Daytona 24: Final practice notes

Stewart quickest In Happy Hour at Rolex 24. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 30, 2004) -- Tony Stewart posted the quickest lap time in happy hour on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, as race teams made final preparations for this weekend's...

Stewart quickest In Happy Hour at Rolex 24.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 30, 2004) -- Tony Stewart posted the quickest lap time in happy hour on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, as race teams made final preparations for this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Stewart turned a 1:49.422 lap at 117.125 mph in the Howard-Boss Motorsports No. 2 CITGO Chevrolet Crawford during the final practice session.

"I don't think they are going to give a trophy away or anything for being fastest in happy hour. We're just bedding in brakes and trying to make sure we don't have any problems tomorrow," said Stewart.

While some have dismissed the chances of Stewart and co-drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Andy Wallace winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the pair of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers and road racing veteran are prepared to prove them all wrong. "I don't care what anyone thinks. I think we have a shot, and that's all that matters. I don't care what anybody else thinks about our chances," said Stewart.

The Red Bull-Brumos Racing No. 58 Porsche Fabcar turned the second-fastest time in happy hour with its 1:49.455 lap at 117.089 mph, while the SunTrust Racing No. 10 Pontiac Riley was third quickest with a 1:49.572 lap at 116.964 mph.

The Red Bull BE Racing No. 73 Ferrari 360 topped the GT class in happy hour with its 1:54.981 lap at 111.462 mph, and the Doncaster Racing No. 91 Porsche GT3 Cup was fastest among the SGS competitors with a 1:58.012 lap at 108.599 mph.

Defending overall and GT winner Kevin Buckler of The Racer's Group feels confident of his team's chances of repeating its success. "I feel pretty good. The cars are running great. The drivers and crew are doing great. Obviously there have been some setbacks with us with our trailer and issues with qualifying. Putting three cars in the top five in qualifying is pretty cool, but then having their times disallowed because of our paperwork snafu was a bummer," said Buckler. "It's a 24-hour race, and I think we're very, very prepared. We have the strongest lineup we've ever had. Across the board, with all the cars, I'm really proud of everybody."

Several teams will make their racing debut in the Daytona Prototypes class during the Rolex 24, including the Spirit of Daytona with its No. 09 CITGO Pontiac Crawford. "The car is running really well. Everybody seems real comfortable. We've been able to dial out a few handling issues. So, I think we're getting real close to being ready for the race," said Doug Goad, driver-owner of the Spirit of Daytona No. 09 Pontiac. "We'll go out and start the race and see what the field wants to do as far as setting the pace. We're not looking to set the pace. We really just want to check it out and follow it around for a while. If the pace is too quick, we'll back it off a little bit and run a pace a little slower."

The green flag will wave to start the 42nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Saturday at 1 p.m. Tickets are currently available for the event and can be purchased at the gate, online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at 386-253-RACE. SPEED Channel will broadcast more than 15 hours of the Rolex 24 At Daytona live on Saturday and Sunday.

For additional information on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series or the Rolex 24 At Daytona, visit www.grandamerican.com.

-garra-

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