Racing on the edge
For Goody's driver Snell, it's the only place to be
Updated: Friday February 09, 2001 7:53 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danny Snell has had his problems this week. He's had to pull the transmission on his car three times. He burned out a clutch. He's been a little short-handed in the garage, and he's still looking for an extra hand on race day.
And, maybe because of all that, he's starting 42nd, in a field of 42, in the Goody's Dash Series AC Delco 200 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Not everybody on the NASCAR circuit is Jeff Gordon.
Then again, not everybody wants to be rich and famous and running Winston Cup.
"Used to," says Snell with a smile. "Now, probably not. I enjoy this series.
"If I was 30 ... maybe."
Snell, 47, is the owner/driver/mechanic and just about everything else for his team in the Goody's Dash Series, a NASCAR touring series. He runs a Pontiac Sunfire sponsored by Jet Food Stores and Waco Electric, and he has a one-time deal with State Fair brand corn dogs, which he hopes will pan out to something bigger.
His garage help is all volunteer, guys he knows from back home in Sandersville, Ga. Snell, by trade, is a shop foreman at Waco Electric in Sandersville.
This week, his mind has been on nothing but racing and how to get from the tail to the head Saturday without a bunch of young bumble-brains running him off the track.
"If I can get to the front, I can run with them," Snell insists. He qualified Thursday at about 155.5 mph for the race, but swears he's picked up 6 mph since then. Pole-sitter Derrick Kelley qualified at about 163.5 mph. "Getting there is the problem."
Snell works on his yellow No. 25 car on a little patch of concrete in the infield at Daytona. It's maybe a punt away from the Winston Cup garages, but it might as well be in another county.
While the Winston Cup guys have paid teams working in covered garages out of million-dollar rigs sponsored by international companies, the Goody's guys have it a tad different.
Mechanics, unpaid ones, lie on the concrete in the hot sun to get under the cars. Some teams have tents to cover the cars, but many don't. Many of the rigs are makeshift.
The tools aren't as good, the cars not as fancy, the food is mainly of the fast-food variety. And the money ... well, you can't compare.
The winner of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 gets more than $1.2 million. The winner of Saturday's Goody's Dash Series race gets a little more than $11,000.
Still, the racing is intense. The work is just as hard. And, given the conditions, maybe a little harder.
"I wish you'd get it across that these guys can race, too, that there's good racing here, too," Snell says. "People say 'You guys don't do but 165' ... like 165's nothing for them."
Snell has not been in the Daytona Goody's series race since 1999, when he found some trouble coming out of turn four. He remembers thinking, while the car screeched up against the wall in front of the main grandstand, that he was going to have to miss a few races.
He's never won a Goody's race, though he's finished as high as fifth a couple times. But he won't stop trying.
"It's fun," Snell says. "But you have to be a little crazy to do it."
Just like Winston Cup.