FONTANA, Calif. | Sunday's race, the first Nextel Cup event run with unleaded fuel, will be a big test for engine builders.
"This is a big race, and the unleaded fuel is a big change for these engines," said longtime engine builder Doug Yates, co-owner of Robert Yates Racing, of the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway.
"And what's big about it is taking the lead out of the fuel takes some of the cushion, some of the lubricity out of the fuel," he said. "So, what we have problems with is valves and valve seats ... The Busch and the truck guys have been on this fuel for about six months now, and we've tried to learn from those guys. But their races are 300-mile races, and this race is an additional 200 miles. So in that last 200 miles, is that going to make a difference? We'll see on Sunday."
Yates said his team and others will try to limit practice this week and inspect the engine components more often in preparation for Sunday.
Another big question is fuel mileage.
"It may be a little bit less for everybody just trying to acclimated to the new fuel, trying to be a little more conservative at first," Yates said. "But I think, when it's all said and done, that's going to be about the same as normal."
WHAT CONTROVERSY?: Some people still wonder why NASCAR didn't wave a yellow flag with several cars crashing near the end of the Daytona 500, insisting Mark Martin would have won had the caution come out.
Kevin Harvick, who won the race, doesn't question the result.
"I think anyone who has any sense can go back and watch the video and see when the first cars started crashing we were ahead, and when we cross the start-finish line, we were still ahead," Harvick said. "I am very content with that."
Still, he can't seem to avoid controversy.
Sunoco, the official fuel supplier of NASCAR, was not happy about the big Shell logos on Harvick's No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, driving uniform and helmet at Daytona.
This week, the Pennzoil logos will be more prominent on the car, and the team has ordered new uniforms and helmets for Harvick, which will be ready for the Bristol race on March 25.
CHANGING CARS: Thursday night, Sam Hornish Jr. was driving a Honda-powered Dallara IndyCar at speeds over 214 mph at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
A little more than 12 hours later, the reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion was driving a Penske Racing Busch Series Dodge at just over 177 mph on California Speedway's 2-mile oval.
Hornish, who plans to run the IRL IndyCar schedule in 2007, also is running a partial Busch schedule. He'll try to qualify Saturday for that day's race. If he does, it will be his fourth Busch start.
"I think the biggest thing is I know when in an IndyCar exactly what I want out of the car in order for it to be fast," Hornish said. "This is just kind of a guessing game for me right now. It's a big learning curve, but I don't feel like I'm going to get it all in a couple of races. It's going to take some time."
SPARK PLUGS: The top eight drivers in practice Friday for the Busch race were Nextel Cup regulars, led by Matt Kenseth with a lap of 180.252 mph. ... Of the drivers docked points in the Daytona cheating scandal, Matt Kenseth, Scott Riggs and Michael Waltrip remain in the hole heading into Sunday's race. Kenseth is -2, Riggs -10 and Waltrip -27, all after racing at Daytona.