DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Scott Russell made his mark at Daytona International Speedway winning five Daytona 200 By Honda motorcycle classics.
After retirement from motorcycle racing, he went from two wheels to four wheels with sports cars from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and competed for the first time in the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the prestigious sports car classic.
Now, the Conyers, Ga., native is trying his hand at another form of racing at Daytona International Speedway – karting in the annual Daytona KartWeek By Cometic Gasket.
The three-day event, which began Monday, showcases the World Karting Association on three courses – the 3.56-mile Daytona road course, the Sprint track in Turns 3 and 4 and the newly constructed quarter-mile dirt track outside turns 1 and 2.
“It’s Daytona for me, it’s a great place to me,” said Russell, who is behind the wheel of a No. 4 kart on the Sprint track. “It’s a new experience. I want to come out here and see where I stand up against some of the top guys in karting, more or less having fun with it.”
Russell just took karting up a few months ago and is using it as a way to ease the transition between motorcycles and sports cars.
“What a great tool this is,” Russell said. “We’re learning everyday with the setup of this thing, just learning how to drive. Going from two wheels to four wheels, there wasn’t a whole lot of crossover there, just the track knowledge that I had in the past. It’s a whole different animal.
“This is definitely going to help me. I’m back in the GT class (in the Rolex Series) with Paul Edwards and a Corvette. I think this will apply to that. Anything that I can do to make it better on that end, that’s what I’m doing.”
Russell is also feeling out a new course at Daytona. He has plenty of laps on the 3.56-mile road course and the 2.9-mile motorcycle course, but he has never turned a lap on the .700-mile Sprint course.
“What a neat little course that they made out here,” Russell said. “It’s really a lot of fun with the way it’s set up. It’s tough. It’s slippery out here. Daytona is typically slippery in the infield and it has transferred into this as well. Getting the kart set up right and learning a new track is great experience.”
Open-wheel star Wheldon in attendance:
Like Russell and NASCAR stars Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger, IZOD IndyCar Series star Dan Wheldon is also competing at the Sprint track during Daytona KartWeek By Cometic Gasket.
Wheldon, who drives for Panther Racing and lives in nearby St. Petersburg, loves racing karts whenever he gets the opportunity in his schedule.
“I just love it,” said Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion. “Any kart race that I can do, I will try to do and when you’ve got one going on at Daytona, that’s certainly one that you want to compete in. It’s like all of these kart races, it’s very competitive.
“It’s very nice to spend Christmas with my wife and my son but she knows that if I sit at home too long, that I will probably drive her mad. You don’t get the time to do this as much as you would like. Anytime that you do get time, you definitely want to utilize it.”
Wheldon, who began racing karts at age 4, has been behind the wheel at Daytona before turning laps in both IZOD IndyCar Series testing as well as competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
He has a strong passion for karting and believes it’s a great developmental series for anybody interested in racing.
“I think it is the only way that people start nowadays,” Wheldon said. “Whether it’s on a road course in a go-kart or whether they race on some dirt, I think karting is the stepping stone to any form of motorsport. It’s very competitive in America. I think America is a great place to start a karting career.
“From what I’ve seen, there’s huge competition but there’s also a very nice atmosphere. I think that it’s a great environment for children to grow up in but also where they can learn the fundamentals of racing and learn how to respect people and share great family time.”
Tickets for Daytona KartWeek By Cometic Gasket can be purchased at Ticket Booth E located above the Turn 1 tunnel. Single-day passes are $15 and $10 for children under seven.