Toyota's NASCAR Goody's Dash program begins its fourth year this week as five Toyota Celica's gear up for the season-opening Goody's Dash 150 on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Daytona International Speedway.
Led by four-time Goody's Dash champion Robert Huffman, the Toyota program looks to improve on its impressive 2002 results. Huffman, Claremont, N.C., finished second overall last season, his second in the No. 37 White House Apple Juice Toyota Celica, and he was tied for the series lead with three victories.
"I think we're in better shape this year than last year going into Daytona," said Huffman, who won last year's season opener at the legendary speedway. "We worked hard on making improvements in the off season to the car and engine. The Celica had really good fuel mileage in testing last month, which helps with our strategy."
Huffman will be joined this season by Brandon Ward, who will be piloting the
No. 11 Ram Fabrication Toyota Celica. He had a strong rookie season in 2002 with seven top-ten finishes, including three top-five finishes in a row to end the year. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native finished second, just five points behind, in the rookie-of-the-year standings. Ward earned his first career Goody's Dash victory at the legendary Bristol Motor Speedway in 2001 while running a limited schedule.
The man Ward finished second to in the rookie standings, Chuck Gafrarar, of Lancaster, Pa., of will make his debut in the No. 52 Highland Motorsports/Icehouse Toyota Celica at Daytona. Gafrarar's Mag-Clip Rookie of the Year season in 2002 included three top five finishes and six in the top 10. He will be joined on the Highland team by 2003 rookie-of-the-year hopeful Reece Milton. The Blountville, Tenn., native ran a partial season in 2002 with a season-best finish of seventh at his home track of Bristol. Milton will race the No. 75 Highland/Food Country Toyota Celica.
Returning for its fourth season in the Celica will be Weaver Racing with second-year racer Nick Pistone. The Charlotte, N.C., resident - and grandson of early-NASCAR racer Tiger Tom Pistone - had a strong rookie campaign last year with four top-10 finishes and a season-high eighth-place finish at Greenville, S.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Pistone finished sixth overall in the rookie standings.
The Germain Automotive team will be beginning its second season with the No. 1 Germain Automotive Group Toyota Celica and Scott Krehling behind the wheel. Krehling, of Naples, Fla., has run partial seasons in the Goody's Dash series with the Germain team since 1998. He finished with a season-high ninth-place finish at Kentucky Speedway in 2002.
Qualifying for the NASCAR Goody's Dash opener at Daytona will be on Friday, Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. ET, and the 60-lap Goody's Dash 150 will be on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 11 p.m. ET, prior to Winston Cup qualifying. The race will be broadcast live on the Speed Channel.
Toyota made its debut in the NASCAR Goody's Dash series at Daytona in 2000. The 28-year-old series is part of the NASCAR ladder system, designed to help promote and develop driver's skills at tracks as varied as Daytona, Charlotte and Bristol. Originally called "Baby Grands," Goody's Dash cars resemble a scaled-down version of a Winston Cup car, and each is equipped with a V6 powerplant. Series alumni include Michael Waltrip, Davey Allison, Robert Pressley, Hut Stricklin, Andy Houston and Shawna Robinson.