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Notes: Darby has no problem pulling double duty for now

January 22, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dual roles allows him to direct Cup Series as well as take on new responsibilities

At Friday's NASCAR competition update John Darby appeared in the double role he's held for the past year: managing director of competition and Sprint Cup Series director.

"I think we're still actively seeking a replacement as a Cup director which will ultimately allow me to move to my new position."

--JOHN DARBY

Friday, Darby and NASCAR president Mike Helton, if not making it official, clarified Darby's year-old promotion and replacement scenario as director of its premier racing tour.

"Our plans haven't changed, although we've been so busy, especially in working on last season -- the development of the car, the change over from wings to spoilers, the new nose -- everything that's new, and you see for this year as well as working real hard on just our base competition, not only in the Cup Series but all three national series," Darby said. "It was more of a priority shift, I guess.

"The plan for movement is still alive and well. I think we're still actively seeking a replacement as a Cup director which will ultimately allow me to move to my new position. But for the meantime we've just kind of folded that all into one. Racing is what we do, and the priority became to manage the Cup Series and do what we could for the '10 season, and we did that and will continue to do that until the timing is right."

Darby's focus in his new role was going to be in R&D and general roles, but, he said, he couldn't lose no matter what transpired.

"I think, even last January on the initial announcement of the promotion, we [quickly] and repeatedly said that the timeline wasn't as important as finding the right person and making that transition smoothly," Darby said. "I'm still happy doing what I'm doing, and I'll be happy to do the next step."

Helton clarified a little further.

"Fortunately for NASCAR, there's not a hole or a void, so there's not an emergency-type situation," Helton said. "It was our desire this time last year to be much further along than we were in that process of succession, but we do enjoy the benefit of a lot of great talent in our sport that can move around and do things.

"As John said, we focused more on the urgent issues than maybe we should have focused on searching for the Cup Series director. But that is ongoing. It is high on our list to accomplish sooner [rather] than later."

Taking a knee

With half a day of testing left at Daytona, Kasey Kahne was smiling Saturday as he waited for his No. 4 Toyota to be prepared for some drafting practice. His grin didn't lessen as he spoke of his post-season arthroscopic knee surgeries. He said the varying temperatures at Daytona during the test had no effect.

"They're good across the board," Kahne said after his first three days back in a car. "When it's real cold, in North Carolina, that obviously doesn't feel quite as good but with the way the weather's been down here, they feel great. There are four dots -- actually a little bigger than dots -- on the side of each kneecap. There was a lot of scar tissue we had to work out, but it went away pretty easy."

Kahne said he has no issues getting into and out of his race car and that "it feels better now than before I got it done, and they're still not healed all the way -- but I'm definitely glad I did it." Kahne's biggest casualty was being unable to participate in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., last weekend.

"They wanted me to race in the [Tuesday night Race of Champions] but I didn't want to race, yet," Kahne said. "All I would have had to have done was hit something, or flip. I didn't want to take the chance of that."

The rest of the season is something else. Kahne will once again field a three-car sprint car team, he said, with Joey Saldana and Cody Darrah running his World of Outlaws sprinters and "Brad Sweet will run Outlaws, All-Stars [Circuit of Champions] and USAC -- a little bit of everything; and he's going to run eight Truck races at the start of the season, too.

"And then I'm going to try to race -- hopefully I can run 10 sprint car races, total. It just depends on how it feels. But I hope to run close to 10."

Minor Roush re-organization

Chip Bolin, who formerly worked as the race engineer for Matt Kenseth's No. 17 team -- including a stint as the crew chief -- has taken half of the Roush Fenway Racing engineering leadership role from Chris Andrews.

Heading into the 2010 season, the engineering department used a two-headed approach, with veteran RFR man Andrews heading the race engineering and race simulation section and Tommy Wheeler overseeing the chassis development and fabrication section.

In the offseason Andrews, who has experience as a Cup crew chief, was named crew chief for newcomer Trevor Bayne's RFR Nationwide Series program.

The net result

Steve Wallace was laughing in the garage area Friday evening after testing ended for the day, but a short time earlier he'd returned to his stall a little less calm. As seen by viewers on SPEEDtv.com's online stream of Preseason Thunder, Wallace was being pushed in a two-car bump-draft down Daytona's backstretch when his window net appeared to disengage.

After it flicked into the air, the net didn't flap; and Tony Stewart pushed Wallace all the way down to Turn 1 before Wallace moved up, Stewart drove underneath him and both drivers rolled back to the pits.

"It unhooked and flipped up and hit me in the head," Wallace said. "It was no big deal because our spotters were able to communicate, but the plan was for me to drop in behind Tony and try to see how it worked that way; but the engine we have isn't very good, we don't have the right exhaust pipes and it's a little down on power.

"This whole program came together so quickly -- in about a week -- but we felt like we had to be here just to start to get a feel for things. We're taking this car and our other car to the wind tunnel and we'll be a lot better when we come back."

Smart enough to cut

Stewart-Haas Racing was one of the teams that departed Daytona testing early, pulling the plug with Stewart's and Ryan Newman's Chevrolets at the Saturday lunch break. One of the last things they did Saturday morning was a two-car draft, of which Stewart had also done a lot Friday.

Stewart, who was in a relatively good mood all weekend, could only laugh when he was asked if he felt smarter about race team ownership as he approached his third season as a Sprint Cup owner/driver.

"Who said I was smart to begin with?" Stewart said. "I don't think anybody has ever accused me of being smart -- but obviously, it's like anything in general. It's a constant learning process and a constant growing process.

"The hard thing is sitting down at the end of the year and evaluating things that you think you did right, trying to isolate the things that you think you needed to gain on. But even just trying to get caught up on the things that you missed, at the same time those things that you did right probably aren't right, now; so you have to constantly grow."

Stewart-Haas has been relatively successful. Both he and Ryan Newman made the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup and Stewart won several races. Stewart came back to win twice and make the 2010 Chase, while Newman won but failed to make the Chase.

"Race teams are in a constant state of change -- you're never content and happy with where they're at," Stewart said. "Everybody tries to figure out how they can get every department to be 1 percent better, and now it's a situation where you wonder if that one percent is going to be good enough, so you try to figure out if you've learned more and gained more over the winter than the rest of the teams have."

Low-keying it

Among the unattached drivers spotted during Preseason Thunder were Landon Cassill and Steve Park, who had a pretty low-key presence. Former open-wheel pilot Josh Wise, who has alternated recently between stock car stints with Michael Waltrip Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, tested Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevy for HMS Saturday.