Daytona testing notes 96-01-18

LABONTE BACK ON TOP WITH FASTEST WINTER LAP AT DAYTONA DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 17) -- Terry Labonte resumed his spot at the top of the pre-season NASCAR Winston Cup stock car testing speed chart Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway...

LABONTE BACK ON TOP WITH FASTEST WINTER LAP AT DAYTONA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 17) -- Terry Labonte resumed his spot at the top of the pre-season NASCAR Winston Cup stock car testing speed chart Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway as he ran the fastest lap so far in winter testing as teams continue to prepare for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

Within a half-hour of the test's closing time, Labonte was timed at 47.830 seconds, an average speed of 188.166 mph. While the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlos of Labonte and Ken Schrader ended the GM session as the only cars to top 188, the big news, however, was the new Pontiac Grand Prix's steady progression up the charts. Johnny Benson posted the fastest Pontiac lap of 186.656 late Wednesday.

"I think we started out in left field with the new car but we've made a lot of headway so far," said driver Rick Mast, the newest Pontiac man who ended up as second-quickest Pontiac at the end of GM's Daytona winter test time with his Tuesday effort of 186.513 mph. "I feel like we're gaining on it, but there are always stumbling blocks.

"It's hard to really tell how things are when you're out there running by yourself. When we're out there in race conditions, slipping and sliding around and drafting, then we'll be better able to make a judgement of how good the car is.

"This race (Daytona 500) is a big deal and to run good at Daytona means a lot. I think if we had another six months or so of development in the car then I think we'd be in a lot better shape. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo had a couple of years development in it and they had 20 teams working to make it better. We've got five teams working on the new Pontiac and all five are working together. We're playing catch up!"

The first incident of the winter occurred at mid-afternoon when Steve Grissom's Chevrolet apparently broke a shock mount between turns one and two and drove up and hit the wall. Grissom came to a stop on the backstretch and, after the crew brought a new tire out to the car, he drove it back to the garage area.

The True Value Firebird IROC Pontiac Trans-Ams will test on Thursday preparing for Round One on Friday, Feb. 16. Jim Sauter is the only driver scheduled to conduct the testing. A section of the Oldfield Grandstand is open daily at no charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with access through the Visitors' Center. Guided tours of the Speedway are available from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a nominal fee.

GENERAL MOTORS TEST SPEEDS -- Jan. 17*

NO DRIVER/CAR SPEED

5 Terry Labonte/Chevrolet 188.166 mph 4 Sterling Marlin/Chevrolet 187.578 33 Robert Pressley/Chevrolet 187.137 3 Dale Earnhardt/Chevrolet 186.776 30 Johnny Benson/Pontiac 186.656 24 Jeff Gordon/Chevrolet 186.532 87 Joe Nemechek/Chevrolet 186.474 44 Jeff Purvis/Chevrolet 186.382 25 Ken Schrader/Chevrolet 186.047 17 Darrell Waltrip/Chevrolet 185.391 43 Bobby Hamilton/Pontiac 185.307 29 Steve Grissom/Chevrolet 184.354 18 Bobby Labonte/Chevrolet 184.275 1 Rick Mast/Pontiac 184.219 97 Chad Little/Pontiac 184.158 22 Ward Burton/Pontiac 184.143 41 Ricky Craven/Chevrolet 183.240 71 Dave Marcis/Chevrolet 181.785

* Electronic times taken randomly throughout the day.

CUMULATIVE NASCAR WINSTON CUP TEST SPEEDS (AS OF JAN. 17 (5 p.m.)*

NO DRIVER/CAR DATE TIME SPEED 5 Terry Labonte/Chevrolet 1/17 47.830 188.166 25 Ken Schrader/Chevrolet 1/15 47.848 188.096 4 Sterling Marlin/Chevy 1/17 47.980 187.578 44 Jeff Purvis/Chevrolet 1/4 48.029 187.387 24 Jeff Gordon/Chevrolet 1/4 48.079 187.192 33 Robert Pressley/Chevy 1/17 48.093 187.137 3 Dale Earnhardt/Chevrolet 1/5 48.159 186.881 88 Dale Jarrett/Ford 1/10 48.195 186.741 30 Johnny Benson/Pontiac 1/17 48.217 186.656 1 Rick Mast/Pontiac 1/16 48.254 186.513 87 Joe Nemechek/Chevrolet 1/17 48.264 186.474 17 Darrell Waltrip/Chevy 1/15 48.279 186.416 71 Dave Marcis/Chevrolet 1/15 48.346 186.158 15 Wally Dallenbach/Ford 1/11 48.541 185.410 43 Bobby Hamilton/Pontiac 1/17 48.568 185.307 73 Phil Barkdoll/Chevrolet 1/16 48.645 185.014 94 Bill Elliott/Ford 1/11 48.673 184.907 97 Chad Little/Pontiac 1/16 48.675 184.900 18 Bobby Labonte/Chevrolet 1/16 48.676 184.896 24j Jack Sprague/Chevrolet 1/3 48.773 184.528 29 Steve Grissom/Chevrolet 1/15 48.806 184.404 22 Ward Burton/Pontiac 1/17 48.875 184.143 90 Mike Wallace/Ford 1/11 48.973 183.775 41 Ricky Craven/Chevrolet 1/16 48.973 183.775 * Electronic times taken randomly.

NOTES

BOBBY LABONTE (#18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) -- (On 1995) It was a good year and we had a lot of fun. I got to do a lot of things -- like win three Cup races -- that I hadn't done before. It was a neat deal because everybody worked so hard and it really paid off. This year's we're going to work harder and maybe get things a little bit better. We feel like we've got a great race team. (On Daytona 500) We've got a strong team. I believe that every time but once the Joe Gibbs car has qualified in the top five for the Daytona 500. I think we're going to run good.

