This race will be a great litmus test for our intermediate program. Based on how we performed on Friday and Saturday, I think we should be in pretty good shape. The Jack Daniel’s Chevy was second-quick in Friday’s first practice and we qualified sixth. The season starts today. I know the Daytona 500 is the first race on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series calendar, and don’t get me wrong, it pays as many points as any of the other 35 races on the schedule but it’s still a restrictor-plate race and “plate races” don’t win championships. With all the hype surrounding the Daytona 500, dubbed as “NASCAR’s Super Bowl,” our season begins in earnest today. The bulk of our year is spent on intermediate race tracks. And when I say intermediate tracks, I mean tracks that are generally two miles or a mile-and-a-half in length. There are a couple exceptions like Indianapolis and Pocono but, for the most part, California Speedway and tracks like it are what we call intermediate tracks. My crew chief Gil Martin has a good plan for today and we’ve got a good car. Like I said, our season begins today. It’d be nice to kick it off with a win. it Clint Bowyer, who drives the No. 07 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, is writing a daily diary during NASCAR Weekend at California Speedway. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! This is, by far, my favorite car in our fleet. It’s the same car we ran really well with towards the end of last year. If we hadn’t blown a motor with three laps to go at Michigan in August, we wouldn’t have finished any worse than 10th with this car. I like to call the old girl “Betsy.” There are a couple of things that everyone thinks about when it comes racing at California – handling and fuel mileage. Tires are a huge part of the handling equation. I grew up racing dirt-modifieds in the Midwest and believe it or not, that’s going to help me a ton in today’s race. The tire that we’re racing is built from such a hard compound that it’s very similar to racing on a “dry-slick” dirt track. What I mean is that you have to take care of your tires in the corners and keep them underneath you. You have to keep the load of the car on the right-rear tire. If you get in to the corner too far, the car will push and won’t want to turn. If you don’t get enough, you’ll be loose off and the car will want to spin out when you turn the wheel. That’s exactly what you have to do in a dirt car to be fast. You have to get in the corner just right so you can drive straight off the corner. Fuel mileage is always a factor too and can be the key to a top five or finishing 35th. Last fall we gave up track position to stop and top off with fuel and that was the difference. Everyone else gambled on another caution that never came and a lot of guys ran out of gas.