it fixed up and you go on. And, that’s what he’s done. I think he’s got to be relieved and just excited as can be to be back in the car. I’m looking forward to working with him and having a great season together.”


Was it a coincidence that you drafted quite a bit with the Hendrick teams at the Daytona test?

“The reason that happened is there were four guys who wanted to draft. It was me and Brian (Vickers) and Jimmie (Johnson) and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior that first day. So, we kind of all worked together and drafted together and it worked out pretty well. Those are two good cars to kind of surround yourself with and see where you compared with those guys. It was good for us. As far as working together, I think Red Bull and Toyota do their thing and Hendrick and Chevrolet do theirs. This year I’m working with Red Bull and Toyota.”


Do you have a different approach this year knowing you will only be with Red Bull for one season?

“It really doesn’t change because the way I look at it is I always want to make the Chase. You have to make the Chase. That’s what everybody is here for. You have to win races, that’s why we do it is to win. That’s why we drive and race. And the only way to do that is to be consistent in this sport and that’s something where I feel like I’ve failed over the years. I’ve had years where I haven’t been very consistent, I’ve had years where we’ve been a lot better and that’s something that I need to get a lot better at. To me, if I want to win races and make the Chase I need to be consistent. That’s something I need to do this year, I need to do next year and on and on. That’s the only way to make it happen in NASCAR.”


Why did you start racing with Red Bull toward the end of the 2010 season?

“As much as anything, I liked kind of just changing and starting out with a team and getting used to their ways a little bit. I think that was definitely good. I think it was good for myself to get away from where I was. It needed to happen sooner than later. I think it was good for RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) to get me out of there. They were happy about it and I was happy about it and we’ve went on. I’m actually really happy with where I’m at, and since Kenny Francis (crew chief) and some of the guys that I’ve worked with in the past have came over to Red Bull, I just feel really confident and really under control. I know exactly what is going on. I feel like that’s a good thing and it’s going to be really beneficial for all of us this year to have Kenny and a lot of the guys that came.”


What would it mean for you to win the Daytona 500 in this car?

“It would be great to win at Daytona. I got a little bit of a taste of it by winning a 150 (qualifying race) there. And, we ran pretty strong there all of the races last year, it seemed like. I feel confident running well at Daytona and the 4 has been impressive at times there so hopefully we can just have a really good Speed Weeks, be upfront in everything we do and start the season off right. That’s all we can ask for, that’s what we’re going for.”


What were you and Brian Vickers able to learn at the Daytona test last week?

“There was a lot you could learn with that two-car deal. The pack was too small to really learn a lot as far as the drafting side goes with the bigger pack. Nobody ever wanted to draft -- or not enough cars at once so that made it tough. I think myself and Brian (Vickers) started it and then everybody else by the end of the testing were really focusing on the two-car stuff and making changes and figuring out how you work together and how that works. I think it was really good. You’re going to need that as far as the way that the track is now. I don’t think you’ll need it as much as what we did at the test. With the big pack, you’ll need it at times and it’s good to know how it works and how you can make it work better.”


Are you at a point in your career where you feel like it’s time to have more success on the race track?

“I’ve been at that point, really. I feel like it should happen. I don’t feel like I have near enough wins. I don’t have near enough poles. I haven’t made the Chase enough. Everything about what I’ve done I don’t feel like I’ve done near enough. I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to racing and a lot of things off the track. I want to do it right. I want to figure out how to win more and contend a lot more often.”


Are you disappointed you will only be with the Red Bull brand for a year?

“You never know how long it will be as far as my relationship with Red Bull. Hopefully it’s a lot longer than one year. Like I said, I like what we have going on and hopefully we can do good things together this year and make it a longer deal. If it’s only one year, it’s one year and I’m going to do everything I can to win races and do it right.”

Is it strange for you to have gone through all of the manufacturers in the series?


“It all changes a little bit. I noticed how many cars are on the road and you look at what’s out there. To myself, I liked the Dodge stuff, I liked the Ford stuff, I like the Toyota and then I’m going to enjoy the Chevrolet. I’ve never kind of been part of that. Where I’m at, I’ve got to get a little bit of each one of them and I think it’s actually kind of neat for myself. Yeah, I enjoy vehicles and I enjoy cars. I’m with Toyota now.”

