NAPA 500 Friday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 6, 1998) Some notes and quotes Friday surrounding Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: KENNY IRWIN Kenny Irwin carved a spot out for himself in the Bud...
NAPA 500 Friday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 6, 1998) Some notes and quotes Friday surrounding Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
KENNY IRWIN Kenny Irwin carved a spot out for himself in the Bud Shootout in Daytona in February by winning his first career Bud Pole on Friday after turning a fast lap of 193.461 mph. The driver of the No. 28 Texaco-Havoline Ford has already mathematically secured the Rookie of the Year award points-wise, although it still has to be voted on by a panel of three -- Mike Helton, Kevin Triplett and Jeff Gordon. Irwin became the 15th different Bud Pole winner this season and the 16th different pole winner in the last 16 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 1991. The last time a rookie won a pole was Mike Skinner, in both Daytona races in 1997. Joe Falk wants everyone to know that his team isn't done after the NAPA 500, the season finale for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1998. Falk said his team will be back in 1999. "Everybody keeps coming up wanting to know if this is the last race for L.J. Racing," Falk said. "We're definitely going to be racing next year. Whether we're racing a limited schedule or whatever, we will be racing and we will be in Daytona ready to kick butt.
"We're adding on to our shop right now, just about doubling our space. We've got three real good prospects for a sponsor and they're looking at us this weekend. I'm sure something's going to work out. Plenty of people want to drive the car." Todd Bodine qualified the No. 91 Chevrolet owned by Falk in 20th position for Sunday's NAPA 500.
JEFF GREEN Jeff Green has a bit of room for optimism following Friday's qualifying, considering the way he and the No. 46 Money Store Chevrolet team have been qualifying recently. Green put his car in the 12th position for the start of Sunday's race with a fast lap of 190.888 mph.
"If we get this thing driving the way we had it here last year, we've got a shot at winning this race," said Green, who finished fourth in last year's NAPA 500. "That's what we want to do. We don't have a sponsor yet for next year. We need a good showing and will try to tie down something for next year."
Green didn't qualify for the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte in early October. Since then, he's posted qualifying efforts of 30th, 32nd, 33rd and 42nd. Don't shed too many tears for Jeff Gordon. The newly-crowned NASCAR Winston Cup champion qualified 21st for Sunday's NAPA 500 on Friday, but don't expect him to stay in the middle of the pack for long. Gordon will be chasing history on Sunday when he goes for his 13th victory of the year, a win that would tie him with Richard Petty for the most wins in a season in the modern-day era in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. "I was a little disappointed with qualifying," Gordon said. "We had run better than that in practice and I never really got the lap I was looking for in practice. I thought that qualifying lap felt pretty good. I got a little bit tight in three and four and slowed the lap time down. We're certainly looking a lot better than we were here a year ago, but we're still off of what we'd like to be." Dale Earnhardt's qualifying woes continued on Friday. The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, who has more career victories at Atlanta than any other driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history (eight), could do no better than 38th out of 48 cars on Friday with a best lap of 188.424 mph. Earnhardt's best qualifying effort in recent weeks was fifth at Daytona. He hasn't, however, qualified in the top-10 besides that since July at Pocono, when he put his No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet on the outside of Row 5 for the Pennsylvania 500.
"It was too tight," Earnhardt said of his qualifying effort. "I don't know what the new rules are going to do in the race. I've run three laps on this track. We blew a motor, so I don't know what we've got. We'll just have to give it some time." Gary Bradberry had the only accident during the entire Bud Pole Qualifying run on Friday for NASCAR Winston Cup cars. Bradberry spun coming out of turn four and barely hit the wall with his No. 78 Pilot Travel Centers Ford. He was taken to the infield care center, but was quickly treated and released.
Source: NASCAR Online