Nemechek Leads Darlington Testing

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 11, 1998) - NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek was known last year as "Front Row Joe," recording two Bud Pole Awards and three second-place starts during the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Although he's...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 11, 1998) - NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek was known last year as "Front Row Joe," recording two Bud Pole Awards and three second-place starts during the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.

Although he's never been fortunate enough to start a race on the front row at fabled Darlington Raceway, he served notice Wednesday at the track "Too Tough To Tame," that he'll be a favorite when time trials for the upcoming TranSouth Financial 400 get underway on Friday, March 20.

During a testing session that almost resembled a race -- 16 drivers were on hand, including 11 NASCAR Winston Cup Series pilots -- at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, Nemechek posted a speed of 167.721 mph, the best thus far in pre-race practice sessions.

"I'm ready to win another pole," said Nemechek, whose best career start at Darlington is a fourth (1994). "I'd love for it to be here. I feel we have a great qualifying package here and Goodyear has a great tire. I didn't think we could run that fast, but we did. It's going to be an interesting race."

For the second consecutive day, rookie Jerry Nadeau turned some heads with fast speeds. His best lap of 167.436 mph was second quickest, and he says he's ready for next week.

"Man, what a fun place to drive," said Nadeau, who pilots a second car for Bill Elliott, a five-time Darlington winner. "I just love this place. It's just so much fun. I can't wait get back. This place is what NASCAR racing is all about."

Jeff Green was third (167.265 mph), followed by Kyle Petty (167.038 mph), Kevin Lepage (166.981 mph), Dale Earnhardt (166.811 mph), and Ricky Rudd (166.135 mph). The final four consisted of Ron Hornaday (165.020 mph), Bobby Hamilton (164.964 mph), Kenny Irwin (164.743 mph) and Steve Grissom (164.193 mph).

For the second consecutive day, Hornaday was filling in for injured driver Steve Park.

"We've picked up a lot of speed," said Hornaday, the 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, who has never competed at Darlington. "We're getting better and better. I just need more laps. The place is tough."

South Carolina's Lyndon Amick, gearing up for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200, led the five NASCAR Busch Series drivers with a speed of 163.974 mph. Rounding out the fivesome were Matt Hutter (163.920 mph), Lance Hooper (161.922 mph), J.D. Gibbs (161.869 mph) and Mike Cope (160.182 mph).

The final day of pre-race testing for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 and TranSouth Financial 400 is Thursday. Bud Pole Day for both events is set for Friday, March 20. The Diamond Hill Plywood 200 is set for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday, March 21, with the TranSouth race scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start on Sunday, March 22. NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers 1 Joe Nemechek 167.721 mph 2 Jerry Nadeau 167.436 mph 3 Jeff Green 167.265 mph 4 Kyle Petty 167.038 mph 5 Kevin LePage 166.981 mph 6 Dale Earnhardt 166.811 mph 7 Ricky Rudd 166.135 mph 8 Ron Hornaday 165.020 mph 9 Bobby Hamilton 164.964 mph 10 Kenny Irwin 164.743 mph 11 Steve Grissom 164.193 mph

NASCAR Busch Series drivers

1 Lyndon Amick 163.974 mph 2 Matt Hutter 163.920 mph 3 Lance Hooper 161.922 mph 4 J.D. Gibbs 161.869 mph 5 Mike Cope 160.182 mph

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR-CUP