9:29 PM PST, February 16, 2013
Daytona Beach, Florida
The first Saturday of Speed Weeks was good for Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell and Kevin Harvick in the Sprint Unlimited. It all made for an exciting day of racing at the Daytona International Speedway.
Clay Campbell got a pre-race pep talk from Cup Series driver and former Daytona ARCA champ Ryan Newman and then stepped into history as part of the 50th year of ARCA racing at Daytona.
Clay started 24th and was biding his time at lap 20 when he got caught up in someone else's mess, saving the car near the start finish line but having to pit for repairs.
“I kind of saw that coming,” Campbell said. “They were up there three abreast and a lot of movement going on. I was anticipating it but that didn’t have anything to do with me missing it. But once it happened, it was just sheer luck that I just kept going low and low and missed most of it. The only problem we had was going through the grass which messed the valence up. But the guys did a great job fixing it up when we brought it back in.”
“God liked Clay Campbell today,” said Jeff Spraker, Clay’s car owner and Crew Chief, “because we lucked out there. God was watching out for us. The guys bounced back good because we had a little damage in the front and that set us back in track position but it gave us the fuel to be able to go the end”
Clay picked his way through the field bringing home the #08 Ford in the 14th position, a solid Daytona debut on the high banks.
“I am ecstatic,” Campbell said. “These guys gave me a great opportunity—Jeff Spraker and the whole bunch with Mountain Dew on the car. It was a good run for them. My buddies at Ferrum College got home in one piece. I don’t think Ferrum College got touched on the quarter panel, so it was just a great weekend. Among the things I’ve done outside of what a regular guy like me would be doing, driving at Daytona and finishing 14th my first time here, I couldn’t be happier.”
“He stays pretty jonesed-up about these speedway races,” Spraker said. “I think we have got a guy that had he been about 15 years younger, the guys over in the next garage were going to have to worry.”
Nineteen of Nascar's Cup stars came out under the lights for the Sprint Unlimited but the real star was the car, the new look Gen 6 machine, getting its first racing action on the track.
A big wreck took out 7 of the 19 cars early, paving the way for Kevin Harvick to get out front in the final segment and hold off Greg Biffle and Joey Logano for his third win in the race now known as the Sprint Unlimited.
“I saw them coming with a head of steam,” said Harvick, “and tried to put myself right in the way of that particular car and hoped for the best. Starting at the back and being able to work your way through some traffic and feel how the car is going to react was a good thing. It reminded me of how we used to race 10 or 11 years ago. That kind of drafting.
Harvick begins his final season at Richard Childress Racing with a bang and now is bidding to become the first driver to win this race and the Daytona 500 since Dale Jarrett back in 2000.