Open-wheel star Jimmy Vasser leads way at NASCAR Preseason Thunder for NASCAR Busch Series teams at Daytona. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2003) - Former CART series champion Jimmy Vasser topped all drivers Tuesday at Daytona International ...
Open-wheel star Jimmy Vasser leads way at NASCAR Preseason Thunder for NASCAR Busch Series teams at Daytona.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2003) - Former CART series champion Jimmy Vasser topped all drivers Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway as NASCAR Preseason Thunder continued for NASCAR Busch Series teams.
Vasser, who was assisting Raybestos rookie contender Chad Blount in the No. 19 Braun Racing Dodge, posted a lap of 184.158 mph Tuesday afternoon topping all competitors.
"The team wanted to put some qualifying-type tricks (on the car) to see how fast it could go," Vasser said. "Most of the (drivers) probably haven't done those things yet. That's why it appears to be a little bit faster than other cars. The car is fast. With the team, the Dodge and the Elliott motor, it is really fast in qualifying (mode), but I'm sure the race is going to be a whole different story for me. I've never encountered a bunch of cars in a pack drafting. I'm looking forward to coming back and practicing in a draft."
In addition to running fulltime in CART this season, Vasser is planning on running a limited NASCAR Busch Series schedule in 2003 for car owner Todd Braun, including the Feb. 15 Koolerz 300 at Daytona.
"My plan is to do 10-12 Busch races and to learn on different tracks, get to know people and teams and see how I do," said Vasser, who won the 1996 CART championship with Chip Ganassi Racing. Vasser has also competed in IROC and sports cars at Daytona International Speedway.
Mike Wallace (No. 4 GEICO Pontiac) had the fastest lap (182.648 mph) in Tuesday's morning session. Teams turned it up a notch in the afternoon session with six different teams, including Vasser, topping Wallace's morning speed. Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Pontiac) was second fastest at 184.030 mph. Kasey Kahne (No. 38 Great Clips Ford) was third quickest at 183.453 mph and Blount (183.001 mph) was the final driver to top 183 mph.
NASCAR Preseason Thunder continues Thursday at DIS. NASCAR Busch Series teams with owners who had even-number point finishes will test Jan. 23-24.
NEWS OF NOTE
* On tap... Media interview opportunities on Thursday at the DIS media center include 2002 NASCAR Busch Series runner-up Jason Keller (12:10 pm) and Kerry Earnhardt (12:30 pm). On Friday, Scott Wimmer and Randy LaJoie will visit with the media along with the day's fastest driver.
* Green sets goals on second title ... Veteran NASCAR Busch Series driver David Green had mixed feelings last February when he saw his name at the top of the speed charts. Green - the 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion - entered the 2002 season with only a one-race contract to compete in the Koolerz 300 at Daytona International Speedway. "I'll never forget the feeling I had while looking at the sheet and being on top, but knowing it would all crumble after the race." Green has found a new home in 2003 as the driver of the No. 37 Timberwolf Pontiac for Brewco Motorsports. "The most exciting thing that has happened these two days is getting to be with my team," said Green, who was 18th quickest out of 27 teams at 180.545. Green finished the 2002 season driving for Hendrick Motorsports where he posted an impressive three top fives and four top-10 finishes in six starts. "Driving the No. 5 car was a deciding factor in getting my new job with Brewco," Green said. "Performing less than what we did in the No. 5 Chevrolet (this season) would be a disappointment." "Smiley," as Green has already been affectionately nicknamed by his crew, expressed confidence in his new team. "Brewco turned a corner big time last year. If we don't get printed as one of the favorites to win the points championship I might blow up the media center at every track we go to. I'm just kidding," said Green with a laugh. "It's going to be a fun season. The guys have one goal and that's to win races and win a championship." Green, who won his career-first pole at Daytona in 1991, started sixth and finished 18th at last year's season opener at Daytona.
* Bliss(ful) return to the track ... 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Pontiac) is excited not only to be back at the track, but in the NASCAR Busch Series where he'll race 12 more times than last season. "I like to race. The truck series was nice having 22 races, but I've also raced other things, so I wasn't happy with just 22 races," said Bliss, who will compete in Chevrolets in all but superspeedway races in 2003. "I love to drive. I go crazy sitting home on weekends when racing's going on and I'm not involved." Bliss will be part of Joe Gibbs Racing and will team with Gibbs' son, Coy, who also moves up from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to a fulltime NASCAR Busch Series ride in 2003. "(Joe Gibbs Racing) is just a great opportunity for me," said Bliss, who was second fastest on Tuesday afternoon with a lap of 184.030 mph. "It's probably one of the best (opportunities) I've had in racing. The team finished fourth in the points (in 2002). They're capable of winning. It's almost like I'm capable of winning right off the bat. There's a little bit of time where I have to adjust and get rid of the truck mind and think Busch." One adjustment Bliss won't have to make is in the garage with crew chief Tim Shutt. "Tim and I were racing against each other in USAC; he was a crew chief on a midget and I was up racing against him," Bliss said. "I've known him for a long time. He's real competitive and he'll do whatever it takes."
* Waltrip a consistent threat at Daytona ... In the last two years, Michael Waltrip has been one of the drivers to beat at Daytona International Speedway. Based on Waltrip's speeds at NASCAR Preseason Thunder, Speedweeks 2003 should be no different. During this week's NASCAR Busch Series testing, Waltrip has been consistently fast in his self-owned No. 99 Aaron's Chevrolet. Waltrip was the third-fastest overall with a speed of 182.957 mph on Monday and was eighth quickest on Tuesday at 182.548 mph. "We were fast enough to run second last year (in the Koolerz 300), but we weren't fast enough to beat Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Waltrip said. "So we'll try to figure out if we can make our car up to that challenge when we come back in February. Our car has been real good. Last year, we had a good test but not this good. We're real optimistic about the times that we're running."
* Etc. ... Daytona International Speedway has an online media center available. The online media center is your best source for Speedweeks testing and events, photos, scoring information, quotes, video news release schedules and much more. Go to http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/media. ... All NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing sessions are open and free to the public with access to a section of the Oldfield Grandstand available through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Tickets to Speedweeks 2003 events are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.
Test schedule: Thursday-Friday - NASCAR Busch Series (Even car owner 2002 point standings finishing positions).
Rain dates: Sat. - NASCAR Busch Series (even).