Pepsi 200 Saturday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers
BROOKYLN, Mich. (Aug. 15, 1998) Some post-race notes and quotes from Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Pepsi 200 presented by DeVilbiss at Michigan Speedway:
There are substitute drivers and then there are great substitute drivers. Put Bobby Labonte in the latter category.
Labonte, subbing for Tony Stewart in the No. 44 Shell Pontiac during Saturday's Pepsi 200, once again battled for a victory. He came up just short, finishing runner-up to Jeff Burton.
In four NASCAR Busch Series races this season, Labonte has earned three top-10 finishes, including a victory in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington. The only blemish on that record was a 42nd-place finish at Richmond in the Hardee's 250 in June, when he was involved in a mid-race accident.
"This Shell Pontiac ran great," said Labonte the regular driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. "We just came up a little short at the end, but I pretty much used it up catching Jeff. I don't run these cars a lot, but every time I do I learn a little bit because these guys that run all the time are pretty tough. It's not bad for our fourth try this year."
This was one of the NASCAR Busch Series races that conflicts with Stewart's Indy Racing League schedule. Stewart is in Fountain, Colo., with his IRL team.
Kevin Lepage recorded his second top-five finish in the NASCAR Busch Series this season, bringing the No. 40 ChannelLock Chevrolet home fourth on Saturday. His other top-five finishes were at California Speedway (second) and Loudon, N.H. (third). "It feels good to get back in the top-five again," said Lepage, now racing full-time in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in the No. 16 PRIMESTAR Ford of Roush Racing. "This is the same car we had at California a couple of weeks ago when we finished second there to Dale Jr. (Earnhardt); today we were able to beat him. "We just got a little behind on the last pit stop. We were just as little slow, but (Earnhardt) Junior and I had a pretty good run there at the end."
Robert Pressley was back behind the wheel of the No. 59 Kingsford/Matchlight Chevrolet, and managed a pretty solid showing considering where he started. Pressley, who had to drop to the back of the field at the beginning of the race because he did not qualifying his car during second-round qualifying on Friday, made up 24 spots and finished 19th.
Morgan Shepherd qualified the No. 59 Chevrolet during second-round qualifying on Friday.
Don't think for a second that Rick Mast isn't happy with a ninth-place finish on Saturday. Mast, substituting for the injured Jimmy Spencer in the No. 12 Zippo Chevrolet, was making his first NASCAR Busch Series start since late 1993, winding up with a top-10.
Mast has nine career NASCAR Busch Series wins.
Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 200 was run caution-free, the first time that had happened in a NASCAR Busch Series race since Mark Martin took the checkered flag in the Detroit Gasket 200 at Michigan Speedway in 1995.
Saturday's race, however, did not set records for the shortest race at Michigan or for average speed of the race (Jeff Burton ran an average speed of 167.910 mph). Martin has that distinction, again in 1995, with an average speed of 169.571, in a race run in one hour, 10 minutes and 46 seconds. Saturday's event took one hour, 11 minutes and 28 seconds.
Saturday's Pepsi 200 was unique in one respect, however. All 43 cars that took the green flag also took the checkered flag at the end. That's the first time in NASCAR Busch Series history that all 43 cars in a 43-car race had been around for the finish.
David Green saw his string of consecutive top-five finishes snapped on Saturday. The driver of the No. 36 Stanley Tools Pontiac, who had turned in six straight top-5 runs in as many races since joining Team 34, managed only a 23rd-place finish in the Pepsi 400 after starting the race from the second position on the outside of Row 1. Source: NASCAR Online