Daytona Preseason Thunder - Toyota notes 2008-01-16

TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test Session 2, Day 3 Daytona International Speedway January 16, 2008 LEE WHITE, Senior Vice President and General Manager TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development) What are your overall feelings about the ...

TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test
Session 2, Day 3
Daytona International Speedway
January 16, 2008 LEE

WHITE, Senior Vice President and General Manager TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)

What are your overall feelings about the test sessions and the progress of the Toyota teams here at Daytona? "I think it's safe to say we're pleased with what we've seen in both test sessions here at Daytona. There's been a lot of hard work by all of our teams and everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), and I think the dividends of all that work has paid off during these tests. Our engineers, along with our race teams , have learned a tremendous amount about how these cars will react in the draft at Daytona versus what happened at Talladega in the fall -- I'm sure they'll all take that information back with them and find more things to improve upon when we get back in a few weeks. Many of our teams will be focused on qualifying since they are still positioned outside the top-35 in owner points -- so for them both the single car runs and the drafting runs are equally important. There have been big changes from what we saw at this test a year ago to what we've seen this time, and those changes are a credit to a lot of months of hard work. Overall we've learned a lot at both sessions and we're looking forward to returning for the 50th running of the Daytona 500."

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MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

Do you think you'll derive any benefit from Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) joining Toyota? "We've already derived benefit from the addition of JGR to Toyota and that benefit is that they know how much power they had here last year when they raced Chevrolets, which was the dominant car. They know what kind of aero they had and they expect to have the same type of package with Toyota. They're not going to settle for any less -- they're not going to give up any power or aero to race a Toyota. They want them to be the same or better. If you look really closely over there, you'll see that Ronnie Crooks (from JGR) is bouncing back and forth between our cars and their cars. He's been an asset that has added to our engineering group that's really already shown dividends. Just having Tony (Stewart) and Denny (Hamlin) and now Kyle (Busch) -- you know they're going to be on it. Not to mention that JGR has been doing this for twenty-some years and we're going to be two years old now. They're going to be in better shape to win races than us right off the bat, but we think we can learn so much from them that it just accelerated the opportunity for us to be successful by 100 percent. And, I've felt that way since the first day that I heard it -- a lot of people were saying that the Gibbs team was going to come over and take over Toyota. I think there's strength in numbers. We've got three really strong cars that we add to the line-up and I think you'll see with the support of Toyota being refined and with Gibbs being here -- we'll be up to speed quicker than what you might think."

What has changed with the draft at Daytona with the new car? "I made one drafting run of 20 laps and I was at all ends of the draft -- I loved it, my car felt great. You could pull up and you could goof around and make a lot of moves. I've never seen a boring race yet -- they are all fun for me to watch no matter what, but this is going to be the craziest, greatest Daytona 500 ever. The cars are unpredictable and no one really knows what to expect, but it's the Daytona 500 and it's the 50th Daytona 500, so people will find out where the edge is and it will be so cool to watch. Last season, it was a great finish and a great race -- don't expect anything different this year. Even with just two or three cars you can already feel yourself being able to pull up and fall back -- you don't just get in line and ride. I can't wait."

What did you observe with the drafting being done by the open wheel drivers? "When you come to Daytona to draft, it's very meticulous and you have to really be smooth -- you have to really understand what you're doing. I could give you a car and teach you in a few days how to go out there and hang on, but it ain't going to be pretty. Whether its Dario (Franchitti) or Patrick (Carpentier) or whoever it is, there's just a lot to learn. I'm sure after practicing with some of the guys today that they got some pointers and tips. But, nobody really impressed me -- I get scared by the ones that do it every week so I'm a little tentative when I see somebody do it that I know has never done it before. It's easy to mess up here at Daytona without ever really knowing it was coming. I'm glad that we can do these test sessions and draft because it's asking a whole lot of Patrick, Dario and Sam (Hornish, Jr.) to come out and do this. It used to be that we would come out here and do this without being able to draft, and at least now they can get a little head start. They can come down here and do this and then go home and think about it. Then when they come back in a few weeks -- they will be more prepared and more ready to get out there."

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DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

Have you seen any benefits from the addition of Joe Gibbs Racing using Toyotas? "I don't think there's any doubt with what I've seen so far, and what I know about talks and discussions that have taken place that everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing has been very helpful, as much as they can be at this point in time. I don't think anyone had the idea that they would just come in and tell you whatever you wanted to know, but they have been very helpful in a number of areas to help get our teams better. Right now, things are working very well and there's no doubt that they're part of the reason that the Toyotas here are running well. Hopefully, that's just the type of things that will be part of the benefit of bringing them on as another team with the Toyota program."

How has the handling changed here at Daytona with the new car? "As crazy as it sounds, we used to run a ten-degree spoiler -- so you basically didn't have any down force on the back of the car. And, they moved around a lot, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to drive it if I would have seen how much it was moving around. But, that's what we do -- we learn to deal with that and work with that. That's not saying that it's going to be bad because I think what you're going to see will be a great race, but what you'll see will be a different race. I think you're not going to see just double file racing and then making it three-wide all the time. I don't think you'll see that -- not here -- it's too much of a handling race track and there are too many bumps out there. We have to figure out how to deal with that car over all of these bumps and not run into the guy right beside us or right in front of us. I think what you're going to see is more of just setting someone up and passing them -- getting them a little loose in the corner, getting them up the race track, and then you and your buddy behind you will be able to fall in line. Or, if they try to protect that bottom line, then you'll have to go around on the outside of them. I think you'll see a different race, but that's not to say that it won't be exciting. I think you're going to see an extremely exciting race, but it is a totally different car and a totally different feel -- you have to have an open mind because if you come here thinking that you can just do what you've done in the past then you're going to be in trouble."

-credit: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Toyota Racing