Most teens Joey Licata’s age see Daytona as a place to visit for Spring Break. Licata sees it in a whole different light.
“I’m not nervous yet,” he said from a cell phone on the infield at Daytona International Speedway. “I probably won’t be until I get in the car and start waiting for the race to begin.”
Licata, 19, is preparing to make his debut in the ARCA series Friday. But this debut is different from most. You see, Licata had never seen Daytona in person until early in the week.
“It didn’t sink in until my first few laps,” he remembered about his practice laps, where he had the sixth fasted time.
Licata will race for Cunningham Motorsports, which is affiliated with Penske Racing. While his road to ARCA was fast, he finds himself trying to slow down. Learning moments fly faster than the cars circling the new surface.
“I’d say communication is by far the most important thing I’m trying to take in,” he said. “Just trying to learn as much about the car as I can so I can talk with the team. Otherwise, we’re just going in circles.”
Licata find himself is an interesting position. On one hand, all drivers want to win. On the other hand, rookie drivers want to be respectful and make a good first impression to set the scene for a grueling 2011 season.
“A successful day is being there at the end,” he said. “Don’t do anything crazy, but be there to do something with five laps to go.”
It’s only one race. But you only get your first race at Daytona once. For Joey Licata, that moment can’t come soon enough.
“Lots of stress,” he said. “It’s cool…almost surreal.”