DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR Cup Series rookie contender Quin Houff is far from the first name that would come to mind if you’re trying to name a potential favorite for Sunday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500.
In the Weyers Cave, Va., native’s estimation, that’s a good thing.
Houff, 23, will make his first start in The Great American Race on Sunday, locked into the field with the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE as one of 36 chartered cars at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
But he’s not one of the well-known names on the roster, something that he’s actually relishing going into the biggest race of his young career.
“You know, I kind of love the fact that nobody expects us to be a threat,” Houff told SPEED SPORT during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday morning. “I kind of love the fact that nobody knows how to say my name, too. (laughter) The expectations are really low for us, I feel like, so I’m looking forward to exceeding that with a newer team and me being a newer driver.
“The good news is that everyone at StarCom believes in me and we’ve got 38 weeks to try to build up our reputation and show that we’re a team that belongs in the Cup (Series) garage, so I’m excited. I don’t think there’s any”
For Houff, who cut his teeth racing late models in the Southeastern United States, Sunday’s Daytona 500 marks the culmination of a long, hard and oftentimes gritty journey to reach the top level of the sport.
It’s also the beginning of a full schedule for Houff, who will chase Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors this year in the Cup Series.
“Man, this is a dream come true. I think it is for every driver in a race car, at any level,” Houff said. “No matter who you are (in stock-car racing), the ultimate goal is the Cup Series and NASCAR … and to be one of the 40 that gets to take the green flag in the Daytona 500 on Sunday is going to be a very special feeling for not only myself, but my family as well.
“It’s funny, because I just kind of walked out of my RV this morning and asked the security guards as I got closer where I was supposed to be, so I’m learning as I go,” he added. “I’m just excited to experience everything. I’m excited to go to every track. I haven’t had a full-time schedule (in racing) since I left late models at 17, so I’m excited to work with the same people on a regular basis and build as we go along.”
While he knows that Sunday provides a chance for StarCom Racing to shine, given the right breaks, Houff is also cognizant that it’s just the first stop on a long grind of a season that will undoubtedly carry its challenges along the way.
“I have a very open mind (about what to expect) because like I said, I’ve haven’t been a full-time race car driver for years now. So we’ll set goals as we go and take each race as it comes,” Houff noted. “I always take it one week at a time because you never knew when you’re going to get an another opportunity behind the wheel of a race car. So my plan is to keep that same mentality (of) one week at a time.
“This week is the Daytona 500 and then we’ll shift our focus to (Las) Vegas,” he continued. “And I think if you put 38 of those weeks together, you’ll have a good, good result.”
But should a chance arise to shock a few folks in the closing laps of Sunday’s Great American Race?
“Oh, we’ll take the shot (to run up front at the end) if it’s there,” he smiled.
The 62nd annual Daytona 500 takes the green flag Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.