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CAT Racing Event Preview Daytona 500


Track: Daytona Int’l Speedway, 2.5 miles Race Daytona 500 Date  02.20.05 Location Daytona Beach, Fla.


  • The No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Charger at Daytona International Speedway is … A brand new race car, chassis No. 87, will carry the No. 22 Caterpillar colors with Scott Wimmer on board in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.  The team tested the car at Daytona in January.
  • Lining up for the duel … Wimmer and the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge will line up in 12th place (on the sixth row) to start the second Gatorade Duel Thursday, Feb. 17.  His teammate, Mike Skinner, will line up the No. 23 Argent Mortgage Dodge eighth (on the fourth row) in the first Gatorade Duel that same afternoon.
  • First and best … Wimmer posted his career-first NASCAR Nextel Cup top-five finish at Daytona International Speedway with a third-place finish in the 2004 Daytona 500.  The effort also marked Wimmer’s overall best finish in his young career as a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driver.
  • Pre-season testing … Wimmer and his No. 22 Cat team took full advantage of the pre-season test sessions, testing at Daytona, Las Vegas and California in January and February.
  • More testing ahead … The No. 22 Caterpillar team will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway after next week’s race in California for a two-day test session March 7 and 8.
  • Don’t miss any of it … The NASCAR Nextel Cup Gatorade Duels are scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. EDT Thursday, Feb. 17, and will broadcast LIVE on FX (TV), MRN (radio) and XM Radio. The Daytona 500 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. EDT Sunday, Feb. 20, and will broadcast LIVE on FOX (TV), MRN and XM Radio.

S. Wimmer: Can you pick up from where you and (crew chief) Derrick Finley left off at the end of the 2004 season? “We ended last season on a real strong note and have had a lot of good ideas coming into this year.  I think a key to all of it is going to be getting started on the right foot by having some strong finishes in these upcoming early-season races.  We can’t get down on ourselves like we seemed to get last year.  So far, we’ve been testing well at tracks like Daytona and Las Vegas, and Derrick and the rest of the guys have really brought some great ideas to the table.  Yeah, I would say the momentum we started building toward the end of last year is still there; if anything, it’s stronger now than it was in November.”

S. Wimmer: What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned last year in your first season as a full-time NASCAR Nextel Cup driver? “The length of the races and being consistently fast the entire race. We’ve seen a lot of races where three or four drivers have their cars on the mark and are very fast at the start of the race.  If you barely miss that mark, then you are a lap down before you know it, and it is real hard to rebound. Qualifying as well is important.  It is a little more important at some tracks compared to others, but it never hurts to start closer to the front than the back.

“It just seems like in the Busch Series, if you weren’t quite there at the beginning of the race, you could work real hard and still pull off a decent finish. It just seems like a different game on the Nextel Cup level.  There is almost no room for error.  Your car needs to be real close to where it needs to be from the get-go to pull off a strong finish, and even then you still have to continue to hit your marks on the track and on pit road.  There are so many factors that go into winning a Nextel Cup race, and they all have to line up.  Some people say it’s all about luck, and I agree to a point, but I think each of us makes our own luck as well.”

S. Wimmer: With all of the changes to the Dodges, can you tell a big difference in the car compared to last year?

“Yeah, they have changed a lot from last year by going from the Intrepid to the Charger, changing the tires and the spoiler.  There is quite a bit of difference in the overall balance of the car, and it is all for the better.  I do look forward to the day when everything gets ironed out, and we actually have a year without any changes.”

S. Wimmer: Do you feel like you are at any type of disadvantage without having a full-time teammate? “I think there is a little bit of a disadvantage, and that is mainly because there is no one to fall back on.  It is nice if you are having trouble or feeling lost, when nothing seems to be working, you can go over to your teammate and bounce ideas off of that person.  I have been very fortunate because most of the years I have been driving for Bill Davis I’ve had other drivers—Busch Series and Cup drivers—to lean on and learn from, and for that I am very grateful to those guys.

“At the same time, there is a sunny side to the deal, where there is more focus on the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge.  Bill Davis has some very talented people working at the shop and some of them are devoted to working on my car and my car only.  They don’t have to split their time between two teams or worry if the one team isn’t running good and the other is.  That is definitely an advantage to have that amount of concentration on just one race car, but I still would welcome a full-time teammate and am looking forward to seeing what Bill Davis and all of the guys can make happen with the [No.] 23.”

S. Wimmer: What do you think about the changes to the infield at Daytona International Speedway? “I think it is pretty neat.  We were down there testing in January, and it was cool to get to see everything before Speedweeks.  The changes are definitely good for the fans and the access they will now have at Daytona.  I remember when I used to be the fan on the outside looking in and never got into the garage.  I would’ve loved the new setup at Daytona.  Now, more fans will get to see all the hard work that goes into this sport on a daily basis.  I think that is the biggest part of NASCAR racing is it is hard to get the full scope of the sport and competition by just sitting in the stands, reading about it in the paper or watching it on TV.  A lot more goes on before the green flag and beyond the checkered flag.”

No. 22 Cat Racing crew chief Derrick Finley is embarking on his first full-time season as a Nextel Cup crew chief.  Here are his thoughts on racing in the Daytona 500 [Note: This is Finley’s second 500 serving as a NASCAR Cup crew chief.  His first 500 as a Cup crew chief was in 2003 when he worked for BelCar Racing with Todd Bodine]:  “There is always some anxiety heading into a new season, but when it comes down to racing at Daytona, it is fairly cut and dried.  You pit when everyone else pits and try to stay in the pack.  Daytona is not a huge strategy place compared to other tracks.  If you can go the extra distance that is great, but if you are in a position where you are running with the pack and pitting with the other 80 percent of the cars then you are good to go.  I don’t like to put it on luck a lot, but Daytona is a place where luck gets you to the front.  The luck of the draw sure helps you out when you are playing cards, but when it comes to NASCAR racing at Daytona, it’s the luck of the draft that will get you to the front.

“The Daytona 500 is a special race because of the history that’s behind it, and we all just put so much time into that one race.  I mean, we are on this continuous search for more speed for 10 straight days, and it is great to come home after that long period of time with a win … and the 500 purse isn’t too shabby either, which adds up to a better bonus for all of us.

“As far as qualifying, it really doesn’t matter where you start just as long as you get to start.  You need to focus more on the long run, and then we all know it is all about where you finish. You can start 32nd at Daytona and by lap two be leading.

“So far things are going pretty smoothly, and we made some big gains after testing at Daytona earlier this year.  In fact, we made bigger gains than we initially thought we would.  We knocked a lot of drag out of the car and the engine department has done a great job giving us more horsepower.”