Saturday, February 25, 2017

IMSA Sebring Test Friday Notebook

IMSA Sebring Test Friday Notebook

Notebook items include:
  • Montoya Samples Risi Ferrari in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sebring Test
  • Franchitti Makes Sebring Return in Mazda DPi
  • Alegra Motorsports Brings Momentum from Rolex Victory to Sebring
  • Friday Notes

Feb. 24, 2016
Staff Report
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One day after IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship star Ricky Taylor sampled a Team Penske IndyCar at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a Team Penske IndyCar driver took advantage of the opportunity to drive a WeatherTech Championship car 180 miles up the road at Sebring International Raceway.

Juan Pablo Montoya, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1999 CART champion, joined the Risi Competizione team for the second day of a two-day, IMSA-sanctioned test at Sebring. The Risi team was focused on preparations for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on March 18, as well as the remainder of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season, with regular drivers Toni Vilander and James Calado in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

However, the 41-year-old Colombian got his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE shortly after the lunch break Friday afternoon. And while Montoya has turned plenty of laps on the portion of the Sebring circuit that runs from Turns 3 to 13 around the area known as Green Park, he hadn’t previously run on the full, 3.74-mile, 17-turn circuit that utilizes former concrete runways from what was Hendricks Field – an Army Air Force training base – in the 1940s. 

“It’s fun,” Montoya said. “It’s different. I only ran, probably, eight laps just to get the hang of it a little and I’m going to try to get in a little bit later. It’s fun. I’ve never really run the big track. It’s pretty bumpy.”

Montoya has driven and won races in a number of different race cars over his storied career, including IndyCars, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars and Formula 1 machinery, as well as Prototype sports cars. However, the Ferrari was a different experience.

“Prototypes drive more like an open-wheel car,” he explained. “This is very different. There’s a lot of pitch movement in the cars, it’s kind of tricky. It’s very easy to get it wrong. It’s like, you go in one time and it’s like, ‘Oh, it turns.’ The next time you go in, it doesn’t and the next time you go in, it goes smooth. It’s very hard to be consistent.”

Montoya’s only racing commitment thus far in 2017 is the quest for a third Indianapolis 500 victory in May as part of a five-car assault from Team Penske after winning the 2015 race for the team. So, would he be interested in racing the Risi Ferrari?

“If they would let me, yeah,” he said. “But I don’t know if they’d let me.”

The Risi team already has confirmed plans to field the No. 62 entry for Vilander, Calado and Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella at Sebring, with Vilander and Fisichella expected to be the team’s full-time drivers in the WeatherTech Championship.

As for potential other sports car racing prospects for Montoya, he says, “Time will tell.”

FRANCHITTI MAKES SEBRING RETURN IN MAZDA DPi: Marino Franchitti couldn’t walk very far down the pit lane at Sebring International Raceway on Thursday morning on the first day of the two-day IMSA-sanctioned test without somebody stopping him to shake hands or give him a hug to welcome him back to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock.

The 38-year-old younger brother of multi-time Indy 500 and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti hasn’t raced in the WeatherTech Championship since a GT Daytona (GTD) class start in a Fall-Line Motorsports Audi at VIRginia International Raceway in 2014. He will return to competition next month in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida as part of a three-driver lineup in the No. 70 Mazda Motorsports RT-24P Daytona Prototype international (DPi) car alongside co-drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller. He tested the car extensively Friday with Long and Miller.

“It feels like coming home,” Marino Franchitti said. “Although I’m a European driver, I’m an American racer. I spent so many years racing over here, that to be away from it felt very strange and to be back feels really, really nice. It’s great to see so many old friends and it’s just nice to be back on track here at Sebring.

“Obviously, since the last time I competed in the series, the classes have evolved, GTD has evolved and we now have one top combined class with the DPis and it’s really cool to get out there and drive one of these new cars. They’re just as good as they look. They’re nice.”

The last time Franchitti competed in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2014, he brought home a victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in a Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype with co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. That was Franchitti’s second consecutive Sebring victory, as he won the American Le Mans Series LM P2 class in 2013 alongside Ryan Briscoe and Scott Tucker in a Level 5 Motorsports Honda prototype.

“It’s always been a special place for me,” Franchitti says. “I’ve always loved being here and loved driving here. We’ve had some good results over the years, so it’s nice to come back. It’s such a challenging track.

“When you’re working with a new car as we are here at Mazda, it’s really cool to get out there and to explore the car. The car has not done a massive amount of testing, although it raced at Daytona. It’s really cool to get out here and put more miles on it and explore the car. Testing and development is something I love doing. It’s just been a lot of fun.”

