NASCAR Preseason Thunder Day 3: End of Testing Brings Beginning of Excitement for 2005 Season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2005) -- Last Saturday, David Green (No. 27 KLEENEX/SCOTT Brands Ford) felt like a rookie again for all the...
NASCAR Preseason Thunder Day 3: End of Testing Brings Beginning of Excitement for 2005 Season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2005) -- Last Saturday, David Green (No. 27 KLEENEX/SCOTT Brands Ford) felt like a rookie again for all the wrong reasons. The 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion was unable to participate in the first day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the NASCAR Busch Series due to a sudden onset of kidney stones.
Instead of becoming familiar with his Ford after driving Chevrolets and Pontiacs during past seasons, Green became more familiar with the infield care center, the hospital and his hotel room where he was finally forced to rest on Saturday because of the intense pain.
As miserable as he was physically, he was more so mentally, knowing his new car and new crew chief Stewart Cooper were being guided in his absence by BREWCO Motorsports teammates Greg Biffle and Aaron Fike, who will share time this season in the No. 66 Duraflame Ford.
"I was geared up and ready to go on Saturday," Green said. "Out of all winter long for this kidney stone to hit, why did it pick the first day of testing? When I missed Saturday because of being in the hospital, I really felt like I was behind yesterday."
But Green felt good enough to get into the car in time for the Sunday afternoon session, and actually posted the fifth-fastest speed in drafting practice (186.805). Feeling even stronger, he participated in both Monday sessions, on the final day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder.
A 14-year veteran of the NASCAR Busch Series, Green has seen the influx of young drivers who have had tremendous early success, including the 2004 champion, 24-year-old Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), and Brian Vickers, who defeated Green by a mere 14 points for the 2003 title. Vickers, who has since moved to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition, was 20 years old at the time.
The 2005 season is no different, with another crop of youngsters who feel they are prepared to challenge for a championship. Green doesn't discount their talent, but is eager for the season to start in hopes of utilizing his experience and new equipment for a title run of his own. It begins with the Hershey's TAKE 5 300 on Feb. 19 at Daytona.
"I think this is the best shot I've ever had to come down here and not just qualify well, but race well and race competitively," he said. "If you can stay in that pack and your car does what mine did yesterday, we have as good a shot as anybody.
"We're poised and we have all of the tools right now." I feel like I'm a better driver than ever before, without question, and hungry as ever before. We're there."
NEWS OF NOTE
NASCAR Preseason Thunder, West Coast style ... NASCAR Preseason Thunder heads west next week for concurrent test sessions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and California Speedway. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will test at Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 31, Tuesday, Feb. 1 and Wednesday, Feb. 2, and at California on Wednesday, Feb. 2 and Thursday, Feb. 3. The NASCAR Busch Series will test at California Speedway on Monday, Jan. 31, Tuesday, Feb. 1, and Wednesday, Feb. 2, and at Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 2 and Thursday, Feb. 3. Drivers testing cars in both series have the opportunity to do so Tuesday and Wednesday, which are overlapping test dates for both series.
Hamlin, Wood impressed with rookie field ... Rookie drivers Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) and Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Wisk Ford) are preparing for their first full seasons in the NASCAR Busch Series, and both are impressed with the field of first-year drivers they will face each week. "[Winning the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award] is our main goal," Hamlin said. "If we win, we'll definitely be up towards the top in points because if Reid [Sorenson] and Jon and all those guys are going for rookie of the year, they're going to run well. Everyone saw Reid last year, how well he ran in just a few races. So I know if we win that, we'll definitely have a real successful year."
"A lot of times you say that you were rookie of the year in a certain year, but there are some seasons that it means more than others," Wood said. "This year, I think, is one of the best rookie fields that this series has seen in a while. It would be a huge accomplishment, but it's definitely far-fetched right now. We haven't even run our first race, so we'll see."
Raines posts fastest lap ... Tony Raines (No. 33 The Outdoor Channel/Yard-Man Chevrolet) not only posted the fastest lap of the day during Monday's morning session (182.304 mph), but also registered the fastest single-car lap of three test days for the NASCAR Busch Series.
"It's definitely been a morale boost," said Raines. "The guys worked really, really hard in the shop in November, December and January and to have some results to show them that their hard efforts are paying off is great. I think it'll make the next month go pretty fast. Everybody gets cabin fever back at the shop, so now that they can get out here and see that they are building good stuff, I think that will put a hop in their step."
Labonte tops drafting speed charts ... Justin Labonte (No. 44 U. S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) had the overall top lap during Saturday's initial drafting practice (188.285 mph). Labonte, who won his first NASCAR Busch Series race last season at Chicago, collected top-10 speeds in all but two of the single-car and drafting runs throughout the weekend sessions.
"Last night (Sunday), my car was really good, but we were thinking about leaving," Labonte said. "I said, 'Hey, we've got to stay and get everything we can out of the car because we have a really good shot at running well.' I need as much seat time as I can get."
Labonte will switch from Dodge to Chevrolet, and has combined his Labonte Motorsports team with Haas CNC Racing. Together with Hendrick Motorsports engines -- and his father, two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Terry Labonte taking a more active role as team owner -- the younger Labonte believes 2005 should be a breakout year for him.
"This is definitely the best opportunity I've ever had and the best equipment," he said. "I have a really good team, we have Hendrick horsepower ... it's going to be a really good year for us."