BUSCH: Daytona Preseason Thunder, day 11 report

NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY 11 * For Johnny Sauter, consistency is the key to success in 2006 * Young drivers Wood and Edwards serve as mentors * Preseason Thunder concludes at Daytona on Sunday; resumes...

NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY 11

* For Johnny Sauter, consistency is the key to success in 2006

* Young drivers Wood and Edwards serve as mentors

* Preseason Thunder concludes at Daytona on Sunday; resumes next week at Las Vegas

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2006) -- His career in the NASCAR Busch Series has been a self-described roller coaster ride, but Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) sees the 2006 season as an opportunity to finally be on solid footing.

The 27-year-old native of Necedah, Wis., is with Haas CNC Racing, his fourth team in the last three years. And although he has won at least one race or Busch Pole for each of the previous four teams for which he has driven, Sauter believes he has been presented with his best chance to succeed in the NASCAR Busch Series.

"Everything's coming to fruition so far," said Sauter during the second day of NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona for the NASCAR Busch Series where he topped both speed charts following Saturday's single-car runs with a fast lap of 49.049 seconds (183.490 mph) in the afternoon session. "It's a pleasure to work with [crew chief] Harold Holly and all the people at Haas. It makes my life a lot easier. I think it's a sign of things to come this year the way we've been running here.

"This is probably the biggest opportunity of my career," he said. "I look for us to be in the hunt to win somewhere in the ballpark of five races and definitely contend for the championship. That's definitely our goal."

"I've won races for three different teams over the last couple of seasons, been in three different kinds of atmospheres I guess and this just seems right for me. This is the ticket."

Sauter comes from a racing family and is the youngest of three brothers who will race in the NASCAR Busch Series this season -- Tim will drive the No. 36 Lester Buildings Chevrolet while Jay is scheduled to drive the No. 01 Western Union Speed Team Chevrolet. He won from the pole at his hometown track at Milwaukee last year and rallied toward the end of the season to finish 12th in the point standings. His talent is abundant, but it's consistency that's eluded him. He hopes to connect the two this season.

"My biggest problem over the last couple of seasons has been consistency week in and week out," he said. "I got lapped three times last year at Chicago. I won that race before, but I got lapped three times there and was at the lowest of lows. Then seven days later, we're in Victory Lane at Milwaukee.

"My seasons have always had that roller coaster feeling. I need to be consistent. Being able to do that for 35 races is tougher than people think. That's the biggest thing that I have to work on myself. I have everything around me now that I need to be consistent.¨

Wood serves as mentor to teammates ... Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox Ford), at the ripe age of 24, is being considered as a mentor by other drivers in the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing program, specifically developmental drivers Marcos Ambrose and Bobby East. "All of the questions they ask, I was asking those same questions just a few years ago, Wood said during Saturday's lunch break during NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona. "When you come into [one of the] top three NASCAR series, there is a lot that people don't know about them and there are a lot of hardships that you can really underestimate. Those guys have asked some great questions and they've really done well so far."

Edwards giving "sage" advice, too ... Add Carl Edwards (No. 60 Ameriquest/Henkel Ford) to the list of younger drivers doling out advice. "It's a little strange," he said during a break in testing Saturday. [Teammate] Danny O'Quinn (No. 50 World Financial Group Ford) asked me for advice the other day. I was like 'That's crazy.' I never thought I'd be standing in the NASCAR Busch Series garage after one year giving advice." Edwards is one of up to eight drivers who will attempt to run a full season in both the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2006. "I love running in the NASCAR Busch Series fulltime," said Edwards, who captured the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award in the series last year. "I think it's a huge opportunity. My whole mission right now in this portion of my life is to be the best race car driver I can be. I don't see any down side to running as many races as I can."

Rookie McFarland a fast learner ... Mark McFarland (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) has made his first laps around Daytona International Speedway, a track that his JR Motorsports team owner, two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Kraft Chevrolet) has dominated during his own series career. But McFarland, hand-picked by Earnhardt Jr. to drive for the program, isn't fazed by his boss's success. "There's a good bit of pressure, but it comes with the job," McFarland said during a break in testing Saturday. "We're here to go fast. The people Junior has surrounded me with make my job easier and take some of the pressure off. All the people that surround me do their part." McFarland's fellow NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookies, Burney Lamar (No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet) and Roush Racing teammates Danny O'Quinn and Todd Kluever (No. 06 3M Ford) are scheduled to appear in the infield media center Sunday to close out interviews for NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona.

Sauter, Busch lead Saturday's morning sessions ... As previously noted, Johnny Sauter on Saturday led both single-car sessions (Sauter's morning session fast lap was 49.228 seconds, 182.823 mph) while Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) was the fastest in the draft on Saturday morning at 48.153 seconds (186.904 mph). Complete lap times from each test session can be accessed by media members at www.nascarmedia.com.

Final testing session scheduled for Sunday ... The NASCAR Busch Series will close out the 2006 edition of NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona on Sunday. The morning session is scheduled to consist of single-car runs beginning at 9 a.m., followed by drafting. Following a lunch break, more single-car runs are scheduled starting at 1:00 p.m., with drafting to follow. Drafting runs may begin early during both the morning and afternoon sessions. The track closes at 5:00 p.m.

Fast Facts

Who: NASCAR Busch Series.

What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2006 Hershey's Kissables 300 on February 18.

Where: Daytona International Speedway.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Fri., Jan. 20 -- Sun., Jan. 22 (rain date Mon., Jan 23).

Times: 9 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; one-hour lunch break from Noon -- 1 p.m. Fans can view testing for free beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Etc.: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing continues at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is on track from Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. The NASCAR Busch Series tests Feb. 6 – 8 at Las Vegas.

-nascar-

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