BUSCH: Beating around the Busch, chapter 1

Beating Around the Busch: Chapter one Daytona By: Thomas Chemris The NASCAR Busch Grand National Series prepared for the start of its twenty-second season as testing concluded at the Daytona International Speedway. In preparation for the Koolers...

Beating Around the Busch: Chapter one Daytona
By: Thomas Chemris

The NASCAR Busch Grand National Series prepared for the start of its twenty-second season as testing concluded at the Daytona International Speedway. In preparation for the Koolers 300 on February 15, 2003, the testing, which finished January 24th was divided into two sessions, by even and odd car numbers from the 2002 owners points.

Former CART Champion Jimmy Vasser topped the speed charts (184.158 mph) as the fastest overall competitor in the two tests at the Speedway. Vasser will compete in ten Busch events for Braun Racing.

"They wanted to put some qualifying-type tricks to it to see how fast it could go, said Vasser. "Most of the guys probably haven't done those things yet. That's why it appears to be a little bit faster than other cars."

The 2002 defending Daytona season opener winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was on top for the other session. His No 8 Chevrolet was fastest with a lap of 183.520 mph around the famed 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Earnhardt will mark his second start as a co-team owner. The team's first Busch outing was last fall at the Richmond International Speedway, the team dominated and won the Hardees 250.

"This is a DEI-based team, owned by Teresa and myself," said Earnhardt Jr. "I'm pretty happy about it. I'm real happy that we worked real good today. The guys that we've put into place to work on that team have done a great job building the cars. They're real clean, real good. They're no problem or bugs to work as of yet. Hopefully, it'll be fast on race day."

Other impressive runs included Mike Bliss, the current Craftsman Truck Series Champion. Bliss made the switch to team with Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2003 Busch Series. Bliss had a speed of 184.030 mph.

Other top test times included Kevin Harvick in his Payday sponsored machine at 182.694 mph, Shane Hmiel in the No. 48 Pontiac at 182.146 and the two-time Busch Champion. Randy Lajoie at 182.013 in the No. 7 Pontiac.

Brewco Motorsports is gearing up for two new drivers as veteran and former series Champion David Green (180.545 mph) will take over the one ride as Jamie McMurray moves on to the Winston Cup Series.

"This team is basically the #27 team from last year," said Green. "Those guys won two races (with Jamie McMurray). They know what's going on. This is a very tough place to come test. I don't care if you're an experienced team or a new team. Our gelling period, the way we communicate, we've got that down. It's just a matter of getting our car where it needs to be now. It's really going to be a fun season. The guys have one goal and that's to win races and win a championship."

Teaming with Green is 19-year-old Chase Montgomery, the Tennessee native finished fourth in the 2002 ARCA championship. Montgomery will drive the No. 27 Brewco Pontiac for seven events during the first half of the season.

"At Brewco Motorsports, we've had several very talented young men drive our cars," team owner Clarence Brewer Jr. said. "Chase fits the same mold that Casey Atwood, Kevin Grubb and Jamie McMurray did when they drove our cars. Chase has shown he deserves this opportunity."

Montgomery is optimistic regarding his future; "I look forward to working and continuing my learning experience with David Green and being part of the team well into the future."

Brewco has indicated that they would like Montgomery to run a full season, but they will need financial support beyond the first seven races.

2002 Series Champion Greg Biffle moved up to the Winston Cup Series turning his No. 60 Roush Racing Ford over to Stanton Barrett. Barrett who competed in the first tests session was mid-pack at 180.781 mph.

Barrett and prospective teammate Hank Parker Jr. shared crews. Parker who is rumored to be joining Roush Racing worked with the team but was unable to "officially" announce his 2003 plans, however, the test sessions clearly put the driver with the Ford camp.

Parker was left without a ride, as his former team Jesel Racing was unable to secure sponsorship for the 2003 season.

Forty drivers participated in four days of testing, with the slowest speeds belonging to Donnie Neunenberger, No. 77 Ford at 179.454mph; C.W. Smith, No. 67 Chevrolet at 179.412mph; Larry Gunselman, No. 16 Pontiac at 178.165mph; and Mike Harmon, No. 44 Chevrolet at 177.571mph

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kevin Harvick , Randy Lajoie , Greg Biffle , Hank Parker Jr. , Casey Atwood , Jimmy Vasser , Larry Gunselman , Chase Montgomery , Jamie McMurray , David Green , Kevin Grubb , Mike Harmon , Shane Hmiel , Mike Bliss , Stanton Barrett
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing