Trust Me, Winter is Over The calendar may say that it is February and the thermometer here in Maryland may be registering temperatures in the low 30s, but trust me when I tell you that Winter is over. The sun is shining in Florida and race ...
Trust Me, Winter is Over
The calendar may say that it is February and the thermometer here in Maryland may be registering temperatures in the low 30s, but trust me when I tell you that Winter is over. The sun is shining in Florida and race cars are running fast at the Daytona International Speedway. The long dry spell without motorsports is ending. Last weekend the 2002 season opened with the Rolex 24 Hour Endurance Race for sports cars at Daytona. In addition to the NASCAR 2.5 mile high banked oval, the sports cars run on a 1.1 infield road course.
After taking last Monday off to clean the track, race teams started rolling through the tunnel into the Daytona infield on Tuesday morning. 60 entries from the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) and a full field of NASCAR Goody's Dash cars pulled in, unloaded, and got ready for Wednesday's first day of practice. The Winston Cup teams arrive on Thursday and hit the track for their first practice on Friday. Two events dominate Saturday--pole day qualifying for the Winston Cup cars and a 150 mile race for the Goody's Dash Series.
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unique. Only the two fastest cars on the first day of qualifying are guaranteed to make the race starting on the Pole and outside Pole positions. The rest of the cars are required to compete in two 125 mile qualifying races held next Thursday with their finishing position determining how they start in the Sunday's 500 mile race. On Saturday, following the end of Winston Cup Pole qualifying, the Goody's Dash Series will hold its premier event--the Daytona USA.com 150.
Sunday features the Budweiser Shootout--a sprint race for those cars which earned pole positions during the 2001 season. It will be preceded by a 200 mile race for the ARCA RE/MAX series cars. The ARCA series uses Winston Cup type cars and is a training ground for drivers who want to move up to one of NASCAR's top three traveling race series.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are full days with practicing and qualifying for all the race series which will appear during Speedweeks. The back to back Gatorade 125 mile qualifying races for the Winston Cup cars run on Thursday while two races are schedule for Friday, the first Craftsman Truck Series race of 2002 and the opening race of this year's International Race of Champion Series (IROC). A 300 mile race for the Busch Grand National Series cars is scheduled for Saturday and the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
A number of Maryland racers are using Daytona to open their 2002 campaigns. Crownsville's Kelly "Girl" Sutton has sponsorship for the entire year to run in the Goody's Dash Series. She will be competing for Rookie of the Year. This will be her second year to race at Daytona. Donnie Neuenberger, who lives in Edgewater is entered in Friday's Craftsman Truck Series race with sponsorship from International House of Pancakes. Donnie plans to run the full season and is competing for the Series Rookie of the Year. Mechanicville's Jerry Hill will be competing in both Sunday's ARCA 200 miler and the following Saturday's 300 mile Busch race.