[The following are facts and figures regarding the cars Pontiac teams will be running this week during the NASCAR Winston Cup events at Daytona International Speedway.]
Valvoline Grand Prix driver Johnny Benson made a big statement in last year's Daytona 500 by leading 39 of the last 43 laps before finishing 12th. This year, Benson will look for more behind the wheel of a new chassis.
A.J. Foyt Racing heads into Speedweeks with the same chassis that Rick Mast drove to a 31st place finish last October at Talladega Superspeedway. Foyt's new driver, 42-year old rookie Ron Hornaday, says he is "looking to fulfill a dream" this week by qualifying for his first Daytona 500.
Defending Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte finished outside the top 10 only 10 times in 2000, but three of those finishes came at restrictor plate tracks. His best "plate" performance of the year came in last year's Daytona 500 (sixth). He is hoping to better that with "Old Faithful," the oldest chassis in his team's stable (built near the end of the '97 season). In the Budweiser Shootout, Labonte will pilot the chassis that served as Old Faithful's backup in 2000.
Home Depot Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart ran his first Winston Cup race here at Daytona in 1999, and did it with this chassis (started 2nd, finished 28th). In four points races at Daytona, Stewart owns two top 10s, with both coming in the Pepsi 400. In the Budweiser Shootout, Stewart will line up seventh and will hope to improve on the fourth-place finish he posted in the 2000 event with the same chassis he ran then.
Kenny Wallace comes to Daytona in 2001 with his new team, Eel River Racing. Crew chief Barry Dodson, who directed Wallace's brother Rusty to a Winston Cup title in a Pontiac in 1989, has brought a brand new chassis to Daytona this week.
Ken Schrader's best finish of the 2000 season came in the form of a ninth in the Daytona 500. According to M&M's Grand Prix crew chief Sammy Johns, the team is "on a mission in 2001," and is hoping to break out this week with the chassis they campaigned at Talladega in October (finished 37th - blown engine). Schrader, who is a two-time winner of the Budweiser Shootout ('89 and '90), will start from the pole for the 2001 edition of the Shootout with a new chassis.
1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope is back this year with his own team and a new chassis. A start in this year's season-opening event would give him 25 career green flags in "The Great American Race."
- Al Larsen