Preseason Thunder Part II: Daytona day one report

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 13, 2004) - The second wave of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams rolled into historic Daytona International Speedway for a three-day test session in preparation for the 46th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15. Jimmie...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 13, 2004) - The second wave of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams rolled into historic Daytona International Speedway for a three-day test session in preparation for the 46th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15.

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet, finished the day as the fastest driver with a speed of 187.535 mph followed by John Andretti 187.516), Bill Elliott (187.313), Ricky Rudd (187.270) and Ken Schrader (186.780).

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet, was sixth fastest with a lap of 186.772.

"It was a good day for us," Gordon said. "The car is driving great. The speed wasn't awesome when we unloaded, but we just gained on it all day long and by the end of the day I felt like we were pretty close to where we need to be. Of course we always want to be a little bit faster and we got two more days to work on it.

"All in all, a great day and we're really looking forward to getting back down here for the (Daytona) 500 and getting the season started. I just feel like the team just showed that look in their eye all winter long. Especially right now - with the chemistry -- we didn't lose anybody, we just added in some areas that we felt we needed to to make ourselves stronger and we're looking forward to putting that out on the racetrack."

Gordon was happy to be back in a stock car after an enjoyable off-season that included one of his favorite hobbies scuba diving.

"It's good to get back in a car again," Gordon said. "It's been a while. As short as the off-season is, it's still exciting to get back here. I was talking to somebody - it's my 12th time testing down here - so a lot of memories and an awesome place. Fortunately, we've had two (Daytona 500) wins here."

Pepsi 400 Champion Returns: Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus for Roush Racing, returned to historic Daytona International Speedway for the first time since his victory in the 2003 Pepsi 400. Biffle used fuel mileage to become the first rookie to win last year's mid-summer classic.

"It was kind of neat when I was walking in this morning because I thought about the fact that the last time I was here we won," Biffle said. "That's pretty exciting. I don't know if we're gonna be back in that position or not. I know the guys worked really, really hard all winter long to speed our program up. We haven't found any speed yet, but it's typical Daytona - it's tough to see that."

Drivers, Fans Chat During FanFest: The next NASCAR Preseason Thunder FanFest is scheduled for Wednesday night, Jan. 14 in the Daytona Club. Included in the $10 admission are fan forums that featured question and answer sessions between fans and drivers, DAYTONA USA's Pit Stop Challenge, show cars and a silent auction of autographed items.

All of the proceeds from FanFest benefit the Brenners Children's Hospital (in Winston-Salem, N.C.), Speediatrics, Victory Junction Gang and the Ladies Auxiliary of Stock Car Racing.

Drivers scheduled to appear on the Jan. 14 FanFest:
6 p.m. - Ryan Newman, Rusty Wallace, Sterling Marlin, Casey Mears, John Andretti, Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott
6:45 p.m. - Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Labonte, Robby Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Jimmy Spencer, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Petty and Tony Raines
7:30p.m. - Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Jeff Burton, Scott Riggs, Brian Vickers and Greg Biffle

First on track: The first driver to hit the famous 2.5-mile tri-oval on Tuesday morning was Gordon.

Ticket offer: Daytona International Speedway and Circle K have joined forces on a special Budweiser Shootout ticket offer. Fans can purchase advanced general admission tickets for the Budweiser Shootout under the lights on Saturday night, Feb. 7 at all Florida Circle K locations through Feb. 6 for $39. Children under 12 are admitted free to the Budweiser Shootout with a paying adult.

Tuesday's speeds following the first day of the second session of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing in preparation for the Feb. 15 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway: <pre> 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 187.535 2. John Andretti Chevrolet 187.516 mph 3. Bill Elliott Dodge 187.313 4. Ricky Rudd Ford 187.270 5. Ken Schrader Dodge 186.780 6. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 186.772 7. Ryan Newman Dodge 186.703 8. Sterling Marlin Dodge 186.679 9. Brian Vickers Chevrolet 186.513 10. Rusty Wallace Dodge 186.463 11. Casey Mears Dodge 186.447 12. Kyle Petty Dodge 186.108 13. Terry Labonte Chevrolet 185.785 14. Scott Riggs Chevrolet 185.770 15. Elliott Sadler Ford 185.605 16. Robby Gordon Chevrolet 185.586 17. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 185.529 18. Jeff Burton Ford 185.464 19. Kevin Lepage Chevrolet 185.090 20. Derrike Cope Ford 185.037 21. Greg Biffle Ford 184.934 22. Jimmy Spencer Dodge 184.710 23. Dave Blaney Dodge 184.128 24. Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 183.917 25. Joe Ruttman Dodge 182.938 26. Tony Raines Chevrolet 182.801

Speedweeks 2004 tickets, including the 46th annual Daytona 500, are available online at or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Derrike Cope , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Biffle , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Johnny Sauter , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney