Daytona Test: Day one news and notes

Jimmie Johnson Gets First Taste of Daytona Prototype Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 3, 2004) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson got his first taste of Daytona Prototype racing today when he got behind the wheel of the ...

Jimmie Johnson Gets First Taste of Daytona Prototype Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 3, 2004) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson got his first taste of Daytona Prototype racing today when he got behind the wheel of the Howard-Boss Motorsports No. 4 Boss Snowplows Chevrolet Crawford Daytona Prototype.

Johnson was able to get in his first few laps just before the morning session was checkered. "It was good. I think I made two laps. I spun out on my second one. I didn't hit anything. I got (the spin) out of the way. It's a totally different vehicle to be in. I'm going to have a lot of fun with it. I'm really looking forward to it. It's the first time meeting a lot of the drivers I'm teamed up with. It's going to be a great experience," said the driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet in the NEXTEL Cup Series.

"I've always wanted to compete in it (the Rolex 24 At Daytona). I didn't realize I was going to have a chance to compete at such a great level with the Crawford group and the Daytona Prototype class. Through the holidays, it's been the first thing I've been thinking about. I know Daytona is coming for us in the Cup car, but my first race is going to be the Rolex race. When I wake up each morning and think of race cars, I've been thinking of that race and nothing else," Johnson continued.

"It's just for fun. It's obviously a serious effort. They (Howard-Boss Motorsports) want to win the race. For me, it's a great way to work out all the rust out of my head and get all my hand and eye coordination working proper. It's a great way for me to knock off the rust and have some fun," he said.

In addition to Johnson, NEXTEL Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are expected to be on hand for pre-season testing this weekend, piloting the Howard-Boss Motorsports No. 2 Chevrolet Crawford. Steve Park has also been in discussions with Schuitemaker Motorsports about testing the Grand-Am Cup Series team's No. 35 Nissan 350Z this weekend.

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Paul Newman Joins Gunnar Racing in Daytona Prototype

Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman returned to Daytona International Speedway this weekend to participate in pre-season testing in Gunnar Racing's No. 79 Porsche FABCAR. While not listed on the team's official entry, both Newman and Michael Brockman have joined Gunnar Jeannette in the team's Daytona Prototype.

"I was very impressed. My expectations were definitely exceeded. The car is an absolute blast to drive. The Porsche engine is wonderful," said Jeannette of his first laps in the Daytona Prototype. "We are all very happy. Paul's happy, and we just want to get more seat time. Everyone likes it though, and that's a big part of why we are here."

Newman and Jeannette teamed with NASCAR's Kyle Petty last season in the Bully Hill Vineyards 250 at Watkins Glen International, however Petty has yet to be added to the team's entry.

In keeping with tradition, the number on the Daytona Prototype corresponds to Newman's age at the time of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The actor/racer will celebrate his 79th birthday on January 26th.

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Champ Limping Through Testing

Terry Borcheller can be spotted limping around the garage this weekend. The 2003 Daytona Prototype champion recently had some arthroscopic work performed on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus he has had since his motocross days. However a bum knee won't keep the champ out of the Bell Motorsports No. 54 Chevrolet Doran JE-4, as he plans to get in a few laps during this weekend's pre-season testing.

Borcheller will once again partner with Forest Barber during the 2004 season. Andy Pilgrim has already been confirmed on the team's lineup for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and Milka Duno is with the team this weekend testing the No. 54 Chevy as a possible fourth driver for the 24-hour classic.

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Law, Borkowski Adjusting To Different Daytona Prototypes

After running in Daytona Prototypes throughout the 2003 season, drivers Darren Law and Mike Borkowski are back behind the wheel, but this time in different cars. After piloting the G&W Motorsports BMW Picchio DP2 last season, Law has moved into the Brumos Racing No. 58 Red Bull Porsche FABCAR for 2004, while Borkowski, who drove the Red Bull machine last season, is now in the SpeedSource No. 9 Ford Multimatic.

"I am adjusting very well. You know the team is top notch. My co-driver David (Donohue) is going to be great. We have a great lineup with (Porsche factory drivers) Sascha (Maassen) and Lucas (Luhr). Barring any major problems, we have a good shot at this (winning the Rolex 24)," said Law. "There is a big difference between the FABCAR and the Picchio. They are two totally different cars. The motors are different in how they work - the Porsche motor compared to the BMW. I'm finding a big difference between the cars, but they are both prototypes. I didn't have too much trouble adjusting to the FABCAR. It's actually pretty nice to drive."

"It's actually pretty interesting how different the Multimatic feels from the FABCAR," said Borkowski, who will team with Paul Mears Jr. and Arie Luyendyk Jr. for the Rolex 24. "The car is pretty good right away. There is definitely room for improvement. The Multimatic is a package that has a lot of potential that's not realized yet. I think there are a couple of big chunks as far as getting the car a little bit better and then getting into the fine tuning window and finding its real sweet spot. I don't think they have that quite yet. It will be fun to work with."

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EFR, Leitzinger Back in the Groove of Things

Drivers Elliott Forbes-Robinson (EFR) and Butch Leitzinger are no strangers to the Rolex 24 At Daytona. EFR has competed in the race 18 times with two overall wins, while Leitzinger has 12 races and three wins on his resume.

After missing last year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, the longtime teammates are back for the 42nd anniversary of the 24-hour classic, partnering with NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson and Dave Brule in the Howard-Boss Motorsports No. 4 Boss Snowplow Chevrolet Crawford Daytona Prototype.

"After missing one cycle, we are back into the normal groove of things. I think both of us are used to the fact that as soon as New Year's is over, we wake up with a hangover, get on a plane and come down here," joked Leitzinger. "It's nice to be back, especially with Max (Crawford). We worked with Max for many, many years, and its nice to come down here with one of his cars."

"Actually we are working with a lot of the same guys, because Max and some of these guys crewed the No. 20 car with Dyson (Racing). When we won in '97 and '99, they were the guys working on the car," said EFR.

"It really feels exactly like it always has; Butch has hogged the car so far, and I'm not in it. It's just like the same old thing," quipped EFR when asked his thoughts on the new Daytona Prototype.

"If you come by on Monday evening, he might have something to tell you. That's if I decide to let him drive. I haven't decided yet," retorted Leitzinger.

-garra-

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