Plates Not So Great
January 7, 2006 | 10:25 A.M. EST
The Alltel team will fly to Daytona on Sunday and begin its first day of at-track action on Monday, Jan. 9. The testing session will continue through Wednesday, with Thursday set aside as a rain date.
"We're pretty anxious to get back to the track," crew chief Matt Borland said. "We've made a few changes over the off-season, and we really looked into what we need to do to make the Alltel Dodge perform even better in 2006. With both of those things in place now, we're ready to see what we can accomplish.
"The crew has been extremely busy over the off-season preparing our Dodge Chargers for the test session in Daytona, and, of course, the one in Las Vegas at the end of the month. There are a few things that still need to be done, then it's just loading the transporter and getting down there."
The Alltel team has not, historically, been known for its success at Daytona International Speedway. Most remember Newman at Daytona for his stunning crash sequence early in the 2003 Daytona 500. Last year, however, the Alltel team turned things around when it finished second in the Budweiser Shootout and moved from a 16th-place start to a fourth-place finish in the Gatorade Duel. The team then started ninth in the 2005 Daytona 500, its best career start. A late-race accident, however, removed the team from contention late in the prestigious race.
"Our performance at restrictor-plate tracks has vastly improved over the past four years," Newman said. "The team knew that restrictor-plate racing has been a weak point for us, so everyone just tackled it with full force. I think the time and effort put into it showed in our performances last year. We look for that to be even better in 2006."
The No. 12 Alltel team has yet to earn a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory at Daytona, but has visited victory lane following an ARCA race at the historic track. Borland, Newman and the crew hope what they learn next week will again lead them to victory lane.
"Pre-season testing, at both Daytona and Las Vegas, kind of sets the tone for the season," Borland said. "You want to start out fast. You want to begin the season as a threat. If you don't, it's not the end of the world. But if you do, the whole attitude and mentality of the team improves. That's the best way to start a new season."