Ward Burton Is Back, Knows Making Daytona 500 Will Be A Challenge

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., - For the first time since 2004, Ward Burton has a full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series ride. After sitting out the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season and only competing in three races late in 2006, the 2002 Daytona 500 champion is making his return in 2007 driving the No. 4 State Water Heaters Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. When Burton arrived at "The World Center of Racing," the grounds of the historic facility looked different. The South Boston, Va., native hasn't seen Daytona since it underwent its infield renovation back in 2004. "As I walked into the Speedway this morning, it's got so much history to it," Burton said. "I remember the first time being here as a child and back here again. It's a little bit of a familiar territory and somewhat unfamiliar. The scenery has changed a bunch with the uplifting of the infield. It's neat to be back in the game." Qualifying for this year's Daytona 500 is going to be a huge challenge for Burton and the No. 4 team. The Daytona 500 qualifying format is unique. The top 35 teams in owner's points have guaranteed starting spots in the Daytona 500 while all remaining teams fight over seven starting spots. Four spots are split among the top two finishing drivers in each Gatorade Duel that are not already guaranteed a starting spot get into the Daytona 500. The next three spots go to the fastest three qualifiers based on the single-car time trials from Bud Pole Qualifying that are not guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500. A final Daytona 500 starting spot is reserved for a past NEXTEL Cup champion. For this year's Daytona 500, there could be as many as 30 teams without guaranteed starting spots trying to qualify and Burton will be among them. "We got an up hill battle ahead of us," Burton said. "The guys have been working really hard. Hopefully their hard word is going to pay off. Certainly it's somewhat of mountain to climb." Burton remembers only one time in his career that he failed to qualify for a Daytona 500. "My rookie year (1994), we had a wreck at the start/finish line in the fist 125s and that was the only 500 I wasn't able to make," Burton said. "I know when we came back here in '95 we had to finish 15th or better and I think we finished 11th. I felt like I already knew what it was like to win the 500 because we made that race. "With the few spots, which is basically seven available, if we can make (the Daytona 500) that same feeling is going to be there again. I think it's going to be tougher. I think there are a lot of things that are against us but the thing that is for us is that we've both done it before." Edwards ready to go: Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford for Roush Racing, was eager to start this week's NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing session. "Man, I'm just really excited to be here," Edwards said. "I flew in last night and it was really neat to realize that the season's going to start and get to run in the Daytona 500. I'm excited, to say the least. Our whole Office Depot team is ready to go." Edwards was disappointed with his 2006 season. After making the Chase of the NEXTEL Cup and winning four races as a rookie in 2005, Edwards went winless in 2006 and finished outside the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup in 12th. This year, Edwards is reunited with crew chief Bob Osborne. The two teamed in 2005 and early in the 2006 season before Osborne moved to the No. 26 Roush Racing Ford of Jamie McMurray. "Bob and I had a lot of success," said Edwards, who did work with Osborne for the final two races of the 2006 season. "From my first Nextel Cup start through that whole 2005 season, we got along really well and we learned a lot about each other, and I think that having him back is going to be good for a number of reasons. "Wally Brown did a great job and I was really sad to

see him leave, but it's going to be nice. It's a familiar face, a familiar guy on the radio and somebody who definitely wants to win as badly as I do, so it'll be neat." Montoya: Heralded NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie Juan Pablo Montoya is making his second testing appearance at Daytona International Speedway during the month of January. Earlier this month, Montoya tested a Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley that he will race in the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 27-28. When Montoya straps into the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge for the 49th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, the Colombia native will become the first foreign-born driver to compete in "The Great American Race" since Christian Fittipaldi, who raced the No. 33 Chevrolet for Andy Petree Racing in 2003 Daytona 500. "I think the car has been behaving really good," Montoya said. "From what I hear we've stepped it up from where we were last year. It's still very early. It's my first test this year, so we'll take it step by step." First out: The second wave of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing got off to a slow start on Monday. Because of some early morning showers, cars were not able to get on track until around 10:30 a.m. Teams worked on their machines straight through until 5:30 p.m. The first car on track was Kyle Busch in the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Thinking of Benny: During this week's test, two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip has a special message on his No. 55 NAPA Chevrolet - "We Love You BP!" - for 1975 Benny Parsons, who is battling lung cancer back in North Carolina. Daytona 500 champions in attendance: Three Daytona 500 champions are participating in this week's testing: Ward Burton (2002), Michael Waltrip (2001, 2003) and Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999, 2005). Car of Tomorrow: Brett Bodine, NASCAR's Director of Cost Research, delivered a tech talk about NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow to race fans inside DAYTONA USA on Monday - the only permanent place fans can see the vehicle. Bodine, who has played a huge part in the development of NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, educated race fans on everything from body design and features to the new rear wing on a completed version of Jeff Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet at the Technology of Speed display inside DAYTONA USA. NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest: The NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest for the second wave of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will be on Tuesday. The NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest events start at 5 p.m. but fans will be able to enter the NEXTEL FANZONE beginning at 9 a.m. to watch all of the exciting testing action. Admissions for the NEXTEL Cup Fan Fest dates are $15 while Busch admission is $10. Fans will be able to get a sneak peek on NASCAR teams as they prepare for Speedweeks 2007 with inquisitive fan forums with many of their favorite drivers as well as enjoying all the state-of-the-art amenities in the popular NEXTEL FANZONE. Also included in NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests will be bands, show cars, pit stop demonstrations, displays, a silent auction and passenger hot laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in pace cars (additional $20). All testing sessions throughout January continue to be free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Speedweeks 2007 tickets available: Tickets for Speedweeks 2007 events, including the 49th annual Daytona 500, are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by logging onto www.racetickets.com

Tickets? Questions? Call 1-800-PIT-SHOP

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