DARRELL WALTRIP (#17 Western Auto Chevrolet) -- We're here with the same car we raced here last year. This car qualified sixth for the Daytona 500 after running second in its qualifying race. We also finished fourth at Talladega with this car. We know we have a good race car and the wind tunnel backs us up on that. We're not fooling ourselves in any way because we haven't changed the car so we know we're legal. If you can leave here with a competitive speed compared to whoever the fastest teams may be then we'll know we're in pretty good shape. When you're testing you have to take into consideration what you think the speeds are going to be when you come back. A trip through tech inspection, the "room of doom," seems to change things quite a bit.

The Monte Carlo started out as a good car. Our biggest concern is NASCAR. It's not the cars themselves, it's not what we know to do or what we know not to do. We had a lot of development in the car before it ever raced and it showed. There's not a lot of hidden secrets in this car and there's not a lot that can be done to it. What you see is what you get -- a great race car which performs on the race track like we hoped it would. The problem we have is the legislation which keeps on coming down against the car. I think it's interesting to note that if I had a Ford and I needed to get my car working better and my engines working better that I would have been here working my tail off during their three days of testing. There were only four Fords here for the test. Something tells me that the rest of the teams were home in North Carolina or wherever waiting for someone to help them. They weren't out here helping themselves and that's wrong. They should be here working as hard as we are. I think that's the trap NASCAR has gotten themselves into. Until they realize that and stop playing these games with rules, we're always going to be on our guard.

JOHNNY BENSON (#30 Pennzoil Pontiac) -- (On his first Winston Cup test at Daytona) The excitement factor has been there, definitely. Interestingly, I can't tell a whole lot of difference between the Cup car and the Busch car here because out there by yourself it seems to feel pretty much the same. I know it changes when you racing with other cars. What I've really been doing is getting the crew getting used to me as well as me getting used to the crew, the new Pontiac and the new engine rules. I am excited about the new year and I believe it will be everything I figured it would be -- extremely tough. I look forward to the challenge. It's exciting to come to a team which has been around and has great equipment and great people. It's been a tough test because we're not quite sure of the areas we need to work on. The way things are we're not sure on whether it's the car, the new engine rule, the driver or a combination. This is a hard place to come with a new car because there are so many variables. We know it's part of the learning process so we'll do the best we can.

I always have set goals for myself, but I haven't this year. Winston Cup is so competitive and, as a rookie, you don't really know what to expect. It's tough. The thing I have to do is what I have done in the past and that's race hard and be consistent and learn as much as I can as fast as I can. If I can do that then things will fall into place.

STERLING MARLIN (#4 Kodak Film Chevrolet) -- (On testing) Basically we've spent our time trying to find out which car is the best -- the new one or this one, the one we've won three out of five restrictor-plate races in. It's turned out that the old car seems to be the best. We haven't really been looking for speed. The motor we have in here probably has 1,200 miles on it. Our main testing has been car stuff, just all the basics you always have to do. We've got Runt (Pittman, engine builder) back home stirring up some magic to get more power. I'm sure when we come back, we'll be faster.

(On the Super Bowl) I'm really interested in football and I always enjoy a chance to go. Kodak has some corporate people going so I'll be there in the stands. It was neat to be on the sidelines for Dallas' last game. I didn't realize there were cameras around until Troy and I got to talking there at the end of the game. Maybe we can get him to Daytona like we did in '94. He stays really busy with his schedule, but he says he's going to try and be here.

DAVE MARCIS (#71 Marcis Racing Chevrolet) -- (On the Busch Clash) We're looking forward to the Busch Clash. Today (Wednesday) we're working hard on the Clash car. Right now it's about one full second slower than the other cars. We are running it in race trim rather than a qualifying setup. I don't know where race trim is yet on the stopwatch. We know we're a little bit short right now and we're working to improve that. There are some good things about the Clash -- the race is short, it pays well and you don't have to qualify for it. We're honored to be in the Busch Clash. Yes, it presents us with a lot of extra work, but it's the kind of work they (crew) don't mind. We're hoping to do well in it. I think it will be rewarding for us as a team and help us get Daytona off to a good start. It's the kind of work and problems which you like to be faced with.

(On the Daytona 500) This should be our 29th consecutive start in the Daytona 500. We're here like always because this is the race of the year for us. It's important to be in the race for the sponsors, the driver, the team, morale and a lot of things. You're always faced with the problem of qualifying and that's the same for everybody. We'll be running Richard Childress engines for the 500. I'm sure that's a big plus.

BOBBY HAMILTON -- (#43 STP Pontiac) (On testing) I feel real good about the car. We're trying to build a race car. We're not running any faster than we did with last year's car -- and that car ran strong. It ran fast all year long -- alone -- but it didn't race good. I don't think anything exceptional about this car out on track by itself. We'll be able to answer the question of how good the car is after the Gatorade 125's when we've raced it side-by-side and been in drafting situations. That's what will tell the tale. We're looking forward to a good year. We've got to work on our superspeedway program. We would have had to, no matter what kind of car we had. We've taken our engine program in-house. We used to rent our restrictor-plate engines before. Once our guys catch up on the new engine rules and the restrictor-plate engines we'll be fine. We've got a good team. Robby Loomis and Dale Inman, especially, make a big difference. Richard had spent a lot of time hiring good people to be in the race team.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Wally Dallenbach , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Mike Wallace , Robert Pressley , Johnny Benson , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Chad Little , Jeff Purvis , Dave Marcis , Rick Mast , Jim Sauter , Steve Grissom
Teams Hendrick Motorsports