Franchitti is hopeful of even more fun when he and the team return for the race next month. It’s his only scheduled WeatherTech Championship start so far in 2017, but it’s clear he’s hungry for more.

“We’ll see where it goes, but I’m definitely keen to be back here racing in America full time,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, but definitely something I’m looking to do.”

ALEGRA MOTORSPORTS BRINGS MOMENTUM FROM ROLEX VICTORY TO SEBRING: It’s been a whirlwind month for the Alegra Motorsports team.

Nearly four weeks ago, the No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Michael Christensen, Jesse Lazare, Daniel Morad and the father-son duo of Carlos and Michael de Quesada pulled out a stunning victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The win was a surprise to many as the GT Daytona (GTD) class was stacked with experienced racers and new manufacturers, but for Alegra Motorsports, it wasn’t quite so unexpected.

Christensen enters his third year as a Porsche factory driver. Lazare dominated and won the 2016 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Cup championship. Morad was the 2016 Porsche North American Cup and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama champion. Carlos de Quesada won the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona in GT, and his son, Michael, took the 2016 driver title in the Porsche GT3 Gold Cup Championship.

Stellar resume for a team who slipped under the radar.

“You can say it’s a Cinderella story,” Carlos de Quesada said. “I just don’t want people thinking that it’s going to continue to be a Cinderella story. This could be the story of a great team coming out with great crew members and great drivers and running the best manufacturer out there in Porsche and being competitive.”

While the excitement from their Rolex win may never fade, the team is also ready to get back to work. The No. 28 returned to the track this week for the two-day IMSA test at Sebring International Raceway. The elder de Quesada logged laps with Morad and 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner (ST) champion Spencer Pumpelly, who played a pivotal coaching role for the team at Daytona.

“Yes, we won Daytona but now we’re focused on Sebring,” de Quesada said. “Just like we went into Daytona, we’re coming here to be competitive. We’re not out there to run circles. We’re not out there to be a back runner. Our goal, like any race we go into, is to win the race. We’re not going to let up on that.”

Adding Pumpelly has also been a huge benefit for the team. The veteran IMSA driver reconnected with former colleague Larry Hahn, now Alegra engineer, at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 looking for a ride. Hahn reintroduced Pumpelly and de Quesada, who raced against each other in ALMS and GRAND-AM in the early 2000s. Even though Alegra already had finalized its driver lineup for the Rolex, the team was eager to use Pumpelly as a strategist.

“They gave me pretty free rein to do what I wanted to strategy-wise, more so than I thought they would,” Pumpelly said with a laugh. “I finally got to run the race the way I thought it should be run, my philosophy on how to run the 24. We had a really good car that Larry put together, our drivers were fantastic, all the pit work by every guy that went over the wall was amazing. It was cool to see my theory on how it should be run put us in position to win and watch these guys go take it.”

Pumpelly already fit in quickly to Alegra’s way of doing things- he clocked the quickest lap in GTD during Thursday’s afternoon test session with a time of 2:03.172. It also helps that he’s driving a car he’s very familiar with.

“The majority of my career has been in 911s, so to get back in the car and get back to what I feel is most comfortable for me is good,” Pumpelly said. “”Anytime you run with anyone as good as these guys, you want to perform to their level and this is the first time that I’ve really gotten to push the GT3 hard. There’s pressure, for sure, but these guys are doing everything they can to make it as easy as possible.”

Alegra Motorsports is expected to announce its driver lineup for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida soon, with the race being held on March 18.

FRIDAY NOTES: Jordan Taylor turned the fastest lap of the two-day test in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, clocking a time of 1 minute, 49.600 seconds (122.8 mph). The 2017 Rolex 24 winner posted the time Friday morning. … Chuck Quinton owned the quickest lap of the test in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, turning a 1:56.120 (115.9 mph) in the afternoon session on Thursday. On Friday morning, Quinton was involved in an on-track incident, sending him to the Sebring International Raceway infield care center. He was evaluated and released. … Jan Magnussen posted the quickest lap in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class with a best lap of 1:58.525 (113.5 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R he shares with Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller. Magnussen’s quick lap came in the Friday morning session. … After posting the quickest time in class Thursday, Colin Braun continued to lead the way in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R. Braun clicked off a Friday morning lap of 2:02.476 (109.9 mph) to top the GTD chart.

Friday, February 24, 2017

IMSA Sebring Test Thursday Notebook

IMSA Sebring Test Thursday Notebook

Notebook items include:
  • Lynn Gets Acquainted with No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi at Sebring Test
  • Corvette Racing No. 4 Looking to Bounce Back from Daytona, Repeat Last Year’s Success at Sebring
  • Thursday Testing Notes

Feb. 23, 2016
Staff Report
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a day of firsts at Sebring International Raceway for British racing driver Alex Lynn. Before Thursday’s first day of a two-day IMSA-sanctioned test at the site of next month’s 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, Lynn never had driven the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R he will share with 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Jordan and Ricky Taylor.

He’d also never driven before at Sebring International Raceway. In fact, it was Lynn’s “first time even driving on a racetrack in America, actually,” he said. It wasn’t a bad day for a first timer, as Lynn was the sixth-quickest driver of the day with a best lap of 1 minute, 51.013 seconds (121.2 mph).

He was just 1.254 seconds off the quickest time of the day, a lap of 1:49.759 by Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, and less than a second off Jordan Taylor’s best time in the car.

“There were a lot of new things for me to learn today,” Lynn said. “I think we had a really positive day today. I’ve learned a lot from the engineering team and also Jordan. He’s obviously been a really great teammate for me today. We were going through a lot of stuff and trying to put in some good lap times.” 

Testing responsibilities in the No. 10 machine were handled exclusively by Lynn and Jordan Taylor on Thursday, as Ricky Taylor was on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway testing 2016 IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud’s Chevrolet IndyCar for Team Penske. The elder Taylor will be back in the sports car cockpit at Sebring on Friday.

Beyond learning the Cadillac DPi and the Sebring circuit, Lynn also is adapting to sports car racing as a whole. The bulk of his experience to this point has been spent in open-wheel race cars. He spent the last two years racing in the GP2 series – which is recognized as a stepping stone for Formula 1 – amassing 42 starts, five victories and two pole positions.

“I think, actually, in this new generation of the Prototype category here in IMSA, it relates quite nicely, because they’re obviously really powerful cars with high downforce,” Lynn said. “It’s more coming into that trend of a real open-wheel spec kind of car or even an LM P1-type car. I feel like my experience there has helped me.”

Lynn also has been getting acquainted with his new teammates, who have a bit of a reputation for being pranksters with new teammates. He reports that, thus far, he has managed to avoid any rookie hazing.

“Not yet,” Lynn said. “Although I met the most famous dog in motor racing the other day (Jordan Taylor’s golden-doodle named Fonzie). We’ve had a lot of fun.”

CORVETTE RACING NO. 4 LOOKING TO BOUNCE BACK FROM DAYTONA, REPEAT LAST YEAR’S SUCCESS AT SEBRING: At this time last year, each driver of the No. 4 Corvette Racing team rolled into Sebring with a brand new Rolex watch after winning one of the most thrilling battles in Rolex 24 history over their teammates in the No. 3.

This year is a bit of a different story.

At this year’s Rolex 24, the No. 4 of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler suddenly stopped on track before the halfway mark of the race after making contact with another car. 

“Everywhere you look, there’s strength and depth, so you know you have to execute every single weekend,” said Gavin at today’s test session, which is mandatory for all GT Le Mans (GTLM) cars. “Coming off the back of a difficult one at Daytona, we know there’s very little margin for error now for the rest of our year. We got a ninth place there, which is certainly not what we wanted, particularly after what happened last year. But we’re here refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to take on the challenge.”

Sebring may be one of the best places for the No. 4 to get its momentum back on track. Last year, the team took home a victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and established their dominance in the GTLM class after back-to-back victories.

“It’s funny coming back here as defending champions,” Gavin said. “We’re there to be knocked off our perch, really. It’s always a tough and challenging place to come here to Sebring, whether it’s the circuit or the competition or the weather or certain circumstances, and I think we saw all of those last year. Without a doubt, there’s always luck. I think last year, we proved that we made our own luck quite a few times so we just have to rediscover that mojo.”

Gavin also explained how Corvette Racing may have an advantage over teams with drivers who have never competed in the Sebring race.

“It’s not until you’ve done the race that you see how it’s going to evolve and fall in front of you,” he said. “Maybe some of the newer guys here are being told that you’ve got to be patient, let the race come to you a little bit. But until you’ve actually done it and seen it with your own eyes, you may just not believe it and press on like it’s a twelve-hour sprint race. Sometimes that little extra experience and knowledge can ultimately turn the race in your favor.

“These things can often take twists and turns,” Gavin continued. You’ve just got to keep your head down, stay focused, and keep believing that you can win. That’s what Corvette Racing has been so great about for so many years and it’s why we’ve been successful for so long.”

