Tuesday, January 09, 2007

There was a surprise or two, but not necessarily on the speed charts

  • Jamie McMurray had the fastest lap Tuesday morning as testing continued at Daytona International Speedway, running 184.090 mph, with Mike McLaughlin second in Tony Stewart’s car at 183.981. Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Rudd and Tony Raines were next. Some teams did drafting in the afternoon session and - surprise, surprise - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fastest at 186.606 mph, with Casey Mears second and Tony Raines third.
  • Dodge took Elliott Sadler, Juan Montoya and Kurt Busch to Detroit on Tuesday to have them unveil a new passenger car model, the Avenger, which will be on the roads as the 2008 model. The NASCAR relevance is that the Dodges run in this year’s “car of tomorrow” races will be Avengers while the cars in the other races will be Chargers. How will you know? Because Dodge says so. How will you be able to tell the difference? Beats me.
  • Eric Kuselias will be the host of the “NASCAR Now” program on ESPN2, which will air weeknights at 6:30 beginning Feb. 5. The show will also air at 10 a.m. on Sundays beginning Feb. 18. Kuselias has been a host on ESPN Radio’s afternoon show, the “SportsBash.”
  • NASCAR finally made it official on Tuesday. No, not how many people are going to be in the Chase (even though every indication is that’s going to be 12). This year’s NASCAR Day is May 18th. Book those party rooms now! NASCAR Day is a fund-raising project where fans buy lapel pins for $5 and then wear their NASCAR apparel to work to show their fans. The money goes to charity through the NASCAR Foundation.
  • Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd both had good lines about age and racing on Tuesday. “That car,” Jarrett said, “doesn’t know how old you are.” Rudd told a story about his first career start at Rockingham. Rudd was 18 and said he walked through the NASCAR garage looking at all of the “old men” he would be competing with. “I was 18 years old. I was racing motorcycles professionally, Rudd said. “I was in the best shape you could ever be in…and I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, there’s no way these guys can compete. They’re not in shape. There’s no way.’”
    About halfway through the race, Rudd said, he was so tired he didn’t know if he could make it another lap.
    “Donnie Allison had to be 45 or 50 at that time,” Rudd said. “He lapped me for probably the 10th time that day …and he’s driving with one hand and he’s waving to me as I let him go by. I’m sitting there just white-knuckled up on that steering wheel and I’m thinking, ‘I’m missing something here.’”
  • Voting for the 2007 National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver Award, sponsored by Chex, is now open online at www.MostPopularDriver.com. Voting continues until Nov. 19. More than 2.8 million votes were cast last year, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting nearly 1.2 million votes to win for a fourth straight year.