Teams Search For Speed At Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Racing were among the eight teams that wrapped up a second day of Pepsi 400 testing on Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

The three powerhouse teams were searching for speed that they hope will help them catch Dale Earnhardt Inc. cars on the restrictor-plate tracks at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Since 2001, DEI drivers Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have owned the "World Center of Racing," winning four out of the last five Winston Cup points races at the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have both entered their research and development teams in the 45th annual Pepsi 400 on Saturday, July 5.

Green, with Hendrick Motorsports mechanic Gary DeHart, was shaking down the No. 60 Chevrolet while Bliss had Joe Gibbs Racing team manager Jimmy Makar and engine builder Mark Cronquist working on his Chevrolet during the test session.

Both Green and Bliss are also slated to compete in the Sept. 28 EA Sports 500 at Talladega, which is Daytona's sister track.

Roush Racing driver Jeff Burton also opted to use a test this week at Daytona and had his crew chief Paul Andrews and Ford's NASCAR Field Manager Robin Pemberton in attendance.

"I think everybody in the garage area is scratching their heads trying to figure out what it is that (DEI) has figured out," Makar said. "Obviously, they have got something figured out that works. The rest of us are really trying to hard to do the same thing."

Makar, was crew chief for Dale Jarrett's 1993 Daytona 500 win, says it's not usual that a team such as DEI can hold a significant edge on the restrictor-plate tracks for a certain time period.

"There are so many different variables in these cars down here. You can figure out one thing and if it's hidden well enough, you can hold that in your pocket for quite some time. We've seen many teams down here go a couple of years with an advantage and until everybody else catches up they look like they can't be beat.

"That's where (DEI) is right now. They've figured something out right now. I don't know what it is. But we're working real hard motor wise, aerodynamics, chassis-wise, looking at all different aspects of the car trying to figure out what it may take to go faster here."

Despite the heavy rain shower on Wednesday, Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Ford, said his team made some gains during the test session.

"Obviously, we're looking for speed," said Burton, the 2000 Pepsi 400 champion. "We found some things that made our car better. We're definitely better than we were February. That's a good thing. We're making progress. It didn't come all in one shot. We didn't it would, but it's definitely better than what we had in February."

Testing for the quarterbacks, Winn-Dixie 250 Presented By PepsiCo: Mike McLaughlin and Casey Atwood were the only two teams preparing for the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo NASCAR Busch Series race during the two-day test session.

McLaughlin shook down the No. 34 Chevrolet owned by Frank Cicci and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly while Atwood tested the No. 14 Chevrolet for owners Armando Fitz and another Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

"We picked up three or fourth tenths from where we were off the truck which is better than not gaining anything at all," McLaughlin said.

Casey Atwood, who was recently named the driver of the second FitzBradshaw team, is thrilled about being back in the Busch Series.

"I'm really excited," Atwood said. "I've been out a while. (The Winn-Dixie 250) will be my third race back. It's just exciting to be back in the Busch Series. It's kind of a low-pressure deal. If you get with a good team, you can run up front every week. I'm just excited to be back and be competitive."

Tickets for the Pepsi 400 and the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

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