THURSDAY TESTING NOTES: Risi Competizione will have a special guest behind the wheel of its No. 62 Ferrari 488 on Friday at Sebring. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya is expected to run somewhere around 10 laps in the car. The Colombian racer expressed an interest in driving a GT car and was invited by team owner Guiseppe Risi to come to Sebring and run a few laps. … Recent Rolex 24 At Daytona GT Le Mans (GTLM) class winner Dirk Mueller posted the fastest lap of the day in class, posting a best lap of 1:58.894. Colin Braun was quickest in the GT Daytona class at 2:02.691 in the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R, while Chuck Quinton claimed the quickest time in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09. Quinton’s best time was a 1:56.120. … Testing continues at Sebring on Friday with a pair of WeatherTech Championship sessions. The first begins at 8 a.m. ET and runs until 12:00 Noon, followed by a second and final session from 1 to 5 p.m. ET. The test is open to the public.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES NEWS AND NOTE'S

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
 
Sauter Begins Title Defense At Daytona
Back for his ninth full-time season to defend his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title, Johnny Sauter will attempt to win the NextEra 250 at DAYTONA International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1) for the second consecutive year.
 
The No. 21 GMS Racing driver became the first competitor in NCWTS history to clinch an automatic berth in the playoffs when he held off Ryan Truex for the victory at Daytona last year.
 
Sauter captured the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title on the strength of three wins, 12 top fives and 19 top 10s. He increased his performance at the end of the year finishing first, first, second and third in the final four races.
 
Matt Crafton (2013-14) is the only driver who’s won back-to-back NCWTS titles.
 
Bell Ready To Build On Strong Sunoco Rookie Campaign
Following a third-place championship finish in his rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, Christopher Bell is back in the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra for another go-around.
 
"I'm really excited to begin my second full-time season with Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Bell said. “Every track that we will race at this season I'm already going to have experience at, unlike last year where a lot of the tracks I was going to for the first time. I feel like having more experience will be a big help – I know what to expect from all of the tracks and that will allow me to be better prepared for each and every race this season. My goal going into this year is pretty simple and that's to go out and win more races."
 
In 30 career NCWTS starts, Bell owns two wins, 11 top fives and 20 top 10s. He has led more than 300 laps.
 
Last month, Bell won the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals sprint car event.
 
Chasing Hornaday: Crafton Goes For Championship No. 3
Matt Crafton will embark on his quest for a third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, beginning with Friday’s NextEraEnergy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
 
Crafton, who finished runner-up in last year’s final standings, has never won at Daytona. He has a best finish of fifth (2010) at the 2.5-mile track.
 
Crafton trails only Ron Hornaday Jr. (4) and Jack Sprague (3) on the all-time championships list.
 
Family Affair: Father-Son Nemechek Combo To Race Against Each Other At Daytona
John Hunter Nemechek, 19, and his father Joe Nemechek, 53, will compete in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway. It is the first time they will race against each other in the series.
 
The last father-son combo to compete in the same NCWTS Race was Dave and Ryan Blaney at Eldora in 2013. The last time a father-son combo competed in a NASCAR national series race at Daytona was 2006 (Bobby Hamilton/Bobby Hamilton Jr.).
 
John Hunter scored an eighth-place championship finish last season on the strength of two wins, five top fives and 11 tops 10s. He qualified for the first-ever NCWTS playoffs.
 
Joe Nemechek is a 20-time NASCAR national series winner with four victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 16 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The Naples, Florida, native earned the 1992 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.
 
 

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES NEWS AND NOTE'S

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
 
New Batch Of Sunoco Rookies Keep Veterans on Toes
There’s a new crop of drivers looking to make their names during the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year class includes William Byron, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher, Daniel Hemric and Matt Tifft.
 
William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – is the pre-season favorite to win the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year award purely based on how successful he was in his rookie campaign last season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The Charlotte, North Carolina native, finished last season in the trucks with a series-rookie record seven wins driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This season, the JR Motorsports young gun will be looking to build on his recent success, and he will do that with the guidance of crew chief David Elenz. This weekend at Daytona the 19-year-old Byron will be making his series debut.  
 
Cole Custer – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang – Almost everything is new at Stewart-Haas Racing this season – the announcement of moving to Ford from Chevrolet, and the creation of a NASCAR XFINITY Series team that will field one of the sport’s budding talents, Cole Custer. Custer, the Ladera Ranch, California native, will be teamed with crew chief Jeff Meendering in 2017. Custer made five series starts last season for JR Motorsports with four different crew chiefs. In spite of the crew chief rotation, he was able to post one top five and two top 10s. The 19-year old Custer will be making his NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut at Daytona this weekend.
 
Spencer Gallagher – No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro – is leading the charge of expanding his family-owned organization, GMS Racing, and with that comes the newly formed NASCAR XFINITY Series No. 23 team. Gallagher, who calls Las Vegas, Nevada home, finished the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season 12th in points after posting eight top 10s. Now Gallagher has turned his focus to the NASCAR XFINITY Series and will be working with crew chief Joey Cohen. The duo started seven NXS races last season, posting one top-10 finish. The 27-year-old’s top 10 just happened to come at Daytona International Speedway last July where he started 27th and raced his way up to an eighth-place finish.  
 
Daniel Hemric – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – made the announcement last season that he would be jumping to the NASCAR XFINITY Series and joining Richard Childress Racing in 2017. Hemric is coming off a solid season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he made the playoffs and finished sixth in the final standings driving for Brad Keselowski Racing. The 26-year-old from Kannapolis, North Carolina will be working with crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. who led Austin Dillon to rookie of the year honors and a series title (2013). This weekend at Daytona will be Hemric’s NASCAR XFINITY Series debut.
 
Matt Tifft – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – returns to the NASCAR XFINITY Series after being sidelined due to health issues last season.  Tifft ultimately recovered and returned to racing, competing in the final six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races for Red Horse Racing, posting two top 10s during that span. This season, Tifft is looking to showcase his talent and bring the Rookie of the Year honors to JGR for the third consecutive season (Daniel Suarez, 2015; Erik Jones, 2016). Tifft has made 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts, logging one top five and six top 10s. He has made two restrictor-plate starts; finishing 23rd at Daytona and eighth from the pole at Talladega.    
 
Annett, Reddick Looking To Make A Splash In Florida
Two drivers joining the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage this season are Michael Annett and Tyler Reddick, and what better way to start off the season then at Daytona.
 
Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael Annett signed with JR Motorsports over the offseason and will be driving the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Jason Stockert in the NXS in 2017. Annett is no stranger to the series having made 163 starts over six years from 2008-2013, posting seven top fives and 34 top 10s. His career best in the series final standings came in 2012 when he finished fifth.
 
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standout Tyler Reddick has leaped to the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2017 and will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing. Reddick has competed in the NCWTS for the last four years, amassing three wins, 25 top fives and 40 top 10s. Reddick will be running a part-time schedule this season sharing the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro with Kyle Larson and Justin Marks.  
 
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
Joe Gibbs Racing Goes For Six – After capturing its fifth NASCAR XFINITY Series owner title last season (2008, ’09, ’10, ’12 and ’16) the JGR organization immediately turned its attention to number six. This season Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Matt Tifft and Daniel Suarez will contribute to the owner title winning cause. Jones, Tifft and Suarez will be competing this weekend at Daytona. Gibbs has four NASCAR XFINITY Series Daytona wins, but only once in the season opener (Tony Stewart, 2008).  
 
JR Motorsports Looking To Take Back-To-Back Season Openers – Last season in a wild race that saw 32 green flag passes for the lead, former series champion Chase Elliott captured the victory for JR Motorsports. This season, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew is looking to go back-to-back. Not since 2010-2011 (Kevin Harvick Inc. with driver Tony Stewart) has a team burst open the season with back-to-back season opening wins.  Michael Annett, Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne and Justin Allgaier will be blazing the JRM nameplate come Saturday.
 
Star-Studded Lineup Includes Some Monsters – A star-studded lineup of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will pull double duty this weekend, as Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola will race in both the PowerShares QQQ 300 and Daytona 500.
 
Milestones
Starts – Jeff Green will attempt to make his 450th NASCAR XFINITY Series start this weekend at Daytona. Green is ranked fourth all-time on the series starts list behind Kenny Wallace (547), Jason Keller (520) and Mike Wallace (494). This will also be Green’s 24th series start at Daytona; which will tie him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kenny Wallace for the fourth-most series starts at Daytona.
 
Daytona XFINITY Quick Facts
•           Daytona International Speedway has hosted 50 NASCAR XFINITY Series races.
•           26 different drivers have won at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, led by Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart with seven wins each.
•           Eight of the 26 series Daytona winners have multiple wins – none are active this weekend.
•           Former winners active this weekend (four): Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Reed – all with one victory
•           Race Record – Geoff Bodine (157.137 mph, 2/16/1985)
•           37 different drivers have won the pole, led by Joe Nemechek with five.
•           Qualifying Record – Tommy Houston (194.389 mph, 2/14/1987)
•           Former pole winners’ active this weekend (eight): J.J. Yeley (2), Austin Dillon (2), Aric Almirola, Dakoda Armstrong, Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez each have one.
•           All-time lap leader – Dale Earnhardt Jr., 560 Laps Led
•           Single Race Laps Led Record – Joe Nemechek, 105 Laps Led (2/14/1998)