No major damage as champs tangle By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2000) A minor set-to coming off Turn 2 with under 10 minutes remaining in Daytona 500 Happy Hour practice caused extensive cosmetic damage to the cars of Bud Pole...
No major damage as champs tangle By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2000) A minor set-to coming off Turn 2 with under 10 minutes remaining in Daytona 500 Happy Hour practice caused extensive cosmetic damage to the cars of Bud Pole winner Dale Jarrett, defending Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon and 1998 500 champion Dale Earnhardt. With the majority of cars running in two packs, it appeared that rookie Mike Bliss loosened up his Conseco Pontiac and got onto the apron. The first group of cars slowed and Jarrett, whose Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford was running at the tail end of the line, was struck in the back end by Gordon's DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet, which was leading the second draft.
Earnhardt, running next to Gordon, inadvertently kept him from moving over to avoid Jarrett, who spun down the backstretch after the contact. His car received no other damage other than to the rear bodywork.
Gordon had minor damage to the nose of his Monte Carlo, while Earnhardt, who was animated and amicable in the garage area after the incident, said his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet was rear-ended by 1999 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Tony Stewart and suffered minor sheet metal damage.
Gordon and Jarrett still occupied the top-2 spots on the Happy Hour practice sheet, while Earnhardt was ninth. Gordon's best lap was 193.640 mph while Jarrett clocked-in at 193.494. Jeff Burton was third-best at 193.461 followed by surprising Elliott Sadler (193.399) and Stewart (193.390).
"What do you want to talk to me for?" Gordon asked coyly outside his garage after finishing a long discussion inside with Jarrett and Earnhardt. "I wish I knew what happened. I saw the 14 (Bliss) on the apron and everybody just checked up.
"We were catching one group, and Jarrett was at the end of that group. We came in there pretty hard on them, and they checked up, and I was right behind DJ and Earnhardt was outside of me. And, man, I got right into him as they checked up and turned him. Everybody's got damage to their nose and tails.
"I'm thankful that DJ didn't hit anything or anybody hit him. It could've been a lot worse. You're out there in those packs and you just know that it's just a matter of time before it happens because you get in a good group with guys drafting single-file and racing a little bit.
"And then you get all these guys who just want to jump on the front of it, jump on the front of it, jump on the front of it. Next thing you know, you've got a 20-car draft and you've got guys jumping right into the middle of it and stacking everybody up. I don't know exactly what caused that, but it was pretty intense there for a few seconds.
"There wasn't anything I could do. Everybody jumped on the brakes, and I was carrying a lot of speed going in there. I couldn't avoid it. Jarrett knows that. Since they can repair the car, he's a little happier, too."
Jarrett's Robert Yates crew was contemplating getting dispensation from NASCAR to remain in the garage after it close to continue repairing the car.
"The worst damage was done when I came back off the track the last time," Jarrett said of the wild ride, which resulted in more damage than originally thought. "I was trying to keep it off the wall and when I let off the brake finally it shot down the track and (Bill) Elliott clipped the left front of it. The I came off the track and bent it up."
Unfortunately for Jarrett, he said he was more than likely on his last run of the day.
"We were about ready to go -- we were just trying one last thing and I wanted to see what it was gonna do behind cars so I could make sure what I was looking for," Jarrett said, anticipating either a late night or early morning for his crew. "Now we'll just work like the devil to fix it."
Earnhardt was rather less concerned about his ride.
"The back end got bent a little bit in the 125s but this is just basically cosmetic," Earnhardt said after practice. "We could race it like that, but who knows? It might be faster but we probably need to straighten it out."