DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- During the 2010 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests at Daytona International Speedway, drivers participated in fan forums, signed autographs with race fans and sat down in the infield media center previewing the Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes Speedweeks and the 52nd annual Daytona 500 as well as the new NASCAR season.
Here are some of the highlights:
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
Q. Things have been pretty racy here the last three or four Februarys as you well now, and now they're talking about possibly abolishing the yellow-line rule, relaxing the restrictions on bump drafting, maybe even opening up the plates a little bit. Your thoughts on that?
It's been wild no matter what set of rules they give us. I remember the days of watching Jeff Gordon slide up from the flat up onto the banking to make passes going into the Turn 1 without the double yellow line rule.
Then there's the side effect of this double yellow line rule, and that is you use it as a boundary line. You use it to force other drivers to maneuver in ways that they wouldn't normally maneuver. So there's always a Catch 22. We want to see the best racing action we can find, but we want to do it safely, and I applaud the bigger plates. What that'll do is it'll make the setup more important than it will overall raw speed. And when you're worried about your setup, that will help separate the men from the boys, so to speak, on who's got their setups just right.
David Ragan, No. 6 UPS Ford
Q. Speaking of Daytona, you start off with a sports marquee event. Have you already run the Daytona 500 in your mind?
Yeah, I've already won it three or four times in my mind. Walking down here, there's been a few questions asked today, what's some of your favorite Daytona 500 memories, and it's such a big race, and being a race fan growing up in a racing family, it's something that you always remember watching and taking an interest in as a young kid. Certainly I wasn't even thought about in 1979, but the race where Bobby and Cale and Donnie were fighting at the end, that might be what NASCAR might need to happen in 2010 Daytona 500 to see some excitement like that afterwards. Yeah, I'm running the Daytona 500 in my mind just off of past experiences.
We've got a couple of Top 10s down here. I finished 5th in 2007, so we've had some success in the 500. It's certainly a long race and a long couple of weeks. So much can happen between qualifying the first week, the twin races on Thursday, and getting ready for the big show on Sunday. You know, we're just taking a practice at a time, a qualifying lap at a time, and just try to do the best we can.
I think we're prepared, and I think our car is going to be good. This is always a fun track, fun race, and something fun to be a part of if you've got a good car to drive.
Joey Logano, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota
Q. Joey, as far as this point in your career, what do you want to accomplish more than anything else?
Win the next race, the Daytona 500. I think that would be awesome. That's one of the biggest races -- the biggest race I think we have for the whole year, and I think that would be something real cool. I've got a list a mile long. I'm a day-by-day person, I'm a race-by-race person and always want to win the next race, and that's always the next biggest thing for me. But you know, obviously some day to win at Indy would be really cool. It's the same, the championship, the stuff like that. That's always a dream that you keep working for and to get there, and that's what keeps me working really hard is the want to have it, wanting to go for it all the time. I think that's something that really helps.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet
Q. The Daytona 500 is such a unique race because the outcomes don't always -- the races don't end the way you always expect. You've won it three times. But there are a lot of guys who never win it or have to wait 20 years to win it, and there's people that you wouldn't expect. Why is the Daytona 500 always producing such a variety of winners?
It's a restrictor plate race. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. You know, we've seen the same thing at Talladega. It gives more people the opportunity to win because it equalizes the cars, and drafting is a whole different monster than just trying to figure out the balance at Charlotte Motor Speedway, let's say, or Atlanta, or something like that where the driver of the car and the team play such a vital role in the speed of the car.
Where here, your pit crew has got to get you on and off pit road without making any big mistakes. And even if they do, a caution brings you right back into it. There's not any real pit strategy, so then it just comes down to drafting. While there is definitely some skill in drafting, I think that a lot of times it's just getting shuffled at the right or wrong time and getting the right push. And that can create a unique winner that you wouldn't maybe expect.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet
Q. The Daytona 500 has always been at times -- can be a very strange race the way some of these things turn out. You've got guys like Rusty Wallace who's never won one, and yet you've had a lot of surprise guys. What does it take to win the Daytona 500, and why are there so many unusual winners?
I'm not real sure. I mean, I think going back to when we won in 2008 that it was purely a team effort, an organizational effort with the two cars obviously. We did have the fastest cars all day long, but when we put our two Dodges together at the time, they beat the one Toyota that we needed to beat.
You honestly never know what's going to happen. It seems like the race, especially when it was a day-to-night race, it took on a lot of transitions, and you just never knew what was going to happen. And I think that's a lot of -- I guess maybe the first race of the season type of situation where you just don't know what to expect, you don't know -- and in respect to who has won, it's a different list, I guess you could say, than some other racetracks. That's maybe coincidental. I don't know. It's a great racetrack. I enjoy it. I think that Daytona is entirely different from Talladega in respect to how you drive it, how you race it, and obviously the glory that comes along with it. But I really look forward to this year's Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet
Q. Dale, looking ahead to 2010, this season, coming off of last season, you know you've got a lot to accomplish but you can't do it all at once. Can you maybe detail some of the major goals that you all have for this season and how you're going to go about accomplishing them?
Well, our goal is to win as many races as we can, win the championship, challenge for the championship. I'd like to win -- I think anything less than three races this year I'd be a little bit disappointed, and depending on what tracks those are, you know, it would be great to win at some tracks we haven't necessarily been great on in the past.
We've made a lot of changes in the off-season with our personnel and changing the entire culture in the shop, and I hope that those things are really going to improve our team and get us where we need to be competitively. We have everything there mechanically to get it done, and we have great people within the organization. So there's three guys that made the Chase, and we didn't, so there's -- we have to get out there and prove ourselves. I don't really know if I can get more detailed than that, but we're just going to go out there and try our hardest and be ruthless from the first lap to the last.