NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY EIGHT * Biffle preparing for 2006 title run * Jarrett eyes fourth Daytona 500 victory, new crew chief for 2006 * 2006 IROC roster and schedule announced DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY EIGHT
* Biffle preparing for 2006 title run
* Jarrett eyes fourth Daytona 500 victory, new crew chief for 2006
* 2006 IROC roster and schedule announced
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2006) -- After his first experience as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series runner-up, Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) has penciled two items on his 2006 to-do list.
First, he intends to perform to that level again. And second, he'd like to finish one spot better.
The second-place driver by 35 points to 2005 champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet); Biffle has adjusted to the spotlight. Last season was a career year -- he led the series with six victories in his fourth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season -- and he sees no reason, luck aside, that his Roush Racing team can't follow the same blueprint.
But he admits being a bit reflective, too.
"You start thinking about it and it's like, "Gosh, I hope I can do the same thing I did last year," Biffle said. "Because that was quite an accomplishment to win six races and finish second in points. Obviously my goal is not to finish second in points. My goal is to win the title."
Biffle's first steps are taking place this week at Daytona International Speedway. His is one of 33 teams participating in NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona, the annual preseason test sessions. This week's teams are those that finished in even-numbered positions in the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car owner point standings as of July 13, 2005, and Biffle's observations came during a lunch-break visit with media.
Brisk winds were one of the day's variables, and, as Biffle addressed the weather, he also cited Stewart and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) -- the defending and three-time Daytona 500 champion -- as early favorites. "Those are kind of the two guys on top and we're all trying to catch them right now," said Biffle, who was 13th-fastest in Tuesday's morning session at 184.494 mph (48.782 seconds). "Our National Guard car is running decent. We're about seventh or so. The wind is kind of playing havoc now, so it's really hard to see any changes on the race car."
He has seen no change in his team; crew chief Doug Richert and crew are proceeding as if the 2005 season hadn't ended, Biffle says, and he's heartened by the can-do attitude and energy in his garage bay. "Our guys are working like they're behind competition right now," he said. "That's how hard they're working."
Given a choice, Biffle admits he would fast-forward to this season's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the final 10 races of the season. Following race No. 26 at Richmond International Raceway, the NASCAR Top 10 and any driver within 400 points of the leader participate in the Chase during the season's final races, and Biffle aims to rejoin that group for a second straight season.
"Obviously the first thing is to make the Chase," he said of his title quest. "We've got to get in the Chase. That's going to be our main focus and then from there it's going to be, 'Get to the last 10.' Lock ourselves in and then worry about the last 10. I prefer to start the last 10 right now. Right now I don't want to run the first 26 races. I want to do the last 10."
Dale Jarrett seeking fourth Daytona 500 victory ... Three-time Daytona 500 champion and 1999 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is back at one of his favorite race tracks with a familiar quest -- looking for win No. 4.
This year's 48th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 represents both a personal and team grail. With a new car -- the Ford Fusion -- and a new crew chief in Richard "Slugger" Labbe, Jarrett sees no reason his crew can't make that happen.
"You'd like to think every time you come here you have that opportunity, at least," Jarrett said, "but you look at it and we've had kind of a dry spell as far as running well here. We've won some poles and things, but that's not really what we're after here. We're after trophies, but that's the wrong trophy."
Jarrett's Daytona 500 victories came in 1993, 1996 and 2000. His last pole came in 2005 and his last visit to Daytona's Victory Lane came in the non-points Budweiser Shootout in 2004.
"I believe with the change to the Fusion, that's going to allow the Fords to get themselves in position to be more of a factor in the Daytona 500 this year," Jarrett said.
Both he and Robert Yates Racing teammate Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) have new crew chiefs. Tommy Baldwin is Sadler's crew chief, and the changes were made to better Jarrett's 15th-place and Sadler's 13th-place finishes in 2005.
"I'm excited by it," Jarrett said. "So far, the day and a half we've had, we've kind of changed our thinking as to what we wanted to do here. We made some chassis changes with one of our cars to hopefully get a piece that would really drive much better than what we've had here in the last three or four times."
In fact, Jarrett said he told his team over the winter he would be willing to give up a little speed if they could produce a better-handling car at Daytona. He was 17th fastest in Tuesday's morning session -- 184.260 mph (48.844 seconds) -- but says that's not cause for alarm.
"We've worked extremely hard and so far that's what we've seen," Jarrett said. "We're giving up a little bit on the clock -- not much, because everything's so close. But hopefully that will pay off and we'll be able to see some of that tomorrow in drafting practice."
Six NASCAR drivers to compete for 30th IROC title ... Crown Royal International Race of Champions announced its event schedule and driver lineup Tuesday at Daytona. Six NASCAR drivers are among the field of 12 drivers who will compete Feb. 17 at Daytona, April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway, June 29 at Daytona and Oct. 28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford), the defending IROC champion, leads the NASCAR contingent, which includes NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), the current NASCAR Busch Series champion; NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart; NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ted Musgrave; Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup session has full roster ... A total of 33 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams made the trip to Daytona International Speedway to test for the 2006 Daytona 500.
Four participants in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup are in attendance. Joining Mark Martin and Carl Edwards are Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).
Three former Daytona 500 champions -- three-time champion Dale Jarrett, two-time champion Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet) and two-time champion Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Dodge) -- are on hand. Several veterans taking part in the session include Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam/Harrah's/Menards Chevrolet), Kyle Petty (No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge), Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench) and 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) who return with the same team as last season. Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge), Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge), Terry Labonte (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), Jeff Green (No. 66 Best Buy Chevrolet), Jamie McMurray (No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools/Sharpie Ford), and Travis Kvapil (No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet) all are testing with their new teams. Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award candidates Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Fed Ex Chevrolet), J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) and Brent Sherman (No. 49 Schwan's Dodge) are also present, preparing for their first Daytona 500 starts.
Fan Fest offers fans Q&As with drivers, entertainment ... Select days during NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona, fans have the opportunity for an afternoon and evening of fun at Daytona International Speedway's NEXTEL FANZONE. Fan Fest will feature driver question and answer sessions, bands, show cars, pit-stop demonstrations, a silent auction and displays. The cost is $15 for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Fan Fest and $10 for the NASCAR Busch Series Fan Fest. Fans also can watch each day's test session for free, beginning at 9 a.m.
Jan. 17: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Fan Fest
Jan. 21: NASCAR Busch Series Fan Fest
Scott Riggs leads Tuesday morning session ... Embarking on his first season with Evernham Motorsports, Scott Riggs, posted the fastest time in Tuesday's morning session, 185.345 mph (48.554 seconds). Joe Nemechek posted the second fastest time of 185.288 mph (48.573 seconds).
Session I: All NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in even positions in car owner point standings as of July 13, 2005.
What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2006 Daytona 500.
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.
When: Monday, Jan. 16 through Wednesday, Jan. 18.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Includes one-hour lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.
Who: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney, Kyle Petty, Jeff Green, Sterling Marlin, Travis Kvapil, Scott Riggs, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, Clint Bowyer, Brent Sherman.