Penske camp ready for Daytona

The hot topic in Las Vegas and Fontana testing this week was how cars would react to the new Goodyear tire compound and to having an inch chopped off their spoilers. So far, the changes haven't caused much of a ruckus at all. The hurdle is the...

The hot topic in Las Vegas and Fontana testing this week was how cars would react to the new Goodyear tire compound and to having an inch chopped off their spoilers. So far, the changes haven't caused much of a ruckus at all.

The hurdle is the biggest for the Dodge teams, who not only have to accustom themselves to the new rules package but to the new Charger as well.

"There are a lot of unknowns," Ryan Newman said. "You're basically taking down force off the back of the car and not much off the front. That, in conjunction with the new tail and nose section for the Charger is providing a learning curve for us.

"In the end, it should put more of the driver back in the car, but it'll also mean the team will have to do their job as far as building a good car balance so the driver can work with it.

"It's different for everybody, but we're getting more comfortable with it."

For Newman's teammate, Rusty Wallace, this is what he has been petitioning NASCAR for years to modify: softer tires and shorter spoilers to allow drivers more handling in the racecar.

"All I can tell you is my car feels great," Wallace said. "I'm happy with the car right now. My speeds are good. We've got to get in the race and see what happens."

Wallace was among 43 other drivers' testing in Las Vegas on Monday and Tuesday. Most teams will stay on the West Coast to participate in further testing at California Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday.

For Wallace, it is important to start the season off in championship form. He announced last year that 2005 will be his final season of full time competition in the Nextel Cup Series. So far, he is pleased with both his testing efforts at Daytona and Las Vegas.

"My car ran great at Daytona," Wallace said. "I guess if I only had one concern it would be about the grille possibly trapping debris. We worked on that at Daytona. I don't know if you ever work it all out, but the car is cooling better. The water temperature is running lower, and we're able to put more tape on the grille, which creates more down force and makes the car go faster in the straight-aways. If you can keep the debris off the grille, that's a bonus. I think the nose is a better design.

"It definitely looks cooler. I think it's neat when Dodge and those guys create something like they did. I think it's going to be a great looking car on the track. A fellow came up to me a little while ago and said, 'man, that thing looks mean.' I like the way my car feels on the soft tires."

Wallace clearly would like to exit NASCAR's elite division with more fanfare than he has brewed the last two seasons. In 2003, he went winless and finished 14th in standings. Last year, he won once (spring Martinsville) and never came close to making the chase for the championship landing a dismal 16th place overall result.

"As far as Rusty's Last Call Tour, I'm real excited about that." Wallace said. " I think we'll be super competitive. We ran great at Daytona. I'm going to be on the gas real, real hard. I've got a lot of appearances this year, a lot of touring around. I feel like I'm up for the game."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman