DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 3, 2002) - There's a Winston Cup feel to the three-day Rolex 24 At Daytona test session, which kicked off on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, who are among the six Winston Cup drivers who have finalized their plans to compete in the 40th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Feb. 2-3, turned their first laps on the Speedway's 3.56-mile road course in a sportscar.
Harvick, who drives the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, got behind the wheel of the No. 90 RE/MAX Corvette fielded by Flis Motorsports. He'll compete in the American GT class in the Rolex 24 with RE/MAX co-founder Dave Liniger and drivers Rick Carelli and John Metcalf.
Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing, will compete in the Rolex 24 with the Crawford Race Cars' factory team. He'll race a V10 Judd-powered Crawford in the SportsRacing Prototype class.
"There's no pressure," said Harvick of his Rolex 24 venture. "The whole goal here is to have a fun with Dave Liniger, Rick Carelli and John Metcalf and just have a good time with it and try to finish the race. We still want to do good, but the main objective is to have a good time and relax and get into the groove for the (Winston Cup) season."
Other Winston Cup drivers slated to compete in the twice-around-the-clock race include Kyle Petty and John Andretti for Orbit Racing. Petty, who is expected to test Friday, finished seventh in the 2001 Rolex 24 for Orbit Racing while Andretti was part of the overall winning team in the 1989 Rolex 24.
Not testing on Thursday but still competing in the race is Winston Cup driver turned NBC commentator Wally Dallenbach, who will pair up with IRL driver Steve Knapp, George Robinson and Jack Baldwin in Robinson Racing's No. 74 Riley & Scott Mark III-C in the SportsRacing Prototype class. Dallenbach has posted four class victories in the Rolex 24.
Robby Gordon, who drives the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, will partner with 1996 IRL champion Scott Sharp in the factory-backed Riley & Scott Mark III-C of Jim Matthews Racing. Gordon posted four straight class victories in the Rolex 24 between 1990-93.
Harvick, who won the 2001 Busch Series championship and the Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year, is enjoying the sportscar experience. He's not worrying about points or a championship, he's just trying to get a handle on the Corvette.
In the morning session on his first lap, Harvick did spin out the Corvette in the infield portion of the Speedway when his tires weren't warmed up. In the afternoon session, he fared better and turned a fast lap of 107.171 mph.
"Man, that thing is fun," Harvick said. "You get the tires warmed up on that Corvette and it really sticks going through the turns. It drives a lot different than a Cup car. The acceleration in that car is incredible."
Harvick, who resides in the Daytona Beach, Fla., area, thinks any track time he can get will be helpful. He hopes by competing in the Feb. 2-3 Rolex 24, he'll be loosened up for his first stock car activity on Feb. 9 when he makes his Bud Pole Qualifying run for the Daytona 500.
"There's no reason that we shouldn't start a week earlier," Harvick said. "You don't have to work the jitters out in the Winston Cup car. When you get done with this race, you will have been in the car for quite awhile hopefully working the kinks out. All the jitterbugs should be worked out by the time we get to the Winston Cup car."
Rolex 24 testing continues on Friday and a section of the Oldfield Grandstand is free and open to the public with access through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Tickets for the 40th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.