DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2008) -- The weeks and months that followed the 2007 season were filled with a number of changes for several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams. For some, like driver Matt Kenseth (No. 16 DEWALT Ford), the new ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2008) -- The weeks and months that followed the 2007 season were filled with a number of changes for several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams.
For some, like driver Matt Kenseth (No. 16 DEWALT Ford), the new isn't really that new. While the first session of NASCAR Preseason Thunder -- NASCAR's annual January tests -- marks the start of Kenseth's tenure with new crew chief Chip Bolin, it isn't like the two haven't shared the same race shop address.
"It's only been a day and a half -- I hope we're not fighting yet," Kenseth said.
It helps that the two have a familiarity with each other. While Kenseth lost the only crew chief he has known during his nine-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career as part of Roush Fenway Racing's restructuring, he is paired with somebody he has worked with just as long.
In November, Robbie Reiser was named General Manager of Roush Fenway Racing's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operations. Reiser had served as Kenseth's crew chief for his entire career, which included a 2003 championship run. Taking Reiser's place will be Bolin, who has served as the team's original engineer since 1999. Kenseth said it helps greatly to have a familiar face move into that role.
"There can be apprehension sometimes when you bring in somebody from the outside," Kenseth said. "It's really not -- so far anyway -- that much different than what I'm used to."
The Kenseth-Bolin pairing isn't really unique to Daytona either. Bolin was the team's interim crew chief during the 2007 Daytona 500 because Reiser was serving a suspension for violations found during Daytona 500 qualifying. Kenseth started 10th and finished 27th in that race.
"Chip has always kind of been the technical side of the team," Kenseth said. "He's always been kind of the engineer holed up in the back, looking through numbers, testing stuff, and doing all that."
The 2008 season officially begins with the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, but NASCAR Sprint Cup teams began the march toward that milestone on Monday at Daytona International Speedway. Those that were in odd-number positions in the car owner standings as of July 17, 2007, will test through Wednesday, Jan. 9.
For Kenseth, it's back to work after a little offseason relaxation.
"I went skiing for a couple days," Kenseth said, "and then (wife) Katie and I went up to Wisconsin and hung out with our families. We travel so much during the year, it's nice to be able to go up there and visit with family and friends."
With the offseason officially over, Kenseth and the No. 17 team are back at the race track. Which means getting geared up for the very same race he would always look forward to as a kid.
"Growing up in Wisconsin," Kenseth said, "there was always a couple feet of snow on the ground in February. It was always cool because (the Daytona 500) was the first race of the year. It gave you something to get fired up for."
Kenseth and his teammates are trying to help Roush Fenway close the gap on Hendrick Motorsports. Kenseth finished fourth in the Chase in 2007 -- 348 points behind runner-up Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and 425 points back of champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet).
Kenseth was 21st and 22nd in the two practice sessions Monday and 16th Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon's practice session was reserved for drafting.
5th Annual NASCAR Day Set For May 16 ... Tuesday afternoon in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center, NASCAR president Mike Helton introduced country music legend Garth Brooks as the celebrity supporter for the fifth anniversary of NASCAR Day, which will celebrate "Five Years of Caring," Friday, May 16.
Helton said Brooks' work with his own charity, Teammates For Kids, "demonstrates his passion for helping people -- in particular children. It certainly fits right in. Garth will be a great ambassador for NASCAR fans, NASCAR Day, and The NASCAR Foundation."
The NASCAR Foundation was founded in January of 2006 as a liaison between NASCAR and its various charities. In that time, its family of charities has grown from 24 to 33 and raised nearly $5 million. The Foundation's signature event is NASCAR Day.
"I'm very excited to be part of this," Brooks said. "And, very excited for the people that will benefit from this."
Brooks will appear in a print, radio and television advertising campaign that will debut during the 50th running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 17.
Also on hand Tuesday was Kyle Petty (No. 45 Wells Fargo/Marathon Oil Dodge). In 2007, The NASCAR Foundation donated $500,000 to the Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp from funds raised during NASCAR Day.
"The unique thing about our group," Petty said, "is we have so many caring individuals that have their own charities and their own things that they want to do. NASCAR, NASCAR Day, and The NASCAR Foundation have stepped in and gotten that under one umbrella so we can help hundreds of millions of people in different walks of life; in different areas."
NASCAR Day offers fans, corporations, schools and organizations across the country the opportunity to donate $5 to The NASCAR Foundation. To get a 2008 NASCAR Day collectable lapel pin or for more information about NASCAR Day, visit www.nascar.com/nascarday.
Pit Stops ... Tuesday morning's practice session meant more of the same: Johnson atop the speed chart.
Johnson, who topped both of Monday's sessions, posted the best time of 48.711 seconds (184.763 mph). He was followed by former Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota) at 48.792 (184.456) and Travis Kvapil (No. 28 Yates Racing Ford) at 48.875 (184.143). Casey Mears (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) and AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota) rounded out the top five.
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch this week's NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.
What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the 2008 Daytona 500
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Monday, Jan. 7 through Wednesday, Jan. 9.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Who: David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, Robby Gordon, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Gordon, Jacques Villeneuve, Travis Kvapil, Scott Wimmer, Reed Sorenson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Petty, Jimmie Johnson, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, AJ Allmendinger, J.J. Yeley, Jason Keller and Carl Edwards.