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The wait is almost over for race starved NASCAR fans as teams will begin to check in the garage area of the Daytona International Speedway for Daytona Speedweeks 2012.
Cars will be competing this Saturday in the season opener for the ARCA Series and in the Budweiser Shootout for select Sprint Cup teams. Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 takes place Sunday afternoon with the Twin 150 mile qualifying races taking the track next Thursday, February 23rd. The Camping World Truck Series will have the track Friday night February 24th with the Nationwide Series 300 mile season opener on Saturday February 25th. The Daytona 500 will take the green flag Sunday afternoon February 26th.
With the schedule has been pushed out a week this year which has allowed the teams to spend a little extra time preparing their cars, a little extra time practicing pit stops, and a little extra time for drivers and crewmembers to dream about capturing a checkered flag at the World Center of Speed.
Spartanburg will be represented in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series again this season as drivers Jeremy Clements and Kurt Busch search for race wins and strong finishes.
Clements, who drives for his family owned team out of the Clements Racing Engines Shops, finished 15th in the Nationwide Series final points in 2011. After competing in every race last year, Clements and his team will be looking to improve for 2012. Clements has run strong at Daytona in ARCA competition and he looks forward to racing at Daytona every year.
Across town, the Phoenix Racing Team of James Finch enters the 2012 Sprint Cup Schedule with a new driver and a renewed desire for success in 2012. The team will have the services of the 2004 Sprint Cup Champion Kurt Busch, who will look to return Phoenix Racing to the winner’s circle. Last year, Busch scored wins in the Budweiser Shootout and in one of the Gatorade 150 Qualifying races during Daytona Speedweeks. The Phoenix Racing ride has always ran very strong at Daytona and at its sister track Talladega, and Busch could find his way to victory lane this year in the Daytona 500.
For Clements, the challenge of facing the big budget Nationwide teams, that are affiliated with several very successful Sprint Cup teams, gives his team somewhat of an up-hill battle. But if Jeremy can find the lead, or he becomes point-man at the front of the right line near the end of the race, he could upset all of those high dollar teams.
Kurt Busch has always run strong at Daytona and Talladega; he has just come up a little short at the checkered flag. As he reads over recent history of races at Daytona for Phoenix Racing and sees the results of drivers like Geoff Bodine and Mike Wallace who both scored top five runs, he will know that this team is capable of giving him the biggest win in NASCAR.
Even though these teams are on opposite sides of Buisness-85, both look to carry #51 back to victory lane, and not just for themselves, but for the drivers and mechanics of Spartanburg County that made Spartanburg the Hub of NASCAR for so many years. A few years have passed since a team from Spartanburg found victory lane in a major NASCAR race. In fact the last Spartanburg based team that won a NASCAR event was Phoenix Racing with drivers Brad Keselowski (Sprint Cup) and Mike Bliss (Nationwide) during the 2009 season.
Yes, for many race fans in Spartanburg County, the wish for the 2012 racing season will be to see car 51 getting it done both on Saturday and Sunday.