Ford Daytona test, day one

Rain kept Ford teams off the track until 1 p.m. today as testing for next month's Daytona 500 began at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Kenseth proved to be the fastest on the day as both of his cars finished one-two on the speed...

Rain kept Ford teams off the track until 1 p.m. today as testing for next month's Daytona 500 began at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Kenseth proved to be the fastest on the day as both of his cars finished one-two on the speed chart. Robert Pressley posted the third-fastest speed while Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top five.

MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Taurus
Kenseth posted the two fastest speeds on the day with two different cars. His primary car went 49.377 seconds (182.271 mph) while his backup posted a lap of 49.680 seconds (181.159 mph).
"That's pretty good. Our second car probably isn't as fast as it looks because there were some other cars on the track at the same time, but it's nice to be the fastest today. I think a lot of people probably weren't showing how fast they can run, so we'll probably have a little bit better idea tomorrow, and we probably won't know the whole truth until we all qualify for the 500."

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF OPTIMISM?
"I wasn't overly optimistic. The two Talladega races last year we took a provisional in one and we were 36th in another and we didn't qualify spectacularly here either. We struggled a little bit with our speedway stuff, but we've had some time. We're caught up on cars so we've been able to concentrate on our speedway cars and kind of fine-tune and massage them and pay a lot of attention to details. I think that has helped."

HOW BIG OF A DIFFERENCE WILL WE SEE HERE FROM TALLADEGA?
"I don't think you'll see, hopefully, quite the craziness in the last few laps. It seems at Daytona when the tires get worn out the car quits handling and start pushing and doing different things. Now we're going slower by ourselves, but when you're in a pack I feel like you're gonna have less air on the nose because the cars are making such a bigger hole in the air with that wicker and the big spoiler, so the car is probably gonna push worse than they ever have behind and plus they're gonna be going faster because there's a big hole in the air. So I think even for the 500 you're gonna have to let off the gas a lot, probably almost every lap, and handling is gonna come into play quite a bit."


WILL YOU BE ABLE TO PASS?
"I still think you'll be able to pass at will. I mean, you can still pass on the straightaway. You can suck up on somebody so fast that you can pull out and, if you can't finish the pass you can at least run side-by-side."


DO YOU VIEW THIS AS A GOOD SIGN FOR ROUSH BECAUSE MOST OF THE TEAMS WERE FAST TODAY?
"I think it's a really good sign. With restrictor plate races little things make a real big difference, so we're all swapping motors around to make sure there's nothing there. All of the Roush cars seem to be right up there today, except for the 99, so that would be a great sign. Jeff won here in July and Mark and Jeff ran good at both races here, so we're hoping that we can get our program up to where we can run up front too."

ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus
Pressley finished third on the speed chart with a fast lap of 49.960 seconds (180.144 mph).
"We qualified 10th or 11th here last year, but it's just the first day and who knows what everybody has got. This is a new package for everybody. Ryan (Pemberton) and all the guys have been in the wind tunnel a lot this winter and have been doing a lot of chassis dyno stuff and we're competitive. That's the one good thing. I'm glad we are where we are instead of being 15th or 16th and trying to find out how we're gonna get there. We don't know how we're gonna get any faster, but I'd hate to know we were slow and didn't know how we were gonna get better."

HOW DID THE CAR FEEL?
"It's real good. I tell you what, Talladega was a halfway race for me. I mean, we ended up 20th there, but I knew when we left there that this Daytona race was gonna be good because this package gives us enough horsepower that handling is gonna come back into play again and that's something we haven't had at Daytona and Talladega in a long time."


DO YOU SEE A RACE WHERE THERE IS A LOT OF PASSING LIKE THE GOOD OLD DAYS?
"I think it's gonna be like at Talladega where a car can fall back and then come back through the draft. A year ago Earnhardt wouldn't have been able to come from where he did and win a race like he did at Talladega, but I think that's what we're gonna see here. The only difference is you probably won't have 40 cars in one bunch here, but you're gonna have five or six race cars lined up. If they're handling good, then they can pull away. But what you're gonna see is on that last lap anyone can win this thing."

IS IT GOOD TO SEE YOU UP FRONT NOW?
"Yeah. We've had a month off here and we are pretty decent. The thing is, though, you've got to come down here and compare yourself to Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett -- the Yates cars -- and the Penske cars. You want to be right there in the ball game. We know they're holding back a little bit and they haven't shown everything because we only tested a half-day, but we know we're in there and pretty competitive right where we're at."

ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus --
Sadler posted the fifth-fastest lap of 50.022 seconds (179.921 mph).
"It was a pretty successful day, the team is working together well. I feel like we've got a lot of momentum. We learned a lot about each other at Kentucky. I think that's the best test I've ever had as a driver. Pat (Tryson) and I really relate to each other well and they've prepared these cars pretty well. We want to come in here and make a statement, not only for ourselves but the whole Motorcraft program and show those guys that they have a reason to have confidence in us. Things are going pretty good. We've got both cars running pretty and we feel like we've still got a lot left in them."

THESE CARS ARE PART OF YOUR ROUSH ALLIANCE. THAT'S MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE, RIGHT?
"It's paying big dividends. We qualified 10th here for the July race last year and had a shot a top-five finish at Talladega the last restrictor-plate race we had with all these new rules. We knew we had a good baseline when we came down here. The guys built a brand new car and that one is running very well, so they're both pretty competitive. They're both pretty competitive and driving good, and we're learning a lot, so we're definitely on a high note. I haven't seen this Wood Brothers team in this shape in a long time with the attitudes and smiling faces everywhere. Everybody at Motorcraft kind of jump-started us and got us going in the right direction, so we're happy about it." HOW IS IT WITH PAT SO FAR? "It's pretty good so far. We relate very well to each other as far as the information we need. He knows how to take what I'm saying and turn it into progress, and we also joke around pretty good together. He reminds me a lot of Sandy Jones that I had in the Busch Series and that's a good thing. I can relate to him really well and I'm a pretty optimistic person right now. I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people. I feel like we've got the resources now and the money and background to do the right things we need to do each and every week to have top-notch equipment every week. We haven't done that in the last two years, so I think you're gonna see big changes at the Wood Brothers team this year."

WELL YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY WORSE LUCK THAN LAST YEAR.
"I hope the bad luck went out with the colors or something. I hope the new color will bring us some new luck."

Ford teams began preparations for the Daytona 500 with a slightly different roof spoiler than the one used in the last restrictor-plate race at Talladega in October. The original strip for all makes was set at 1-3/8" across the full width of the roof by NASCAR, but the curved shape of the Taurus roof created more square inches of spoiler area compared to the flatter Monte Carlo. Ford officials feel this change makes Taurus equal to the Monte Carlo in terms of surface area and reduces the amount of drag.

JAY NOVAK, Ford NASCAR Winston Cup Program Manager
WHAT DOES THE ADJUSTMENT WITH THE ROOF SPOILER MEAN FOR FORD TEAMS?
"It reduces the square inches of total area of the roof spoiler so that we're now equal with the Monte Carlo. That is going to allow us to be more competitive because it takes about 8-10 horsepower of drag off of the car. We were at least 15-plus horsepower behind the Monte Carlo after the Talladega race, so, realistically, this is a good step towards where we need to be. Is it enough? I can't answer that question right now. We have to see how things go, but we will be more competitive. I'm not sure how competitive we will be for the pole position, but we'll certainly be more competitive."

SO THIS IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?
"Definitely -- no question about it. The Monte Carlo rear spoiler is still two inches narrower than the Taurus, which means Chevrolet has 13 square inches less rear spoiler than we do. The probably ends up being about seven or eight horsepower, so there's no question they've got that advantage on us there, but we'll just have to play it out and see what happens."

OTHER NOTES:

* Jack Roush was walking around the garage area with his left arm in a sling after undergoing surgery in December to repair a damaged tendon in his shoulder. Roush originally suffered the injury while celebrating the Citgo SUPERGARD team's victory in the Union 76-Rockingham World Pit Crew Championship last October. * In addition to the 18 full-time Ford teams in attendance, Carl Long and Jeff Purvis were also present. Long qualified for three races last year with Mansion Motorsports, including the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Purvis was on hand representing Phoenix Racing.

* Due to fact Ford teams didn't get on the track until 1 p.m. due to rain, Ford teams lost about four hours worth of practice time. As a result, NASCAR has agreed to let that time be made up on Wednesday.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Robert Pressley , Jeff Purvis , Carl Long , Jack Roush , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin
Teams Phoenix Racing