DAYTONA BEACH | Brian Vickers’ No. 55 Toyota will feature the garnet and gold of BCS national champion Florida State in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Vickers’ primary sponsor, Aaron’s, has honored the national champion in the past, including Alabama for team owner Michael Waltrip in 2012 and 2013 at the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Auburn in 2011 at Talladega.
“Obviously it’s an honor to have FSU and the champions on the car this weekend,” Vickers said. “It’s pretty cool. Aaron’s has presented an opportunity to have some national champions over the years. I’m glad to bring it home to Florida. It’s always great to have the home state — at least where I live — on the car and obviously here in Daytona. It always bodes well for the fan interaction. We usually get some pretty great cheers out of it, but it’s cool.”
Taking no chances
Elliott Sadler’s work day lasted six laps Thursday.
His Toyota didn’t have any problems getting ready for Friday night’s Subway Firecracker 250 Nationwide Series race. His Joe Gibbs Racing team basically wanted to make sure nothing fell off the car.
“You have all your eggs in one basket, that’s why,” Sadler said. “When you unload here at Daytona you’ve done all you can do to the race car. You run a few laps and we were done. You’ve done all you can do at the shop. There’s no reason to go out there and take a chance of tearing the car up.”
Although teams were given two hours to get their cars ready for Friday’s qualifying at 3:10 p.m. and the main event at 7:30 p.m. Most spent less than 20 minutes on the track.
Brian Scott, who ran 10 laps, posted the fastest lap at 193.092 mph. Darrell Wallace Jr., who’s making his fifth career Nationwide start, was second at 192.724.
While the Nationwide Series took a slow, careful approach to the 100-lap race, things will change after the green flag. There is a mix of drivers, including Sprint Cup Series regulars Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, as well as veteran Nationwide drivers like Sadler, Regan Smith, Brendan Gaughan and Mike Wallace.
Teams had to wait an hour through a thunderstorm before practicing. But once it cleared up, Jamie McMurray posted the fastest lap in preparation for Friday’s pole qualifying for the Coke Zero 400.
McMurray ran 201.952 mph. Kyle Larson was second-quickest at 201.889 mph, followed by Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.
The first session was important because it will be used to set the field for Saturday night’s race if qualifying is rained out. The second practice session was rained out.
Scott Lagasse doesn’t have to worry about points in the Subway Firecracker 250. The only thing that matters for the driver from St. Augustine is a victory.
Lagasse will be making his second start this season in the No. 29 Florida Department of Transportation’s Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow Toyota. He started 22nd at the season-opening race at Daytona and wound up 26th.
“Our strategy is simple: get to the end of the race and then they’ll give me a point in the race where I can have at it,” Lagasse said.
Although he’s been a full-time driver in the Nationwide Series in the past, Lagasse has made only seven selected starts in the past three years.
“I’m smart enough to know I have to earn their trust back,” he said. “The race will be 90 percent taking care of the car and gaining friends. Then we’ll go racing.”
Lagasse was 14th in the practice session Thursday.