Goody's 500 Notebook By Dave Rodman BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 1998) Notes and quotes from Saturday night's Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway: Mark Martin may be slight in stature, but his heart approximates ...
Goody's 500 Notebook By Dave Rodman
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 1998) Notes and quotes from Saturday night's Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway:
Mark Martin may be slight in stature, but his heart approximates the size of his Roush Racing Valvoline race car hauler. Martin stood up in front of the media assembled following his victory in the Goody's 500 and staunchly defended Jeff Gordon, who has become the man race fans love to hate in 1998. Martin said that reaction hurts him. "Jeff Gordon is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest race car drivers to ever sit down in a car," Martin said during an interview that reached many emotional peaks and valleys. "You can't argue with the results... In a lot of ways I'm a Jeff Gordon fan. "I approve of the way he lives his life, the way he drives, the way he conducts himself and everything else. If the fans don't like Jeff Gordon, boy, you can just imagine what a different personality could be in that same situation. He's a fine fellow and it hurts me to hear him booed because he's good. I guess I've been fortunate to have success, but not so much that a large number of people dislike me."
Jeremy Mayfield had not led a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race since his initial victory at Pocono Raceway June 21. He came back with a vengeance at Bristol, leading 173 of the first 277 laps in his Mobil 1 Ford. But he was involved in an altercation that sent him spinning down the backstretch to bring out the 13th and final caution on lap 436. "There are some wins left in this Mobil 1 team, and we're going to find them," Mayfield said after coming back to finish eighth. "I tell you what, after that (spin) I was a man on a mission. We were going to pass everybody we could find to pass. We didn't have enough time to figure out if they were on the lead lap or not."
Ricky Rudd was disgruntled and exhilarated all at the same time after he led 43 laps but finished ninth after getting involved in the 11th caution of the night. "I was telling somebody after the race that if it had been a 50-lap race we would've won something," said the driver of the Tide Ford. "It was good to be able to start the race and dog them for a while and have the car run good. It's coming... I wish it would happen overnight, we could fix everything and it would be great, but we've got to work on our pit stops a little bit."
Two drivers needed subs in the course of the Goody's 500, which was as much of a grueling, car-eating bash as ever. Ward Burton, whose MBNA Pontiac was eliminated after being involved in a couple scuffles, stood in for an overheated Ernie Irvan, who was laid low with fewer than 100 laps to go when the cooling fans in his Skittles Pontiac stopped working. Kenny Wallace, who suffered another engine failure in his No. 81 Square D Ford, stepped in for Brett Bodine, who was overcome by exhaustion and dehydration after the blower in his Paychex Ford went out early in the race. "It's the weirdest deal I've ever been involved in," Burton said. "There was that wreck on the backstretch and I'm in the middle of (Turns) 3-4. I'm entering the corner and my right-front brake is locking up and I'm sliding into the wall. If we could have just survived, we'd have had a decent finish. Then, I got in Ernie's car and he had a really fast race car. If what happened to him doesn't happen to him, I believe he's got a top-10 car, at least." As it was, Irvan was credited with 22nd with Burton's help, while Bodine got credit for a 26th-place run. He was treated with oxygen and IV fluids in the infield care center and was expected to experience no ill effects.
Bobby Hamilton battled overheating all night in the Kodak Max Film Chevrolet but could only sing the praises of his crew and engine builder Runt Pittman when he corralled an 11th-place finish. "We had to come in and put water in it on every caution," said Hamilton, who was a topic of officials' radio conversations all night for suspected water leaks. "We went to the rear every time but the car drove good and the motor ran good. The motor should've blowed up a hundred times. I ran it 270 degrees for 100 laps, and 260 degrees all night long. If I can ever qualify we can win this thing."
Bobby Labonte, whose Bristol luck has not always been good, seemed on his way to breaking that ill stretch on the wicked .533-mile oval when he was swept into a wreck that absorbed five or six cars in Turn 3 on lap 397. Labonte finished 25th, hurt by getting the alignment of his Interstate Batteries Pontiac knocked out in the accident. He was threatened with the black flag a number of times when his lap times became too slow. The finish hurt his string of nine top-10 finishes in his last 11 races. "Going into Turn 3, the 50 car (Wally Dallenbach) came down on us and we think it toed the right-front in," Labonte said. "It's really a shame because we think we had a car capable of winning the race. After that the adjustments we made were too much and we had to come back in and re-do everything. It's just typical Bristol, that's all."
