BUSCH: Eric Van Cleef To Debut Toyota Celica at Daytona

After much development and anticipation, Eric Van Cleef will debut his V6-powered Toyota Celica on February 12 in the Discount Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Goody's Dash Series race at Daytona International Speedway. "I've been waiting for this day for...

After much development and anticipation, Eric Van Cleef will debut his V6-powered Toyota Celica on February 12 in the Discount Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Goody's Dash Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

"I've been waiting for this day for awhile now," explained the 38-year-old rookie driver from Alabama. "I've been racing Toyotas since 1985, and when I heard that Toyota was exploring the possibility of putting together a Goody's Dash program, I was first in line."

This is the first time that NASCAR has allowed an overhead cam, multi-valve engine to compete in the series. During the off-season, officials from NASCAR took a very careful and systematic approach to ensure the V6-powered Celica performed within a competitive window against the 37 Pontiacs and two Fords in the field.

"We've been working with Mike Simons, series director, and Ed Cox, special services manager, from NASCAR during the off-season to create an equivalency formula for the Toyota Celica," said Van Cleef. "Both were great to work with and were understanding about our situation."

This week, the Van Cleef team has been preparing for the race by servicing the car and replacing the engine.

"When you're the team owner, lead mechanic, and driver, it doesn't give you a lot of time to mentally prepare for the race. My first priority is to make the field, and second would be to stay out of trouble during the race. If we accomplish those two things, I think everyone will consider this a success."

Van Cleef competed in four races in the 1999 NASCAR Goody's Dash Series with a Pontiac to gain experience in the series. His highest finish was a fourth-place at Charlotte. Because he competed in less than five events, he is still considered a rookie for the 2000 season.

The Discount Auto Parts 200 is the first event on the 2000 Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring schedule. Competitors will reach speeds of 155-165 mph on Daytona's high-banked oval to vie for $120,015 in prize money. The 80-lap event will begin at 3 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY