MBNA Gold 400 Notebook By Dave Rodman DOVER, Del. (Sept. 20, 1998) Notes and quotes following Sunday's MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway: Kenny Irwin, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year point leader, had a lucky escape...
MBNA Gold 400 Notebook By Dave Rodman
DOVER, Del. (Sept. 20, 1998) Notes and quotes following Sunday's MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway:
Kenny Irwin, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year point leader, had a lucky escape after his Texaco/Havoline Ford hammered the outside and inside walls coming out of Turn 2 at the "Monster Mile."
Irwin, who hit his head inside the car's driver compartment and who complained of back pain after the incident, brought out the day's third and fourth cautions: The third for his accident and the next when the race had to be stopped so an ambulance could transport him to Kent General Hospital in Dover for a precautionary CT scan and x-rays.
An update on Irwin shortly after the race said he had been released, in a "real sore" state, after all tests were negative.
Dale Jarrett won the spring race at Dover but was never a threat on Sunday.
"I don't know whether it was the last set of tires we put on or what," he said. "The Taurus just got way too tight, we just couldn't get turned in the center and we lost way too much time. We just couldn't make it work and I just don't understand. We can make a car loose and we could make it tight, we just couldn't get it in between, and I don't understand that. And, it's been that way for a couple weeks now."
Ricky Rudd saw another opportunity to extend his string of years with a victory go by the boards without distinction, but he was not too upset.
"We got lapped in like 40 laps," Rudd said. "We went from 11th to getting lapped, but we made some major adjustments in the car. We probably dropped all the way to 40th and came back to 13th so I'm not too disappointed. We never lost another lap after that first episode."
Mark Martin is beyond the point of being frustrated at having no luck in cutting Jeff Gordon's point margin, no matter how well he runs.
"No, I'm not frustrated," he said after slicing Gordon's advantage from 204 to 194 points. "We lost 140 points two weeks ago at Darlington and the only way we're going to be a championship contender is if he loses 140, or 75 twice or something like that.
"If we won 'em all we still wouldn't catch 'em at this rate. I know now how he feels most Sundays. When you've got 'em covered, you've just got 'em covered."
"We'll have to wait and see. We did our job today. Winning is the glue that holds a championship team together and we did that this weekend. If we hadn't of been so hooked up Jeff would've won again this weekend."
If there remains any doubt of the affinity of Martin and his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, for their "arch rivals" Gordon and Ray Evernham, his pit boss -- forget it. In the entire work-up to the morning drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting, Martin was engaged in an animated -- and jovial -- conversation with Gordon and Evernham.
At least, by leading the most laps for the seventh time this season, Martin stayed abreast of Gordon in lap leader bonus points this season. Both drivers have earned 135 bonus points for leading in 1998. Martin also led the most laps in this race a year ago, when he also won from the Bud Pole.
Todd Bodine said he would finish the season in Joe Falk's No. 91 Chevrolet, except for the races on consecutive weekends later this fall at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Today's victory was the 11th this season for a Ford. Chevrolet has 13 victories while Pontiac is third in the manufacturer's race with two wins -- both by Bobby Labonte.
If Gordon finishes fourth or better in the remaining seven races this season, he'll win his third championship in four years. However, Gordon has never won a race in October or November and his best finishing average in any of the remaining races is 7.6 in the Pepsi 400 scheduled Oct. 17 at Daytona. Interestingly enough, that race was postponed from the summer.
Jeff Burton and Ken Schrader had bad days and each fell two spots in the standings on account of that. Burton was involved in two accidents -- one in a weird backstretch stack-up under caution -- and fell from fifth to seventh after he finished 38th. Schrader's Skoal Bandit Chevrolet blew up, he finished 39th and fell from ninth to 11th.
"On the back straightaway everybody got jammed up under caution and the cars behind me just didn't get slowed down," Burton said, adding that his car later picked up a push that contributed to him "just making a mistake" and hitting the frontstretch wall, ending his day.
"The engine just laid down, which doesn't happen to this Skoal Bandit team very much," Schrader said. "The best I can remember, we've been running this thing a year and three-quarters and that's only the second time the motor has laid down."
Matt Kenseth's sixth-place finish was the best debut performance by a driver in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since Rusty Wallace finished second at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 3, 1980.
John Andretti moved up another spot in the standings by finishing in the top-10 (ninth) for the eighth time in the last 11 races.
Kenny Wallace was appropriately disgusted after his early exit from the MBNA Gold 400, saying "I think that was the shortest race in the history of motorsports. I went into Turn 1 on the start of the race and blew up. I hate it for Square D, they gave me a great car, along with my crew chief David Ifft."
Mike Beam stood up before the drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting Sunday morning at Dover and passed on Bill Elliott's, and his brothers' thanks for the thoughts and prayers of the entire NASCAR Winston Cup community following the death of their father, George, 74, Thursday night.
