Finney Racing finally returns to Daytona; introducing newcomer Bacarella

Finney Racing finally returns to Daytona; introducing newcomer Bacarella

TOLEDO, Ohio (Feb. 1, 2017) - The last time Finney Racing brought a car to Daytona Int'l Speedway Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States. It was a 1977 Oldsmobile owned by Wally Finney with his brother Phil Finney in the driver's seat.

Phil Finney at DaytonaIn their late 20s, they were up and coming racers from Merritt Island, Florida, and had already shown great promise. In fact Phil had finished second in the ARCA race at Talladega and third at Daytona in '79. In 1980, they won the pole at Daytona and led 37 laps before the engine expired. At any rate, the future seemed exceptionally bright. And with so much success in ARCA, they decided to graduate to the NASCAR Cup Series and returned to Daytona to compete in the 1980 Firecracker 400. It was the last race Phil ever drove.

On track for a lead-lap finish and coming to the checkers off turn four, the car all of a sudden broke sideways and slid, at full song, across the infield grass into an earth embankment. The car ricocheted off and leaped high into the air before it came crashing down, landing on all fours at the entrance to pit road. The car was completely destroyed but the good news was that Finney survived the wreck, although the injuries he sustained ended his career.

Fast-forward 37 years.

"It's been a long time since my family has brought a car back to Daytona, so we're pretty excited," said second-generation racer Brian Finney.

Finney finished a career-best third last year at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville; however he won't be in the cockpit at Daytona. Finney will be calling the shots atop the pit box as crew chief for newcomer Caesar Bacarella.

"It's very exciting," said Bacarella. "We had a real good test and I know that Brian and all the guys at Finney Racing are doing the best they can to improve on it. The car was very easy to drive in the test...very predictable. We're still looking for a little more speed, but we know where it's at."

Bacarella is a road racer by trade and finished second in the Ferrari Challenge circuit on the road course at Daytona in 2016. In 2017, Bacarella will be competing on the Pirelli World Challenge tour in an Aspen Martin GT3. When he's not doing that, he's got a construction company to run.

"I own a construction company...we do drywall and stucco. We're very blessed. We've got over 350 employees...we keep very busy."

In addition, Bacarella, along with his business partners, is in the process of launching an brand new apparel company.

"Alpha's a new apparel company...very exciting. You'll see it on the car at Daytona. With the race live on FS1, we're excited about the exposure. If we run strong at Daytona, we'll run Talladega without a doubt."

The Chevrolet that Bacarella will be driving at Daytona will carry the same car number that Finney Racing raced with some 40 years ago.

Brian Finney candid"We're bringing back the 80 car number that my dad (Wally Finney) and Uncle Phil always ran," Brian Finney said.

Finney faintly recalls sitting in the grandstands at Daytona as a small boy watching his dad's car streak by. If not for a late-race mishap, his uncle was in position to win the '79 Daytona ARCA 200. Kyle Petty ended up the winner.

"My uncle should have won that race."

Phil was leading the race with less than 10 laps to go.

"This guy in a lapped car blew up right in front of him. A piece of the engine block came through his windshield...missed him but he had to drive the car the rest of the way with one hand...with the other hand up in the air trying to hold the windshield in place."

With one hand serving as a brace and the other on the wheel, Finney finished third, the last car on the lead lap.

Finney Racing will be running a car at Daytona they purchased from Kimmel Racing.

"We got the car from Bill Kimmel. We've been working on it ever since, trying to improve on it."

Finney can't run the full season, but plans to run several more than the Merritt Island-based team ran last year.

"We're going to try and run the first five races, then sort of pick and choose from there. We've got Caesar in the car for Daytona and Talladega, and then I'll run the car at Nashville, Salem and Toledo. From there, I plan to run Indy (Lucas Oil Raceway) and the other Salem.

"We built a brand new composite car...then Scott Reeves bought it from us, so we're going to help him run a few short track races. We've been bringing him along...they're excited."

Don Radebaugh