Drivers prepare for season opener

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (January 20, 2003) If there were any doubts about the health of the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring, the appearance of forty- three teams for the annual winter test session should prove otherwise. NASCAR has yet to make an...

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (January 20, 2003) If there were any doubts about the health of the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring, the appearance of forty- three teams for the annual winter test session should prove otherwise.

NASCAR has yet to make an official announcement regarding the 2003 schedule. So far eight races are confirmed, and they include appearances at Daytona, Charlotte, Bristol, Kentucky, and Atlanta.

Among the drivers testing at the track this past weekend were defending race champion Robert Huffman, Danny Bagwell, and Randy Humphrey.

Huffman has won the last two events at the Speedway and boasts three career wins at the "World Center of Racing."

Each driver sees testing at Daytona as an opportunity to do Research and Development, though not much has changed since the 2002 season. The track has another year of wear, but they are familiar with what it takes to run up front. Huffman and Humphrey tested at Talladega before coming to Daytona with the hope of gaining that extra competitive edge that comes from the additional information.

Four-time Series Champion Robert Huffman shares that his team is not necessarily learning anything new. "We are testing okay, but we are not as fast as we would like to be," said Huffman. "You come here and work on getting the car to handle right and we know that our White House Apple Juice Toyota Celica works well in the draft."

It is a known fact that the drafting makes a huge difference. And the posted lap times reflect that. All day Saturday and the first half of Sunday, the drivers remained spread out over the 2.5 mile tri-oval. During the Sunday afternoon session, the teams were permitted to pick drafting partners and run in large groups. This also provides experience for those that are first-timers at the speedway.

"Drafting is what you really look at when you come here to test," Huffman went on to say. "When we come here to race, we feel confident about running good. Obviously we would like to get the car fast enough to qualify up close to the front."

Danny Bagwell, who won at Memphis in 2002, came to the test session with a renewed determination. Supporting his effort this year is long-time friend Tommy Torbert, from Homestead (FL). Torbert Trucking and Five Brothers Produce has been a sponsor in the Goody's Dash Series for a number of years. Also sponsoring the team is the Sterling Casino Lines based in Port Canaveral (FL).

Bagwell brought two cars to test. One car had the Ford Escort ZX2 body and the other is a Mercury Cougar. "We know the Cougar will race well, but we are working to see which car will qualify well and then go from there," Bagwell explained. "Our focus has been to stay by ourselves so that we can see what the car will do without any drafting help. We have tried a lot of different things. Some have worked and some haven't worked. At the end, we just try to put all the things that do work into one package."

Bagwell shared some sincere thoughts about the involvement of Torbert. "Tommy has been a good friend over the years. We know that this will be the last year under the NASCAR banner, and Tommy wanted to concentrate his involvement toward getting a win to his credit. He was helping some other teams, and I sure hope there are no hard feelings about that. But, we would like to win Daytona and as many as we can this year. And, it would be really great if we could win a championship," said Bagwell.

With the extra financial support, Bagwell says that now they can afford to buy the extra tires and equipment we need to be competitive. "In the past we had to conserve what we had, and a lot of times we were reluctant to push things to the limit for fear that we might break something. Now we can go ahead and do what we need to do."

Cornelius, NC driver, Randy Humphrey has been fast at Daytona every year that he has been here. Humphrey states, "We are excited about being one of the fastest cars. We feel that it is important to qualify well and we put a lot of effort into running fast by ourselves. We brought two cars here. They both have different personalities and that requires different setups. At the end of the day, we decide which one will give us the overall package we are looking for when it comes to race day."

One subject that always comes up is who is sandbagging. "I don't think the faster drivers show everything they have. But, it is hard to go out and plan on sandbagging to a specific time," said Humphrey. "We know we have a fast car and we hope that when it comes time to race we can be there going for the win. We are currently without a sponsor, and we know we can give a potential sponsor great exposure by having equipment that is capable of being up front."

All three drivers anticipate another exciting season. "Right now there are just eight races on our schedule. Hopefully NASCAR will be able to add a couple more. But there are some positive points about what we already have. We have a significant investment in this series and all of us want to see it continue. I think it will be a big boost for us to being running the same day as "The Winston" in Charlotte," comments Humphrey.

Robert Huffman also tested a NASCAR Craftsman Truck during the January sessions. "Dennis Setzer invited us to come and run one of his trucks a couple of weeks ago. I really appreciated the opportunity to come and help him, but it also gave me some valuable experience and also gave me extra time at the track. Besides, it was great just being the driver and not an owner/driver. I didn't have to worry about anything except driving the best that I could. Naturally I am hopeful that this will open up some doors of opportunity for the future," Huffman said.

The Goody's Dash Series race will be on Sunday, February 9, 2003. It will run in conjunction with Daytona 500 Bud Pole Qualifying for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Watch for more information about live television coverage of the race on Speed Channel.


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Drivers Dennis Setzer , Robert Huffman