What made you change to the 4 car?

“They’ve been 82, 84 and 83 and I didn’t really want to be any of those numbers so I asked if I could be -- when I go and race my Sprint car I’m number 4. We have our own kind of numbers -- the 4, the 9, the 91 and the 49 -- all our numbers kind of match and look similar that we did. I just asked them if they cared if I was 4, nobody is and kind of ran our design and everything. They were actually perfectly fine with it. I think it looks really good on the car. It looked great on the race track. It looks good on everything they’ve done with the 4 so far. I’m glad that Red Bull was behind it and it’s pretty cool.”


Are your knees completely recovered from your off-season surgeries?

“Yeah, probably not basketball because I can’t really twist a lot yet and maybe come down wrong. As far as running, I’m running every day. I’m biking every day. I’ve been biking for about a month, but running didn’t start until last week. I feel pretty good. I’m already running on the treadmill at 8.0 so that’s pretty decent. The knees aren’t too bad if you can do that. They don’t affect me. I didn’t even feel them sitting in the race car. They feel better now than they felt at the end of last year. I’m actually pretty happy with it.”


What did you actually have done to your knees?

“From what I understand, we’re all born with Plica. We’re all born with it and most of it goes away and mine didn’t. Mine actually kind of got bigger and filled up my joints so it was rubbing on my joints and rubbing on your kneecap and things like that. So, it was kind of a pain. Then, I tore my meniscus in my right knee so they had to fix that also so that was a pain all of last year. I did that in March of last year, so I just kind of lived with it all year and got lucky that something didn’t happen there because it could’ve been much worse.”


What does the Red Bull Racing Team have to offer you during this one year, before you move on?

“I feel like they can give me -- I think the biggest thing is the stability, the drive of winning, the excitement of all the employees and just how everybody wants to run good. Everybody wants to make themselves better. We want to do it for Red Bull. To me, it’s just a good attitude. I think a lot of it has to do with attitude and that’s what I feel they’re giving me as much as anything -- a great opportunity.”


How does your crew chief Kenny Francis fit in at Red Bull?

“Well, he’s (Kenny Francis, crew chief) is not going to change, so that doesn’t really matter. He just does his thing. He’s a great guy. He’ll sit there and if you can get him to open up and talk about things, he’s a really good guy. I’ve learned a lot and really like Kenny. But he’s probably not the edgiest guy around. That’s fine, I think it’s great. He doesn’t change, I can tell you that. It doesn’t matter who is talking to him or what time of day or when it is, he’s that same person. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

 

CREDIT: TOYOTA MOTORSPORTS PR

How far has Red Bull come since starting in 2007? “How much we’ve grown from the beginning is immeasurable.  When I was hired at Red Bull as the first driver, gosh, I was like maybe the fifth or sixth employee.  Literally I walked in the shop and it was just me and a handful of other guys.  It’s incredible to watch the team go through everything it’s gone through and grow as much as it has.  The evolution from a handful of guys all the way to the company that it is now.  There’s been a lot of change.  There’s a group of guys that are still there – the core group that have been there since the beginning, but there’s a lot of guys that have come and gone.  That’s expected in a new organization. You create an organization and you create a culture -- some guys are going to fit in it and some guys aren’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re bad or good, they just need to fit the right piece for the right puzzle and I think over the years I’ve seen the company and the culture – we kind of went one direction and then we changed and now we’re going back in the original direction that we went from a cultural standpoint.  I think all those are good changes.  We’ve learned a lot from that as a group and through that process people have come and gone.  Where we’re at right now, I really believe is as good as we’ve ever been as an organization.  From a direction, a culture, a structure, a passion, a drive -- I think the enthusiasm within the team on both cars within the race shop in the highest it’s ever been.  Having two experienced guys that can lean on each other is the best it’s ever been.  Honestly, I’m really excited about 2011 and the growth I’ve seen through the years.”

