Chevrolet Corvette drivers visited with the media in the Benny Kahn Media Center during Friday's lunch break at Rolex 24 At Daytona testing. Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R while Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel, Franck Freon and Johnny O'Connell will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet Corvette. Earnhardt Sr., ill with the flu, was unable to attend the news conference.
Ron Fellows on last year's exciting Rolex 24 At Daytona finish with the Dodge Viper:
"It's the closest finish, but we were still on the wrong end of it. It was a tremendous battle last year. It was all-out sprint. We got behind in the first four hours. It was a sprint to the end. It was tires, fuel and go as fast as we could. The Viper set the same pace. In a 24-hour race, we ran out of time. We have the car and we have some unfinished business here. We're looking to get to the end of the Rolex 24 and be first."
Chris Kneifel on the team's Rolex 24 At Daytona chances
"We know the strength of the team and the cars. Both cars have the capability of running a good hard pace and anything can happen in these events. You need to make sure you take care of your business and keep it clean. We're here to win. As Ron said, we need to get on top of the podium, and with any luck, one of the two cars will be there at the end." Team Corvette's program manager Doug Fehan on working with the Earnhardts
"Anytime you bring in a team of two guys that are as accomplished as the Earnhardts but who have never participated at this level of sport, there's going to be some difficulties. I outlined to management all the things that I thought could go wrong. When I got done with that, they said, 'Does this mean we shouldn't do it.' I said, 'Absolutely not. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.' I just wanted to let them know what the rules are and what we have to overcome to succeed. I had not worked with them nor had I met them. At the first test at Sebring, I can tell you I was very surprised. These two guys, and I don't want to embarrass Little E, are absolutely, totally dedicated to succeeding in this event. They have chosen in these three practice days to forgo some of their NASCAR activities which they would normally participate in to get time in the car. It's been an absolute joy. I'm extremely impressed at their level of dedication. They've done a magnificent job of driving a car that they are not accustomed to. Keep in mind, they have never driven a car that didn't have a center rear view mirror. They are excited about it. I'm very pleased."
Earnhardt Jr.'s thoughts on Rolex 24
It's been pretty interesting. We've got a great group of guys behind me. Everybody has welcomed me and my father into this organization with a lot of enthusiasm and expectations and we want to fulfill those. We spent two days at Sebring testing, trying to get accustomed to the car. The car drives so much more comfortable than what we're used to in our Winston Cup cars. It's hard not to get aggressive with the car. We torn up a little bit of fiberglass while we were at Sebring, so they told us we didn't have any mulligans when we came down here to test. We're trying to do the best we can to get acclimated with the track. It's quite a different track than any road course that I've ever been on. It's an interesting race . . . trying to change your way of thinking and outlook from what we're use to in Winston Cup where you run as hard as you can for four hours. Here, you don't do that. You try to take care of the car. It's an endurance race. That's the main thing."
Earnhardt Jr. on the upcoming night test
"I'm looking forward to that, but on the same token, I'm going to be very cautious toward it. It's something that we're going to have to do."
Earnhardt Jr. on the Corvette
"The whole car all around is different. We got a lot more grip, a lot more downforce. You can tell the difference in the acceleration and deceleration and how much air the car has on it versus our Winston Cup cars. We struggle with minute numbers of drag and downforce in a Winston Cup car and these guys are working with huge chunks compared to what we're doing. It's very enjoyable to drive, just like driving my Vette down the street. You can go as hard as you want with it. The throttle response is a lot of fun and can be your enemy in the long run. You got to be very careful with the throttle." Earnhardt Jr. on Turn 1 of the road course
"In the Cup car, we don't use any brake. It's just like the first time I went to Watkins Glen. You got to respect all the corners. Turn 1 here is a corner you got to respect. You brake real hard and you can get the car real upset and loose speed on the exit. I'm learning something every lap on the race track. These guys behind me are a big help. I'm pretty excited about it."
On why Earnhardt Jr. is driving in the Rolex 24 At Daytona
"Chevrolet came to me two years and ask me what I thought about it. We're under a lot of pressure to drive Winston Cup cars. I think it's a lot of pressure. I was pretty intimated about the idea to come over here and drive something that I didn't have any experience in. The more we talked about it, the more I looked at the car and this type of racing, the more it intrigue me. I'm not trying to do any other type of racing. This is just a great opportunity. When my father got excited about it, that just pumped me up more. Everything he says and does I really believe in. It's something I didn't think we'd be doing. It's a pretty big deal. It ranks up there with that first Daytona 500 that I drove."
Collins on having the Earnhardts as teammates
"Driving with the Earnhardts, somewhere down the line when I'm retired, I'll be able to say I drove with those guys at Daytona. To me, that's rocking chair equity."
Pilgrim thoughts on the Rolex 24 At Daytona
"I'm very happy to be at Daytona again. It's a great opportunity for all of us. One of the cars will hopefully win this race. There's nothing like winning at Daytona. We're here to win and that's what we're going to do."
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Top 10 Rolex 24 At Daytona Test Speeds (Afternoon Test Session)
No. 74 Robinson Racing, Baldwin/Robinson/Hoerr/Lazier, Judd R&S, (SportsRacer Prototype) 125.303 mph
No. 37 Intersport Racing, Jon Field, Judd Lola, (SportsRacer Prototype) 125.211 mph
No. 38 Champion Racing, Schroeder/Wollek/Haywood/Maasseen, Porsche Lola, (SportsRacer Prototype) 124.037 mph
No. 95 TRV Motorsports, Volk, Schroeder/Mirro/Waddell, Chevrolet R&S, (SportsRacer Prototype) 123.047 mph
No. 20 Dyson Racing Team, Rob Dyson, Elliott-Forbes Robinson, Ford R&S, (SportsRacer Prototype) 122.073 mph
No. 27 Lista Doran Racing, Theys/Lienhard/Bentley/Baldi, Judd Crawford, (SportsRacer Prototype) 121.313 mph
No. 6 TRP Racing, Tiller/Duder/Sherman/Bucknum, Nissan Lola, (SportsRacer Prototype) 119.809
No. 8 Phillip Creighton Motorsports, Schubot/Dayton/Burton, Ford Lola, (SportsRacer Prototype II) 119.621 mph
No. 5 Rocketsports, Gentilozzi/Miller, Saleen S7R, (GTS) 119.393 mph
No. 2 Corvette Racing, Fellows/Kneifel/Freon, Corvette, (GTS) 117.848 mph
No. 76 Gunner Racing, Newman, Jeannette/Jackson/Brockman, Porsche GT1, (GTS) 117.782 mph
No. 3 Corvette Racing, Earnhardt/Earnhardt Jr./Pilgrim/Collins, Corvette, (GTS) 116.616 mph