Burton tests Daytona to get Roush restrictor plate program up to speed

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Nine teams invaded Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday for a two-day test session for the upcoming Pepsi 400 weekend on July 2-5 at the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Prepping for the 45th annual Pepsi 400 on Saturday night, July 5 were (Roush Racing), (Joe Gibbs Racing), (Sadler Motorsports), (Petty Enterprises), (Hendrick Motorsports), Phoenix Racing (Joe Ruttman subbing for ) and BAM Racing (Elton Sawyer subbing for ).

(FitzBradshaw Racing) and (Frank Cicci Racing) were shaking down their cars for the second annual Winn-Dixie 250 Presented By PepsiCo on Friday, July 4.

Burton and his No. 99 Citgo Ford team aren't just focusing on the upcoming mid-summer classic. The 2000 Pepsi 400 champion says he is already working toward next year's Daytona 500, the most watched motorsports event in the world.

"We've gotten ourselves in a position where we've been behind and so we're trying to play catch up," said Burton about the team's restrictor-plate program. "We really didn't have any cars at Roush that were top contending teams at Daytona. None of us qualified all that well. So we feel like we need to put a lot of effort into our restrictor-plate program and that takes preparation.

"So we started a month ago working on the Daytona 500. This (test) gives us a chance to evaluate what we've seen in the wind tunnel versus what we do on the race track. It gives us a chance to put all wind tunnel data, computer engineering and all that stuff on the racetrack and see how it works. It's an effort to be ready for the Fourth of July but also the Daytona 500."

Burton, a native of South Boston, Va., is searching for the success that he found in 2000 when he finished second in the Daytona 500 and captured the Pepsi 400. His crew chief Paul Andrews is overseeing the test and Ford's NASCAR Field Manager Robin Pemberton is also present.

"We can't start in November working for the Daytona 500," Burton said. "We have to start right now. Really that's what this is all about."

Green, Bliss ready for double duty: , the points leader in the NASCAR Busch Series, and 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion will pull double duty during the Pepsi 400 weekend, competing in the Pepsi 400 as well as the second annual Winn-Dixie 250 Presented By Pepsico.

Green, who wheels the No. 37 Timber Wolf Chevrolet for Brewco Motorsports, is testing the No. 60 Haas Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

"Stuff that we do on this particular team is translated to , , and ," said Green, who hasn't competed under the lights at Daytona. "It's kind of a group effort. I hate to use the word R&D but that's kind of my job to come here and go through stuff for them to not only make our car better but 's and those guys too."

Bliss is testing a third Joe Gibbs Racing entry, and like Green, is collecting data for himself and his teammates and 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion .

"I told myself I would never come back to Winston Cup unless it was a top notch team," Bliss said. "Well, how much better can it be here? It gives them another opportunity to run another car and learn some more stuff and it gets me a little more time in a Winston Cup car.

"It's a test for all three cars. It's a motor test. It's a chassis test. It's an aero test. It's just something that they can expand on and help both their programs over there right now."

Fittipaldi on familiar ground: Rookie is looking forward to the Pepsi 400 because Daytona International Speedway is a track where he has some experience in a stock car.

Fittipaldi, who was recently named driver of the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge for Petty Enterprises, competed in the ARCA RE/MAX Series race and the Daytona 500 during Speedweeks. He'll race the No. 44 Dodge in the Pepsi 400.

"I raced the 500 here early in the year," said Fittipaldi, who came home 35th in the "Great American Race." "I've already ran a good amount of laps at this place. It's good to come back here for the second time. At least I know what to expect. When you go to a place for the first time everything is completely new to you. Being back here for the second time, it's going to make my life easier."

Tickets for the Pepsi 400 and the Winn-Dixie 250 Presented By PepsiCo are available online at or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

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