For Dallenbach, the crash was the capper to a rough day. He had his steering wheel come off early in the Saturday morning practice, causing him to hit the frontstretch pit wall. "The o-ring that holds the steering wheel on broke," Dallenbach said right before the green flag. "Luckily I wasn't hauling, and it didn't hit that hard." The crash caused his team to do minimal body work after replacing some brake and suspension parts, but it was an ominous beginning for a day that ended with him in 28th.
John Andretti was another driver who had a hot streak slowed by an accident. Andretti, whose STP Pontiac had finished in the top-10 five times in the last six races before being involved in a multi-car wreck just before lap 200, soldiered on until he could gain no more positions, then pulled in and finished 38th. "We were OK, nothing great," Andretti said. "Bristol, you expect something bad like this to happen. That's why I don't like coming here. I hear guys complain about Daytona and Talladega and I just don't understand it. Somebody got turned sideways in front of me and, then, somebody hit me in the rear. What can you do?"
Derrike Cope was basically eliminated in the same accident as Andretti, the second straight race in which he's been involved in an accident he didn't initiate. Following the 36th-place finish, he just sat on the pit road wall, with his helmet off, grinning and laughing. "It's ridiculous," Cope said. "I was running good. It's gonna get better, but when, I don't know."
Nobody could have been happier with a 12th-place run than Kyle Petty, who slipped off and on the lead lap but was on when it counted in his Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix. "Man, that was a great run for us," Petty said. "We haven't finished a race up here in four-five races. Used to be that we ran pretty good up here. We finished about where we should have finished. We got a lap down there, but Mark (Martin) gave us our lap back because he knew we couldn't beat him. That's the type of guy he is. Just to survive here usually means you'll come out with a good finish."
Vicki Padget, 37, of Mt. Carmel, Tenn., won a Ford Taurus replica of Rusty Wallace's No. 2 Penske South/Miller Lite Elvis Presley race car that Wallace ran into the third spot in the Goody's 500. Wallace was on hand the night of Aug. 20 at the Kingsport Sports Club in Kingsport, Tenn., to draw Padget's name as the winner. Fans were able to enter the Elvis Presley Productions-Action Performance contest at wherever Wallace's show car made stops -- from Memphis, Tenn.; to Nashville, Tenn.; to Knoxville, Tenn.; and finally, Kingsport.
On hand this weekend as winners of U.S. Tobacco Sales and Marketing Co., Inc.'s, 1998 Skoal "Ultimate NASCAR Weekend Sweepstakes" were Jerry Allen of Conway, S.C., and his family. Allen was one of more than 400,000 adults who entered the sweepstakes. The grand prize, valued at $125,000, consisted of an Itasca Suncruiser Motorhome and a trip for six to a NASCAR race of the winner's choice. "And Bristol was the race that Allen chose," said Johnny Bruce of U.S. Tobacco. "And, believe me, he's having a ball this weekend." "Unbelievable!" said Allen, about winning the contest. "I can finally attend a race in style and not have to worry about finding a place to stay."
Robert Tisdale, 45, of Newport, N.C., is one of the five finalists among fans eligible to win $1 million in Winston's No Bull 5 "They Win, You Win" Sweepstakes. Tisdale and the four other fans will attend the Pepsi Southern 500 on Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway and one will walk away a millionaire. Tisdale, a marine government employee who was at Bristol, says he's been following races, off-and-on, since 1976. He's from Charleston, S.C., and says, if he wins the $1 million bonus, he's going to get him a motor home and follow racing. "That's been my life-long dream," said Tisdale. Tisdale said he entered the sweepstakes through a series of filling out cards at various outlets that sold Winston cigarettes. A victory in the Pepsi Southern 500 of Sept. 6 by Gordon, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Mike Skinner or Dale Earnhardt, would ensure five more fans would be eligible for another $1 million bonus in the Oct. 12 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the last of the five million-dollar bonus races this season. To date, Gordon has been the only eligible driver to win one of the three races.
Source: NASCAR Online