Rookies hope to shine under the lights at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (May 13, 2003) -- Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Greg Biffle, Jack Sprague, Tony Raines and Larry Foyt all have raced under the lights at Daytona International Speedway in a NASCAR Busch Series car. But the 2003 Raybestos...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (May 13, 2003) -- Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Greg Biffle, Jack Sprague, Tony Raines and Larry Foyt all have raced under the lights at Daytona International Speedway in a NASCAR Busch Series car.

But the 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year class hasn't experienced the rush of racing the high banks of Daytona International Speedway under the lights in a Winston Cup car.

On Saturday night, July 5, the Winston Cup rookies will be baptized in a Winston Cup car under the lights at the "World Center of Racing" with 160 laps and 400 miles of door-to-door racing.

McMurray, who first came to Daytona as a youngster competing in go-karts for the World Karting Association, is geared up about his first night Winston Cup race at Daytona International Speedway and his hoping to become the first rookie to win the Pepsi 400.

"(The Pepsi 400) is probably one of the coolest races we run just because it's Daytona and it's at night," said McMurray, who drives the No. 42 Havoline Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing. "Every year when you pull into this place, it's a different feeling that runs through your body just because it's Daytona.

"For someone who grew up watching stock car racing, there's no bigger race than (the Daytona 500). Then to add (Daytona) to nighttime with lights, that reminds you of what you grew up racing. You get the best of both worlds."

The rookie class' first Winston Cup start at Daytona earlier this year in the Daytona 500 had plenty of speed bumps.

Sprague, driving the No. 0 NetZero Pontiac was the highest finishing rookie with a 14th-place run while Biffle (21st), Mears (27th), McMurray (31st) and Raines (33rd) rounded out the finishing order for the rookie field.

Foyt, driver of the No. 14 Harrah's Dodge, failed to qualify for the "Great American Race." Foyt is not only looking forward to his first Pepsi 400 start in July, but also some redemption.

"I think it's going to be incredible," said Foyt, whose father A.J. Foyt drove Dodge to its first victory at Daytona in the 1964 Pepsi 400. "I enjoy racing here at night. I enjoy racing here period - just the tradition and the history. At the same time, racing at night, it's cool and a neat experience."

The first nighttime Pepsi 400 wasn't held until October, 1998. The previous 39 Pepsi 400s were held in the daytime. Foyt realizes that he and the rest of the newcomers have things a little easier than their predecessors.

"You look at the cars those older drivers drove, it's amazing the things they did," Foyt said. "My dad will be the first one to say, 'You don't know how easy you got it kid' and that's true. The improvements that we've made on safety, driver comfort and all those types of things, it's a world apart from what those guys drove. Those guys were truly amazing athletes."

Tickets for the Pepsi 400 weekend are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

-dis-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Casey Mears , Larry Foyt , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Jamie McMurray , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing