AMA champs test for 24 Hours of Daytona

Russell, Pridmore and Ward prepare for endurance race

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jan. 06, 2009
Scott Russell, Jason Pridmore and Jeff Ward completed a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 5 in preparation for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

The three motorcycle legends, each with several AMA championships on their resumes, will compete in the Jan. 24-25 race in the number 9 AMA Pro Racing Motorcycle Team Porsche Coyote.

“It’s definitely been a big transition for us, not only for myself, but for Jason and Jeff as well,” says Russell, who earned the nickname “Mr. Daytona” for his five victories in the Daytona 200. “It’s hard to get a lot of track time, sharing the seat with the other drivers.”

The test was the final tune-up for the AMA team. Russell and Pridmore took part in a test in October with former AMA Motocross and Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael. Ward joined the team in the November test while Carmichael has withdrawn. Inducted to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, Ward brings four-wheeled racing experience to the team having competed in the 1997 24 Hours of Daytona and raced in the Indy Racing League following his retirement from motocross competition and brings four-wheeled racing experience to the team.

“I don’t think there’s a motorcycle racer out there who hasn’t sat back and said he’d like to try this race,” says Pridmore, a two-time AMA Pro champion. “All three of us have watched this race on TV forever, and Jeff’s even driven in it once. If there ever was a car I’ve wanted to race, it was a Grand-Am car. That’s how I’ve always felt, and I’m tickled to get the chance to do it.”

Pridmore and Russell’s transition to auto racing will be much more difficult.

The 09 car might bring good luck to the AMA Pro Racing team in the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

“Just being able to breathe fresh air is the biggest difference for me on the bike,” says Russell. “You might be a little warm in the leathers if it’s hot but you still have fresh air going under your helmet. In the car, it’s pretty hot in there.”

The test sessions have helped the team get used to weaving in and out of traffic. With more than 50 cars on the track during the recent test, the AMA team learned to deal with faster and slower cars.

“It’s kind of like bike racing except you got lot less room to make the move on,” says Russell. “A doorway space I could do what I use to do. Now, the car is still a little twitchy and still tentative. The consistency of some of the drivers, you don’t know who you are coming up on, some guys give way, some don’t.”

The AMA team will not be the only notables taking part in the 24 Hours of Daytona. IndyCar racer Danica Patrick will drive the number 2 Pontiac Crawford car with former 24 Hours of Daytona winners Casey Mears and Andy Wallace. Actor Patrick Dempsey of television’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and owner of the Dempsey Racing team will race for the second time, driving a pink, black and white Mazda RX-8. The Dempsey team, sponsored by Avon, will be promoting the cosmetic company’s breast cancer awareness efforts.

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