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In Good Spot to Clean Up

February 14, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Strange things could happen today on the first lap of the True Value IROC race.

Two World of Outlaws dirt-track drivers, Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski, who have made careers of sliding winged sprint cars through the corners on short tracks more like Perris Auto Speedway than any high-banked superspeedway, will be in the front row for a race on Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-mile paved D-shaped oval.

Lined up behind them for a 40-lap, 100-mile race in identically prepared cars will be seven NASCAR drivers, headed by defending champion Kevin Harvick, and three Indy Racing League drivers, headed by two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish.

The IROC, however, lost some of its luster when Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart and four-time champion Jeff Gordon elected not to compete.

"I ran myself into the ground last year, in a lot of ways, so I'm just trying to cut back a little bit," Stewart said. "I'm trying to streamline my schedule and do a little preventive maintenance this year."

This will be the last race under True Value sponsorship; the hardware chain is a ending a 19-year relationship.

After the IROC race, NASCAR Craftsman Trucks will take over for the Florida Dodge Dealers 250.

Jason Leffler, who tested IRL and Winston Cup waters before joining car owner Jim Smith's Team ASE in the truck series, will start on the pole in a Dodge. It is a familiar place for the Long Beach driver, who had a series-high six poles last year but did not win, finishing second six times.

"Being on the pole for a race at Daytona, whether it's a kart race or a truck race, is exciting," Leffler said. "If we could win the race, at a place with all the history here and the great guys who have won here, it would be just awesome."

He qualified at 182.994 mph.

Robert Pressley, last year's Daytona winner, will start alongside Leffler in another Dodge with a speed of 181.973.

The trucks, unlike Winston Cup and Busch cars, do not run with restrictor plates at Daytona.

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