Darlington Friday Notes

Pepsi Southern 500 Friday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 4, 1998) Some notes and quotes Friday surrounding this Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway: With Steve Hmeil searching for a new job following his...

Pepsi Southern 500 Friday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 4, 1998) Some notes and quotes Friday surrounding this Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:

With Steve Hmeil searching for a new job following his release from Roush Racing as the crew chief for the No. 26 Cheerios Ford, the question was asked Thursday about the possibility of Hmeil coming to work at Joe Gibbs Racing as the crew chief for the new No. 20 The Home Depot team, with driver Tony Stewart, next season.

"We just heard about Steve's situation, and we haven't talked to him, but yeah, we'd certainly like to talk to him about it," said Jimmy Makar, Director of Racing Operations at Joe Gibbs Racing. "We'd welcome the opportunity to talk with Steve about it, and he would certainly be a great addition for Joe Gibbs Racing."

Makar said officials at Joe Gibbs Racing were currently searching for a crew chief for next season's new Home Depot Pontiac team, which was announced formally on Thursday. Gibbs himself said he hoped to have the position filled within the next month or so.

The man who replaced Hmeil as crew chief for the No. 26 Cheerios team, Ben Leslie, is obviously excited about his new opportunity. Leslie has been the team's car chief throughout the season.

"It's really a great opportunity for me," Leslie said. "I'm really proud to be a part of Jack's (Roush) organization, and am really proud that he thought enough of me to give me an opportunity to do this. It's pretty overwhelming for the most part. There's already been some sleepless nights worrying about what I'm gonna forget or what I'm gonna do wrong, but I'm really excited about trying."

Johnny Benson qualified the No. 26 Cheerios Ford in 11th position Friday for Sunday's race.

Speaking of the Roush stable, all five cars qualified in the top-17 during Bud Pole Qualifying at Darlington on Friday. Mark Martin led the charge, qualifying 10th with a fast lap of 167.550 mph. Then came Benson (167.545), Jeff Burton in 12th (167.430), Kevin Lepage in 16th(166.908), and Chad Little (166.874).

Major shakeup with the No. 81 Square D Ford team. Following the announcement that their driver, Kenny Wallace, was leaving the team to drive a second car for Andy Petree Racing beginning in 1999, a source close to the team said crew chief Newt Moore told him he has resigned from the team, effective following Sunday's race. Moore will take over as the crew chief for the No. 77 Jasper Engines team, beginning on Monday.

FILMAR Racing Team Manager Eddie D'Hondt has also resigned and has taken a position with the No. 13 FIRSTPLUS Financial team owned by Bill Elliott and Dan Marino.

David Ifft, who has served as crew chief for Gary Laton in the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series recently, is at Darlington this weekend in an observatory capacity. He expected to fill the position of crew chief for the No. 81 team.

The McDonald's Barbie/Hot Wheels Happy Meal promotion concludes this weekend. To commemorate the fourth and final week of this national promotion, as well as NASCAR's 50th Anniversary, Bill Elliott will pilot the No. 94 Gold McDonald's Ford Taurus in the Pepsi Southern 500.

Elliott kicked off the promotion by driving the Ronald Happy Meal car on Aug. 14 at Michigan Speedway. He then brought back the popular blue paint scheme of the Mac Tonight Taurus at Bristol Motor Speedway. The No. 44 Hot Wheels car that Kyle Petty races each weekend, was available in McDonald's for the third week of the promotion.

Darlington unveiled a new and unique character for its facility during a press conference in its brand new media center Friday afternoon. "Darlington, Race-A-Saurus Wrecks," a character created by nearby Hartsville resident Patz Fowle, will now be a part of the ever-increasing charm of Darlington.

The three-dimensional character is a happy-go-lucky creature, complete with saddle oxford shoes, a 1950s-style racing helmet, goggles, a checkered scarf, a Darlington flag and a Darlington shirt.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kenny Wallace , Kevin Lepage , Johnny Benson , Chad Little , Andy Petree , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing