There's something new and something old in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series garage during this week's NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at historic Daytona International Speedway. In one garage, there's Formula One racer turned NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie Juan Pablo Montoya. In the other garage, veteran 72-year-old racer James Hylton, who won the NEXTEL Cup Rookie of the Year title in 1966. Montoya posted the fastest speed in the morning session on Tuesday with a lap of 184.574 mph in the No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The heralded rookie will be the first foreign-born driver to compete in the Daytona 500 since Christian Fittipaldi in 2003. "It was a great experience," Montoya said about his first stock car racing test at DIS. "It was a bit of a challenge with all of the bumps and getting used to running close to the wall. That was pretty tough." The Formula One driver and former Indianapolis 500 champion says racing on the hallowed grounds of Daytona International Speedway in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500 is going to be special. "I think the history behind Daytona is like the Indianapolis of stock cars," Montoya said. "The tradition and everything, just like at the size of the grandstands. It's a pretty big deal." For James Hylton, he is trying to pull off the impossible and make the 43-car field of the Daytona 500, NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious event. He will be among the teams that will have to qualify for the "The Great American Race" through either Bud Pole Qualifying for the Daytona 500 or the Gatorade Duel At Daytona. "If you had a board meeting to see what chances are to make this race, it would be little or none," said Hylton, who has 15 career Daytona 500 starts with a best finish of third in 1967. "If you don't try, you're not going to make it for sure. You got to play the game if you are going to succeed. I don't want to say it's too tough for me and let it go. I want to give it my best shot." Hylton is getting some assistance from Richard Childress Racing. The car owner, who use to race with Hylton back in 1960s, sold a car to Hylton and is also providing an engine and set up assistance "We're lifetime friends," said Hylton, who is also getting sponsorship help from J.C. Weaver, who owns Mountain Rock Music. "We came down here not knowing," Hylton continued. "It's like I'm a rookie. We don't know the procedures and it's been a learning curve here. You try so hard not to goof up in the pits or going out on pit road. You're watching your P's and Q's because you don't want to upset the competitors or NASCAR. So far, I think we're battling a 1.000." Benny Parsons Passes Away: 1975 Daytona 500 champion and NBC/TNT analyst Benny Parsons passed away on Tuesday at the age of 65 at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte after a battle with lung cancer. Said Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig: "As a former Daytona 500 winner, Benny Parsons was a special member of the Daytona International Speedway family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were touched by such a great icon of the sport. The entire DIS family will miss him dearly." NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest: The final two NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fests are set for Friday and Saturday. The NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest events start at 5 p.m. but fans will be able to enter the NEXTEL FANZONE beginning at 9 a.m. to watch all of the exciting testing action for the NASCAR Busch Series. Busch Series admission for the NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder Fan Fest is $10. Fans will be able to get a sneak peek on NASCAR teams as they prepare for Speedweeks 2007 with inquisitive fan forums with many of their favorite drivers as well as enjoying all the state-of-the-art amenities in
the popular NEXTEL FANZONE. Also included in NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests will be bands, show cars, pit stop demonstrations, displays, a silent auction and passenger hot laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in pace cars (additional $20). All testing sessions continue to be free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Speedweeks 2007 tickets available: Tickets for Speedweeks 2007 events, including the 49th annual Daytona 500, are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by logging onto www.racetickets.com
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