Gone Fishing: Ryan Newman, New Crew Chief Roy McCauley Have High 2008 Hopes * NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby Pronounces Daytona Test, 'Very Good' * Kasey Kahne Fastest In Wednesday's Final NASCAR Preseason Thunder Session At ...
Gone Fishing: Ryan Newman, New Crew Chief Roy McCauley Have High 2008 Hopes
* NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby Pronounces Daytona Test,
* Kasey Kahne Fastest In Wednesday's Final NASCAR Preseason Thunder Session At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2008) -- The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' resident fisherman, Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge), couldn't resist a few casts into Daytona International Speedway's Lake Lloyd following Tuesday afternoon's session of NASCAR Preseason Thunder -- NASCAR's annual January tests at Daytona.
And on Wednesday morning, Newman couldn't resist parking his tackle box and fishing rods outside the track's infield media center before heading inside for some "fish tales."
"I just didn't feel like bringing them in cause I thought we would talk about racing a little bit," he said, joking. Indeed, racing and other subjects of import to Newman were covered during the morning media visit, which preceded NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams' final full day of testing for the season-opening Daytona 500.
Threat of afternoon rain amended Wednesday's schedule, as teams worked through the noon lunch break to avoid losing track time. For Newman, who's paired with new crew chief Roy McCauley, the Tuesday afternoon angling mirrors his own fishing expedition back into championship contention. Along with bass and trout, he's targeting Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup participation after a two-year absence -- a mission that begins with the 50th Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.
"The 50th one is pretty big," said Newman, who led Tuesday afternoon's drafting session at 188.013 mph (47.869 seconds). "I was around for NASCAR's 50th (anniversary) and I saw how much emphasis went into that, so I get an idea of how special it is.
"Ten years ago I was sitting in the Seagrave section (of the Speedway) watching the cars go by and sneaking into the garage area. Now to be here for the 50th, it's definitely cool."
Entering his seventh series season, Newman knows he has work to do. The 2002 NASCAR Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year, he finished in the top 10 for four consecutive seasons before falling to 18th in 2006 and 13th in 2007.
The precedent is set: Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) returned to Chase participation in 2007 after a one-year absence and Newman knows McCauley will play a large role in his quest to return to title contention. McCauley, who began 2007 as Busch's crew chief before leaving to attend to family matters, replaces Mike Nelson, who moved into a coveted management role at Penske.
McCauley and Newman already are familiar after combining for several NASCAR Nationwide Series wins for Penske.
"Roy is what we refer to as, 'on the chip,' " Newman said. "He's up there at nine thousand the whole day and all the time. Not to say Mike Nelson or (former crew chief) Matt Borland never were, it's just Roy stays there and he's determined. He gets the job done, and that's why I look forward to a great 2008 season with him. Roy is a great team leader."
Newman and McCauley are unique for another reason; they're both engineers -- McCauley a University of Maryland alumnus and Newman a Purdue University alumnus. When asked about engineering and NASCAR, Newman cited a comfort factor.
"I'm glad that I have my education and I'm glad there are so many engineers in the garage," he said. "For me, having the engineers on the team makes it easier to communicate and do all the things we have always talked about that make us a stronger team. We haven't won a championship, so we have some work to do. I guess that is one of the things on my wish list."
Well below a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title would be the fish Newman has yet to catch. The hobby provides much-needed down time for him, and he didn't hesitate Tuesday afternoon -- towing his father, Greg, team fabricator Dave Munari and Jason Shapiro, the car chief for Tony Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, with him.
"I decided I'd stroll past the 20 car and ask Stewart how his day was going with my fishing rods in my hand," Newman said. "He just looked at me and goes, 'Where you going?' I said, 'Fishing -- we're done for the day.' "
Series Director John Darby Pleased with Test ... NASCAR Sprint Cup teams ended six days of hard work over two separate test sessions Wednesday, and series director John Darby said he couldn't be more pleased.
"Very good," he said Wednesday afternoon. "Very happy with everything."
Especially with competitors' feedback.
"The drivers that I've talked with have been very positive," Darby added. "A lot of good comments on how the car drove."
Teams worked on single-car runs all day Monday and through Tuesday morning before beginning drafting sessions Tuesday afternoon. Darby said a high number of teams participated in drafting, both a good sign and typical for the second week of NASCAR Preseason Thunder.
"The teams are really focusing on their race setups, which is good," he said.
Also notable: Darby said teams worked with the same race package used at Talladega Superspeedway last October. Only the gear ratio was different at NASCAR Preseason Thunder, owing to Daytona's 2.5-mile length compared to Talladega's 2.66-miles.
Darby said officials may "tweak" the gear ratio for the Dayona 500, but that other components -- restrictor-plate size, wickers and rear-wing angles -- appear set.
Pit Stops ....Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) posted a top speed of 189.111 mph (47.591 seconds) to lead Wednesday's chart. Denny Hamlin (No. 18 FedEx Toyota) was second at 188.818 mph (47.665 seconds) and Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Ganassi Dodge) was third at 188.723 mph (47.689 seconds).
Dodges claimed five of Wednesday's top-10 speeds, highlighted by Kahne's lap. Toyota drivers claimed three top-10 spots -- the fastest being Hamlin -- while Chevrolet was fourth thanks to Regan Smith's (No. 01 DEI Chevrolet) fastest Wednesday lap of 188.667 mph (47.703 seconds).
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch the NASCAR Nationwide Series portion of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Saturday, Jan. 19. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.