DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 29, 2002) - The combination of the True Value/IROC Series and the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 makes Feb. 15 one of the most anticipated days during Speedweeks.
Kicking off the day's activities is the True Value/IROC Series, which will begins its 26th season with a 40-lap sprint race. The invitation-only all-star race is a Speedweeks staple and features 12 of the world's best drivers from both the stock car and open-wheel ranks turned loose in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds.
Among the drivers competing in this year's True Value/IROC Series are 2001 Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr., 1996 IRL co-champion Scott Sharp, 2001 Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, 2001 Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick and IROC defending champion Bobby Labonte.
The True Value/IROC Series always produces door-to-door racing. Test drivers Dave Marcis and Jim Sauter shook down four Pontiac Firebirds and tutored the open-wheel drivers in a test at Daytona last November to ensure guests at the Speedway will have a thrilling race.
"Our goal is to have everyone comfortable, have a good race, to have a close race and have all the cars in a nice tight pack," Marcis said. "That's what were accustomed to seeing at Daytona in the IROC race. I think the fans have seen great races here over the years. The rivalry between the open-wheel guys and the stock car guys gets pretty intense."
Concluding Friday's activities will be the fierce competition of the Craftsman Truck Series in the third annual Florida Dodge Dealers 250 At Daytona.
Last year, Joe Ruttman continued his success in the event, winning both the pole and the race in his No. 18 Bobby Hamilton Racing Dodge Ram.
Ruttman, who turned 57 last October, held off youngsters Ricky Hendrick and Scott Riggs with some clever drafting moves. He led the final 18 laps of the 100-lap event and edged Hendrick by .318 seconds.
"It's a ball racing those young guys. I think that's what keeps me young," said Ruttman, whose only win at Daytona came in an ARCA race in 1982. "I like seeing if I can outwit them a little bit. But all the guys on my team are young and they built me a rocket ship. Anyone could have won with that truck."
In the third annual Florida Dodge Dealers 250 on Feb. 15, Ruttman hopes to continue playing the role as the professor and give the field some more instruction as well as his second straight win on the high banks. No longer with Bobby Hamilton Racing, Ruttman participated in the three-day test session earlier this month with RDS Motorsports.
But in the Craftsman Truck Series, competition is always tough and there will be plenty of other top guns looking for Daytona glory. Ruttman will get strong challenges from the likes of Winston Cup veteran Ted Musgrave, 2001 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Travis Kvapil, Bobby Hamilton Racing's trio of drivers Robert Pressley, Bill Lester and Brian Rose, Roush Racing's rising star Jon Wood and former series champion Ron Hornaday, who is returning to the circuit in 2002 with Hendrick Motorsports.
Tickets for the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 and the True Value/IROC Series can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.
<pre> Lineup for the 2002 True Value IROC Series: Name: Representing: *Helio Castroneves Indy Racing League *Kevin Harvick NASCAR Busch Series *Sam Hornish Indy Racing League Dale Jarrett NASCAR Winston Cup Series Bobby Labonte NASCAR Winston Cup Series and reigning True Value IROC Champion *Danny Lasoski World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Buddy Lazier Indy Racing League Sterling Marlin NASCAR Winston Cup Series Scott Sharp Indy Racing League *Jack Sprague NASCAR Truck Series Tony Stewart NASCAR Winston Cup Series Al Unser, Jr. Indy Racing League * Indicates True Value IROC Series rookie.