What was your feeling when you first climbed back in the driver’s seat of your race car? “I savored it -- it felt good.  I guess you don’t really know what to expect, you’re not really sure which direction to go, what emotions to feel.  When you get back in the car, you’re not sure what’s going to happen.  My gut always told me that I would get right back in it and it would be just like an old pair of shoes or riding a bicycle, but everyone starts asking you, ‘It’s been eight months, do you remember how to drive?’  It’s not that you really start believing it, but you start wondering what that experience is really going to be like.  But when I got back in that car, the belts fit, I remember how to put them on – nobody had to tell me how. In so many ways, I think I truly appreciated it more, but at the same time it was almost like I hadn’t even been gone.  It just felt so comfortable, it felt so good, it felt so normal to be back in that seat.  I got in, climbed in the car, the belts still fit, the helmet fit and I put it all on and went racing.  Just got back on the race track and it was a very special moment.”

Do you want the illness to be forgotten so your career is not defined by it for years to come? “I don’t really care -- I just want to win a championship.  I do believe that the experience has made me a better person and therefore I think that translates on the race track.  The person you are and the personality that you have is always going to translate in your driving style.  I want to use this experience as an opportunity to reach people whether it’s clot awareness or different things.  Do I want to be defined by it?  No, but ultimately you’re defined by your actions, you’re defined by what happens to you, you’re defined by a lot of things.  This is going to be one of them and I accept that.  After Daytona, I want to be talking about winning the race not about clots.  But I understand that who I am and what I do and what I’ve gone through, it ’s always going to be a part of my life.”

What did you learn at the Daytona test? “We learned that you could still hold it wide open.  There’s going to be drafting and it’s going to be an exciting race.  We did learn a lot of things that I think are going to help us as a team, but a lot of guys learned a lot of things.  We got faster while we were there, but so did other guys.  I don’t know if I could tell you how the race is going to be.  It’s going to be one of the most exciting Daytona 500s for me from the driver’s seat and I’m sure it’s going to be the same for the fans.  The track surface is part of it, the cars with the new noses is part of it.  I think the evolution of drafting.  Could our old cars have done what we do now, the way we draft in pairs and really pick up a lot of speed?  Yeah, maybe they could have and we just never tried it.  We didn’t really push that boundary.  Maybe the new car is a part of that.  The surface is definitely a part of it at Daytona.  Why you didn’t see more of it at Talladega I don’t know.  I think you’re going to see a lot of it at this race, but you’re still going to see a big pack. You’re still going to see three wide.  How the two car breakaways are going to play into that -- I don’t know, but it’s going to be exciting to find out.”

Did you ever consider retiring from racing? “Absolutely.  Listen there was a point in time where it wasn’t really up to me.  We weren’t sure what caused it, what happened, am I coming off blood thinners, am I not?  Medically we had to answer a lot of those questions.  There was a lot of time there where I wasn’t sure if it was even in my hands.  Once it was in my hands, I still had a decision to make.  If I decided to come back racing, was I going to be thinking about a blood clot every lap?  Was I going to be able to focus on my job?  Was I still going to love it?  Was it time to move on to something else in my life?  I had a hard decision to make and there were a lot of things that had to be weighed

What has the support from competitors been like throughout this process? “There’s definitely situations with guys that have changed.  Some of the guys that were the most there for me were the obvious ones and the guys that I am the closest to outside of racing -- Casey (Mears), Jimmie (Johnson), Jeff (Gordon).  There were some guys there that checked in on me every once in a while and were very supportive -- Tony Stewart was one of the first guys to check in with me via text or phone.  When I was at the race track he would always say something.  He was the first guy to stick his head in my window at Daytona.  Tony obviously has his rough side and his moments and I wish he would show more -- it doesn’t come out as much as it used to.  I kind of liked it.  He’s a teddy bear inside.  He always has been to me.  He was great and I’m just giving you one example because I don’t want to go through all of them.  Him for instance, that meant a lot to me on a personal level.  It really did.  It really showed me a side to Tony that I’d seen some, but not directed towards me.  It was Sonoma when he and I got into it and that was awesome.  I think it cost him some money.  Back then I used to love to push his buttons and I was good at it.  Tony and I have become really close over the years and have a mutual respect.  Him and I race well together now and probably as good as I’ve raced with anybody on the race track.  Really hard when it’s time to be hard, but not when it’s not.  I think that’s a good example of what he did and how his little comments here and there meant a lot to me.  I still want to beat him and I think he knows that.  He expects that and that’s what he respects.  He’s not going to feel bad for me either.  He’s going to race me just as hard if not harder than he ever has and I like that -- that’s what I love about our sport.  That’s what I want. I want to race these guys with respect and I want to race them hard, but when we all go home we’re all people.  We’re a community, we’re a team and the NASCAR community as a whole has been very supportive through this.  People talk about that a lot, but it’s truly there.  I think you really see it when things are bad.  How much everybody really supports you and are understanding.  I would even say that to all you guys here and all the media in general.  A lot of the familiar faces that are there week in and week out.  You guys were great -- you could have been in my business and asking just inappropriate questions, but you weren’t.  I understand you have a job to do and I think I talked about that in some of my press conferences.  I wanted to give you guys as much as I could, but in return I asked that you give me my space and you did and I really appreciate that.  I think that’s part of our community.  You don’t get that in a lot of other places.  I talked to some of my friends that are athletes in other sports -- they don’t get that, they don’t get that at all.  They don’t have the accessibility on the front end.  That’s why I tried to give you guys as much as I could.  That’s always meant a lot to me and I really appreciate it.  I think that’s another example of what you’re talking about with the community coming together whether it’s your peers as drivers or the media or the fans or the teams or whatever.  When Sunday rolls around I still want to win.”

 

CREDIT: TOYOTA MOTORSPORTS PR

 

 

Penske Racing announced today that Alliance Truck Parts, a leading provider of replacement parts for the commercial transportation industry, will be the primary sponsor of the No. 12 Dodge Challenger driven by Sam Hornish Jr. for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Hornish raced the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Charger in the 2010 Nationwide Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he is ready to compete for the team again this season.

Said Hornish, “It’s exciting to be able to return to the car and get a chance to represent the Alliance Truck Parts brand again this season. I know everyone at Penske Racing will be working hard to get the best results possible this year in the Nationwide Series.”

“Penske Racing has a heritage of benchmark performance and we feel the alignment between Alliance Truck Parts, Penske Racing and Sam Hornish Jr. is a partnership that signifies the quality, reliability and value of our brand,” said Daniel Haggerty, director of parts marketing for Daimler Trucks North America LLC.

Hornish will drive the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge for Penske Racing in at least eight races in the upcoming Nationwide Series season. The former Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar Series champion is expected to compete in at least 10 series races overall in 2011. Specific races will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Penske Racing welcomes Alliance Truck Parts to the team,” said Roger Penske. “We believe this marks the beginning of a strong partnership. Sam and the team are ready to produce solid results in the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge. It should be an exciting 2011 season.”

 

CREDIT: Penske Racing PR

 


Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch will join Coca-Cola’s family of NASCAR drivers this season. Coca-Cola will sponsor the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion as Busch pursues his second series title while driving the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil machine in 2011.

Busch will carry the iconic Coca-Cola name on both his uniform and his Dodge Charger as he looks to extend his Cup Series victory streak to 10 consecutive seasons.

“I am honored to represent Coca-Cola during 2011 racing season,” said Busch, who scored two wins and two poles in 2010, finishing 11th in the final Cup Series standings. “We’re looking forward to a great season as we transition to the No. 22 car and it’s awesome to have Coca-Cola on board for the ride.

As part of the relationship, Busch and Penske Racing will be featured in Coca-Cola’s in-store promotions throughout the 2011 season and Busch will also make promotional appearances on behalf of Coke.

“Both Kurt and Penske Racing have proven that they are winners both on and off the track,” said Ben Reiling, director of Sports Marketing for Coca-Cola. “We welcome Kurt and Penske to the Coca-Cola Racing Family and look forward to working with him to bring the passion of NASCAR and the uplifting refreshment of Coca-Cola to his many fans.”