"Bill just wanted to thank everyone for all you've done," Beam told the packed gallery, "and he wanted everyone to remember Bill and Ernie and Dan and their families in their prayers, 'cause they just lost their dad. They've had a lot of problems the last couple years and they're really struggling with this."
In the last several years, the Elliott's mother and grandmother preceded George Elliott in death; and Ernie Elliott's son Casey, who grew up in NASCAR Winston Cup garage areas and who had a promising driving career building, passed away following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte both made their 600th career NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts Sunday.
Earnhardt's first start came in the 1975 Coca-Cola 600 in a car owned by Ed Negre. Earnhardt has missed only four races since 1979.
Labonte, who holds the series record for consecutive starts, competed in his 595th straight race on Sunday. He's on pace to make his 600th straight start at Phoenix on Oct. 25. Earnhardt and Labonte have combined for nine titles since 1980.
Neither had a particularly good day as Labonte was 18th in the Kellogg's Chevrolet and Earnhardt was 23rd in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet. Afterward, point leader Jeff Gordon paid homage to the two stock car racing icons.
"I want to be in this sport for a long time," Gordon said. "I just hope I can be as competitive as those guys have been for that many years. It's amazing to me that when I'm totally beat after a 400 or 500-mile race and I think these guys are 15 or 20 years older than me and are able to do this. I hope I have that kind of spirit and strength when I'm that age and I'm still able to be competitive. I'm going to make 'em work for it no matter what. I know they'd make me work for it."
Jimmy Elledge put in another day changing tires for Martin, but he's definitely looking ahead to 1999, when he will become crew chief for a second Andy Petree Racing team, with driver Kenny Wallace. In addition to turning wrenches on race cars, Elledge has also raced, driving a Late Model Stock Car on a limited basis in the NASCAR Winston Racing Series at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, N.C., in 1996. The impending match-up has Wallace pumped, as much as Elledge is to work with him.
"I honestly feel that anytime a crew chief can get in a race car and drive, that it's the best thing that can happen to the driver who he's crew chief for," Wallace said. "That way, he knows and understands the feeling that a driver is looking for in his race car. When a team has a crew chief who's an ex-driver, that team can become very successful."
"Andy had wanted me to come to Asheville ever since he left RCR," said Elledge, a former Richard Childress Racing employee, as is Petree. "When Andy came to me with this second team and he had Kenny Wallace as the driver, I knew it was time to take Andy up on his offer. Kenny Wallace is a great race car driver. He has a good feel for the car and he gives great feedback. With Terry (Satchell, APR engineer) and Andy to fall back on, this is a very good situation for both Kenny and myself."
Some of NASCAR's biggest names will come together on Wednesday at the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., for the inaugural Ken Schrader/Andy Petree Gala. This sold-out event is expected to raise $50,000 for the Hendrick Marrow Program.
Rusty Wallace, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte, along with several other drivers and team owners, will join Schrader and Petree for the evening's festivities. The program agenda includes a reception, sit-down dinner, auction and a candlelight tour of Biltmore House, an enormous private residence and tourist attraction.
Legendary driver and racing analyst Benny Parsons will serve as auctioneer during the event's benefit auction. The following items are among those that will be awarded to the highest bidder, with the proceeds going to the Hendrick Marrow Program: Signed uniforms from both Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte; a diamond bracelet from the Hayes Imperial Diamond Collection; ESPN's "Spend a Day in the Booth" with Benny Parsons at Martinsville (Sunday); a full face, black Bell helmet signed by many NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers; "Guest-for-a day" privileges in Schrader's pit area during race day; and two tickets to the 1999 Daytona 500.
The Ken Schrader/Andy Petree Gala will be followed by an Oct. 6 marrow drive at the Asheville Motor Speedway. Designed to raise awareness and funds in the greater Asheville area, the marrow drive hopes to add between 300-500 new names of potential donors to the national registry. Schrader spent eight seasons as a driver with Hendrick Motorsports from 1988-1996. During that time, he recorded all four of his career victories in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Schrader, a native of St. Louis, now drives the No. 33 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet owned by Petree and currently ranks 10th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings.
"I might not compete for Rick Hendrick anymore, but my respect and admiration for him have never been greater," said Schrader, who will also be on hand at the Oct. 6 marrow drive to sign autographs for those in attendance. "Andy and I are just pleased that we're in a position to help in some small way. Hopefully, between the Biltmore House event and the marrow drive, we will help supply the resources to save someone's life."
Race fans camping in the infield or on the grounds at Talladega Superspeedway will be entertained by a "SkyConcert" on the eve of the Oct. 11 Winston 500. Carraway Methodist Health Systems is sponsoring a fireworks display that begins at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. The 20-minute fireworks display, labeled "SkyBlast '98," will be shot by Pyro Productions, an award-winning pyrotechnic company of Birmingham, Ala.
SkyBlast '98 will take place in the infield at Talladega, and the sky will erupt in flashes of colorful light and explosive sound all the while in step with a heart pounding music soundtrack on WEYY 92.7 FM.
Source: NASCAR Online