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NASCAR 2010 season preview

Restart on restart policy

ESPN.com reported Wednesday that NASCAR is considering a change to its finishing procedure in all three major series — multiple attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

Event director David Hoots said Wednesday that NASCAR will try the experiment in today's 150-mile qualifying races at Daytona. He said if it works today, the change will be made for Sunday's Daytona 500 and for the rest of the season.

Hoots said if the rule appears to be working, NASCAR would use it for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and truck series.

There were complaints after Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, in which Kevin Harvick won under caution after a wreck on the green-white-checkered attempt.

"We're constantly looking to improve this for the fans," Hoots said.

Relaxing, at 200 mph

Now that racing season is under way, Brian Vickers can slow down and relax a little.

His car is fast, but the pace of Vickers' offseason life is arguably quicker.

After participating in the NASCAR Sprint Cup awards banquet last month in Las Vegas, as one of 12 drivers who qualified for the Chase for the Championship, Vickers' schedule accelerated.

"I spent some time in Florida — was home at my parents' for Christmas," Vickers said. "I went to New York some. I did some skiing in Park City (Utah) and Aspen (Colo.)."

Vickers flew to the Bahamas with friends for a New Year's celebration. A few days later he was attending the wedding of friend and fellow driver Casey Mears in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. After that came a Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway in January.

Appearances for Austria-based sponsor Red Bull took Vickers to Europe, where he attended a ski race in Kitzbuhel, Austria, the Mercedes Formula One launch in Stuttgart, Germany, and saw friends (and the Red Bull Formula One team's shop) in London.

Next came a trip to San Francisco for a Supercross race before Vickers returned to Florida.

"You'd be hard-pressed to travel more, that's for sure," Vickers said.

Hear ye, hear ye

Last week the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a resolution, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, right, honoring Jimmie Johnson, the first NASCAR driver to win four consecutive Sprint Cup champion­ships. McHenry, a Republican, represents the state's 10th district, which includes all or part of 10 counties north of Charlotte and east of Winston-Salem.

Gamble goes bust

James Finch's No. 09 team, which earned its first Sprint Cup victory in 2009 after more than 20 years of trying part time, has lost primary sponsor Miccosukee Resort and Gaming. The Phoenix Racing team had a contract for 18 Sprint Cup races with Tampa's Aric Almirola driving, as well as a full Nationwide series slate, but lost the deal after Billy Cypress lost his re-election bid as Chairman of the Miccosukee tribe. "We had a contract, but our only recourse is to go in front of the tribal council, and that's not a case I'm going to win," Finch said. He then joked, "If it was back in the old days, I could go in the parking lot and steal some hubcaps to race, but no one uses hubcaps anymore." The No. 09 car earned a famous win in the spring Talladega race with Brad Keselowski driving.

Where are the rookies?

Over the past 10 seasons rookies such as, at left top to bottom, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano have entered the Sprint Cup series and made a splash immediately. All but Logano earned multiple wins as rookies, and Logano's triumph made him the youngest winner in series history. But this year the competition for rookie of the year might not be much of a contest. The only rookie listed in NASCAR's official lineup is Terry Cook, who is driving the No. 46 car for owner Dusty Whitney. The only other potential rookie of the year candidate listed on jayski.com's team chart is Kevin Conway, who will take over the No. 37 car after the Daytona 500. Like Cook, Conway is racing for an underfunded team; in his case it's Front Row Motorsports, which is allied with what's left of Robert Yates' team.

Quotable

"I don't mind making fun of myself, I don't mind people thinking I am crazy or goofy, but I do have a plan. When I showed up in 1985, I didn't have a plan, I just wanted to race a car."

Michael Waltrip on his decision to step away from full-time driving this year to devote himself to being a team owner

Information from ESPN.com, Sporting News, Charlotte Observer and Fox Sports was used in this report, which was complied by Times staff.

Silly season summary

A wrapup of all the major offseason moves in Sprint Cup:

Driver 2009 car/team 2010 car/team

David Gilliland Five teams, mostly No. 71 TRG No. 49 BAM Racing

Brad Keselowski Three teams – Nos. 09, 25 and 12 No. 12 Penske South

Michael McDowell No. 36 Tommy Baldwin No. 55 Prism Motorsports

Jamie McMurray No. 26 Roush Racing No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

Casey Mears No. 07 Richard Childress No. 90 Keyed-Up Motorsports

Reed Sorenson No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports No. 32 Braun Racing

Martin Truex No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing

Daytona by the numbers

11.5 The best average finish at Daytona — by Marcos Ambrose, left, who has two starts there. Jimmie Johnson (14.2) has the best average finish by a driver with more than 10 starts at Daytona.

54 Cars attempting to get into the Daytona 500 field, two fewer than last year. Eleven will go home after today's 150-mile qualifying events.

582 Consecutive starts for Jeff Gordon after Sunday's race; that will extend his own record for most consecutive starts without missing a race from the beginning of a career.

$8,008,009 Career earnings for Gordon at Daytona, the all-time record.

57 Bill Elliott's total starts at Daytona, tops among active (well, semi-active) drivers and tied for fifth all-time. He's assured a spot in this year's field, which will break a tie with Cale Yarborourgh. The all-time leader is Richard Petty with 74.

NASCAR 2010 season preview 02/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 9:47pm]
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