Chance Meeting With Team Owner Nets Retired NYPD Officer Pit Road Job
*Atlanta Residents Ballew, Lester Join Forces For 2007 Season
*Canada's Shepherd Fast But Awaits Daytona Driving Decision
*Cook: 'You Can Pass A Boat Load Of Trucks In One Lap Here'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 14, 2007) -- Jim Rosenblum saw his first Daytona International Speedway race in 1959, the year the 2.5-mile tri-oval opened.
Rosenblum, a resident of Mamaroneck, N.Y. who owned NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in the 1980s and 1990s, also is among NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pioneers, having fielded a truck in which Kerry Teague finished 19th in the series' inaugural race at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 5, 1995.
His FDNY Racing Chevrolets haven't competed fulltime in the series for a number of years, but Rosenblum's schedule usually includes Daytona where the 2007 season begins Feb. 16 with the Chevrolet Silverado HD 250.
With Wayne Edwards doing the major share of driving the No. 28 Chevrolet, the team has participated in this week's NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder that wrapped up Sunday.
FDNY Racing is unique among NASCAR national series teams in that many of its crew members are current and retired members of New York City safety agencies. Rosenblum, who received the city's 2004 Liberty Medal from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, donates proceeds from team souvenir sales to the firefighter union's Widows and Orphans Fund.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, contributions exceed $160,000.
"A lot of charities were collecting money after 9/11 but the problem was not all of it was going where it was intended," he said. "The FDNY fund is run by the union with no administrative overhead."
Just one of the team's safety service volunteers was in the garage area this week but the others next month will join retired New York Police Department motorcycle officer Billy Rock, who now lives in Cape Coral, Fla.
Rock and a friend came to Speed Weeks in 2003, met Rosenblum and received a garage and pit tour. "I thought it was phenomenal that the team was recognizing the heroes from 9/11," said Rock, who quickly was pressed into service as a gasman and has served the team in a variety of over-the-wall capacities -- he's now the front tire carrier -- since.
"I definitely was in the right place at the right time. It's definitely a privilege being with this team; we're all one big, happy family," he said. "Jim is an awesome person."
Rosenblum and crew chief Dick Rahilly, another former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup owner, look next month to improve on the team's best Daytona finish of 21st by driver L.W. Miller in 2003.
Bill Lester begins sixth full season with new ride ... The Californian turned Atlanta-area resident joins Billy Ballew Motorsports in 2007 after three seasons at Bill Davis Racing and another pair of campaigns with Bobby Hamilton Racing. The campaign marks the first in which Lester, 45, will drive a team's primary truck. Ballew, who also resides in Atlanta and crew chief Richie Wauters have scored victories during the past three seasons -- most recently with Kyle Busch at Lowe's Motor Speedway last May. They believe Lester's potential is yet to be fully unlocked. The University of California-Berkeley engineering graduate has a best finish of fifth along with three Budweiser Poles in 127 series appearances and $1,417,904 in career winnings.
"Bill is a very intelligent driver," said Wauters. "He understands what it takes and what we need for him to keep the team upfront. This is a racers team and Bill fits right into that."
Lester, who made his first NASCAR Nextel Cup start last March in Atlanta, said, "The chemistry with Richie is already there. It's as if we've worked together for years. He is one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable crew chiefs that I've worked with."
Kvapil, Roush top every practice segment ... Travis Kvapil (No. 6 Roush Racing Ford) wore an ear-to-ear smile as he left the garage Sunday afternoon as NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder came to a close. "These guys are awesome; they could go (NEXTEL) Cup racing tomorrow," said Kvapil, who produced the top speed in every segment of the three-day test. Kvapil, driving for the team that won the Budweiser Pole in 2006, recorded the quickest single truck lap at 50.180 seconds/179.354 mph. In the draft, the Wisconsin native posted a fast lap of 48.252 seconds/186.521 mph during Friday's afternoon session. AJ Almendinger (No. 00 Toyota) was next fastest, also on Friday; at 48.399 seconds/185.954 mph followed by three-time series champion Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) at 184.691 seconds/184.691 mph.
Roush 'Gong Show' Participant Shepherd Crossing His Fingers ... Canadian Peter Shepherd (No. 50 Roush Racing Ford) consistently has logged some this week's quickest laps but still has no idea if he'll be competing in next month's race. If performance counts, however, Shepherd, 20, should count on getting some action in the team's F-150 truck. "It's unbelievable; a couple of years ago I was racing on short tracks in Canada," he said. "It's always like one day I want to make it. I'm so happy to be associated with a team like Roush and getting the opportunities I'm getting." Shepherd competed in three races for Roush in 2006 with a best finish of 18th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Cook May Be Ready For Daytona Breakthrough ... With six top-10 finishes and a Budweiser Pole in seven appearances at Daytona, Terry Cook (No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota) will be among pre-race favorites to win the season opener. Cook is another series driver with a new ride in 2007 and Jim Harris' equipment has been able to run at the front at Daytona. Robert Pressley was third in 2003's closest, three-way series finish in which he wound up third alongside Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel Ford) and Kvapil. "You just have to be smart and put yourself in a position in those final 10 laps to be around at the end to have a shot at winning it," said Cook, whose best Daytona finish is fourth in 2000. "I've seen Bobby Hamilton win this thing from 15th with two (laps) to go. It can be done; you can pass a boat load of trucks in one lap here."
Around The Garage ... Sunday's final day of testing -- all drafting practice -- was shortened by morning showers. Drivers took to the track a few minutes past noon after a delay of about three hours. ... Several teams called an early end to testing following the conclusion of Saturday's afternoon round. Among them was Kevin Harvick Inc.'s pair of trucks. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet) clocked the ninth fastest single-truck lap with teammate Cale Gale 15th in the No. 2 Chevrolet. Hornaday was the quickest Chevrolet at 51.168 seconds/175.891 mph. ... The Darrell Waltrip Motorsports crew actually called it quits on Saturday with 2-1/2 hours remaining, obviously pleased with Almendinger's performance. ... There were only two Dodges in the garage -- both fielded by Bobby Hamilton Racing -- but Chase Miller (No. 4 Dodge) showed among the top half of 33 drivers on the single-lap chart. His 13th-best lap was 51.299 seconds/175.442 mph.
Series Director Wayne Auton Gives Test Thumbs Up ... NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton termed the three days of testing successful on several fronts. "The trucks definitely, as far as aerodynamics, have done exactly what we felt like we could accomplish with four new trucks in the garage area, which is to keep the speeds where we were before (or) maybe a little less," he said. A number of drivers told Auton the package shouldn't diminish passing opportunities. "I've heard most of them say that with a little bit of help, you can get out and pass somebody but you can still pull out and go around a line of trucks even if they are lined up in front of you," said Auton.
Testing Continues At Homestead-Miami Speedway ... The second of the 2007 season's three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tests will be held Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 17-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 1.5-mile track hosts the Ford 200, the season finale, on Nov. 16. Testing will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both days with Friday, Jan. 19 reserved in event of inclement weather. The year's final test is scheduled for May 10-11 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
On Deck ... The second round of NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (even-numbered car owner standings) begins Monday, Jan. 15 and continues through Wednesday, Jan. 17. Among drivers scheduled to test are former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
Session II: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in even positions in car owner standings as of July 12, 2006
What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2007 Daytona 500
Where: Daytona International Speedway
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Monday, Jan. 15 through Wednesday, Jan. 17.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.; 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday.
Who: Kurt Busch, Ward Burton, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth, J.J. Yeley, Elliott Sadler, Ken Schrader, Mike Skinner, Jeff Gordon, Stanton Barrett, Jeff Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, David Gilliland, Regan Smith, David Stremme, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Petty, Mike Bliss, Michael Waltrip, James Hylton, Brandon Whitt, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Lepage, Carl Edwards, David Reutimann, Johnny Sauter, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer and Mike Wallace.