TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test 2 - Day 1 AM Daytona International Speedway January 14, 2008 MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing How different is testing this season versus testing a year ago?...
TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test
2 - Day 1 AM
Daytona International Speedway
January 14, 2008
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How different is testing this season versus testing a year ago? "It's a world of difference -- we are very optimistic about getting everything we can out of this car with the success we had at Talladega and the success that I've had at this race track in the past. Last year we just didn't have enough car, but this year it is a really comforting feeling to know that our cars are this fast now. Now it's about our team getting the cars as tuned up as we can and getting as much out of them as possible. Just like at Talladega in October, we should be good enough to contend for the pole and be up front when we come back in less than a month. It's a great chance and it's thanks to a lot of hard work by the guys out at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) out in California and a lot of work by Dr. Warren and all the guys at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). Everyone has been working to get the set up where it needs to be and where it will go fast. I'm real happy with what we're seeing right now."
How much confidence can you take away from testing and bring back for the race? "We can get pretty confident because we just sat on the pole at Talladega with this same car and engine. We felt pretty good about things coming down here and to see that play out as we expected gives me a lot of confidence. In less than a month we will be back here and hopefully not a lot of things will change between now and then." What has it been like to work with your new crew chief in Paul Andrews? "He's very well organized, he understands our sport and he knows what he wants to accomplish. He's a strong leader and that's what the No. 55 team really needed. He, Ryan (Pemberton) and Bill (Pappas) are working well together in addition to Bobby Kennedy, who is helping out a great deal in his role and everything is going really well for us as a team."
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing
How different is testing this season versus testing a year ago? "We've been happy with the car so far here in Daytona and any time that you are close to the front it's a good thing. But right now all the pieces to our program are working well together -- the engine program, the cars and the team. As long as you can be up front, stay in the draft and run around everyone else then you will be in a good place and right now I feel like we are there." What do you attribute to the Toyota teams being closer to the top of the speed charts at this test session versus a year ago? "It's really just the evolution of things -- the engines, the cars and everybody learning. The restrictor plate package that we have here is really good on the Toyota side. But when we go to California and Las Vegas I'm not sure that everyone should expect to see the same thing with all the Toyotas on the top of the board. I think we'll be better as a whole than we were last year and certainly the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) team will be good no matter what, but I think all the Toyota teams are going to be elevated. I think we saw pretty big gains with MWR, the Red Bull team and our team as well. I've got a good veteran team and we've continued to improve too. I think we'll see the whole Toyota group out front a good bit."
Did earning the position within the top-35 in owner points at the end of last season make your off-season a little more relaxing? "It made it much better than it could have been -- to come down here and not be locked into the field would have made for a pretty tough off season. It puts you in the first five races, but if you don't take advantage of that then you'll pay for it later. We didn't take advantage of it last year and we blew it -- that was a hole we had to dig ourselves out of the rest of the season. We plan to be smart this season and take advantage of those first five races."
What kind of racing did you do with your kids over the off-season? "We came down here and raced at New Smyrna Speedway between Christmas and New Years then we just had another race the other day in Columbus, Ohio. It's nice in the winter time because they get the chance to race a lot more and I get more chances to be there with them. For the most part we stayed pretty close to home and just enjoyed some time together."
How much more confidence do you have this season in testing than a year ago? "We came down here completely blind last year and we weren't just struggling to test, we were struggling just to be here. We weren't nearly as prepared as we wanted or needed to be. Now we have a year under our belt and we have some speedway cars in the shop so it's a big difference in coming down here. I think Toyota has a lot more experience, especially with this new engine that Toyota threw on them last year. We as a team have had the time and the people to build the type of quality cars that we need."
What do you expect from drafting in this new car here at Daytona after experiencing that at Talladega last fall? "It's going to be a big difference and I know the guys had a chance to draft with these cars last week, but we'll get out there tomorrow. But I know from what I saw at Talladega that the cars move around a lot more and they bounce around a lot more. There is a lot more turbulence, which is not a big deal at Talladega because it is so smooth and has so much grip. But here it's the old tires loosing grip that causes the big wreck and I'm afraid the chances of that with this car are going to be even more likely. Of course I haven't drafted with these cars here yet and that is just going off of what I know about Daytona and what I experienced at Talladega."
Can you talk about the communication thus far with your new crew chief, Kevin Hamlin? "So far things are going well and our expectations are very high for him this season. I met with him one time for lunch last week before I left to go out of town. This is really like day two for us, which is not always a bad thing. There are really no pre- conceived ideas, but I have a lot of respect for him and I know he's accomplished a lot in his career and has a lot of experience. I keep hearing from everyone in the garage that there is not a better person in the garage to have on top of the pit box calling a race on Sunday. We won't see that for about another month, but that is very promising."
-credit: toyota motorsports