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Chevys are hot, Toyotas are hot, Dodges are iffy....and what about all these Fords?


Bill Elliott: On the rebound with the Woods (Photo: Autostock)

   By Mike Mulhern

   So what's going on over in the Ford camp here?
   Looks like they're all saving their ammunition for California and Vegas.
   Or maybe just keeping a low profile until Sunday's Daytona 500 itself.
   Wouldn't be the first time somebody sandbagged through SpeedWeeks.
   Bill Elliott and the Woods came into SpeedWeeks with high hopes and a good season-long game plan, of running a limited schedule but being extremely well prepared for each event.
   Elliott's got speed, but a transmission issue in Thursday's 150 left him 27th. "It just hung in one gear," Elliott said. "I tried to go to second, and it locked it up."
   Jamie McMurray, who runs well enough here to be a good darkhorse Sunday, ran 10th in his 150. And he's studying the tires – which may dictate strategy not only in the pits but tactics on the track. Guys on old tires might not be able to run low through the corners, so crew chiefs will have to keep tabs on who's got what for rubber.
   David Ragan and Greg Biffle would just like to have a little better luck to work with. They've been pinballs so far during SpeedWeeks.
  "We had fast car, and we were able to run toward the front, we had good pit stops….and we were unfortunate not to get the finish we deserved," Ragan said of his 26th Thursday. "We had top-three or top-four or top-five car, depending on who would help me."
   But now he'll have to come back the back of the pack.


Matt Kenseth gets Daytona pit work from Drew Blickensderfer's crew (Photo: Autostock)


Teammate Matt Kenseth too has lost another car, putting his team behind. New crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, though he's called back to North Carolina for another car, insists he's not that worried: "We build them so similar that you don't worry about that as much as you used to. 
   "But it just puts the shop in a bind. And then you still have more practices (Saturday too) you have to get through, and hope nothing else happens…or then you'll be on your fourth car.
   "That's the only fear, that the weekend is not over yet."
    Kenseth himself is getting antsy to get to California and Las Vegas, where he may be more comfortable. "We've been missing it on the handling," Kenseth says. "And this is a whole new car since Thursday. So my plan is to put as many miles on it to get it to handle the way we need it to handle."
    Blickensderfer – just call him Drew – is the man to keep an eye on. Kenseth worked for years with Robbie Reiser, who last year moved up to head the shop itself and direct technology. And Chip Bolin, the chief engineer, was moved into Reiser's place. Bolin, though, learned that a crew chief has more on his plate than just the car and driver – he has to do a lot of babysitting for the entire crew, which can be distracting.
    "Drew can add a little energy to the team," Kenseth says. "So we've really just added another person. Chip (now back in the chief engineer's chair) was trying to do an awful lot by himself last year.
    "So I feel as good about this team as probably I've ever felt about our team.
    "Now you never know what's going to happen at Daytona, but I'm really looking forward to the next couple weeks and seeing what we really have.
   "Once we get through California, Las Vegas and Atlanta, those downforce tracks, and see what your stuff is like, we'll have a better idea for the season.
   "Usually SpeedWeeks isn't a good indicator of what the rest of the season will be like.
    "You've really got to get through the first four or six races to see what you have and get a better feel for the season."
   Certainly if this season goes as well as last season for the Jack Roush operation, Kenseth will have a lot to look forward to. "Carl won nine races last year, Greg won a couple, and Carl was real close to winning the championship," Kenseth said. "We were a little off that. But with those guys doing that well, it gives us a lot of confidence, because we knew the equipment is there and the technology is there.
    "Everything is there that we need. We've just have to get it put together."


Predicting A Race Of Yellows

Between crashes and NASCAR's need to have good racing for the TV, I expect a lot of yellows in the 500.

from what i've seen here so

from what i've seen here so far, and from what i learned during those laps in the pace car with jimmie johnson at the wheel -- you're right. so why does the race start at 330 p.m. pretty darned late, if it's going to run long....

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