Transition Time: Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti Learning One Lap At A Time *Transition Time, Part II: Matt Kenseth, New Crew Chief Chip Bolin Already In Tune *Carl Edwards Fastest In Friday's Morning Session DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb....
Transition Time: Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti Learning One Lap At A Time
*Transition Time, Part II: Matt Kenseth, New Crew Chief Chip Bolin Already In
*Carl Edwards Fastest In Friday's Morning Session
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2008) -- The last time Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge) wheeled around California Speedway, it was from the vantage point of an open-wheel cockpit in 2005.
Having spent the past two days acclimating both to his new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car and a heretofore familiar track, Franchitti was anticipating a quiet Saturday morning.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to lie in bed and do absolutely nothing all day," he said Friday, the final day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder. "Try to make it breakfast in bed, maybe."
It's been a hectic -- but rewarding -- week for Franchitti, who helped his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates win an unprecedented third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway last weekend.
Following that Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series triumph were back-to-back NASCAR Sprint Cup tests at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday's and Friday's sessions at California -- all part of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, the sport's annual preseason tests.
For Franchitti, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion soon to experience his first NASCAR Sprint Cup season, no laps are too many. Among other challenges, he's learning how not to under-drive, over-drive, and to read a stock car's limits.
"And that's before you even go into the race and get used to the new style of racing," Franchitti added. "How physical the races are, as far as people bumping into each other, that kind of stuff."
One of several open-wheel drivers making NASCAR Sprint Cup debuts, Franchitti is following teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), the series' 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Montoya's tutelage, coupled with that of teammate Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), has him feeling not so lost.
"I don't really have any set expectations," Franchitti said during Friday's visit to California's infield media center. "I want to do a good job, do my best job week in, week out. As Juan said to me, 'Some weeks are going to be good, some weeks are going to be terrible.' That's just something I have to prepare myself for."
This week's West Coast tests are the latest step in Franchitti's stock-car apprenticeship -- one that includes NASCAR's new race car that will run fulltime in 2008. A clean slate also works in his favor.
"You need to be able to adapt," he said. "I've been fortunate over the last couple years. I've driven a lot of different cars. I think one of the tough points of changing, though, is I've driven in a Champ Car and Indy Car for 11 years. So to jump into something completely different like a stock car, has been quite a transition."
And when he encounters those bumps in the road, Montoya can tell him how to negotiate them.
"I said to Chip last night, 'Hey, don't tell Juan this, but he's been really helpful,' " Franchitti said with a laugh.
Defending California Winner Kenseth Stops By ... Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), who will attempt to win his second consecutive February event at California later this month, was Friday's other media center visitor.
Kenseth is working with new crew chief Chip Bolin, who succeeds his longtime boss, Robbie Reiser. And Kenseth said the good thing about the leadership transition is that Bolin -- his former team engineer -- has nearly as much tenure with the team as Reiser did.
"It really hasn't been much different," Kenseth said. "It's been really a good week, actually. We've had a little bit of everything. I think the biggest adjustment probably is more for Chip than it is for me. We worked together for nine years. If we can't communicate by now, we've got a major problem."
Reiser moved into a general manager's role for all of Roush Fenway Racing, a move Kenseth applauds. He said Bolin's biggest challenges will be adjusting to personnel and travel details that he might not have handled before.
"He's got some of that stuff to adjust to," Kenseth said. "I think it will be a pretty easy transition as far as switching crew chiefs go. If it was somebody from the outside, somebody I haven't worked with, from a different team or something, I think I'd have a lot more anxiety and it would be a little more maybe hard to adjust. But this hasn't been a big adjustment."
Neither, apparently, has performance. Kenseth pronounced this week's tests at Las Vegas and California an overall success.
"I thought these cars drove really well, probably better than I expected them to," he said. "We had a pretty productive and good week of testing."
Series Director Pleased With West Coast Tests ... As Friday's laps wound down at California, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby professed satisfaction with both NASCAR Preseason Thunder sessions.
"The whole week was excellent," he said. "I'm very pleased."
According to Darby, teams' work at both Las Vegas and California validated the new car's stability, driving comfort and tire performance.
"What we know is the teams have gained a ton of knowledge -- tires, handling, and so on," he said. "What we'll see now is how they'll apply it."
Pit Stops ... Kenseth's teammate, Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), posted the fastest lap in Friday's morning session -- 180.945 mph (39.791 seconds). Second-fastest was Reed Sorenson at 180.764 mph (39.831 seconds). Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) was third at 180.140 mph (39.969 seconds). Clint Bowyer (No. 07Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) was fourth at 179.645 mph (40.079 seconds). Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) was fifth at 179.542 mph (40.102 seconds).