DAYTONA BEACH - Brendan Gaughan admits he's excitable, and his enthusiasm was evident and infectious on Tuesday during the first of three days of Nextel Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway.
And why not? The 2002 NASCAR truck series rookie of the year was in his first hours on the clock as full-time driver of the No. 77 Dodge for Penske-Jasper Racing Company.
"I'm a cheerleader," said Gaughan, 28. "I jump up and down. We're all going to have some fun."
His emotions were much lighter than in his last truck race. Gaughan led the standings entering the final week but wrecked late in the Homestead race and finished fourth in points.
"No regrets," said Gaughan, who raced the No. 62 Dodge for his father Michael's Orleans team. "We come to win championships. That's racing, and that kind of thing happens."
There is little chance Gaughan will dabble in the truck series anymore, he said.
"Go ask Roger Penske and he'll give you a one-word answer, and it's the same in Spanish and English," he said. "No."
TIME'S UP: Michael Waltrip, winner of the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500s, was again strong, posting the top average speed (186.834 and 185.755) in both morning and afternoon sessions. His fastest car, No. 15x, went right back on the truck and to Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s Mooresville, N.C., shop, however, when it blew an engine and crashed into Turn 2 in the morning session.
ATTENDANCE: Eighteen drivers tested. Ricky Rudd (23rd in 2003 points), Kenny Wallace (31st), Kyle Petty (39th), Derrike Cope (43rd) and Hermie Sadler (45th) were given exemptions to attend the second session next Tuesday-Jan. 15.
CHANGES: As NASCAR officials debate changes to the drivers' points system, they announced revisions to the way provisionals are allotted and an increase in the amount of test days available to teams in all three national series.
The most significant change to the provisional system is an increase to 38 (from 36) in the number of cars that make the 43-car field on qualifying time. The championship provisional will remain as needed.
New car owners earn their first two provisionals upon their car making four qualifying attempts. More can be earned by attempting to qualify for six events, with a maximum of eight per season.
Car owners who finished in the top 45 in 2003 start the season with four provisionals and earn another for every six events for which they attempt to qualify. They can earn no more than 10.
Also, each provisional used will be charged, regardless of owner standing. Provisionals will not be charged if the number of entries is 43 or fewer.