As the NASCAR/Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour began to wind down on Wednesday with stops to three Cup team's shops. First on the agenda was a visit to Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing. Ganassi got quite a makeover in the off season.
As the NASCAR/Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour began to wind down on Wednesday with stops to three Cup team's shops. First on the agenda was a visit to Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing.
Ganassi got quite a makeover in the off season. Sterling Marlin departed the No. 40 Dodge handing the reigns over to rookie David Stremme. Casey Mears moved over to fill the seat of the No. 42 Dodge formerly occupied by Jamie McMurray. Rookie Reed Sorenson took over Mears post at the No. 41 Dodge.
"I think you are going to have to make the Chase in order to win rookie of the year," commented Stremme.
In addition to their Cup obligations, Mears will run 10 Busch events and Sorenson will run the entire Cup and Busch schedule concurrently.
"The challenge is going to be running 800 miles every weekend," commented Sorenson.
Team owner Chip Ganassi was not able to attend. He was in Phoenix testing with his IRL team.
Next up was a trip to Woods Brothers/JTG Racing's new shop in downtown Harrisburg, NC. The new space has plenty of room to house their two new Busch and Truck teams as well as a second Cup team to run in companion to the No. 21 Ford.
Woods/JTG plans on having the No. 47 Ford run seven Cup races this season with Fatback McSwain as crew chief and Jon Wood as driver.
Ken Schrader grabs the seat vacated by Ricky Rudd in the No. 21 Ford, "I'm very excited. It's not like six Cup teams over here, its two Busch, two Truck and two Cup. The platform is there to move up. There are so many vehicles at so many different tracks; I think there is going to be a lot of information there that will help."
After lunch at the Woods/JTG shop it was off to Hendrick Motorsports.
Rookie of the Year Kyle Busch is hoping that he can build off the momentum of 2005 to make the Chase this season. He and crew chief Alan Gustafson both want the No. 5 Chevy team to build on and exceed the goals they have set for this year.
Last year. Kyle was the youngest pole sitter and race winner in history.
Jeff Gordon also wants to keep moving forward with the No. 24 Chevy team which had a wishy-washy 2005. "We're going to get a good opportunity to see how much we've improved," said Gordon. "Our first downforce race is early in the season at Fontana and we're going to test at Vegas. Once we didn't make the Chase it was a great opportunity to get our 2006 program together.
Teammate Jimmie Johnson has never finished worst than fifth in points in his Cup career but a first championship still eludes the No. 48 team.
"We feel like we have some unfinished business," Johnson said. "We feel like we are a championship team."
Veteran Terry Labonte will run a limited schedule of 10 races with his final career event coming at the fall Texas race.
"I am not going to change my mind like Mark Martin," Labonte said. "This is my final year."
Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 25 Chevy, continues to recover from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The ailment prevented Vickers from testing his car at Daytona. He has been cleared to test at Vegas, but driver David Green will be on standby in case Vickers has to vacate the car during the test.
"I am back on my feet," assured Vickers. "I am looking forward to going to Daytona, I hated to miss the test there."
To round out Wednesday's activities will be a visit to Penske Racing South this evening where the Miller Journalism Awards dinner will also be held.