Daytona Test: Day two Tuesday report

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Finds The Right Wheels For Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 8, 2002) * Dale Earnhardt Jr. has found the perfect car for Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt Jr., who won the past two restrictor-plate races ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Finds The Right Wheels For Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 8, 2002) * Dale Earnhardt Jr. has found the perfect car for Daytona International Speedway.

Earnhardt Jr., who won the past two restrictor-plate races including last July's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, posted the second and third fastest speeds during the second day of Winston Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday.

In the Chevrolet that catapulted him to his Pepsi 400 victory and his triumph at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. posted the second fastest speed with a lap of 183.475 mph. In his newly built No. 8A Chevrolet, he turned the third fastest lap with a speed of 182.908.

"Man, we just can't do anything wrong with that car," said Earnhardt Jr., referring to the Pepsi 400 winning machine. "It's a good car. It goes through the corners so much better. I told the guys it would roll up a hill if you give it a shove.

"It just rolls real good. Both cars have identical motors in it. We expected the other car to be better. It's a brand new car and they really had high hopes for it, but I had a hard time believing they were going to build anything better than what we had. I believe we'll be running that car that we ran in the summer again for the 500."

While Earnhardt Jr. will most likely run the faster car in the Daytona 500, he'll use the other car for the Feb. 10 Budweiser Shootout, a 70-lap All-Star race featuring last year's pole winners and previous Budweiser Shootout champions.

"Sometimes you build cars that just roll better than other cars," Earnhardt Jr. said. "When I go out and take both cars on the race track (for a qualifying run), when I shut down at the flag stand, by the time I'm rolling back to the pits I'm going 80 mph in the good car and I'm going 50 mph in the other car."

For the second straight day, Jimmie Johnson remained the fastest of the test session with a lap of 183.816 mph in the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet owned by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.

Kenny Wallace, driving the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc., was fourth fastest with a lap of 182.756 mph and fifth fastest was Ward Burton's No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge with a lap of 182.689 mph.

Johnson is going to be feeling some pressure during Speedweeks 2002 and the 44th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. He wants to kick off his campaign for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors with a solid finish in the Daytona 500, but first he has to qualify for the "Great American Race" and that's not going to be easy.

He won't have a provisional to fall back on in case he runs into any problems during the qualifying procedures for the Daytona 500, which leaves the 26-year-old native of El Cajon, Calif., with only two ways to crack the field for the Daytona 500 * posting a fast lap in Bud Pole Qualifying on Feb. 9 or finishing in the top 15 (not including the pole sitter) in one of the Gatorade 125-mile qualifiers on Feb. 14.

The narrow margin for error in qualifying for the Daytona 500 makes this week's Winston Cup test session at the "World Center of Racing" vital. Johnson has responded with some fast lap times and is delighted with the team's chemistry, particularly with his crew chief Chad Knaus.

"I think right off the bat we were able to relate in a lot of different ways," Johnson said of Knaus. "We've tried as much as we can to be around each other and understand the way each other explains things. One test after another, we're going to try to get as many in early in the season so we can start working together. Chad and I can start working on our communication and I can get some more seat time in a Winston Cup car."

Gordon, who was sixth fastest on Tuesday, was pleased about Johnson's performance during the test.

"I told him that's all great but that means they've got to come back down here in February and do it," Gordon said. "The pressure is on them now. We're real excited about that whole program and being at the top of the list is certainly a whole lot better than being at the back of the list."

Winston Cup testing continues on Wednesday and is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Tickets for Speedweeks 2002 are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

-dis-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Kenny Wallace , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports