New year brings Daytona testing
With the calendar turned to the New Year, the first sign that the Daytona 500 is around the corner comes this week.
Cup drivers hit the track at Daytona on Thursday and Friday for winter testing, the only time they will be on the 2.5-mile speedway before they come back for the start of the stock-car portion of Speedweeks in six weeks, with the 500 capping it seven weeks from today.
The session will be the first public outing for new driver-team combinations that include Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch aligned with Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing; Ryan Newman at Richard Childress Racing, which also has Austin Dillon moving up from the Nationwide Series to Cup; Martin Truex at Furniture Row Racing; rookie Kyle Larson replacing Juan Pablo Montoya at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; and Michael Annett replacing Dave Blaney at Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Two drivers who won’t participate are Stewart and Vickers. Mark Martin will sub for Stewart, who is still recovering from the broken leg suffered in a sprint car accident last summer. Vickers is still undergoing treatment for blood clots and will be replaced by his car owner, Michael Waltrip, who intends to field a car for himself in the 500 in addition to those for Vickers and Clint Bowyer.
After the Cup drivers finish, Nationwide and Truck Series teams will get their opportunities.
CLOSER TO HOME
The start of racing in the area isn’t as far away as one might expect.
Caraway Speedway opens on March 9 with a program that features the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour and a 100-lap event that will be the first of 19 races for the track’s featured Late Model Stock division.
The late-model events are spread over 14 dates that include five doubleheaders. Only two of the races are slated between May 16 and Aug. 9, with one of those one of the biggest events of the year — the 171-lap Rusty Harpe Memorial on July 4,
Eight of the late-model events are scheduled from the opener until May 16, while seven races are from Aug. 15-Sept. 5, The late-model season ends with the Mid-Atlantic 150 on Oct. 19.
And while the late models are scheduled sporadically, the track will operate other weeks through early November with either the Late Model Truck or Limited Late Model divisions taking top billing.
Opening dates for other tracks are April 11 for Ace Speedway near Altamahaw and April 26 for Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem.