Preseason Test: Day three report

NASCAR Preseason Thunder Day 3: Mayfield, Newman Ready to Fine Tune Title Quest DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2005) -- While Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) were a part of history -- and the...

NASCAR Preseason Thunder Day 3: Mayfield, Newman Ready to Fine Tune Title Quest

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2005) -- While Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) were a part of history -- and the inaugural "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL CUP" -- repeating the experience is on their minds a year later.

Both are among the group of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers who kicked off NASCAR Preseason Thunder on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR Preseason Thunder is the annual preseason test sessions at Daytona, and teams that finished in odd-number positions in the final 2004 car owner point standings tested Tuesday through Thursday of this week. Teams that finished in even-number positions in the final 2004 car owner point standings will test Jan. 18-20 at Daytona.

Prior to Thursday's session, Mayfield and Newman dropped by the Daytona media center to discuss many topics, among them the experience of participating in the new method of crowning a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and the learning curve that it generated.

"The bottom line is you've just got to do your best," said Newman, who finished seventh in the final 2004 point standings. "Go for the win and focus on getting the best finish you possibly can. For us, that's no change."

For Mayfield, the impetus is immediate: Winning the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

"If you've been there and have never won it, you get frustrated," said Mayfield, who finished 10th in the final 2004 point standings. "It's where it all started and where it's all happening. You talk about the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard (400), there's a lot of big races, but there's nothing like the Daytona 500."

Both Mayfield and Newman hope for better luck in 2005. Both return with stable, burgeoning teams -- Newman with Penske Racing South and Mayfield with Evernham Motorsports -- and both have high standards based on 2004 results.

"If you win races, the championship comes by itself if you win the right races," Newman said.

Paired with 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Mayfield thinks the synergy of their teams may prove to be an unbeatable combination in 2005.

"We're working for the future," said Mayfield, citing team owner Ray Evernham's leadership. "All we worry about is racing now, but so many things are going on that's going to help our race team as a whole for the future."

NEWS OF NOTE

DJ eyes a fourth Daytona 500 win ... Three-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) certainly would like to add a fourth season-opening win to his resume. And that perspective allows him to appreciate the extensive off-season renovation of Daytona's infield. Included are new NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series garages, a new fan zone between the two garages, a new victory lane and numerous other upgrades.

"It's incredible what's been done in here in what I consider a short amount of time with everything that has taken place," said Jarrett of the renovation, which began just two days after last July's Pepsi 400. "I think the fans that have the opportunity to come down in here and view all of this are gonna be very impressed and excited about that. It should be fun and interesting to see how all of this goes."

The best part?

"As far as the race track goes, it's the same old track," said Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion whose Daytona 500 triumphs came in 1993, 1996 and 2000.

Jarrett also has a fresh goal -- another NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title, which means being a part of the 2005 "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." He finished 15th in last year's final point standings, but was in the battle to make the NASCAR Top 10 right up through the No. 26 race, the cutoff point last year.

"I'll be talking a different tune than I was last year," Jarrett said of initial skepticism early last season. "I'm not sure if this is the chair (in the Daytona media center), but it was in a place similar to this last year when I was totally against it and expressed those feelings. Myself and others, that changed after we saw what was going on with it -- the amount of exposure that it brought to our sport, the attention, the excitement."

McMurray surfing for a title ... The 11th-place finisher in last year's final point standings, Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), definitely wants to be part of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" in 2005, but during the off-season, he and Kasey Kahne got to participate in an elite surfing competition in Hawaii courtesy of FOX. They rode a few waves and watched the professionals conquer the big ones -- 40-foot swells, according to McMurray, who's sporting a blonder, surfer-like hairstyle these days.

"It was a lot of fun," he said, citing interaction with the likes of surfer Kelly Slater, a six-time world champion. "It was something different, and one of the coolest parts of doing what we do is getting to meet all the other celebrities and other athletes. Those guys were a blast."

Rain delays Thursday session ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams testing this week at Daytona had to wait on Mother Nature on Thursday. Cloudy, humid skies and occasional rain showers scrapped the morning session, but teams returned to the track at 1:30 p.m., with drafting practice on the table for some teams. All were scheduled to finish under the lights by 7:30 p.m.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder.
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
When: Jan. 11-24.
Track layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.

Test schedule: Jan. 11-13 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (Odd-number car owner 2004 point standings finishing positions); Jan. 15-16 -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series; Jan. 18-20 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (Even-number car owner 2004 point standings finishing positions); Jan. 22-24 -- NASCAR Busch Series.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne
Teams Team Penske