BUSCH: Daytona: News of note, schedule

Inaugural event in Mexico event highlighted Thursday at DIS Determining race lineups, impound procedure new for 2005 NEWS & NOTES Daytona entries number 55 ... The first race of 2005 -- along with its record purse -- has lured 55 entrants for...

Inaugural event in Mexico event highlighted Thursday at DIS
Determining race lineups, impound procedure new for 2005


Daytona entries number 55 ... The first race of 2005 -- along with its record purse -- has lured 55 entrants for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series opener. Defending race champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns as a favorite while last year's NASCAR Busch Series champion, Martin Truex Jr., wants to improve on his 28th-place finish in 2004 after starting on the pole. In addition to Earnhardt, four other former winners of the season-opening Daytona race are entered -- Randy LaJoie (No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet), a three-time event winner and the last driver to win other than Earnhardt back in 2001; Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Waste Management Ford), the 2000 winner; Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet), the 1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion, who won the 1998 season-opener and Steve Grissom (No. 49 Advil Ford), the 1993 NASCAR Busch Series champion, who won in 1996. Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Aaron's Chevrolet), a three-time Daytona winner in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition, is seeking his first NASCAR Busch Series win at the track. Shawna Robinson (No. 23 Vassarette Chevrolet) makes her return to the NASCAR Busch Series at Daytona while Kim Crosby (No. 24 Boudreaux's Butt Paste Chevrolet) will attempt to join Robinson as one of only three female drivers to run a fulltime schedule in the series. Michel Jourdain Jr. moves from a 10-year career on the Champ Car circuit to make his NASCAR Busch Series debut at Daytona.

Fernandez, Jourdain Jr. meet the media Thursday ... The March 6 Telcel Motorola 200 presented by Banamex in Mexico City has already become one of the NASCAR Busch Series' top events of the season, as evidenced by its $2.3 million purse and drivers outside of the series who will challenge for the win. Open-wheel star and Mexico City native Adrian Fernandez, who will drive for Hendrick Motorsports in the event, will meet the media in the DIS Infield Media Center Press Conference Room at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday to discuss his participation in the race. Also scheduled to attend are Michel Jourdain Jr., another Mexico City native, David Green and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Jeff Burton. The latter served as the test driver at the reconfigured 2.518-mile road course in January, while Green visited Mexico City later in that month to take part in media events.

NASCAR Busch Series competition changes for 2005 ... The NASCAR Busch Series will see a few key competition changes in 2005. The highest-ranked 30 positions in the owner championship points will be assured a starting position in each race, while the remaining 12 spots will be assigned to drivers with the fastest qualifying speeds. The 43rd position remains for a former champion. The season's first five races, including Daytona, will utilize the 2004 owner point standings; beginning with the sixth race, the current highest-ranked 30 positions in the owners points will be used. The NASCAR Busch Series also will impound cars after each events qualifying. Unless authorized by NASCAR, teams will not be permitted to work on their cars until race day. NASCAR also has implemented a gear rule where gear ratios will limit RPMs (revolutions per minute). The rule will be in effect at all tracks except Daytona and Talladega, where limits already exist due to restrictor plates. Finally, NASCAR Busch Series teams will be allotted five sets of tires to be used for practice, qualifying and the race during each event. The latter three changes are designed to assist in cost-containment as well as enhance competition.


Michael Waltrip looks to start his series-leading 20th race at Daytona. ... Matt Kenseth (six) and Waltrip (five) have the most top-five finishes among active drivers at Daytona while Waltrip and Kenny Wallace leads all active drivers with seven top-10 finishes. ... Wallace (1989), David Green (1991) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004) all won their first NASCAR Busch Series poles in the season-opener at Daytona. ... Chevrolet leads all manufacturers, with 16 in NASCAR Busch Series wins at Daytona.


SPEED Channel's reality show, "NBS 24/7," will return for the 2005 season. The show will once again focus on the drivers, owners, crew chiefs and team members from FitzBradshaw Racing and Braun Racing. Check listings for broadcast day/time. ... Michel Jourdain Jr. will depart Daytona International Speedway following Saturday's race in order to return home for the birth of his first child. He and his wife, Nora, are expecting a son. ... David Stremme and Tim Fedewa (No. 12 Supercuts Dodge) are scheduled to spend an hour flying with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team on Feb. 28 prior to the California race. ... The Dodge Charger returns to the NASCAR Busch Series this season with 12 teams entered to run a Charger at Daytona.


"Last year I came here and expected good things but didn't even know if I'd be here now. Last year was a pretty cool deal. This year is going to be a lot more fun." -- Martin Truex Jr.

"Impounding the cars is going to be a great thing for the NASCAR Busch Series. It obviously helps out by cutting certain costs, but it also cuts down on our workload before qualifying, allowing us to work strictly on our race set-ups each weekend." -- Johnny Sauter (No. 1 Yellow Transportation Dodge)

"All it takes to have friends work with you at a restrictor-plate track is to have a fast race car. As fast as our car was in testing, I expect to be very popular this week." -- Justin Labonte


Joe Nemechek won four consecutive poles at Daytona International Speedway -- from February, 2001, through both 2002 races and again in February, 2003. He is the only NASCAR Busch Series driver to have captured four straight poles on a superspeedway and his mark ties David Green for the all-time series record for consecutive poles at one track. Green won four straight poles at Hickory Motor Speedway 1994-96.


What: Hershey's Take 5 "300" (Race No. 1 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL.
When: 1:20 p.m. ET, Saturday, Feb. 19.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Race Length: 300 miles/120 laps.

Posted Awards: $2,412,152.

TV: FOX, 1:00 p.m., ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2004 Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 Polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thursday -- Practice, 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m. ; Final practice 4:00 p.m. Friday -- Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.; cars impounded following qualifying.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Shawna Robinson , Adrian Fernandez , David Green , Justin Labonte , Johnny Sauter , Steve Grissom , Martin Truex Jr. , David Stremme , Kim Crosby , Michel Jourdain
Teams Hendrick Motorsports