DAYTONA BEACH FL - JANUARY 20: Brian Vickers driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota heads for the track during testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 20 2011 in Daytona Beach Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Daytona International Speedway Preseason Testing Concludes

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Testing Speeds: See Who Topped The Charts At Daytona

The three-day preseason test at Daytona International Speedway concluded Saturday, wrapping up with a day of two-car hookups that will likely be a common sight in the Daytona 500.

Here are the speeds for the cars that drafted during the Day 3 of the three-day test (cars that only did single-car runs are excluded because the times aren't comparable):

  1. Brad Keselowski, 198.605 mph (Day 3 PM)
  2. Kurt Busch, 198.579 mph (Day 3 PM)
  3. Kyle Busch, 197.737 mph (Day 3 PM)
  4. Denny Hamlin, 197.737 mph (Day 3 PM)
  5. Joey Logano, 197.728 mph (Day 3 PM)
  6. Brian Vickers, 197.659 mph (Day 3 PM)
  7. Kasey Kahne, 197.659 mph (Day 3 PM)
  8. AJ Allmendinger, 197.589 mph (Day 3 PM)
  9. Jeff Gordon, 197.585 mph (Day 3 PM)
  10. Joey Logano, 197.516 mph (Day 3 AM)
  11. Denny Hamlin, 197.511 mph (Day 3 AM)
  12. Tony Stewart, 197.446 mph (Day 3 AM)
  13. Ryan Newman, 197.442 mph (Day 3 AM)
  14. Carl Edwards, 197.403 mph (Day 3 PM)
  15. AJ Allmendinger, 196.386 mph (Day 3 AM)
  16. Steve Wallace, 195.274 mph (Day 3 AM)
  17. Steve Wallace, 194.641 mph (Day 3 PM)

NASCAR Reveals Little In Daytona News Conference; More Answers Next Week

NASCAR's long-scheduled "competition update" to the media at preseason Daytona testing could be summed up in five words: We're still thinking about it.

Changing the points system? NASCAR President Mike Helton hinted at changes, but added "We're in the middle of conversations."

Adjust the rules for how drivers make the Chase? "We do have models around the Chase...that we're tweaking through these conversations," Helton said.

Scrapping standardized start times this season? Helton said there's likely to be "a little bit of tweaking" and added, "We're still working on that."

Altering the Rookie of the Year eligibility criteria? "I believe we'll make some adjustments..." NASCAR's Robin Pemberton said. "...But we're in the middle of the talks for that."

You get the idea. There weren't a whole lot of answers, though there will have to be by Brian France's "State of the Sport" speech on Wednesday.

Helton said NASCAR couldn't confirm much because officials were still meeting with teams about the rules for next this season. You know, like the one that starts in less than a month.

The one thing Helton could confirm for certain was some news so old it was hardly "news" at all: Drivers must pick only one series in which they wish to earn championship points.

This news had already leaked out a couple weeks ago, but was made officially official today.

The idea of allowing drivers to only collect points in one series is good in theory: NASCAR wants to put more of a spotlight on the Nationwide-only drivers.

There's only one problem: Whether they're collecting points or not, Sprint Cup drivers have dominated the Nationwide Series of late. And as The Sporting News' Reid Spencer noted, full-time Cup drivers won 33 of the 35 races last season.

So will the new rule help the cause for up-and-coming drivers or make a joke of whoever wins the championship?

Said Helton: "You can debate that and argue, 'OK, if I win 10 or 12 races and don't win the championship, what's the championship worth?' Well, it's still the championship.

"It's still a big old trophy, still a nice check. ... It's still a NASCAR national series championship, which I think is valuable and credible."


Kids Say The Darndest Things (Jeff Gordon Edition)

Jeff Gordon relayed a hilarious story today about the aftermath of last year's fight with Jeff Burton at Texas Motor Speedway.

When he returned home late that night after the race, his three-year-old daughter Ella woke up and had questions about what she saw on TV.

We'll let Gordon tell the rest:

I got home late, but Ella woke up in the middle of the night, so I went in there to lay down with her and help her go back to sleep.

She realized it was me, and she said, 'Papa, were you wrestling with another guy out there on the track today?' And I said, 'Well, kind of.'

And she said, 'Well, why? Why did you do that?' I said, 'Well, I got angry.' She said, 'Why were you angry?' She just wouldn't quit. I mean, it's three in the morning and these are the things that are on her mind.

I called Jeff Burton two days later, and he said, 'I'll one-up you easily on that. I've got a 12- and 14-year-old and they were like, 'Dad, I'm going to kick Jeff Gordon's butt!' I had to explain to them, 'No, your dad kind of made a mistake.' '

We both really laughed about those stories and what kids do to your life and your career from every aspect – the enjoyment of sharing a victory to the agonies of defeat and embarrassing moments.

It's amazing, you know? To me, it doesn't matter what your job is – whether you're a writer or a race-car driver – when you have children, it doesn't make you less passionate about what you love to do. If anything, it makes you more passionate about it.

I think most people just automatically assume that when you're in a dangerous sport like this, when you have children it makes you think, 'I don't want to do this.' To me, makes me more inspired to want to do it better. 


A Conversation With Joey Logano Passes The Time During Rain Delay

The drizzle and fog at Daytona International Speedway were refusing to lift, which left Joey Logano restless and bored. Stuck inside his team hauler and waiting out the delay during preseason testing, Logano was antsy and eager to talk to just about anyone.

Logano was so bored, in fact, that his public relations representative offered him up for a one-on-one interview in the hauler (which usually must be scheduled in advance). And Logano, sensing an opportunity to talk racing, happily obliged.

The 20-year-old with the easy laugh bounced down the stairs from the lounge and approached with a smile.

Joey Logano, it's clear, is happy to be here.

This year, though, he appears poised to take the next step. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has become more of a threat to run up front as his career has progressed, perhaps even to the point where he could qualify for the Chase in 2011.

Would it be wise to pick him for a Chase spot in the preseason predictions?

"Don't waste the pick," Logano said with a straight face, then broke into laughter again. "Nah, we're definitely strong enough. I feel like the last 15 races, we did a good job. This year, we just have to make sure we don't make those stupid mistakes throughout the summer months – and I feel confident we won't after the way we ended."

Logano has come a long way from the driver who struggled to stay competitive in the first half of his rookie season. Back then, he was admittedly in over his head and trying to learn about how to communicate with his team and navigate new racetracks.

It took time to figure it out, as it would for any new driver.

"I don't care how old you are – as a rookie, you don't have any experience with a lot of these challenges," he said. "It's a lot of headaches and a lot of hard work. It's easy to get down on yourself – and I did.

"But you've got to find a way to pull out of it. It's the good days that pull you forward, like when you've had a good run – (you say), 'OK, I can do this. I can do this.'"

Communication was one of the most difficult aspects of the learning process – a "biiiiig deal," Logano said, more than many fans realize. The communication with crew chief Greg Zipadelli is now where it needs to be in order to contend for a Chase spot, the driver said.

Logano continues to try and improve himself as a driver, too. In a boredom-fueled move in the offseason, he found himself watching races from 2010 and critiquing his performance all the while.

He'd view the replays and think, "Why did I do that?" about certain moves or passes.

"You watch yourself line up and prepare to pass a guy, but then ask, 'Well, why didn't I do that?'" he said of watching himself on TV. "That's just little mental notes you put in your mind.

"I enjoy watching the good races a lot more. In the bad races, they don't put you on TV as much! So that's kind of tough."

The conversation then turned to some non-racing topics. For example: Why did Logano decide to restart his own Twitter account (@jlogano) after deleting his old one a couple years ago?

"I was kind of getting into it a little more," he said. "It's a bigger deal than I thought it was. At first, I was like, 'Who the hell really cares what the heck I'm doing?' It's like, 'OK, yeah, I'm going to dinner.' Who cares?

"But I started kind of getting into it, reading some celebrities and stuff like that and was like, 'Alright, this is kinda cool.' And it's kind of cool to see how many fans you get. It's different, you know?"

Logano had a low-key offseason, filling the weeks with activities and trips within a three-hour radius of his Charlotte-area home.

He went to Georgia and drove his girlfriend around in a two-seat dirt Late Model car. He went four-wheeling in the snow and took trips to Asheville, Myrtle Beach and to Atlanta for a Falcons football game.

"I don't like planning much, and I like road trips," he said. "Everything is last minute things with me. I'm like, 'Yeah, let's do it!'"

Logano also tried hunting for the first time in his life.

"I decided I'm not a hunter – I can't sit still long enough to do it," he said. "I sat there for two hours and didn't see a damn squirrel."

And, on the last day of 2010, he attended teammate Kyle Busch's wedding – which he deemed "unbelievable."

"It was frickin' crazy, dude," he said. "I don't think a big Hollywood celebrity could top that wedding. It was the craziest thing I've ever been to."


Quotable: Our Favorite Driver Quips And Comments From Daytona

Here are some selected driver quotes so far from the interviews at Daytona International Speedway preseason testing:

"When everyone stops calling me 'Kevin,' we'll be settled in."Shell-sponsored driver Kurt Busch, on sporting Kevin Harvick's former colors in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.

"I want to be in racing for a very long time, and I know that I can drive good enough to run well. I'll stick around until I get it right. It's just eventually going to have to happen."Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"To be honest with you, I haven't even thought about racing in the last month. I really haven't. Not one bit."Denny Hamlin

"I know people expect me to react and think, 'Oh, they've got to leave it alone, don't change it.' I don't care what races are in the Chase (or) the format to win the championship. I could care less because I feel confident my team will be able to win championships under any set of circumstances."Jimmie Johnson, on the possibility of a new points system in NASCAR.

"I love racing here. Here and Talladega are some of the funnest races for us as drivers until you get in a wreck, and then you're just pissed off. It's like gambling, really – it's just a lot of fun to do it until you lose."Martin Truex Jr., on racing at Daytona.

"You literally could hold a cup of coffee with the lid off full and not spill a drop riding around there."Tony Stewart, on the smoothness of the newly repaved Daytona surface.


Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I Understand How My Fans Feel

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a passionate Washington Redskins fan, about as dedicated as they come.

But for the last few years, the Redskins haven't been very good. And at the same time, they've gone through several coaching changes.

Each time, Redskins fans like Earnhardt Jr. are left to wonder if the upcoming season will be any better.

Sounds like the situation for Earnhardt Jr. himself, doesn't it?

"Every year as a Redskins fan, you sort of go through this," he said. "I've got an app on my phone that pretty much pushes anything that if they're mentioned on the Internet, I get the news.

"You're just waiting on one of those articles to tell you about some big free agency pickup or what their plans are in the draft. You piece everything together before the season starts and start to form your idea whether you think they're a better team or not."

All of this has direct parallels to Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team. Having changed shops and crew chiefs in the offseason (Earnhardt Jr. is now paired with Jimmie Johnson's team and has Steve Letarte as his crew chief), NASCAR's most popular driver understands his fans are looking for some hope.

But he also knows that whether they believe his team is improved or not, Junior Nation will still be there.

"(As a Redskins fan), sometimes you think this isn't the right way to go, but you're still a fan," he said. "Regardless of whether you like their quarterback or you think they've got a good receiving corps or not, you still as a fan decide to go into the season just as devoted and ready for the success or the same failure."

So will Earnhardt Jr. fans have more to cheer about this year? Earnhardt Jr. said he's not ready to make any declarations, because he's not sure of exactly how he fits into the team. He and his crew are still learning each other's personalities and adjusting to new faces.

The one thing Earnhardt Jr. could say confidently was that his relationship with Letarte could help him stay positive during races.

"(Letarte) has got a great personality, a lot of energy and hopefully I can depend on that energy in certain times throughout certain races," he said. "When you need somebody to gear you up and let you see things a little differently than you see at the time, maybe he can keep me on my toes (and) be a cheerleader – or whatever you want to call it."

Earnhardt Jr. reiterated that he's "sick of how we've ran over the last several years" and is ready for a change in performance. And he knows that can't come soon enough for some his loyal fans who are starving to see a win.

"The toughest part about all that – being a race fan or a Redskins fan – is all the waiting," he said. "Fortunately in NASCAR, you don't have to wait very long."


Tony Stewart 'Very Embarrassed,' 'Ashamed' About Australia Incident

Less than a week after a fight with an Australian track owner that led to police involvement, a contrite Tony Stewart said he was "very embarrassed" and "ashamed' over what happened on the last night of his five-week trip to that country.

Stewart, at Daytona International Speedway for preseason testing, acknowledged a physical altercation stemming from a dispute with the co-owner of Sydney Speedway over what the two-time NASCAR champion felt were unsafe track conditions.

But he clearly regretted the aftermath of the incident.

"This isn't something I've blown off," he said. "I've lost a lot of sleep over it because I'm very embarrassed that I made it through the whole trip and the night before I come home, I get in an altercation with somebody.

"That hasn't happened in awhile. I'm not the least bit proud of it; I'm ashamed about it."

Reports from Australia said Stewart struck track co-owner Brett Morris in the face with a helmet during their argument; Morris allegedly punched Stewart in return (though Stewart had no visible injuries like a black eye).

A calm Stewart said if he had to do it over again, "I would have dealt with it much differently."

"I'd been over there for almost five weeks and had to deal with the same problem with the racetrack," he said. "It's not one incident that led up to it, it was a combination of the whole trip. It was how they were doing a couple different aspects of preparing the racetrack, and how they were putting the drivers in the situations we were put in.

"I've always been one to speak up for what I think is right, especially when it comes to the safety side of it. I didn't think the conditions were safe to run on – and they felt differently."

The track conditions were unsafe on the final evening of his trip, Stewart said, adding he felt obligated to drive in the heat races because he would lose too many points that night if he sat out.

"It was pretty obvious before we even went out there that it wasn't going to be good," he said. "It was really disappointing because it was the best weather conditions that we had had leading up to that race, and they found a way to get themselves back into a corner again."

Stewart declined to go into specifics about what he told police, but emphasized officers told him he was free to return to his hotel and leave the country the next day. He said police were aware of his hotel information and even the flight number of his return trip to America in case they needed to get in touch with him.

He said he wasn't concerned about possibly having to go back to Australia in the event he faced charges, but said he'd go if it was necessary.

Despite what happened, Stewart said he would "love to" return to Australia and race again.

"We had a good vacation – it was a very relaxing vacation," he said. "I felt like I alleviated a lot of stress over there. Like I said, we just had one bad night in a 30-day trip."


Live From Daytona: NASCAR Preseason Testing Underway

Didn't last season just end?

NASCAR's brief offseason has concluded and the start of the new year has arrived with preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway, which kicks off today in Florida.

Almost every Sprint Cup team is taking advantage of the opportunity to test for three days, and a handful of drivers are expected to speak with the media during the one-hour lunch break today and Friday.

Among those scheduled to speak are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

On Friday, NASCAR officials will give a "competition update" – expected to focus on the decision to only allow drivers to collect points in one series.

NASCAR is offering streaming coverage of the test on, and the press conferences will also be available online.

Stay tuned for multiple updates throughout today and Friday as drivers share their thoughts on the upcoming season.

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