Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Shake Down Daytona Prototype NEXTEL Cup Series Stars Geared Up For Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 4, 2004) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart took their first laps in the...
Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Shake Down Daytona Prototype
NEXTEL Cup Series Stars Geared Up For Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 4, 2004) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart took their first laps in the No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Chevrolet Crawford Daytona Prototype on Sunday during the second day of Rolex 24 At Daytona testing at historic Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart participated in the afternoon session of testing as they prepare for the 42nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 31-Feb. 1, which is the season opener for the Rolex Sports Car Series. Andy Wallace and Dave Brule will co-drive with Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. in the twice-around-the-clock challenge.
The No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Chevrolet Crawford finished the day as fourth fastest on the speed chart with a lap of 117.537 mph.
"We got a good race car," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We've got to really study it to improve it and get it more comfortable for me. We seem to be right where we need to be - right near the top of the sheet."
Said Stewart: "Max (Crawford) and all these people did a great job building this car. For guys like Junior, Jimmie Johnson and myself to get in there and, I don't know how many laps I ran, but in about 10 laps I ran a 1:51 flat. To be able to get in a car and go that quick that soon in it shows how comfortable the car is."
This will be the second Rolex 24 start for both Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart. Stewart teamed with Jan Lammers and Johnny Mowlem in a Crawford SSC2K Prototype in the 2002 Rolex 24. Earnhardt Jr. teamed with his father Dale Earnhardt, Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins in a Chevrolet Corvette to finish fourth overall in the 2001 event.
"I was really looking forward to it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Driving for the Crawfords is a great honor. I'm just trying to get those nerves out and get comfortable with the car and comfortable with the team so I can really enjoy it. I'm still a little nervous with it right now."
Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. aren't the only NEXTEL Cup Series competitors in the Rolex 24. Jimmie Johnson, who finished second in the 2003 NEXTEL Cup Series championship standings, will co-drive the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Chevrolet Crawford. Kyle Petty, Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick are also potential Rolex 24 entrants.
The participation of the NEXTEL Cup Series is not only reason for excitement in the garage during Rolex 24 testing. There are 18 Daytona Prototypes participating in the three-day test session as opposed to only five in 2003.
For the 2003 Rolex 24, there were six Daytona Prototypes on the starting grid. For the 2004 edition of the Rolex 24, Daytona Prototype entries will be near 20.
With a year of racing under their belt, the competition in the Daytona Prototype class, the premier class in the Rolex Sports Car Series, should be fierce.
"When we started last year, everybody was pointing their finger saying it was a dumb move and nobody is going to want cars like this," said five-time Rolex 24 At Daytona champion Hurley Haywood, co-driver of the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche FABCAR. "It just goes to show you when you come up with a sound idea, you stabilize the rules and you stabilize the costs of people who are coming out to do it. We've got first-class teams, first-class drivers coming. Everybody that I talked to - vendors, drivers and team owners - this is the future. Looks like we were right."
For the second straight day, the No. 54 Bell Motorsports Chevrolet Doran was atop the speed chart with a lap of 118.326 mph. Rounding out the top five were the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche FABCAR (117.846), the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley (117.711), the No. 2 Chevrolet Crawford and the No. 27 Doran Lista Lexus Doran (116.778).
Fans can watch Monday's final day of Rolex 24 At Daytona testing at Daytona International Speedway from the Oldfield Grandstands. Admission is free and accessible through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.
Tickets for the 42nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.