Daytona testing notes 96-01-05

TERRY LABONTE TOPS DAYTONA TEST SESSION DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5) -- Ten Chevrolet NASCAR Winston Cup teams concluded the first of two multi-day tests at Daytona International Speedway Friday in preparation for the Feb. 18 Daytona...

TERRY LABONTE TOPS DAYTONA TEST SESSION

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5) -- Ten Chevrolet NASCAR Winston Cup teams concluded the first of two multi-day tests at Daytona International Speedway Friday in preparation for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

Terry Labonte remained atop the timing sheets with a lap of 47.949 seconds, an average speed of 187.699 mph. It was the best lap of the three-day test.

Nearly 80 IMSA sports car teams are expected at the "World Center of Racing" beginning Saturday for a three-day test session preparing for the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The preliminary entry list for the session had more than a dozen Exxon World SportsCars and nearly 20 Exxon Supreme GTS-1 machines, with the balance of the list comprised of Exxon GTS-2 cars. In addition, nearly 30 entries have been received for IMSA Endurance Championship cars, which will make their Daytona debut with a 90-minute event on Friday, Feb. 2.

Among the more interesting World SportsCars expected to attend the test is the Chevrolet Courage C41, making its first Daytona appearance. In addition, the Support Net Hawk, which used a Mazda engine in 1995, is entered with Chevrolet power.

While the Oldsmobile Aurora GTS-1 car will be wheeled by a group of drivers including defending series champion Irv Hoerr and teammate Darin Brassfield, several other intriguing "international GT" cars are entered. Among the combinations that will make their Daytona debuts are the Bugatti EB110, driven by Derek John Hill; and the pair of Agusta Racing Callaway Corvettes, scheduled to be driven by former Daytona Camel Lights lap record holder Almo Coppelli and team owner Rocky Agusta.

Ford NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams open a three-day test session on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

For all test sessions a section of the Oldfield Grandstand is open daily at no charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with access through the Visitors' Center. Night testing for the IMSA cars will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 7, with the Oldfield Grandstand section open as well. Guided tours of the Speedway are also available from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for a nominal fee.

Meanwhile, at Talladega Superspeedway defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Johnny Benson continued to shake down the Bahari Racing Pontiac. Ward Burton and Bobby Hamilton reportedly tested from Tuesday through Thursday, then departed. Benson arrived on Thursday and was due to remain at Talladega through Saturday, when he was scheduled to be joined by ARCA hopeful Mike Harmon, who reportedly has hooked up with veteran driver/crew chief Red Farmer.

The remainder of the pre-season at Talladega will be busy as well, with Rusty Wallace scheduled to test alone at 'dega Jan. 9- 12; Sabco Racing plus others Jan. 13-15; Ford teams (including Geoff Bodine Racing, Butch Mock Motorsports, Filmar Racing, Elliott/Hardy and Cale Yarborough Motorsports) Jan. 16-19; NASCAR Busch Series cars Jan. 22-24; former ARCA champ Tim Steele Jan. 25- 27; Rick Mast plus others Jan. 28-31; and Phoenix Racing Feb. 1-3. With the exception of Steele's test, all others are considered private and under an "information embargo."

GENERAL MOTORS TEST SPEEDS -- Jan. 5* NO DRIVER/CAR TIME SPEED 5 Terry Labonte/Chevrolet 47.949 187.699 4 Sterling Marlin/Chevrolet 48.135 186.974 3 Dale Earnhardt/Chevrolet 48.159 186.881 24 Jeff Gordon/Chevrolet 48.169 186.842 44 Jeff Purvis/Chevrolet 48.193 186.749 87 Joe Nemechek/Chevrolet 48.337 186.193 71 Dave Marcis/Chevrolet 48.425 185.854 17 Darrell Waltrip/Chevrolet 48.555 185.357 33 Robert Pressley/Chevrolet 48.556 185.353 29 Steve Grissom/Chevrolet 48.992 183.703 24j Jack Sprague/Chevrolet 49.166 183.053

* Electronic times taken randomly throughout the day.

KODAK TEAM EXUDES CONFIDENCE AS DAYTONA 500 APPROACHES

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There is an air of confidence that surrounds the Kodak Film NASCAR Winston Cup team, driver Sterling Marlin and owner Larry McClure these days. It is evident, with the prospect of a third consecutive Daytona 500 victory on the horizon -- on Feb. 18 -- that this "We can win it again" feeling is one of the vital keys to success for the team.

"We've won three out of the last five (Daytona 500) races," explained McClure about the reason behind the team's confidence in the 500. "I guess when you've had success like that, it breeds on itself. The odds look almost insurmountable to win three in a row, but I think we can win the race."

Given the record of Morgan-McClure Motorsports at Daytona, which includes the '91 500 win by Ernie Irvan, the early odds on the Feb. 18 showdown put Marlin, McClure and Kodak as the front runner. Jeff Gordon, the newly-crowned NASCAR Winston Cup champion and currently the hottest commodity in the series, Dale Earnhardt, former Daytona 500 winners Irvan and Bill Elliott plus many others would beg to differ.

"Everybody in the team feels Daytona is our 'home' track," noted McClure. "Sterling told me he felt that way even before he got into our car because of the strong runs he had here. We should have won two races here last year and two races at Talladega. We didn't win but one at each place. Given that, I feel that certainly we're going to be the car to beat."

Marlin, one of the most mellow drivers on the circuit, doesn't make predictions. He does, however, tell it like it is. It's a cautious optimism born of the 278 races he competed in before his first victory.

"I'm not going to flat say we're going to come in and win the race, but we're going to try," said Marlin, who enjoyed a sideline view of a University of Tennessee bowl game victory -- in last Monday's Citrus Bowl -- for the second straight year. "We're going to prepare the same way we did in '94 and '95. We're going to try and do all the right things, not make any mistakes and be there at the end challenging for the win."

CUMULATIVE DAYTONA NASCAR WINSTON CUP TEST SPEEDS -- AS OF JAN. 5

NO  DRIVER/CAR                DATE      TIME      SPEED
5   Terry Labonte/Chevrolet    1/5      47.949    187.699
4   Sterling Marlin/Chevrolet  1/4      48.005    187.480
44  Jeff Purvis/Chevrolet      1/3      48.109    187.075
24  Jeff Gordon/Chevrolet      1/4      48.109    187.075
3   Dale Earnhardt/Chevrolet   1/4      48.116    186.854
87  Joe Nemechek/Chevrolet     1/4      48.300    186.335
71  Dave Marcis/Chevrolet      1/5      48.425    185.854
33  Robert Pressley/Chevrolet  1/4      48.540    185.414
17  Darrell Waltrip/Chevrolet  1/5      48.555    185.357
24j Jack Sprague/Chevrolet     1/3      48.773    184.528
29  Steve Grissom/Chevrolet    1/3      48.944    183.884

* = Electronic times taken randomly throughout the day.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Darrell Waltrip , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Robert Pressley , Johnny Benson , Jack Sprague , Jeff Purvis , Dave Marcis , Rick Mast , Mike Harmon , Tim Steele , Steve Grissom , Darin Brassfield , Cale Yarborough , Red Farmer
Teams Phoenix Racing