Idaytona Notebook:/I Templates Added

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In addition to decreasing the spoiler size for the Ford Taurus at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR has made a modification for every manufacturer on the rear decklid.

The sanctioning body added another template to try to make sure the rear spoiler is in the correct location.

“They came out with some more templates,” Jimmy Spencer said. “They’re trying to get a location for every manufacturer. The location of the spoilers, especially at Daytona and Talladega, has been a sticky point, and they just came out with a template to mark it.”

Teams will try anything to get the spoiler location as low as possible, for the lower the spoiler, the less drag a car will have. It’s a minor change, but Spencer said it will make things a bit more even.

“Our Dodges have always fit that new template,” said Spencer, who switched from Ford to Dodge for 2002. “I don’t think it’s going to be anything that’s detrimental to the Dodges. I think it’s just another rule, another template that’s going to try to level the
competition.”

Shut Up and Race
One driver you won’t hear complaining about rules is Ken Schrader. No, it’s not because he thinks his Pontiac is where it should be. It’s because the rules and the rules, Schrader said, and there’s not much you can do to change it.

“I don’t get into that stuff,” Schrader said. “I just drive my little yellow car as fast as I can.”

Schrader has heard drivers complain about aerodynamic rules causing wrecks at Daytona and Talladega, but he’s not buying it.

“Rules never cause the wreck – it’s just one (driver) hitting another (driver) that causes the wreck,” Schrader said. “They’ve been wrecking (at Daytona) since they built the place, and they will continue to wreck.”

Rivalries Make Winston Cup Fun
The 2002 season was spiced with some interesting on-track controversy, notably between Kevin Harvick and Bobby Hamilton. The top two drivers in points, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, have a history, too, so things could be as interesting in 2002.

Even Gordon admitted rivalries spice things up.

“Absolutely,” Gordon said. “I think they do, but I don’t think that we pick and choose who the rivals are. I don’t think I can go out there and say, ‘You know, today I choose to be a rival to such and such. I think it just happens naturally on the race track through competition, through battles.”

But even if drivers don’t give an inch on the track, they know they’ll be treated the same way the next week.

“Our fans are really more rivals than the drivers are,” Gordon said. “We are all competitors. We know to go get to race on every weekend, and we’re going to bump and we’re going to bang and we’re going to be having our good times and our bad times, but we still got out there and race every weekend.”

Gordon, who won his fourth championship in 2001, said drivers in the title chase tone things down and are less likely to develop rivalries.

“The championship kind of changes things,” Gordon said. “When there is a championship on the line, you’re not going to get as aggressive. You’re not going to get out there and start doing things that rub guys the wrong way. It is kind of like Survivor, you know. It’s like you want to be under the radar, and then when it is all over, you want to be the guy on top and they’re like, how did he get there? Because if you go out there and you start banging people around and rub on people the wrong way, then they’re going to remember that and they’re going to give it back to you throughout the season. If you want to be consistent with good finishes, then you better be careful with that.”

Drivers Stay Busy in Offseason
It’s called the offseason, that two-month period between the end of the 2001 season and the start of the 2002 campaign. But there’s not much down time, especially for teams. Drivers are busy, too.

“As the sport grows, there’s more and more to do each year to prepare for the next race season,” Matt Kenseth said. “And now that we race 36 weekends a year, there’s a lot less time to accomplish it all.”

Kenseth and other drivers have spent a lot of time in front of the camera, getting their picture taken for sponsor photo shoots, commercials and other media events. He shot commercials for AT&T and Ford that “will probably run nationally during the Daytona 500,” Kenseth said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been busy, too, appearing in a music video with the Matthew Good Band, in two commercials for sponsor Budweiser, in another commercial for NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage and on the covers of TV Guide and ESPN the Magazine.

For Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth, it’s part of being a race driver.

“My top priority is winning races, but I know that as the sport becomes more popular my media obligations may increase,” Kenseth said. “Shooting commercials and doing interviews can be fun, but I prefer to be on the track. I look at it as part of the job. The increased television exposure is a good thing though because it allows us to reach more of our fans and also adds more value to the sponsorship.”

Mayfield Tried in Vain to Dispel Rumors
Jeremy Mayfield’s offseason lasted a little longer than other drivers, as he was out of the Penske Racing ride in October. He soon had a deal with Evernham Motorsports for 2002, but Mayfield had to lay low before the official announcement was made.

“The worst thing I did was go on the Internet and start reading all the stuff that was on there,” Mayfield said. “I heard all kinds of stuff. I even wrote to one of them. They said, ‘You’re not him.’ ”

But, alas, Mayfield – and, yes it was Mayfield – appeared at Atlanta Motor Speedway in November for the announcement.

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