Grueling race helps Irvan warm up for Speedweeks DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 29, 1999) Racing at Daytona International Speedway is a marriage of current success and past history. Over the past two seasons MB2 Motorsports has enjoyed its share...
Grueling race helps Irvan warm up for Speedweeks
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 29, 1999) Racing at Daytona International Speedway is a marriage of current success and past history. Over the past two seasons MB2 Motorsports has enjoyed its share of success and is looking to make history with a victory at the prestigious Daytona 500 -- the NASCAR Winston Cup Series opener on Feb. 14. With driver Ernie Irvan and crew chief Ryan Pemberton leading the way, it is going to be a colorful and fun Speedweeks for MB2's M&M's Racing Team. But before the NASCAR Winston Cup cars roll into the speedway on Feb. 4, Irvan felt compelled to get some more track time. So he will compete in this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona -- a 24-hour sports car race that is the season opener for the SCCA's United States Road Racing Championship. "I just turned 40 years old, so I figured it was time to broaden my horizons," said Irvan, who has won NASCAR road races on both coasts -- at Sears Point Raceway and Watkins Glen International. He had never road raced a sports car until he tested a Tom Milner Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 at Road Atlanta in Gainesville, Ga., in December. Ironically, Irvan will team with his co-owner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Mark Simo; and their driver, Boris Said. Said is a defending champion in their class, GT3, and the team has won the class the last two years. More importantly than that, Irvan is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel in competition. He has not raced since the Pepsi 400 at Daytona last Oct. 17. He took the rest of the NASCAR Winston Cup season off to recover from head injuries suffered earlier in October at Talladega Superspeedway. He has tested the BMW twice and has also had a couple tests in his MB2 car. Milner said Irvan "is a professional driver and there's no question of his ability. He has great car control, what he needs to adjust to is the braking capability of these cars." Irvan admitted the phenomenal stopping power of the 2,200-pound M3 had taken him by surprise, as used as he is to stopping a 3,400-pound NWC car on skinny tires with lesser brakes. Irvan will have plenty of time to get used to it over the weekend. "I'm excited to be here," he said. "This is the first time I've been a part of the Daytona 24-hour as a driver, a spectator -- anything. It's great experience. I got a little bit of time in the car, but with four or five drivers trying to share time during a 45-miute practice session, you don't end up with a whole lot of laps. "Fortunately I got a lot of time in the M3 during testing earlier this month. I'm feeling more and more confident every lap." When he returns three days after the Rolex 24, Irvan will have some more new sights to adjust to. A new paint scheme on his No. 36 NASCAR Winston Cup Pontiac is the biggest change for the team. M&M's -- another product of the M&M Mars company that sponsored the team with its Skittles brand of candy last year -- is taking over the title sponsorship and the car will now be bright yellow with the Red, Yellow and Blue M&M's characters along for the ride. "Blue is on the right rear quarter panel, so he is going to get pretty close to the wall sometimes," Irvan said. "He may get a little nervous over there, but he'll get a great ride." The team is poised for a year of intense competition on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Irvan and the team completed a successful 1998 season with 11 top-10 finishes in 30 starts. Irvan made his debut with the team at the 1998 Daytona 500 and took the checkered flag in the sixth position. Irvan's biggest accomplishment at Daytona International Speedway is undoubtedly his 1991 victory at the Daytona 500. Some drivers wait their entire career before visiting Daytona's coveted victory lane, but not Irvan. With only 89 career NWC starts to his credit, Irvan marched into victory lane. Irvan also understands that one win at the "super bowl of stock car racing" does not ensure a second. "About the only thing winning the Daytona 500 in 1991 means for me now is that I can say that I've done it," Irvan said. "But on the other hand, not too many people can say they've won the Daytona 500, so it is pretty special." "Restrictor plate racing is really tough," Irvan said. "To win on a superspeedway, you have to put yourself in the position to win. A lot can happen on those last few laps, so a lot of things have to work together all day to put you in contention to win. "The car and the engine have to perform flawlessly and my drafting abilities have to mesh together with both of those things to form the total package. That combination is what will get the M&M's Pontiac to victory lane in Daytona." Irvan's first stock car race action will be in the Bud Shootout -- the special race for pole winners -- on Feb. 6. "We are really looking forward to the Bud Shootout," Irvan said. "I've come pretty close to winning at the Bud Shootout, and restrictor plate races have been really good for MB2 Motorsports. This is going to be a good year for the M&M's Racing Team and we want to start the year off with a strong performance at the Bud Shootout."
Source: NASCAR Online