Status quo -- Title favorite Johnson picks up where he left off in 2004 What's new, what's different -- An update on 2005 competition changes NEWS & NOTES Johnson relishing preseason momentum ... The traditional 10-to-14 days leading up to the...
Status quo -- Title favorite Johnson picks up where he left off in 2004
What's new, what's different -- An update on 2005 competition changes
NEWS & NOTES
Johnson relishing preseason momentum ... The traditional 10-to-14 days leading up to the Daytona 500, Speedweeks heralds the season-opening events for all three NASCAR national touring series. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series opens with the Daytona 500 Feb. 20 -- and Dale Jarrett's front-row companion in the event, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), hopes he doesn't wake up if he's been dreaming.
Johnson, the series runner-up for the past two seasons, earned the outside pole by taking second place in last Sunday's qualifying session. By tradition, the top two qualifiers are locked in while the rest of the Daytona 500 field is determined by the results of Thursday's two 150-mile qualifying races, the Gatorade Duel at Daytona. And the outside pole is just one of Johnson's Speedweeks achievements. On Monday, he was named the favorite in media voting for the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10. Last Saturday night, Johnson won the Budweiser Shootout, the non-points-paying 70-lap sprint that showcases the previous season's pole winners and past shootout champions. The previous week, Johnson co-drove on the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford team that finished second in the Rolex 24. And now, along with Jarrett, he's a Daytona 500 favorite.
"The only scary thing with this is that there's only one place to go from here and that's down," Johnson said. "So hopefully we finish up the Duels strong and carry it into the 500."
Updating 2005 competition changes ... Teams competing in all three NASCAR national touring series will adapt to several new rules and procedures for the 2005 season. First is a different way of determining starting lineups. The traditional provisional system no longer exists for the three national series. Instead, the highest-ranked 35 teams from 2004 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the highest-ranked 30 teams from 2004 in the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be guaranteed a starting position in 2005 events, with qualifying speeds still determining race line-ups, and a former champion's provisional -- the last spot in the lineup -- still available in all three national series.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, which uses an extended qualifying process for the Daytona 500, will utilize the top-35 component in this year's Daytona 500 qualifying. Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson, the first- and second-place finishers, respectively, in last Sunday's qualifying session, are locked in. The highest-ranked 35 teams from 2004 are guaranteed a starting spot, but those spots still will be determined by the finishing order of Thursday's two 150-mile qualifying races. The top two finishers in each qualifying race not ranked among the top 35 teams from 2004 will earn a Daytona 500 starting spot. The final four starting spots will be filled by last Sunday's qualifying speeds -- the fastest remaining drivers not among the top 35 teams from 2004. If needed, the 43rd spot would revert back to a former champion's provisional.
Also new is a post-qualifying impound procedure for all three national series. Designed as a cost-containment measure for teams, the procedure works like this: Following qualifying, starting fields will be impounded until race day. Teams won't be permitted to work on their cars unless authorized by NASCAR officials, and the new procedure also means a new race weekend schedule. Teams have two hours of practice on Friday, followed by Saturday qualifying. Cars will be impounded immediately after post-qualifying inspection and won't be available to teams until race day.
All NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events will use the new impound procedure. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events using the new procedure are California (both events), Atlanta (both events), Bristol (both events), Phoenix (both events), Richmond (both events), Pocono (both events), Michigan (both events), New Hampshire (both events), the Pepsi 400 on July Fourth weekend at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Kansas. Other events may be added during the season.
Lastly, a new gear ratio, which reduces engine rpms, will be in effect for all non-restrictor plate events in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series; it's another cost-containment measure. And NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series spoilers have been reduced from 5 ½ inches to 4 ½ inches for all non-restrictor place events; the impetus is to reduce aerodynamic dependency and heighten driver control.
Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame inductions ... Three NASCAR greats were inducted into the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame on Monday night. Run by the Rotary Club of Oceanside in Daytona Beach, the 16th annual induction ceremony took place in the new Daytona 500 Club at Daytona International Speedway. Enshrined were Neil Bonnett, Red Farmer and Davey Allison. Inducting Bonnett was Jim Hunter, NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications. Inducting Allison was his former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car owner, Robert Yates. Bobby and Donnie Allison inducted Farmer.
Number-crunching: Key Daytona 500 stats ... Few NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events contain the history and wealth of statistics as the Daytona 500. And few provide the answers to so many trivia questions. Still, the event's considerable history, lore and prestige provide irresistible fodder for those who seek numerical guidance. Here's a choice:
• With three Daytona 500 wins, Dale Jarrett has the most victories (1993, 1996 and 2000) of any active driver. He's tied for third place on the all-time Daytona 500 win list with Bobby Allison.
• Dale Jarrett's 1993 Daytona 500 victory was the first win for Joe Gibbs Racing, plus, Jarrett's father, two-time series champion Ned Jarrett, called the finish in the CBS broadcast booth.
• The top Daytona 500 winners are Richard Petty (seven victories) and Cale Yarborough (four victories).
• Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has two Daytona 500 wins (1997 and 1999). His last Daytona 500 victory came six years ago, but Gordon is the defending champion of Daytona's July 4 weekend event, the Pepsi 400. Other active two-time Daytona 500 winners include Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) in 2001 and 2003, Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) in 1994-95 and Bill Elliott in 1985 and 1987.
• Defending Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) hopes to become only the third driver to score back-to-back Daytona 500 victories. Earnhardt's team, Dale Earnhardt Inc., has won five of the last eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points events at Daytona. Other consecutive Daytona 500 winners are Richard Petty (1974-75), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
• Dodge has reintroduced the Charger to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition in 2005, and the last Charger to win the Daytona 500 was driven by Richard Petty in 1974. Dodge's last Daytona 500 victory -- Ward Burton's 2002 triumph.
• Among the active manufacturers competing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Chevrolet leads with 17 Daytona 500 victories. Ford has 10 wins and Dodge has three.
• Drivers who have scored their first career win in the Daytona 500 include Tiny Lund, (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994) and Michael Waltrip (2001).
"Hopefully I can make the race and go out there and run decent and not do anything stupid to make any of the veterans mad." -- Boris Said (No. 36 Centrix Chevrolet).
"We thought our restrictor plate stuff was pretty good. Maybe everybody will leave us alone now and act like we know what we're doing." -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), who qualified fourth last Sunday.
"Hopefully, it'll be a really hot, greasy day and everybody will be sliding all over and this car will run better than most of the other ones. That's what we're working on." -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Scotts Ford) on Thursday's two 150-mile qualifying races.
What: Daytona 500. (Race No. 1 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Sunday, Feb. 20, 2 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $17,623,980.
Race length: 500 miles, 200 laps.
Track layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
2004 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 polesitter: Greg Biffle.
2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 6,506. 2. Jimmie Johnson 6,498. 3. Jeff Gordon 6,490. 4. Mark Martin 6,399. 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,368. 6. Tony Stewart 6,326. 7. Ryan Newman 6,180. 8. Matt Kenseth 6,069. 9. Elliott Sadler 6,024. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 6,000.