GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 Sunday notebook Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 22, 1998) Notes Sunday after the NASCAR Winston Cup Series GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Speedway: Give round two of...
GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 Sunday notebook Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 22, 1998) Notes Sunday after the NASCAR Winston Cup Series GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Speedway:
Give round two of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season to the Ford Tauruses. Resoundingly.
Taurus drivers -- eight of them -- led 312 of the 393 laps in Sunday's race at Rockingham. Mark Martin led the most laps, four times for 104 laps. By comparison, four Chevrolets led a total of 81 laps. Race winner Jeff Gordon topped the Monte Carlos, leading six times for 73 laps.
"The new Ford Taurus, I was happy with the car," said Rusty Wallace, who finished second. "It performed real well, so like I said at Daytona last week, on a scale of one to ten, I think the Taurus is about an eight right now. We're working on it to get it better and I think it's going to be a great car and we had a great run today."
"We've got just one Chevrolet that's still better than everything else right now, but maybe he's just better," Dale Jarrett said of Gordon. "I don't know. The Taurus was good, and I think these next two weeks, along with here at Rockingham, are going to show us exactly what we have. And it will give us a good barometer of what we can do with the car and what we can't do."
After Gordon, Ford Taurus drivers finished in positions two through seven in Sunday's race. Martin finished third, followed by Jimmy Spencer, Geoff Bodine, Bill Elliott and Jarrett.
"It's hard for us to complain when we pull into Victory Lane," Gordon said. "It shows us that we have to stop complaining about the Tauruses and get to work. Once they drop the green flag, it doesn't matter anyway."
Johnny Benson, driver of the No. 26 Cheerios Taurus, didn't have a great finish, but led three times for 38 laps during the race. He dropped a cylinder on lap 301 and finished five laps down in 30th.
"The car was just awesome," Benson said. "Everything was going according to plan, but it was just one of those things. The year may not have started how we would have liked, but this Cheerios Taurus is awesome. It's a great car, and I'm extremely happy with how everything went today."
Geoff Bodine came away from Sunday's GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 with a big smile on his face. The driver of the No. 7 had one of his best runs in some time, bringing home a fifth-place finish in the Philips Consumer Communications Ford Taurus.
"To come back and run as strong on this type of track with no restrictor plate, this is racing here," Bodine said. "It makes everybody feel good. At one point I thought I might have a chance to win the race, but we ran good and the Taurus looked good out there.
"I'm really happy with the way we ran. We never even tested the downforce car until Friday when we unloaded this one and this car had never run a short track in its history, so there were a lot of unknowns and we ended up qualifying pretty good and finding a good setup in practice. It was wonderful. I'm glad today was good. We had a great run. I'm really excited about next weekend in Vegas."
Oh, woe is Darrell Waltrip. Only 28 laps into the GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 on Sunday, Waltrip was a lap down. Fifteen laps later, he was two laps down to the race leaders. The driver of the No. 17 Speedblock Chevrolet was involved in an accident later, and wound up finishing 41st.
"The car was so bad, I was thinking to myself that it couldn't get any worse," Waltrip said. "Then all of a sudden, I saw the 98 car start smoking. When I saw the smoke, it came out so fast, that before I could react, I was spinning and clobbered the wall. The car was a handful all day, especially when I got in traffic."
Things couldn't get much worse for Ricky Rudd, either. The driver of the No. 10 Tide Ford, who finished 42nd in the season-opening Daytona 500 last Sunday, had engine problems 90 laps into Sunday's GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 and wound up finishing last.
Jo Wilson, president of North Carolina Speedway, unveiled a new logo and the new name for the 1.017-mile race track on Sunday morning. No longer will "The Rock" be referred to as North Carolina Speedway. The new logo is similar to that of the California Speedway, Nazareth Speedway and Michigan Speedway, all tracks owned by Roger Penske.
"What we've tried to do is be consistent with all of our facilities," said Greg Penske, president of Penske Motorsports Incorporated. "Will be taking over the merchandise here at the track beginning in the fall and will incorporate the logo into all of that merchandise. We've improved 14,400 seats on the frontstretch and upgraded the motor home area to include more room for Busch competitors. We think this is a key market for us -- we're down here in NASCAR country and glad to be a part of the DeWitt family."
The announcement was attended by Gene Haskett, president of Michigan Speedway, and Chris Browning, executive vice president and general manager of North Carolina Speedway.
John Liebenberger, a crew member of the No. 31 Lowe's team, was en route to North Carolina Speedway on Sunday morning when he was involved in a traffic accident. He is currently in critical condition at Bowman-Gray Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C.
To order the special post-race section in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on Dale Earnhardt winning the Daytona 500, you can visit any News-Journal office in Volusia and Flagler counties in Florida or call (904) 252-1568. The cost is $3.95, plus tax and shipping and handling.