 

CREDIT: Penske Racing PR

Richard Petty, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial and Doug Bergeron, co-owners of RPM, announced today the 2011 partner lineup for the No. 9 and No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.

“We’ve got a lineup of great sponsors for both Richard Petty Motorsports teams next season,” said Richard Petty. “Though we went through some trying times at the end of 2010, our partners saw the value in our organization and remained committed to us for the future. Best Buy, Stanley and DEWALT have made huge commitments to this race team and we thank them for their confidence in our race team.    We’re fortunate to have Valvoline, U.S. Air Force, WIX Filters, Reynolds, Super 8 and Paralyzed Veterans of America on board as well.”

“We’ve set our goals and our standards high at Richard Petty Motorsports, and we’re committed to reaching those goals,” continued Petty. “Getting the No. 43 and No. 9 cars to Victory Lane is our number one priority and we have the drive, talent and enthusiasm to do so. We’re completely focused on building this organization into a winning race team and the talent at RPM runs deep.”

The sponsor line up for 2011 includes several organizations that have partnered with Richard Petty in the past.  Stanley, an RPM sponsor since 2005, returns for the 2011 season.  The 2011 season will also have a new addition to the RPM partner family as DEWALT returns to the sport.  Both brands will serve as primary sponsors of the No. 9 Ford Fusion driven by Marcos Ambrose.

“Stanley and DEWALT are proud to partner with Marcos Ambrose and Richard Petty Motorsports,” stated Scott Bannell, Vice President Corporate Brand Management and Licensing, Stanley and DEWALT. “Richard Petty is a legend in the sport and we are honored to have him as the face of our brands on and off the track. Marcos Ambrose is a passionate and determined competitor and we look forward to a successful season together.”

Marcos Ambrose, a two-time winner in the V8 Supercar Series will once again get behind the wheel of a Ford machine as he begins his tenure with RPM. Ambrose has racked up an impressive seven Top-five and 13 Top-10 finishes in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Championship winning crew chief Todd Parrott will lead the No. 9 team.

Best Buy will return to sponsor the No. 43 Ford Fusion and driver AJ Allmendinger for 24 races. Leading that team will be Mike Shiplett, who has worked with Allmendinger for several years at Richard Petty Motorsports. Valvoline, U.S. Air Force, WIX Filters, Reynolds and Paralyzed Veterans of America will round out the sponsorship package on the famed No. 43 car for the 2011 season.

“Best Buy is proud to renew our relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver AJ Allmendinger for the 2011 season,” said Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president marketing, Best Buy. “Richard Petty is a motorsports icon and is well respected within the sport of NASCAR. Being a part of a team with his leadership is a privilege. We will be doing some innovative work with Richard Petty Motorsports around activating our sponsorship in new and fun ways for the fans. We look forward to continuing our support of AJ and the No. 43 team as they strive to make their way to Victory Lane.”

NASCAR preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway concluded this afternoon and for Steve Wallace (No. 77 5-Hour Energy Toyota), the three-day test session provided valuable experience in advance of his Sprint Cup Series debut in next month's Daytona 500.


Said Wallace, "We definitely still have a lot of speed left to find, but one of the biggest things that came out of the test was the experience that I gained drafting in a Cup car.  It's definitely a lot different than drafting in the old Nationwide Series car.


"We spent a lot of time drafting with guys like Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger and Brian Vickers; I want to thank all of those guys for their help.  I really learned a lot about how to push guys and how to get pushed in a two-car draft like they've had with the Cup cars lately.  There's definitely a technique to it that most people don't realize.


"It's incredible how fast the two-car draft is; we were almost 20 miles per hour faster in one of those than in qualifying trim.  A lot of people are even saying that you're going to see a race of 20 different two-car drafts down here in February.  I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's definitely going to play a huge role in both the Cup and Nationwide races."


The best lap of the week for Wallace's 5-Hour Energy and Aspen Dental-backed team came in Saturday's AM session, when he posted an average speed of 195.274 MPH while in a two-car draft with AJ Allmendinger.  That lap placed Wallace sixth-fastest in the session.  With that said, the 23 year-old is far from content and admits that his team still has quite a bit of speed to find before next month's race.


Wallace noted, "While I learned a lot about drafting down here, I also learned that we have to work really hard on our cars before we come back here.  We definitely weren't as fast by ourselves as we need to be.  With this program coming together so quickly, we just didn't have time before the test to do the fine details that make these speedway cars fast.  We didn't even have time to get either one of our cars in the wind tunnel.  Now that we're through the test, our guys are going to be working around the clock every day to make these cars the very best we can.


"We definitely learned a lot this week and we're going to be in the wind tunnel with both our cars as much as we possibly can before the race; we'll decide then which one will be our primary car.  The car we had this weekend was an older RCR car that we converted to a Toyota.  The other car, which just finished being converted this week, is a Ganassi car that was Montoya's backup speedway car last year; we all know how well the Ganassi cars ran on speedways.  We'll take everything we learned this week and incorporate it into both cars before we come down here for the race.  I'm confident that we'll pick up quite a bit on our cars.


"The speed isn't just in the car though, it's the total package.  We didn't have the same engine package as we will for the race and we feel like we still have to gain in terms of horsepower.  The guys at Triad Racing Technologies have told us that they're really committed to this program and I know they'll be working 24/7 every day over the next few weeks to find all the power they can before we come back down here."


Rusty Wallace Racing's preseason testing schedule continues this week, as both Steve Wallace's No. 66 5-Hour Energy team and Michael Annett's No. 62 Pilot Flying J / Aspen Dental squad will test their Nationwide Series cars on Monday and Tuesday at Walt Disney World Speedway.  The younger Wallace and a portion of his No. 66 team will then travel on Wednesday to Irwindale, CA for next weekend's Toyota All-Star Showdown.  Wallace will pilot the No. 66 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota in that event.

 

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CREDIT: Rusty Wallace Racing PR

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

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

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

Credit: NASCAR PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of things changed on that day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That just caught my attention as the season ended there.

Q.  What was your reply to Joe Girardi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEVIN HARVICK:  Oh, okay, those points.

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

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

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

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

CREDIT: Chevy Racing PR

Day 2 PM - Drafting Practice

Daytona Intl Speedway - 2.500

1/21/2011

Make

1 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 45.716 196.868

2 14 Tony Stewart Chv 45.719 196.855

3 20 Joey Logano Tyt 45.757 196.691

4 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 45.873 196.194

5 31 Jeff Burton Chv 45.954 195.848

6 83 Brian Vickers Tyt 45.955 195.844

7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 46.037 195.495

8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 46.037 195.495

9 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 46.054 195.423

10 4 Kasey Kahne Tyt 46.170 194.932

11 77 Steve Wallace Tyt 46.468 193.682

12 33 Clint Bowyer Chv 48.583 185.250

13 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 48.946 183.876

14 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 48.953 183.850

15 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 49.125 183.206

16 5 Mark Martin Chv 49.230 182.815

17 39 Ryan Newman Chv 49.377 182.271

18 27 Paul Menard Chv 49.392 182.216

19 16 Greg Biffle Frd 49.409 182.153

20 99 Carl Edwards Frd 49.520 181.745

21 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 49.573 181.550

22 9 Marcos Ambros Frd 49.575 181.543

23 22 Kurt Busch Dge 49.590 181.488

24 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 49.597 181.463

25 43 AJ Allmendinger Frd 49.661 181.229

26 09 Bill Elliott Chv 49.698 181.094

27 00 David Reutimann Tyt 49.743 180.930

28 6 David Ragan Frd 49.768 180.839

29 60 Todd Bodine Tyt 49.790 180.759

30 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 49.854 180.527

31 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 49.894 180.382

32 78 Regan Smith Chv 49.900 180.361

33 36 Dave Blaney Chv 49.925 180.270

34 13 Casey Mears Tyt 50.241 179.137

 

Credit: NASCAR Statistical Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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