Daytona Preseason Thunder, day 6 report

Together Again: Martin, Pemberton Combining Efforts In '07 * Veteran Driver, Crew Chief Reunited At Ginn Racing * Competitors Fondly Recall Former Series/Daytona 500 Champion Parsons * Allmendinger Preparing For Crossover Move DAYTONA...

Together Again: Martin, Pemberton Combining Efforts In '07

* Veteran Driver, Crew Chief Reunited At Ginn Racing

* Competitors Fondly Recall Former Series/Daytona 500 Champion Parsons

* Allmendinger Preparing For Crossover Move

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2007) -- Past, present and future all collide this season for Ginn Racing's No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, which will be piloted by veteran Mark Martin for 22 races and newcomer Regan Smith for the remainder.

Orchestrating the time warp will be crew chief Ryan Pemberton, who must blend Martin's vast experience with Smith's lack of it.

"Your game plans will change as you go and your expectations and what's going to happen," Pemberton said. "How you address going to the race track will be slightly different with Mark than it will be with Regan."

His first juggling act is happening this week at Daytona International Speedway, where Martin and Smith are participating in the second of two annual NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series preseason tests. But there's a twist: Martin's move to Ginn after 19 years at Roush Racing reunites him with Pemberton, whose first NASCAR job came on Martin's first Roush team.

The year was 1988, the crew chief Robin Pemberton, Ryan's older brother and now NASCAR Vice President of Competition.

A fresh high-school graduate, Ryan Pemberton remembers his first tasks amounted to, "just helping them push stuff around."

Pemberton joined the crew chief ranks in 1997 with Ginn Racing. But he always remembered lessons learned.

"My learning curve was really steep at a very young age, but those years are priceless," Pemberton said of working with Martin. "I probably wouldn't be here without that opportunity, however it came about back then. It's kind of come full circle."

To the point where, when news of Martin's signing circulated last fall, it took a telephone call to convince Pemberton the improbable would become reality.

"You know when you hear something like that it's kind of like saying, 'Nah, this isn't really going to happen.' " Pemberton said. "You want to say 'That's a nice effort by everybody.' Then he calls and you go 'Wow man, this is really going to happen.' "

"I've actually had my eye on him from time to time," Martin said of the younger Pemberton. "This is just the first scenario where it worked out that I was able to work with him again. Having a guy like Ryan is one of the reasons that I'm so excited about this opportunity with the U.S. Army and Ginn Racing and I am looking forward to working with him over the course of the season."

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NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Garage Remembers 'BP' ... Former champion Benny Parsons, who died Tuesday following a lengthy battle with cancer, was on the minds of many attending preseason test sessions at Daytona. The 1973 series champion -- who also won the Daytona 500 in 1975 -- became a popular and respected television announcer in later years. He is remembered for his love of the sport and his upbeat, approachable personality. Below are some reactions:

Robert Yates, owner, Robert Yates Racing -- "He was a big encourager. I always felt better after he left than when he came up to me. So I always looked forward to Benny coming up and he did a lot of this last year for me, and the last few years, and the down years especially. He'd come pat you on the back when you're running good, too."

Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) -- "If you talked to people in the garage area, he was one of the good guys. And he made a good transition to doing the TV broadcasting. He's just going to be missed."

Ricky Rudd (No. 88 Snickers Toyota) -- "I don't know of anybody that didn't like Benny Parsons. He was a great guy, a great competitor. Benny always had the knack of looking like things didn't really get to him too much. I think things bothered him like everyone else, but he always had a cool way of not showing it."

Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota), who called Parsons, "a guy that looked at the human side of things," cited his team's efforts to boost the family's spirit. On Monday, a slogan painted on the gray body of one of Waltrip's cars sent Parsons a personal get-well message during each testing run.

"We want to get everyone in the whole garage area to sign it -- crew guys, media, everyone to sign it," Waltrip said Tuesday afternoon. "Take a nice picture of it, and give it to (Parson's wife) Terri to show her one little part of the racing world down in Daytona for a testing session loved Benny and appreciated what he stood for."

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Pit Stops: Around The Daytona Garage

Packer Pride: Matt Kenseth A Green Bay Loyalist ... As the NFL season winds down and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series prepares for its green flag, former series champion and 2006 runner-up Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) will be keeping tabs on a fellow Wisconsin Cheesehead -- Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

Kenseth, a lifelong Packers fan, hopes the veteran All-Pro won't opt for retirement.

"I really think it is 50-50," he said of Favre. "He's playing so good; physically he's playing as good as he ever has. I think as long as you are physically able and you know you can perform with the best of them it's going to be tough to walk away."

With the Packers out of the playoffs, Kenseth admits he's had to pick a new rooting interest. That was the Seattle Seahawks until their loss in last weekend's divisional game against the Chicago Bears.

"I'm still a big Mike Holmgren fan," Kenseth said of the Seattle head coach. "He came to Green Bay and turned the whole thing around and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay. I'll always be a fan of his no matter where he's coaching, so I still kind of cheer for the Seahawks."

***

Making Laps: AJ Allmendinger Ready For Stock Cars ... Former open-wheel driver AJ Allmendinger is taking stock-car baby steps this week at Daytona, participating in his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup preseason test. Scheduled to drive a fulltime schedule in the No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota, in 2007 he'll also run 12 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events for Michael Waltrip Racing.

"It's been fun and it's been interesting," Allmendinger said. "There are a lot of little things that I have to learn that the veterans aren't even thinking about right now. I'm trying to get comfortable running up against the wall by myself and running with a pack of cars -- for them, that's old news.

"It's tough for a new team and a new driver to come out here and try to get up to speed with teams that have been doing this for years, but slowly making gains and that's what's important to us."

Allmendinger's time in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car will be short. He'll test with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Wednesday and Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Teammate Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota), who participated in last week's Daytona series test, sits in for Allmendinger on Wednesday.

"There are so many little nuances that can make the car fast," Allmendinger said, "and I'm still trying to find a balance of what makes the car comfortable to drive, but also fast. You have other people try to help you and give you pointers, but you really just have to go out there and experience it for yourself."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader , Brian Vickers , Benny Parsons , Regan Smith , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing , Yates Racing