Daytona veterans Elliott, Phoenix Racing Poised for a Strong Speedweeks Performance
For decades, Speedweeks at Daytona has had a way of bringing out the best in race teams and race drivers. It's especially true this year for veteran driver Bill Elliott and his Phoenix Racing team as they prepare for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.
After years of coming to Daytona to drive Fords and Dodges, Elliott is set to take the wheel of James Finch's No. 09 Chevrolet. The car number is familiar to Elliott, as his late father George Elliott fielded No. 09 cars back in the 1970s. But it's Finch that most fans associate with the No. 09 Sprint Cup entry.
Elliott is hoping that it won't be long before he can write a few more chapters of the history of Finch's No. 09 Impala as well as add to his own history in NASCAR. In fact, he's as pumped up about racing as he's been in years.
"It's a new opportunity for me, and I really feel like we've got some good stuff going," he said, adding that he's been working out every other day all winter to be sure he's ready for the rigors of racing. "We had a pretty decent car at the Daytona test last month, and the crew has taken what we learned and gone back and worked on the car to give us even better stuff to come back with."
Elliott, who has four Sprint Cup wins at Daytona including two in the Daytona 500, said he has great confident in Finch and his Phoenix Racing team.
"James has been around a long time, and he really understands racing," Elliott said. "He's got his act together."
Elliott also is building a relationship with crew chief Nick Harrison. "I'm learning him, and he's learning me," Elliott said. "Any time you're in a new deal, you're never 100 percent right off the bat, but we've got some really, really good equipment and we should be able to put it all together and get some good results."
And the restrictor-plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega are where Finch has had his greatest success in the past. His drivers have finishes of third, fourth, ninth, 10th and 12th in the Great American Race. Phoenix Racing team also has a Cup victory at Daytona's sister track, Talladega Superspeedway, in 2009 with Brad Keselowski driving.
But this year's race will be a new challenge, largely because of a new track surface at Daytona.
"It'll be altogether different," Elliott said. "But I'm looking forward to it."
Elliott said the key this year will be finding a drafting partner willing to hook up in a two-car draft, which has proven to be the quickest way to get around the track.
"That's going to be the key to the whole deal," he said. "If you don't find somebody to tango with, you're just going to be along for the ride."
Elliott said the surest road to success in the Daytona 500 begins with getting off to a good start.
"You've got to go in with your guns loaded," he said. "If you're fast to start with, it sets the tone for the whole weekend."
-source: phoenix racing