Las Vegas Preseason Thunder, day 15 report

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas - Day 15 * Behind the wheel: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Tony Stewart back in action * Carl Edwards fastest in morning session DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2006) -- A sore rib and a busy schedule...

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas - Day 15

* Behind the wheel: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Tony Stewart back in action

* Carl Edwards fastest in morning session

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2006) -- A sore rib and a busy schedule haven't slowed the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, but climbing in a race car always is the best medicine for Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet).

One of many NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers participating in NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas -- the continuation of the annual preseason tests that began several weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway -- Stewart exercised both wit and wisdom during Wednesday's lunch break.

He pronounced a sore right rib bothersome during a visit with media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but something only time would heal. Stewart suffered the injury during a midget event earlier this month, but hasn't allowed it to park him. He participated in last week's Rolex 24 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, and Wednesday marked his second day of Las Vegas testing.

"It's nothing but watching the days go by on the calendar," Stewart said of treatment solutions.

His days, recently, have included some interesting activities. Two weeks ago, Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing team visited the White House as 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions, meeting with President George Bush in the Oval Office and posing for photographs with a show car on the lawn.

"It was cool," Stewart admitted. "It was fun. You know me, I'm always a guy who's off the beaten path, and we walked in there, and I said, 'Hi boss,' and he said, 'What's up, dude?'

"For the president of the United States to say, 'What's up, dude?' that made my trip right there."

Newly-promoted car chief Jason Shapiro claimed the other highlight, according to Stewart, who said Shapiro gave the president a friendly pat on the backside. The Secret Service, it seems, wasn't fazed. Still, Stewart admitted, "I started backing away from the president at that point."

Levity aside, 2006 beckons, and Stewart won't be drawn into preseason predictions. He's also not changing how he views, or begins, a season. A two-time series champion (his first title came in 2002), he knows that comfort and consistency are paramount early, and he prefers the familiar.

"A season's still a season," Stewart said. "Let's not re-invent the wheel. We're starting this year with the same guys and the same attitude we did the year before and the year before that."

No surprise: Kasey Kahne rooting for Seahawks ... Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), was one of four drivers who visited the Las Vegas media center Wednesday. The Enumclaw, Wash., native has been glued to Seattle Seahawks games for much of the NFL season and will be watching Sunday when Seattle meets the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit for Super Bowl XL at Detroit's Ford Field. He'd like to go, he said, but he'll be participating in next week's NASCAR Busch Series test at Las Vegas.

"I think myself and everybody in the state of Washington are rooting for the Seahawks," Kahne said. "And everybody else is going for the Steelers."

Carl Edwards leads Wednesday morning session ... Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), posted the fastest time in Wednesday's morning session -- 170.778 mph (31.620 seconds). He was followed by Kasey Kahne, who posted the second-fasted time of 170.374 mph (31.695).

Preseason testing continues ... Wednesday marked the last day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas. It began Monday, Jan. 30 and ran through Wednesday, Feb. 1. Teams could test on two of the three days. All sessions began at 9 a.m., and ended at 5 p.m. (PT), weather permitting.

Seven drivers who competed in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tested from Jan. 31-Feb. 1. They included runner-up Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), 10th-place finisher Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), third-place finisher Carl Edwards, fifth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), seventh-place finisher Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), ninth-place finisher Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and sixth-place finisher Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge).

Joining them were Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge), Todd Bodine (No. 03 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), Mike Garvey (No. 51 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge), Terry Labonte (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet), Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), Kyle Petty (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge), Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge) and Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet).

Three drivers -- all Joe Gibbs Racing teammates -- tested on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. They are current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Fed Ex Chevrolet) and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet).

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for 2006.

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Track Layout: 1.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Monday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (PT) Lunch from noon until 1 p.m.

Who: Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Joe Nemechek, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, Scott Riggs, Elliott Sadler, Hermie Sadler, Ken Schrader, Brent Sherman, Reed Sorenson, Tony Stewart, David Stremme, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Michael


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Brent Sherman , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Dave Blaney , Mike Garvey , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing