Preseason Thunder Part II: Daytona day two report

Brian Vickers Readies For First Daytona 500 Start ~ Ricky Rudd Posts Fastest Speed ~ DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 14, 2004) - As a youngster, Brian Vickers first came to Daytona Beach to race go-karts in the World Karting Association events at ...

Brian Vickers Readies For First Daytona 500 Start
~ Ricky Rudd Posts Fastest Speed ~

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 14, 2004) - As a youngster, Brian Vickers first came to Daytona Beach to race go-karts in the World Karting Association events at nearby Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium.

On his way to Municipal Stadium, Vickers had a dream of one day racing at the "World Center of Racing".

Vickers, now 20, will get his opportunity to compete at Daytona International Speedway's historic 2.5-mile tri-oval on Sunday, Feb. 15 in the 46th annual Daytona 500, the biggest, richest and most prestigious stock car race.

"I think it was when I was between the ages of 9 and 13 that I was over at Municipal Stadium," Vickers said. "I don't remember a whole lot about it because I was so young. But I do remember a lot of key things like riding by the Speedway and my dad saying something like 'hey wouldn't you like to be racing over there?' and I said, 'heck yeah I'd like to be racing over there. It'd be a lot of fun.' "

Vickers, who will compete for rookie honors in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, is anxious to get his testing out of the way and compete in his first "Great American Race," the season opener to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

"Daytona is awesome racing and I love it when I'm racing," Vickers said. "Test - just going out there by yourself for two laps and coming in and switching cars was starting to wear on me at the end of the day. I want to be around somebody, not by myself. It's a neat time and a neat experience. It's a goal and dream of mine that I've worked for all my life. To finally be here means everything.

"I've raced here last year in the Busch Series but it still wasn't the Daytona 500. This year is going to be a real neat time for me and for my family as well. My mom and dad worked so hard and gave up so many things like I did to help me get here."

Ready for the Rolex 24: Entering Speedweeks 2004, Jimmie Johnson has his eyes focused on two big prizes - the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 and the 46th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15.

Johnson, who'll co-drive the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Chevrolet Crawford Daytona Prototype in the toughest sports car race in the world, participated in the Rolex 24 At Daytona test session a few weeks ago and is ready for his first start in the twice-around-the-clock challenge.

"I'm really excited to drive the Daytona Prototype car," Johnson said. "I've never been in anything that has driven like that. It's quite an experience. Crawford has put a great car on the track so we've got a legitimate shot at winning the race, which would be another good thing to have on the mantle. (I'm) feeling good about it, but that first segment that I'm in the car, I'm just going to be watching myself and make sure that I don't mess anything up."

Other NASCAR stars joining Johnson in the Rolex 24 include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Kyle Petty.

Johnson, who finished second in the 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship standings, will shoot for his first triumph in the "Great American Race" behind the wheel of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Johnson, who finished a career-best third in the 2003 Daytona 500, has been fast throughout the test.

"(The Daytona 500) would obviously be our biggest event," Johnson said. "It's the first race of the year. It just super charges everybody's emotions and nerves and everything that goes with it. To be able to start off the season with that win and have the (Harley J. Earl) trophy for my mantle would be a huge accomplishment.

"We're really focusing on getting a good driving racecar for the (Daytona) 500 because it's great to be on the pole but we were able to do that our rookie year and we really want to come back and have a shot at wining the race. We came close last year, so we're looking forward to another shot at it."

Fastest of the test: Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford for the Wood Brothers, posted the fastest speed of Preseason Thunder in the afternoon session with a lap of 188.470 mph.

"I'd much rather be at the top of the sheet than the bottom of the sheet," Rudd said. "We've been at the bottom of the sheet enough. You come here to do good. You come here to learn and get better. We unloaded fast and we got faster. I'm excited about that."

Rounding out the top five on Wednesday were John Andretti (188.198), Johnson (187.731), Sterling Marlin (187.649) and Ken Schrader (187.414).

Testing open to the public: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing will conclude on Thursday. All testing is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.

Wednesday's speeds following the first day of the second session of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing in preparation for the Feb. 15 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway: <pre>

1.  Ricky Rudd          Ford            188.470 mph
2.  John Andretti       Chevrolet       188.198
3.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet       187.731
4.  Sterling Marlin     Dodge           187.649
5.  Ken Schrader        Dodge           187.414
6.  Bill Elliott        Dodge           187.317
7.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet       187.313
8.  Jeff Burton         Ford            187.052
9.  Greg Biffle         Ford            186.982
10. Casey Mears         Dodge           186.800
11. Elliott Sadler      Ford            186.788
12. Scott Riggs         Chevrolet       186.722
13. Brian Vickers       Chevrolet       186.683
14. Kyle Petty          Dodge           186.676
15. Kevin Lepage        Chevrolet       186.567
16. Rusty Wallace       Dodge           186.416
17. Ryan Newman         Dodge           186.174
18. Bobby Labonte       Chevrolet       185.993
19. Terry Labonte       Chevrolet       185.854
20. Derrike Cope        Ford            185.839
21. Robby Gordon        Chevrolet       185.422
22. Johnny Sauter       Chevrolet       185.094
23. Dave Blaney         Dodge           184.866
24. Jimmy Spencer       Dodge           184.847
25. Tony Raines         Chevrolet       184.188
26. Joe Ruttman         Dodge           183.801

Speedweeks 2004 tickets, including the 46th annual Daytona 500, are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

-dis-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Derrike Cope , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Biffle , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Johnny Sauter , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney
Teams Hendrick Motorsports