Daytona Preseason Thunder, day 9 report

NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY NINE * Kurt Busch gets acquainted with new team * NASCAR Foundation to connect NASCAR community in charitable efforts * Daytona testing concludes, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams look...


* Kurt Busch gets acquainted with new team

* NASCAR Foundation to connect NASCAR community in charitable efforts

* Daytona testing concludes, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams look ahead to Las Vegas

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2006) -- The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series concluded its NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona test session Wednesday with a day of high-speed drafting on Daytona International Speedway's high banks.

The preseason visit to Daytona proved to be a productive trip for 2004 series champion Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who took advantage of the three-day opportunity to work with a new team for the first time in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career.

Busch spent this test session, which included the even-ranked teams of the 2005 car owner point standings (as of July 15, 2005), getting to know his new teammates. On Wednesday morning, when drivers began drafting in packs around the speedway, Busch posted the 23rd-fastest lap at 47.931 seconds (187.770 mph). Although he wasn't at the top of the speed charts, Busch says he felt great about his time on the track.

"I am very happy," Busch said. "It's obviously new, and things are so different. It's fun, really, to smile and walk around with a Miller Lite suit on, knowing the guy in charge is Roger Penske."

There is some pressure on Busch as he makes his debut with the legendary Penske Racing South team that experienced decades of success with Rusty Wallace. As he adjusts to Penske's Dodge, Busch has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Daytona International Speedway, the sport's biggest stage, has been a strong point for the 27-year-old Las Vegas native.

In 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts at Daytona, Busch has four top-five finishes -- including runner-up finishes in the 2003 and 2005 Daytona 500.

With his new team, Busch now combines his knack for Daytona success with the experience and resources at Penske Racing South. During the off-season, Busch says he's already been made to feel right at home with his new organization.

One of the key relationships of Busch's inner circle will be crew chief Roy McCauley, who oversaw a nine-race NASCAR Busch Series schedule for Ryan Newman in 2005, resulting in six wins.

"I am always looking forward to challenges to expand my mind for one thing and to obviously get up to the same level as Roy McCauley," said Busch. "I think they've had success on the [NASCAR] Busch Series level, now it's time to see if we can do it at the [NASCAR NEXTEL] Cup level. It'll be a challenge but we'll see what we can do.

Kyle Busch Set for Sophomore Season ... The 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year and the youngest driver to win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race, Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), wrapped up his Preseason Thunder test session as one of the fastest drivers of the week. With the series' next test session at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch expects to be well-prepared for the 2006 season. "Coming out of the end of last year, being able to get into the off season and get a new standard started here, we have a lot of work that we've had to do throughout the wintertime," said Busch. "We've been able to focus on brand new race cars right out of the box. It's all about trying to just get going and there's not much we can do to try to figure out what the sophomore club is, what works, what to fix. We just have to try to prepare ourselves [as best as possible] for the season."

Mental games: Jamie McMurray envisions success with Roush Racing ... Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) is another driver who came to Daytona with a new team for the first time. McMurray said he's nervous about the upcoming season, but fully confident driving for a former championship-winning team. "Racing, regardless of what people say, is a mental sport," said McMurray. "If you believe you can win, if you're in a car that can win, you more than likely will. If you have a negative attitude, typically you don't get very good results. So the fact that all of my teammates won last year and the team I'm with has won, I don't know that I view it as pressure because, for me, everyone in the garage area has that. Whether they're in a car that's capable of winning or not, they all want to and there's pressure to win."

NASCAR season officially opens Jan. 22 ... As the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series gears up for the 2006 season, the first NASCAR-sanctioned races of the New Year will take place this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The 1.0-mile oval hosts its traditional Copper World Classic on Jan, 21-22, featuring the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie/Motorcraft/U.S. Air Force Ford) is scheduled to compete in the 125-lap AutoZone West Series event on Sunday. Schrader is the AutoZone West Series' all-time wins leader at Phoenix, with three victories.

NASCAR Foundation established ... NASCAR announced today the establishment of the NASCAR Foundation, a 501© (3) non-profit organization that will operate as a liaison between the sport and all of the charitable causes supported by its many constituents. Through the NASCAR Foundation, the general public will have opportunities to become involved in the community service projects NASCAR supports, such as the annual NASCAR Day event benefiting the Victory Junction Gang Camp, Speediatrics and Speedway Children's Charities. Jarrett and Bowyer lead Wednesday morning test session ... The all-new Ford Fusion continues to post some impressive numbers at Daytona. Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) turned the fastest lap on Wednesday morning, in the draft, at 47.565 seconds (189.215 mph). Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) was second-fastest by just a fraction of a second on Wednesday morning, at 47.587 seconds (189.127 mph). Complete times and speeds for each day's test sessions are available to media members at

Preseason testing continues, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams headed West ... NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona concludes Jan. 20-22 with the NASCAR Busch Series test session. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers, meanwhile, will continue their preseason preparations with their next test session Jan. 30 -- Feb. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Fast Facts

Session II: All NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in even positions in car owner point standings as of July 13, 2005.

What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2006 Daytona 500.

Where: Daytona International Speedway.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.

When: Monday, Jan. 16 through Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Includes one-hour lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

Who: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney, Kyle Petty, Jeff Green, Sterling Marlin, Travis Kvapil, Scott Riggs, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, Clint Bowyer, Brent Sherman.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Brent Sherman , J.J. Yeley , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Dave Blaney , Roger Penske , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske