ORLANDO, FLA., January 16, 1997 =97 NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series haulers arrived Thursday at Walt Disney World Speedway to prepare for Friday's first optional practice sessions for Sunday's Chevy Trucks Challenge.

A total of 63 entries have been received for the season opener for the third year of the series and the first NASCAR race held at Walt Disney World. Several drivers were on hand as their transporters arrived.

Quotes: Ron Hornaday, Jr.: "We have a brand new truck. We've got a lot of different people racing here. We'll really have to fight for the top 24 positions. NASCAR tries to get a lot of competitors. You're gonna get some winners and you're gonna get some losers. It's part of racing. It is a shame, but someone has to go home (a loser). Everyone wants to win this race. Normally, we would be sittin' home right now, but NASCAR put together this deal and we are here at Disney. I'm here a few days early so I can go enjoy some of these rides. The fans are great. They make you dedicated because they're still there no matter where you finish in the race. The media has been great with all the drivers."

Darin Norfleet (Hornaday's truck driver from Kannapolis, NC): "Just been sittin' out there for four hours touring around I-4 about four times. We drove in from Mooresville, NC. It's the first race =97 let's just get= goin'." (schedule): "Get to the race, get to the track, let's get racin'!"

Michael Dokken: "I have a lot of family coming here for the race since I'm from Florida, just about the southern half of the state. I'm looking forward to the season. Hopefully, we'll be doing a lot of testing between now and Tucson to get a few more trucks ready. The weather is great here. It's nice to have a job where you're always in warm weather, especially at this time of the year."

Felix Giles: (about his series debut): "We got to do a few days at Altamont (Calif.). Our test program was waylaid by bad weather. The area was flooded. When we tested, we were one second off the track record at Altamont. My first goal is to qualify. That means everything. Qualifying. Period. I can talk all day long but it doesn't mean squat unless I qualify. There's nothing else." (About joining the series): "I've worked for many years to obtain a sponsorship like this (Panasonic). I know a lot of other black guys are looking to me to make a positive difference. It's not only a duty to my sponsor but my duty to all the other black guys out there. It's not a black thing with me. I'm pretty much a person who wants to be judged on my personality, not my color. Everyone else is making it a black thing but I want to race and continue to do the stuff in the community that I do."


Buddy Lazier took the first laps ever in a Dallara/Nissan Infiniti Indy combination Thursday at Walt Disney World Speedway in preparation for the Indy Racing League's Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora Jan. 23-25 at the one-mile oval.

Lazier took 12 laps on a systems check for Hemelgarn Racing, the same team that went with him to Victory Lane last May in the Indianapolis 500.

Quote: Lee Kunzman (team manager, Hemelgarn Racing): "We're going to go home, finish up the backup car, ship it back down and we'll be back Sunday night. We had a throttle we weren't happy with, so we're going home (to Indianapolis) to fix it. At home it is (easy to fix). Here, without machine tools and stuff, it's difficult. But the systems worked well. We found we'll be ready to run the first of the week and run hard. Like always, the first day out of the box, we found some things to massage. We'll be okay."


Tickets for Sunday's Chevy Trucks Challenge and the Jan. 25 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora are available at Race Rock, Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World, Seminole Town Center in Sanford, the Florida Mall in Orlando and Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg. The ticket trailer at Walt Disney World Speedway opens at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday.