Kyle Petty finds the speed on final Daytona test day

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 16, 2003) ¯ The final day of the Winston Cup test sessions in preparation for the Feb. 16 Daytona 500 wrapped up on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway with Kyle Petty posting the speed of the day. Petty turned...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 16, 2003) ¯ The final day of the Winston Cup test sessions in preparation for the Feb. 16 Daytona 500 wrapped up on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway with Kyle Petty posting the speed of the day.

Petty turned a lap of 183.773 mph in the morning session in the No. 45 Georgia-Pacific Dodge.

"We were pretty decent," Petty said. "We've been a solid top-10 car ever since we've been here. Yesterday when the wind was blowing real strong we picked up some stuff aero wise and a couple of things engine wise. Today the wind wasn't blowing. It was a perfect day. We were incredibly blessed longer and longer with no wind, so the speeds were really fast this morning. A lot of people were right there, and we just got a really, really good lap right at lunch time."

Overall in the Winston Cup test sessions, the fastest speed posted was by Mike Wallace, who turned a lap of 184.053 mph in the first test session last week.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Shuttle Viewing Sterling: Sterling Marlin, wheeling his No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, took a break while traveling 180 mph at Daytona International Speedway to take a peek at "Columbia," which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in nearby Cape Canaveral.

"I saw it (space shuttle) coming off Turn 2," Marlin said. "The guys say the space shuttle is taking off, so I was looking out. It was going real fast."

Marlin recalled last year's Daytona 500 finish during the lunch break of the final day of testing. With four laps remaining in the 2002 Daytona 500, the race was red flagged in order to clean up an accident in the tri-oval.

Marlin, who had just made contact with Jeff Gordon while battling for the lead, got out of his car during the red flag, walked over to his right front and pulled the fender away from the tire. Teams are not allowed to work on their cars under the red flag and Marlin was relegated from the lead to the tail end of the field.

"I guess everybody saw it," Marlin said. "It's a deal where I'd been racing cars a long time and I knew going around the track the fender was on the tire hard. What were they going to do? Put you in jail? We knew we were going to have to pit anyway and go to the rear. We thought we'd just try to call their bluff and get out there and try to pull it off and get back in the car. It didn't quite work."

Marlin led the NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings for most of last season before a neck injury sidelined him. Entering 2003, Marlin says he's healthy and ready to go.

"That's about the 1000th and tenth time (I've been asked about my neck)," Marlin said. "It's OK."

Rudd Happy In New Ride: Ricky Rudd is prepping for his first season with the Wood Brothers and the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford and is satisfied with the effort given by the team during the three-day test.

"These guys have done good," Rudd said. "Everybody on the team has really pulled together. They're sort of amazing guys."

Rudd joins the Wood Brothers Racing after three seasons at Robert Yates. Rudd, a native of Chesapeake, Va., believes the Wood Brothers, based in Stuart, Va., are underestimated.

"I guess probably the best way to put it in perspective is that it's a team that's sort of a sleeper," Rudd said. "It's over here on the side and no one is probably paying much attention to it, but there's a tremendous amount of talent in that shop."

The Wood Brothers finished second in last year's Daytona 500 with Elliott Sadler and Rudd hopes to better that finish by one spot in this year's "Great American Race" on Feb. 16.

"If you look at the history of qualifying for the Wood Brothers, it hasn't been one of their strong suits at Daytona," Rudd said. "They put a lot of effort in the race results and tend to sometimes sacrifice qualifying. That's a smart thing to do. If I had a choice of qualifying good and run poorly in the race or qualify poorly and run good in the race, I'd rather have it that way and that's sort of the way they work."

Travolta named Grand Marshal: Daytona International Speedway announced that John Travolta, who has earned Academy Award nominations for his performances in both "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction," will give the command to start engines as Grand Marshal for the 45th annual Daytona 500.

Travolta, whose next film "Basic" will be released on April 18, has affection for speed as a seasoned jet pilot, owner of his own 707 and as a spokesperson for Qantas Airlines to encourage air travel. Travolta will also give the command in front of a "hometown" crowd. Travolta is a resident of Florida.

Grammy Award winning artist Mariah Carey, the biggest selling female pop artist of all time, will join Travolta on pit road. She will kick off the festivities by singing the National Anthem.

The Speedway also announced that two award-winning musical groups will perform concerts during Speedweeks 2003.

The Speedway will also welcome two award-winning musical groups during Speedweeks. SHeDAISY will perform a concert prior to the start of the inaugural nighttime running of the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, Feb. 8. The Utah-born siblings Kristyn, Kelsi and Kassidy Osborn make up SHeDAISY and will perform a concert shortly after the conclusion of the Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series season opener, which goes green at 4:30 p.m. SHeDAISY will also sing the national anthem before the 8 p.m. Budweiser Shootout.

Four-time Grammy nominated Christian rock band "Third Day" will perform a post-race concert at the track following the Feb. 15 Koolerz 300, the season opener for the NASCAR Busch Series. In addition, Third Day's talented lead singer Mac Powell will sing the national anthem before the start of the Koolerz 300.

On tap: Next up in NASCAR Preseason Thunder is a two-day NASCAR Goody's Dash Series test session on Jan. 18-19 in preparation for the season-opening NASCAR Goody's Dash Series 150 on Feb. 9. The odd NASCAR Busch Series teams in the owner's points standings will test at the Speedway on Jan. 20-21 followed by the even teams on Jan. 23-24.

Tickets to Speedweeks 2003 events are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

-dis-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kyle Petty , Sterling Marlin , Mike Wallace , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler
Teams Wood Brothers Racing