BUSCH: Preseason Thunder: Testing preview

NASCAR Busch series cars ready for NASCAR Preseason Thunder. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2004) -- Pitchers and catchers don't report to spring training for three weeks yet, but NASCAR's version of spring training -- NASCAR Preseason Thunder --...

NASCAR Busch series cars ready for NASCAR Preseason Thunder.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2004) -- Pitchers and catchers don't report to spring training for three weeks yet, but NASCAR's version of spring training -- NASCAR Preseason Thunder -- gets underway for the NASCAR Busch Series on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the season-opening Hershey's Kisses 300 on Feb. 14.

The testing session will begin with cars that finished in the odd-number positions in the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series owner point standings Saturday and Sunday with Monday set aside as a rain date. Cars that finished in the even-number finishing positions will test Jan. 20-21 with Jan. 22 serving as a rain date if necessary.

The start of any new sports season comes with many changes, and the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series season is no exception.

Rookie Kyle Busch has landed a coveted ride and will replace 2003 NASCAR Busch Series champion Brian Vickers in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports entry. Vickers, who moved to a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series ride fielded by the organization, took sponsor GMAC Financial Services with him. Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse will back Busch's effort.

Johnny Sauter moves from Richard Childress Racing to Brewco Motorsports, where he'll chase the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series championship in the No. 27 Kleenex/Scott Brand Products Chevrolet. In addition, he'll also drive Richard Childress' No. 30 America Online Chevrolet full time in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Joining Sauter with double-duty series assignments this season will be Kasey Kahne (No. 38 Great Clips Dodge) and Greg Biffle (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford). Both drivers will also run in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

After winning the 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award in just 18 starts, David Stremme (No. 19 Braun Dodge) returns to run a full season for the first time. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8/81 Bass Pro Shops/Yum Brands Inc./Kraft Nabisco Chevrolet) and Paul Menard (No. 33 Menards Chevrolet) are other young talents who are eyeing a championship run.

In addition, several new sponsors dot the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series horizon. Robert Pressley rejoins the circuit with backing on his ST Motorsports Chevrolet from Clorox. The United States Navy steps up from a part-time role with FitzBradshaw Racing and driver Casey Atwood, to back the effort over the course of a full season. Another branch of the military, the United States Coast Guard, will fly its colors on Justin Labonte's Dodge. Fruit of the Loom joins NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular Robby Gordon for a majority of the schedule, and DuraFlame will fund the Rusty Wallace-owned Dodge of up-and-comer Billy Parker.

The next NASCAR Preseason Thunder FanFest is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17 with NASCAR Busch Series drivers. Included in the $5 admission are fan forums that feature question and answer sessions between fans and drivers. Also included are DAYTONA USA's Pit Stop Challenge, show cars and a silent auction of autographed items. All of the proceeds from FanFest benefit Speediatrics and Victory Junction Gang Camp among others. NASCAR Busch Series drivers who are scheduled to appear at the Jan. 17 FanFest are:

6 p.m. --Hermie Sadler, Robert Pressley, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr..

6:45 p.m. -- David Green, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Mike Wallace.

Test schedule:

Jan. 17-18 -- NASCAR Busch Series (Odd car owner 2003 point standings finishing positions).

Jan. 20-21 -- NASCAR Busch Series (even).

Rain dates:

Mon, Jan. 19 -- NASCAR Busch Series (odd).

Thur., Jan. 22. -- NASCAR Busch Series (even).

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Teams Richard Childress Racing