ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Ryan Newman is glad his team decided to test a couple weeks ago at North Carolina Speedway.
With rain washing out Saturday's final practice sessions, Newman is one of a few drivers who have some idea how NASCAR's new body styles will react during the Subway 400.
A week after rain washed out the final 91 laps of the Daytona 500, teams again were huddled under umbrellas. Rain delayed Friday's practices and qualifying, and it forced the postponement of the entire racing schedule, including the Rockingham 200 for the NASCAR Busch Series, Saturday. The Rockingham 200 has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. Monday.
That means a lot of teams will have to rely on educated guesses for today's main event (12:30 p.m., FOC-Ch. 54).
"You can't do much about the weather," Newman said. "The one thing I'm glad about is that we tested here for two days. I think it'll give us a little heads up if it does keep raining. We've got some laps on the track when it was green when we came here and tested, and that's how it'll be Sunday morning if it keeps raining."
The forecast for today's race calls for partly cloudy skies and no rain.
NASCAR has new templates this year for every manufacturer. Chevrolet and Pontiac have new models, while Ford has a new rear bumper and Dodge has a new front bumper. In an effort to make the cars more alike - something teams call "aero-matching" - NASCAR has made the areas from the front windshield to the rear window identical for all four manufacturers. That means every team essentially has a new car this year.
As if the new body styles weren't enough for teams to tackle, the rain washed away all the rubber from Friday's practice and qualifying sessions. That will make racing surface more abrasive during the first 100 miles, adding to the speedway's reputation for being tough on tires.
HARSH ALLEGATIONS: Rusty Wallace created a storm of his own by claiming some of the Chevrolet teams at last week's Daytona 500 weren't playing by the rules.
Wallace responded to the fact that Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress Racing won every significant event at Daytona International Speedway. DEI won the Budweiser Shootout all-star race, one of the 125-mile qualifying races, the Koolerz 300 for the NASCAR Busch Series and the Daytona 500. RCR won the pole position for the 500 and the other 125-mile qualifying race.
"I don't know why (the Chevrolets) were so good at Daytona," Wallace said. "They had more power and a little less coefficient of drag. Four or five of them were cheating really, really hard and didn't get caught. The NASCAR guys know it, and they're out for them when they get to Talladega."
Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway are the only raceways that require the use of a special restrictor plate to reduce speeds for safety reasons.
Counting Michael Waltrip's victory for DEI in the Daytona 500, Chevrolet now has won nine of the past 10 races at Daytona and Talladega.
Ty Norris, general manager at DEI, wasn't happy with Wallace's accusation.
"He must be talking about somebody else," he said.
HAVING A BLAST: Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears, both rookies with Chip Ganassi Racing, were victims of a prank by the team's only veteran - Sterling Marlin.
After testing at Talladega Superspeedway recently, McMurray and Mears, along with their crew chiefs, huddled in a team van to speak with Ganassi by cell phone.
Marlin, however, ignited a quarter-stick of dynamite under the van as a joke.
"It was dark," McMurray said. "When it went off, the whole van shook and flames were shooting out both sides. It about killed everyone in there. Donnie (Wingo, crew chief) was mad. He's not into jokes like that. Sterling was outside laughing. He's always doing stuff like that."
McMurray and Mears also tested for two days at North Carolina Speedway to prepare for the Subway 400. They spent nearly $30,000 on tires during the two-day test and Marlin, who skipped the test, out-qualified both of them Friday.
Marlin is fourth on today's starting lineup, while McMurray is seventh and Mears is 16th.
PIT STOPS: Today's race will be the 600th in Wallace's 19-year career as full-time driver on the Winston Cup Series. He is 14th on the all-time starts list, just two behind 13th-place James Hylton. Richard Petty is first in starts with 1,177. ... When asked about the differences between his Ford Taurus in 2002 and his new Dodge Intrepid for the current season, Newman said his barrel-roll last week at Daytona taught him one thing: "The one thing I will say, the Dodges do fly better than the Fords." His car flipped four times, but Newman crawled away unhurt.
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