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HMS Notes: Daytona 500

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2004) – Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway enabled Terry Labonte and Kellogg’s Racing to show some early-season muscle en route to an eighth-place finish.

“It was great to run out front like we did, and we could have finished even better had we not had the red flag come out there near the end,” Labonte said.  “That car is a little bit faster than our ‘500’ car, and we can’t wait to take it to Talladega and see what it can do.”

The two-time champion led more laps (17) than any other driver in the 19-car NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series field.  It was his 11th top-10 finish in 15 starts in the special non-points event.

REALITY CHECK:
Brian Vickers, the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series champion, is one of nine drivers who will appear in a new reality series on the FX network.

Scheduled to premiere in May, “NASCAR: Drivers Unscripted” is a one-hour weekly series that will give viewers an unvarnished look at NEXTEL Cup drivers, their families and teams, primarily focusing on life away from the race track.

Vickers will be featured in the 90-minute opening episode, scheduled to air on May 18.

KELLOGG’S PIT CREW RETURNS:
Labonte’s pit crew remains intact for the 2004 season and that familiarity paid off during Saturday’s Bud Shootout.

The combination of Mike Bumgarner, Dave Denning, J.D. Holcomb, Jason Jones, Brad Pickens, Rick Pigeon and Murray Timm turned in a 13.5-second stop for four tires and fuel that helped keep Labonte in the hunt for the victory.

The quick work got the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet in and out of the pits almost as quickly as a number of teams that changed only two tires.

CHASSIS NO. 2542 FOR GMAC RACING:
GMAC Racing is fielding Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 2542 at Daytona this weekend.

Chassis No. 2542 is the same that was used by the team during superspeedway events in 2003, which included a 22nd-place finish in last year’s Daytona 500.

THE NEW GUYS:
Although the team’s over-the-wall pit crew remains unchanged, there are four new members on the Kellogg’s Racing roster for 2004.

John Dover (Shelby, N.C.) joined the fabrication shop; Lynn Hess (Lancaster, Pa.) is assistant scorer; Wayne Holden (Elkhorn, Wis.) will run gas on race day; and Steve Melson (Indianapolis) joins the engineering group.

VICKERS TO APPEAR ON SPEED:
On Monday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. ET, Vickers will be on SPEED Channel’s season-opening episode of “Inside NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.”  The show will re-air on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. ET.

NEXTEL Cup drivers Michael Waltrip, Ken Schrader and Johnny Benson join host Allen Bestwick for a weekly recap and analysis of Cup Series racing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY:
Two members of Kellogg’s Racing will celebrate birthdays on or around this year’s Feb. 15 Daytona 500.

Car chief and rear-tire changer Mike Bumgarner is 29 on Sunday, while crew chief Jim Long turns 47 next Tuesday.

THIRD DAYTONA START FOR VICKERS:
Vickers has made two career starts at Daytona, both in Busch Series competition.  He posted finishes of 42nd and seventh in last season’s February and July races, respectively.

Sunday will mark the 20-year-old’s first-ever Daytona 500.

“We’ve been too busy for it to sink in,” Vickers said.  “There’s just so much going on during Speedweeks that it can be difficult to find a lot of time for yourself.

“Honestly, the best place for me to get away is inside the race car.  For that period of time, I only have to focus on one thing—and that’s doing the best job I can.

“I think everything will probably hit me during driver introductions on Sunday when I get introduced to the crowd.  It’s going to be an awesome feeling.”

HOMECOMING FOR GUSTAFSON:
Alan Gustafson, chief engineer of Kellogg’s Racing, is a native of Central Florida, having grown up in Ormond Beach and attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

This is his fifth season as a member of the team.

THE YOUNGEST GUN:
If Vickers qualifies for every event on the 2004 Cup Series schedule, he will become the youngest driver to do so in NASCAR’s modern-era history.

By winning the 2003 Busch Series driver’s title at age 20, the Thomasville, N.C., native is already the youngest to win a NASCAR championship.  He was born Oct. 24, 1983.

STILL DNF-FREE:
Labonte enters the 2004 season carrying a string of 42 consecutive races without a DNF (did not finish), the longest current streak in NEXTEL Cup.  The modern-era record is 56 straight, set by Jeff Gordon in 2001-02.

Labonte was one of only two drivers who completed all 36 races last season, the other being Kevin Harvick.

LABONTE LOOKING FOR FIRST:
Although Labonte returns to Daytona in search of his first points-paying victory, he has posted three wins overall at the 2.5-mile oval—winning his class in the 1984 Rolex 24, the Budweiser Shootout in 1985 and a Daytona 500 qualifying race in 1989, for which his winning average speed of 189.554 mph still stands as a track record.

Labonte has finished second five times in points races at DIS, most recently in 1997.

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