Daytona II: Round 18 preview

Brian France on 'Midseason Teleconference' Race To The Chase, Round 2: Stewart Threepeat? Speedway Hosts Former Daytona 500 Champions Memories of Bill France Jr. Numerous This Week On The Line...With NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France DAYTONA ...

Brian France on 'Midseason Teleconference'
Race To The Chase, Round 2: Stewart Threepeat?
Speedway Hosts Former Daytona 500 Champions
Memories of Bill France Jr. Numerous This Week

On The Line...With NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2007) -- This week's guest on the NASCAR Teleconference was NASCAR's Chairman and CEO Brian France, on Tuesday afternoon. He answered questions on a variety of topics. Some highlights follow.

Q: Perhaps if we could start off with a quick assessment by you of how this season has gone thus far?

Brian: First, I want to thank everybody on the call and frankly, the fans across the country and all over that have reached out for our family when my father passed. That was an enormous amount of support that we felt by the whole industry and we're really grateful for that. Lots of nice stories and reports done reflecting what my dad accomplished in his reign at NASCAR, so thank you all for that.

I'll transition now into where I think we are. We're at the midpoint of our season. And I would tell you that all of our important goals that we set out at the beginning of the year, we're either meeting them or we've accelerated them. We're achieving them, the Car of Tomorrow being the most important one. All the benefits that we had hoped we would get -- better competition, the safety elements -- fortunately, we haven't had to test that fully yet, and certainly, the cost side of it as you see so many teams now running the same car.

Race To The Chase, Round 2: DIS Looks Promising For Stewart 'Threepeat'

Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) has won the Pepsi 400 the last two years, a rare accomplishment indeed. Only three other drivers have done so and what a trio it is: David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Stewart's all-time favorite driver, A.J. Foyt.

Only one driver has won the Pepsi 400 three consecutive times. That was Pearson from 1972-74.

Of course, times were different then.

The race was known as the Firecracker 400, it started in the morning and was always held on July 4. Another difference: The field wasn't nearly as deep 30 years ago in terms of teams that had realistic shots at winning races, which makes Stewart's run at Daytona history all the more impressive.

His stats at Daytona reflect that run, and bode well for a Pepsi 400 "threepeat" by the two-time series champion. Start with his Driver Rating, based on the last five DIS events: 120.5, by far the series-best. Here's the big Daytona picture: In 17 starts, Stewart has five top fives and nine top 10s.

Drivers Eyeing Chase Bonus Points, 'Seedings'

There are nine races to go before the start of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Each week, race victories become more important as drivers strive to accrue vital Chase "bonus points." Starting this year, the 12 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000. They then will have bonus points -- 10 for each victory -- applied.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) are set to benefit considerably from this increased emphasis on winning. They each have four wins and -- since they almost assuredly will qualify for the Chase given their current point standings (first and fourth) -- 40 bonus points apiece, which would make them the top two seeds to start the Chase with 5,040 points apiece. Seeding ties are broken by the comparison of drivers' best finishes beyond victories.

As the potential bonus points now stand, Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) are two drivers who would likewise benefit from this first-year format change. Busch is currently 10th in the point standings while Truex is 11th but each have one victory, potentially giving them 10 bonus points along with three others ahead of them in the current points: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 R&L Carriers Ford), Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet).

Blasts From The Past: Former 500 Champs Look Ahead To Race's 50th Anniversary In 2008

Next February, the Great American Race will reach a Great American Milestone.

The Daytona 500 will be held for the 50th time on Feb. 17 but this week, the celebration begins a little early. As it should, since an impressive lineup of former 500 champions will converge on Daytona for a special ceremony on Friday at 11 a.m., at the Daytona 500 Experience (formerly DAYTONA USA) attraction adjacent to the speedway.

The group will include reigning champion Kevin Harvick, 1980 winner Buddy Baker, 1960 winner Junior Johnson, 1990 winner Derrike Cope and 1970 winner Pete Hamilton. Harvick will have his hands, right foot and signature imprinted into the Daytona 500 Champion's Walk of Fame while Baker, Johnson, Cope and Hamilton will have their right foot imprinted in cement for the Goodyear Heritage of Daytona exhibit.

On Saturday, July 7 in the NEXTEL FANZONE in the speedway's infield adjacent to the garage area, former Daytona 500 champions including seven-time winner Richard Petty, three-time winner Bobby Allison, 1989 winner Darrell Waltrip, Johnson and Hamilton will participate in question-and-answer sessions with fans.

The ceremony at Daytona 500 Experience will take place inside the motorsports attraction and is included in the attraction admission ($24 for adults, $19 for seniors and children under six) while the question-and-answer sessions at the NEXTEL FANZONE are included in the $60 Pre-Race Access/NEXTEL FANZONE pass.

For more information on the 50th Daytona 500 celebration during the 400 weekend, fans can visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

Daytona Races Helped Form The Foundation Of Bill France Jr. Legacy

In the late 1950s, Bill France Sr. built what amounted to his own Field of Dreams in Daytona Beach, Fla., a race track considered both unique and outlandish, a 2.5-mile layout with unheard-of banking in its turns and unlimited potential in terms of popularity.

He had a first-rate right-hand man for the job -- his son, Bill France Jr., who like his father was involved from the ground-up, helping to cut the grass, clear the land and drive the machinery that stacked the dirt and created the high banks.

The first NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway was the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.

Saturday night's Pepsi 400 will be the first NASCAR race at the speedway since Bill France Jr.'s death on June 4.

It's a reality that will take some getting used to.

"I still am having a hard time grasping that he's not with us anymore because the more time I spent in this sport, the more I respected him, the more I appreciated him and the things that he had to say," said Jeff Gordon.

"When he was talking you listened. He was a powerful guy even if he wasn't doing anything, he got your attention and I'm going to miss him.

"I think that the vision that he had ... and the fact that he helped build that track was really incredible. It was instrumental to the growth of NASCAR."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Martin Truex Jr. , Junior Johnson , Bobby Allison , Buddy Baker , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch