Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tires at the Wire Are Difference

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tires at the Wire Are Difference

Article excerpt

DAYTONA BEACH -- Cars are even, rules promote parity, and

passing, at times, is all but impossible. So, what are the keys

for the Daytona 500 today?

Teamwork.

Pit stops.

Strategy.

Which means the most important aspect of the race, drivers and

crew chiefs believe, may be patience.

"I don't think you'll see a lot of gambling until the end of

the race," Jimmy Fenning, the crew chief for Mark Martin's car,

said yesterday during the final practice for today's race, which

will begin at noon at Daytona International Speedway.

Most drivers said they will be patient early, searching for

drafting partners to stay near the lead until the last 100

miles.

"Pit stops and track positions is definitely going to be the

deal," said Buddy Parrott, crew chief for Jeff Burton.

Tires will be a determining factor late in the race. New NASCAR

rules have made horsepower -- and therefore, speed -- more

similar among top drivers than ever, so the drivers with fresh

tires at the end of 500 miles should handle better, and have the

best chance.

Pitting for four tires, however, takes longer than pitting for

two -- both of which take longer than just pitting for fuel.

Many crew chiefs and drivers believe such late-race pit

decisions could determine the winner.

SENTIMENTAL FAVORITE? -- It's hard to imagine sentiment for

Dale Earnhardt, but it's there. In an informal poll yesterday,

he was a near-unanimous choice of crew chiefs and drivers to win

today -- provided they can't win it themselves.

"If one of our cars doesn't win it," said Tony Glover, crew

chief for Robby Gordon's car, "I guess I'd have to pick Dale

Earnhardt. I would like to see him win it sometime. It would

mean a lot to his career."

MISTAKEN IDENTITY -- Even Ken Schrader's family is having a

hard time getting used to his new number (33). …

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