MARTINSVILLE, VA. (Sept. 18, 2001) -- Dennis Sloan Jr. has been around racing long enough to know how important the Taco Bell 300 is to Late Model Stock Car teams. That's why he arrived at Martinsville Speedway at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, some 16...
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (Sept. 18, 2001) -- Dennis Sloan Jr. has been around racing long enough to know how important the Taco Bell 300 is to Late Model Stock Car teams.
That's why he arrived at Martinsville Speedway at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, some 16 hours before registration opened for today's big open test session for the Late Models.
Between 50 and 75 teams were expected to be on hand for today's test, which can mean a traffic jam when the gates open at 7 a.m. Teams are allowed to enter the track in the order they arrive.
"I kind of hoped we would be the first ones here," said Sloan, who along with his father Dennis Sloan Sr. had made the short trip from Bassett, VA, to the speedway. Like many other teams, the Sloans returned home but left their racecar at the track overnight.
"This is a big race - our biggest race. There are going to be a lot of cars here," Sloan continued. "We've been way back in line before when cars lined up for the race and we didn't want that to happen for the practice."
More than 120 cars are expected for the running of the Taco Bell 300, set for Sunday, September 30. And because of the large number of cars that will be vying for only 42 starting positions, today's practice session is extremely important. That's why Sloan and so many other drivers will spend hour-after-hour, lap-after-lap today on Martinsville's tight .526-mile oval.
"We know we'll have a lot of work to do on the car when we leave here after the practice," said Sloan.
Sloan and his fellow competitors hope to take what they learned in today's practice, apply it to their race car over the next week and show up for the Taco Bell fast enough to make the big show.
And Sloan knows it's not easy to make the big race. He's tried twice and failed both times. This time could be different, though. Instead of running his own equipment, he hooked up with owners Raymond and Marianne Hopkins.
"This is our first race together," Sloan said of the new partnership. "I've never made the show before, but I'll have a better shot this time around." Qualifying for the Taco Bell 300 begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 to determine the top 20 starting position. The fastest qualifier will receive $1,000 from Chatlee Boats.
On Sunday, September 30, the Taco Bell 300 kicks off four 25-lap qualifying races with the top five drivers from each race filling out positions 21-40 in the starting field. There will be two provisionals given to complete the 42-car starting lineup for the 200-lap feature race. At lap 100, of the 200-lap feature, the race will be stopped for a 10-minute break and the leader at lap 100 will be presented the $5,000 BB&T Award. Also at the break, several of the top cars will be inverted. The race will continue until the caution is displayed at lap 190 for a single file restart for the final 10 green flag laps.
Tickets for the Taco Bell 300 are $20 each for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved. The Taco Bell 300 is the first of two weekends of racing at Martinsville Speedway this fall.