NASCAR is back
NASCAR is back
NASCAR is back
January 31, 2007
By Micah Roberts
The season that feels like it just ended has been back in action for nearly a month already with several testing sessions, sort of like training camp or spring training.
NASCAR is back, gotta love it!
They get back to live competitive racing next Saturday night under the Daytona lights on Fox for the Bud Shootout, a non-points exhibition race consisting of past Bud Shootout winners and last season’s pole sitters.
Lots of things have happened over the mini off-season, but no story is bigger than Toyota joining NASCAR’s top series. Some owners haven’t exactly put the welcome matt out for them either, in particular, Ford’s top team owner Jack Roush, who has declared “War” against the deep pockets Toyota’s.
"I'm definitely preparing myself for a siege. Toyota will not find that the established teams and manufacturers will wither in their path as has been the case where they've decided to engage elsewhere.
"I'm just going to say nobody is frightened,“ Roush continued, “We're going to war with them, and they should give us their best shot, because we'll be giving as good as we take."
As for now after a few of the test sessions, Toyota doesn’t look to be very fast, or at least the entire group doesn’t.
“I expect to hand Toyota their head over the short term," Roush said. "And then it's just a matter of what happens long-term as to where they spend their money and the upsets it makes in the way we do our business."
Roush is exactly right about the short term. Following the Daytona test sessions, only Dale Jarrett stood out with the Bill Davis team not far behind.
The Las Vegas sessions were much more telling to how the cars will run over the course of the season because of just plain horsepower. Let’s just say it didn’t work out as well for Toyota as a whole in the Cup Series like it did when they rolled with their Tundra’s in the Craftsman Truck Series. With the addition of the new Toyota teams, there will now be 49 regular Cup teams attempting qualify weekly meaning several teams will not make it. Toyota only has one driver that is guaranteed a spot at Daytona using a Champions provisional and that is Dale Jarrett. It was also just announced that only 6 provisionals may be used a year per eligible driver.
The new provisional rule appears to be made specifically for Dale Jarrett as maybe a temporary appeasement for Roush.
Eventually they’ll get better, but more importantly for my own warped entertainment, I hope Roush continues the flag waving, and fighting for the rights of Detroit, and campaigning for the American companies, not just Ford.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NASCAR nation, the most loyal consumer, responds. Many have been feeling the same way as Roush and wouldn’t be surprised to see the fans start an anti-campaign, or us against them, with stars and stripes everywhere. This comes of course just after Ford announces that they lost over $12.7 billion in 2006 and that massive layoffs are going to occur as a result. It was Ford’s worst of 104 years in the automobile business.
Las Vegas Testing
The sessions at the newly configured Las Vegas facility had times that resembled those the sister tracks of Texas, Atlanta, and Charlotte. The top times of the sessions was recorded by Elliott Sadler at 188.77 mph, 14 mph faster than Kasey Kahne’s track record.
The entire Evernham fleet of Dodges was strong over the two days with both Scott Riggs and Khane jumping in with solid times. The relevance between Atlanta, Charlotte, and Texas was no more evident after seeing those cars do exactly what they did last year, and that’s go real fast.
The only real surprise of the sessions was the vast improvement of the Yates Racing Ford’s. David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd turned in some solid consistent times. Paul Menard ran the 2nd fastest lap of the sessions and Junior blew up two engines.
Be sure to keep notes on what happened because the info obtained for this session will be of great use in early odds to win wagers prior to the practice sessions. They will run very similar to what was recorded on January 29th-30th.
What They’re saying about the new Configuration
Tony Stewart: "Perfect. I couldn't have done it better myself. It's just perfect - it's really nice. It's just so fast around the bottom."
Jimmie Johnson: "I think this is a good move for the track. They're going to put on better racing. The other (old configuration) was a single-file-racing racetrack, so I think the changes they made have been good. It's been fun - the track has a lot of grip. We made some good progress throughout the practice session today."
Jeff Gordon: "I like the banking. I like the configuration and the transition of it. It's going to make it more challenging for the teams and make for better racing. As the race (in March) goes on, the outside groove will come in more and more. If the tire wasn't hard, we'd be going a lot faster. Anytime you have a (race track with a new surface)…the pavement these days has so much grip and is so good that Goodyear can't build a tire that complements the new pavement and the cars. They have to build a rock-hard tire and the tires will last forever. I've run 20 laps or so and the tires look like they just came off the (Goodyear) truck."
Kyle Busch: "It's been going pretty well. We've strictly been working on race-trim runs and for some reason, a lot of guys are bustin' off some really quick lap times. We're not finding the speed out of our car, but we're finding the longevity. To me, it feels pretty good out there. The race track is real nice. A lot of guys said it might be a little too fast, and we could be - Atlanta was fast when it was redone. We're so maxed out on our cars and the way everything's set up that we go so fast around any race track. It's just all about what kind of tire Goodyear brings. They brought the hardest one to try to slow us down and we're still out there running 29-teens."
Dale Jarrett: "Everything's good. There are a few bumps here and there, but that's just what you learn about the race track. It is extremely fast and we've already got multiple grooves out there and that's a really good thing. It should be beneficial to good racing when we come back.”
Kurt Busch: “We're all race car drivers. It's like the limbo bar is out there in the infield somewhere. Somebody keeps lowering it, lowering it, lowering it. Who is going to go lowest? That's what's happening with the speeds. The speeds get quicker and quicker. Lap times get lower and lower.
“Where is going to be the point of point break with the tires, with the engines? Aerodynamically, the cars are ready to go. The way that the chassis feel on the racetrack these days, they're bouncing real rough against the racetrack. There's a unique aspect of racing cars, going fast, and trying to be safe at the same time.”
“We challenge ourselves most of the time, whether it's a new track, like Charlotte last year or Texas when it was first built, Atlanta, that still holds the ultimate record for speed at 197 on a downforce-type car. We're always going fast. We're still going to continue to go fast. There always is going to be that question of are we going too fast.”
Welcome to NASCAR Juan Pablo
There is an aura about J.P. Montoya that I have never seen in NASCAR before. I wasn’t around to personally see the Indy and Trans-Am guys run at Riverside or Daytona in the early 70’s, but I’ve heard they walked with a strut and carried some real attitude led by A.J. Foyt.
As Montoya walked into the press room at LVMS, the realization hit me that this guy won the Indy 500 and has won Formula One races. This is a real true International star and he’ll be racing a full year in NASCAR, not just the big races like the previous International stars did such as Mario Andretti.
Further evidence that things are changing a bit in NASCAR is that several questions during the press conference were asked and answered in Spanish.
He ran some good laps and all indications are that he truly is excited about being in NASCAR, but knows there is a definitely going to be some learning along the way.
“I hope I have some success. I'm committed for this for the long-term. Is it going to happen this year? I don't know. Probably on the road course I can do a good job, get some results. I think the smaller oval be good. I think Homestead was pretty decent for being my first race.”
“It's hard to say you're going to be good here and bad there. It's all about getting comfortable. When I went to the Homestead test I was nowhere. I was probably easily half a second, 6/10ths off my teammates. When I got to the race, I was the fastest car of the Ganassis. It's all relative. We'll see.”
“For me, it's just hard to say, Yeah, I'm going to go out there, I'm going to kick everybody's ass. Do I want to do that? Yeah, of course I want to do that. You got to be a bit realistic. I never put myself to set some goals and say, I need to do this and that. You just got to go out there and do the best you can. It's that simple.”
As for Daytona, he’s realistic about his chances and just wants finish the race. When asked if winning the Indy 500 his rookie year there gave confidence to do the same at Daytona, he quickly and emphatically said, “NO!”
“Is it going to be really hard? Yes, it's going to be really hard. Am I aiming to win? I'm more aiming to get the car to the end of the race to be realistic. Do we have a shot at it? Am I going to try to win it? Yes. I would be really happy if we can get a top 20, top 15 out of that race.”
“It's a shame you start the Daytona 500 for me as a rookie because I have no experience drafting, very little. It was a bit of a surprise when I tested, five laps in, didn't do any damage, but I touched the wall coming out of four. Got so tight, I couldn't believe it. They told me it was going to get a little tight. It wasn't a little tight. It was like, my arms were down here, I went straight into the wall.”
Montoya’s odds to win Daytona are in the 75 to 1 range. There also is a prop asking where he’ll finish in the race with an over/under number of 16½. Based on his assumption and expectations, it sounds like a pretty good number, especially if you factor in just what that car has done at Daytona the last few seasons.
Next week we’ll discuss the Budweiser Shootout more in detail and then the Daytona 500.
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