Bristol Saturday Notes

Goody's 500 Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 1998) Notes and quotes from the Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway: The cream rose during Happy Hour practice for the Goody's Headache Powder 500,...

Goody's 500 Saturday Notebook

By Dave Rodman

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 1998) Notes and quotes from the Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

The cream rose during Happy Hour practice for the Goody's Headache Powder 500, as Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Bobby Hamilton posted the five best speeds in the one-hour practice that was held in the midday heat from 1-2 p.m. EDT.

Martin ran 102 laps in Happy Hour, with his best lap of 16.143 seconds and 118.863 mph coming on his fifth lap. Wallace ran only 65 laps and was at 118.364 mph while Gordon was out 45 laps with a best of 118.269 mph.

Joe Nemechek (104 laps) and Ward Burton (103) were the busiest drivers in the incident-free session.

As expected, none of the eight cars that ran in Bud Beer Second-Round Qualifying out-qualified any of the cars that stood on their Bud Pole Qualifying speeds. In fact, three cars stood that were bumped before second-round qualifying even started, including Ernie Irvan, Wally Dallenbach and Darrell Waltrip.

Dick Trickle had the fastest speed in second-round qualifying, backing-up his fastest speed from the morning practice session. Amazingly, Trickle ran the exact same time in qualifying that he'd run in practice: 15.913 seconds, an average speed of 120.581 mph.

In order, Irvan, Dallenbach, Trickle, Morgan Shepherd, Dennis Setzer, Hut Stricklin and Waltrip took provisionals to make the event.

Ken Bouchard made it to within about 150 yards of simply not qualifying with only his pride hurt. His No. 85 Sherwin Williams Ford loosened up coming off Turn 4 and barely brushed the outside wall right before the starter's stand. The car looped around and just caught the far end of the inside pit wall, barely leaving a mark on the concrete but shoving-in the crushable front of the new Taurus.

Others who were DNQ included Steve Grissom, who was second-quickest in morning practice but needed a little more than a tenth-and-a-half to squeeze into the field. Grissom went home despite being 33rd in car owner points, since his team has used no less than 13 provisionals this season -- exhausting its allotment until the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Dave Marcis and Gary Bradberry were also not quick enough to make the race, nor high enough in car owner points to take advantage of provisionals.

Effectively massaging the SB2 engine combination has enabled Hendrick Motorsports to draw raves for the performance of Gordon's DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet. Gordon said at Bristol that yes, the Hendrick engine department has made phenomenal progress, but enough is hardly ever enough.

"Any time you have good horsepower, you can use it everywhere you go," Gordon said. "The key is finding out how to get it to the race track. We were surprised at how down on power we were at the beginning of the year.

"But, the engine department has worked on it and they've come a long way. The torque curve is different on the SB2, so we had to change our gearing and everything else. I can tell you though, we don't have the most horsepower out there.

"Robert Yates has the best horsepower out there. I don't think there's any disputing that. Our Hendrick cars have good horsepower and Dale Earnhardt's No. 1 car is making good horsepower. I don't want to take anything away from Roush -- because Mark Martin was really getting through the corners well so he was good down the straightaways at Michigan -- but Yates is making the most horsepower right now."

Dallenbach survived a trip into the inside wall on the frontstretch just 20 minutes into the 75-minute morning practice session. He lost control coming off Turn 4 and eventually nosed the left-front of the Budweiser Chevrolet into the inside wall about 30 yards past the starter's stand. The incident cost the car the rest of the practice, but it was ready to run again by the end of the session.

Dallenbach, who ran just 11 laps in the morning, was back on track five minutes into Happy Hour.

Bristol's night race is certainly a difficult place to prepare for, since the race is obviously at night but all the preparation is conducted in the daytime, when the conditions are a lot more hot and slippery on the .533-mile concrete oval than they are for the balance of the race. However, that didn't keep Martin from running a whopping 101 laps in morning practice in the Valvoline Ford, or Kenny Wallace running 100 tours.

Rusty Wallace said he might've practiced too much in the spring, when broken valve springs ended to his effort to win the Food City 500, but he practiced 71 laps in the morning.

Other than the two "century lappers," no one ran more than 87 laps (Nemechek, who spun without contact on the backstretch near the end of the session), and only three other cars, Kevin Lepage, Ken Schrader and John Andretti, ran as many as 80 laps.

Gordon is certainly qualified to lecture on the benefit of patience at Bristol, since he's won four straight Food City 500s in the spring, but was taken out in a tangle involving lapped cars last August.

"If you're in a train of cars and you can't get by a guy you're patient and you wait for him to make a mistake," Gordon said. "When the lead cars get up to a straightaway behind you that's when you see wrecks happen because they know it's time to go.

"That's why being in the lead group is not always the best place to be. It's a fine line here between being patient and being aggressive. If you're in the lead near the end you need to be aggressive. If it's in the first half you need to be patient. At the halfway point your focus can change but it's possible and necessary to save your tires and save your brakes before that. It's such a tight, fast race track."

Of the 47 cars that attempted to qualify for the Goody's 500, seven carried special paint schemes, and all seven qualified for the race. They included Rusty Wallace's Elvis Presley-inspired "Taking Care of Business" Miller Lite Ford, Geoff Bodine's black-blue-and-orange Philips Ford, Johnny Benson's cereal character festooned "Kids Car" Ford, Kenny Wallace's black lightning Square D Ford, Trickle's ChromaLusion Heilig-Meyers Ford, Bill Elliott's midnight blue "Mac Tonight" McDonald's Ford that's available in McDonald's Happy Meals and Rich Bickle's neon-tinted "Go Grill Crazy" Thorn Apple Valley Ford.

Along with the upcoming CMT 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, Gordon and his team is concerned about the stretch run, particularly carrying only a 97-point advantage over Martin heading into the Goody's 500. Gordon said crew chief Ray Evernham has carefully and strategically marshaled the team's available test sessions.

"Atlanta is probably one place that's on our list of places to test at," Gordon said. "We struggled there and we don't want to go back and embarrass ourselves the way we did earlier this year. We're building a brand new car for there.

"We've got some tests left. Maybe we'll test at Darlington, since we've got another shot at the No Bull 5 million ... Maybe we'll test at Charlotte, because that's a pretty big race for us.

"We pretty much got our butts kicked at Loudon so we're definitely going to bring a different combination there. It was good enough for third but it wasn't good enough for us."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Darrell Waltrip , Terry Labonte , Dick Trickle , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Kevin Lepage , Hut Stricklin , Johnny Benson , Dennis Setzer , Dave Marcis , Steve Grissom , Gary Bradberry , Morgan Shepherd , Ray Evernham , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Williams