Daytona 500

Hi Everyone –

Daytona Speedweeks are finally done and despite the race being shortened by rain, I can’t complain. What a spectacle and a phenomenal event. The Daytona 500 is like no other race. There were so many famous people there. Macy got to have her picture made with Tom Cruise and Keith Urban! Gene Hackman was also there. The stars were everywhere. It’s amazing how all of it leads up to the green flag. When the green flag waves, for me as a driver, it sets me off on this journey. You suspect that it is going to be a 500-mile journey. Sometimes it isn’t, but you think, ‘This is a big day and if I can get my car to victory lane, it will define my career.’ I can certainly attest to that with my two Daytona 500 victories. I think for a driver like Matt Kenseth who already has a championship under his belt, he obviously is an awesome race car driver; he still needed that Daytona 500 victory. Now, he’s got everything. I know he’s got to be very content right now. He was at the front when the race ended. I was in the same place back in 2003. I actually think it is harder to win a race that’s got rain coming because you just can’t anticipate when you should go to the front. Obviously, you better be in the front a lot! Matt got the lead at the right time and it was a well-deserved win for him and he’s a tremendous race car driver.

As for me, I am pleased with my team’s seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500. Our NAPA Toyota really handled well during the race. Actually, it was perfect. We just didn’t have the speed we needed. As the cars were getting strung out after a few laps on the restarts, I could march up through the field pretty well. I told my new crew chief Bootie Barker that we were close to having the winning car, but we were just missing power. I felt it a lot during the restarts. I’m not sure if 20 pounds less drag or 50 more horsepower would have made a difference. I will tell you, I wish we hadn’t lost that primary car in practice. I really loved that NAPA Camry and it was a blast to drive while I had it. It felt like the old No. 15 NAPA car that found its way to victory lane three times at Daytona. What could have been? Nope, I’m not going there. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in Daytona.

One of my favorite drafting partners, Jimmie Johnson, really wasn’t up to making a run with me. His car just wasn’t right. He couldn’t go where he wanted to so I know how frustrating that was for him because that was me last year. If your car doesn’t handle well at Daytona, it’s pretty much junk!

At the end, I knew the rain was coming so I just had to make the charge. We were real fortunate to get in a couple of holes and make it all work out. I am really proud of the NAPA team. It was my first race with new crew chief Bootie Barker. I really enjoyed working with him. It was a lot of fun. I really look forward to going to California and see what we can get accomplished out there.
I am also really proud that all three MWR cars did well and finished in the top 20 at Daytona. We were the top-three finishers out of the Toyota camp. Marcos Ambrose did a great job especially considering it was his first Daytona 500. Reutimann got 12th. It was a day that MWR needed and now we are going to hopefully build on that and continue the momentum with more good runs.
Wish me luck in California. I am running both the Nationwide and Cup races. Talk to you soon!

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