DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 11, 2008) -- Spirit of Daytona Racing continued their two-wheel experiment as they prepare for the 47th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 24-25 at historic Daytona International Speedway.
The Daytona Beach-based team, which has previously tested their No. 09 Porsche Coyote Daytona Prototype at DIS with motorcycle stars Ricky Carmichael, Jason Pridmore and five-time Daytona 200 By Honda winner Scott Russell, added motorcycle veteran Jeff Ward to the mix on Tuesday during the first day of the two-day November Test Days session.
November Test Days is the second of three major tune-ups for the Rolex 24 and has 40 sports cars on the entry list – 20 Daytona Prototypes and 20 GT class machines.
Ward has driven almost everything you can possibly drive at Daytona International Speedway from stock cars, sports cars, Supercross and road racing motorcycles and has been runner-up three different times in the Daytona Supercross By Honda.
But he’s never gotten behind the wheel of a sleek and stylish Daytona Prototype, which he will do during November Test Days.
“I raced the 24-hour back in ’97,” said Ward, who has also competed in the IndyCar Series. “That was my first time in a sports car and my last time in one. The last time I was here, I ran some laps around here testing for Team Tabasco. The last time I rode this road course, I was here on a Formula Xtreme factory Honda bike testing a couple of years ago. It’s been a little while.
“I love riding road courses. That’s always been my best but I’ve never been in this car. It’s going to take a little while. I’m not expecting go out there and go fast right away. I just want to get comfortable step by step by step and not get overwhelmed right away. It should be fun.”
Russell is back at DIS with Spirit of Daytona Racing for his sixth sports car road course test and his third at “The World Center of Racing.” The team is using new updated Coyote body work which has thrown Russell a curve ball in his learning process.
“It’s a huge challenge for me,” said Russell, whose nickname is “Mr. Daytona.” “As a whole, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’ve been making gains at a decent rate. A racer always wants to go faster. Clearly, I’ve got a lot of work to do. The old car I was feeling pretty comfortable in. Now we’ve got a new one to deal with so it’s kind of set us back a bit. We’ve got quite a bit of work to do on this car to get us back to where I was at.”
Having drivers from different racing series hop over into sports cars has been a common sight in recent years of the Rolex 24. But having the two-wheel stars of motorcycle racing attempting the cross over is something new and it’s a welcome sight to many of the sports car veterans in the garage.
“Motorcycle guys, they obviously have a lot – I was going to say car control – but of course it’s bike control,” said three-time Rolex 24 winner Andy Wallace. “You can’t have that control and then go to four wheels and be rubbish at it. They obviously got something or otherwise they would fall off the bike every week. Of course if you take yourself out of a car and put yourself into a bike, the same is not true. I’m absolutely rubbish on two wheels whenever I’ve driven one on the road so I’m going to have to stick with four wheels.”
The Richard Childress name is usually associated with NASCAR as the legendary owner has won two Daytona 500s with the late Dale Earnhardt and most recently with Kevin Harvick in 2007.
Now, Childress has partnered with Rick Howard in the Rolex Sports Car Series to form Childress Howard Motorsports. The team is testing the No. 4 Pontiac Crawford with Rob Finlay and Andy Wallace during November Test Days.
“For me, it’s a big thrill obviously with the history there that Mr. Childress has done,” Wallace said. “I think he wanted to branch out into sports car racing and I’ve been the lucky recipient so far. What we’re trying to do is build a team that can ultimately win races again. It’s nice to be there at the start of it.”
Busch, Petty and Dempsey expected to test on Wednesday
NASCAR veteran Kurt Busch (Penske Racing) and Kyle Petty (Orbit Racing) and Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey (HyperSport) are expected to test on Wednesday during the second day of November Test Days.
November Test Days is open to the public with fans able to view testing from the Sprint FANZONE with a $10 Daytona 500 Experience tour-only ticket. Fans that have already purchased tickets to the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be admitted free.
Admission for the Jan. 2-4 test session will be $10 each day and the ticket includes access to the infield, Sprint FANZONE and garage. On Saturday, Jan. 3, there will be driver question and answer sessions between Rolex Series drivers and fans.
Tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.