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Saturday, March 15, 2008
Toyota still not included in Darlington's 2nd tire test

Associated Press

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Goodyear is going back to Darlington Raceway for another test on the newly paved surface, and once again a Toyota won't be involved.

Greg Biffle (Ford), Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) and Ryan Newman (Dodge) will all return to Darlington in two weeks to help Goodyear find a suitable tire for when the series races there in May. Speeds inched toward 200 mph during the two-day test earlier this week, and Goodyear must find a tire capable of withstanding the speeds.

Toyota officials were irked they were the only manufacturer not included in the initial test, and they grew angrier when they learned of the second session.

But Goodyear officials said the participants are on a rotation, one manufacturer is always left out of the testing and having four teams at a session is overkill for the engineers.

"We really don't need four cars to get the work done that we need to get done," said Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales. "We're going to go to Indianapolis in a few weeks, there will be a Toyota there and there won't be a Ford there. That's the way that it plays out. We're going to try to spread the work out among the teams that give us the best results."

Brian Vickers is expected to represent Toyota in Indianapolis. But inclusion there did little to satisfy the Toyota camp, which feels the other three makes will be ahead of its teams because of data it gathers during the test. And, because the surface has been repaved, the other teams have a baseline for setups that Toyota will not have when it arrives in Darlington for the race.

Toyota officials declined to comment on the exclusion.

But Robin Pemberton, vice president of NASCAR's competition, said Toyota does not have a legitimate gripe and will catch up once practice begins at Darlington.

"The next time that goes around, Dodge is going to miss a test. And the next time Ford is going to miss one," Pemberton said. "It's less important for Darlington because we're getting extra practice. That takes some of the sting out of it."

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CHOMPING AT THE BIT:@ As Dale Jarrett readied for the final points race of his career, his replacement was building excitement for his first Sprint Cup start.

Michael McDowell will move into Jarrett's slot in Michael Waltrip's three-car lineup two weeks from now at Martinsville Speedway. McDowell will move into the No. 00 Toyota that David Reutimann currently drives, and Reutimann will shift into Jarrett's No. 44.

To prepare for his debut, McDowell has attended all four races so far this season and soaked in as much as could from the spotter stand. It's been enlightening, but made McDowell hungry to get behind the wheel.

"It's definitely been harder than I expected watching the races," he said. "I kind of knew going into it that I wasn't going to do the first five, but the last few weeks I've been itching pretty bad to get in and get going. I've just been trying to hang out with the team and spend as much time as I can learning the car and learning the weekend procedure."

It's not clear where McDowell will be in the standings when he takes over his ride. He's expecting to inherit the points of the lowest ranked MWR car, which heading into Sunday's race at Bristol was Waltrip in 33rd.

"We're just going to keep our fingers crossed that all three cars are in the top 35," McDowell said. "Hopefully we'll leave here not worrying about that and we'll have all three cars in. I do know that whichever of the cars that is out will most likely be the points that I'm going to get starting out."

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LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER:@ If Germain Racing can pull it off, 19-year-old Chrissy Wallace will make her NASCAR debut later this month at Martinsville Speedway -- the same place her father made his 1990 debut.

Mike Wallace plans to spot for Chrissy should she be entered in the March 29 Truck Series race. Germain Racing doesn't have the deal completed and still needs a motor for her truck.

But Chrissy Wallace tested at Martinsville earlier this week and was 11th on the speed charts following Wednesday afternoon's session.

"For Chrissy to have this opportunity while my career is still going strong, this means I may have the opportunity to race against her in NASCAR's top series and it is really a neat thought," Wallace said. "Somewhere along the line, I'd like to race against her in the trucks or in our series, and it would probably be the first time in history that a father races against his daughter in a major NASCAR touring series."

Wallace was scheduled to make the 300th start of his Nationwide Series career Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway. He made his debut at Martinsville in that series, finishing sixth.