DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Throughout the winter months, both Winston Cup teams at Bill Davis Racing worked hard to make sure that the events leading up to the 2000 Daytona 500 would yield a different and positive feeling for Bill and Gail Davis, whose...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Throughout the winter months, both Winston Cup teams at Bill Davis Racing worked hard to make sure that the events leading up to the 2000 Daytona 500 would yield a different and positive feeling for Bill and Gail Davis, whose experiences at the season-opening Speedweeks have often provided a few too many close calls.
In first-round qualifying for next week's Daytona 500 on Saturday, both the #22 Caterpillar and #93 Amoco/Siemens teams provided with a bold statement on the progress of his overall operation, placing sixth and tenth, respectively. Only Robert Yates Racing -- with pole winner and defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett and second-place qualifier Ricky Rudd -- placed more than one driver in the top ten for NASCAR's most prestigious event.=20
For Ward Burton -- second only among General Motors entries to fourth-place Mike Skinner in qualifying speeds, his lap of 189.633 mph. (47.460) assured him of a strong starting spot in Thursday's second Twin-125 qualifying race as he and four other drivers compete for a $1 million bonus in R.J. Reynolds No-Bull 5 bonus promotion in the Daytona 500.=20
For Winston Cup rookie Dave Blaney and Amoco Ultimate Team 93, their tenth-place qualifying effort represents the third straight top-ten qualifying speed in their last three starts, dating back to the final two races of the 1999 season at Miami (fourth) and Atlanta (seventh). Blaney, who trailed ninth-place Scott Pruett by only .04 seconds for fastest-rookie honors, will start behind teammate Burton (in fifth place) and in front of Burton's younger brother Jeff in the second Twin 125 qualifier on Thursday.=20
"To put two teams at the top of the chart for Daytona 500 qualifying is really special for our team and shows how far our total program has come over the past 18 months," said car owner Davis, now entering his eighth NASCAR Winston Cup season. "I can remember coming here for the first time as a Winston Cup owner in 1993 with (then-rookie) Bobby Labonte and having to race our way into the Daytona 500 on Thursday and just making the field. There have been other years when we've come here thinking we'd be OK and really struggled.
"With Ward's team coming off a top-ten season (ninth in the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup point standings) and Dave and the Amoco team starting their rookie year, both teams have some pretty lofty goals for the 2000 season and getting off to a solid start in Speedweeks was our first priority. (Crew Chiefs) Tommy Baldwin and Gil Martin and their crews have come together and gotten our two-car effort off to a real positive start."
Blaney, in only his third season of stock car racing after a sterling career as a former World of Outlaws sprint car champion, was one of the Busch Series top qualifiers in 1999, winning a series-leading four pole positions (all in track-record times) and qualifying in the top-ten in over two-thirds of his starts in his first full NASCAR season. And in his two Busch Series seasons, Blaney never qualified out of the top-ten at restrictor-place tracks, starting fifth for last year's BGN race at Daytona before losing a motor at the start of the 300-mile event.=20
"With the qualifying process the way it is here and our team having no provisional points, we knew coming into testing that we needed to put up a speed that would hold up, even if we have trouble in the qualifying races, " said Blaney, whose #93 Amoco team finished sixth in the Busch Series team owner points a year ago. "Our whole group knows how big a step we're taking but I also knew that the overall program at Bill Davis Racing would give us a good foundation to get started. Terry Elledge and our motor room guys have worked awfully hard on our Daytona engines and the credit should also go to them for putting two cars in the top-ten.
"Every kid who follows racing dreams of being in the Daytona 500 or the Indy 500 and I'm no different. With all my open-wheel experience, I would have never thought that getting into the Daytona 500 would come first. Our goals for the 2000 season were to just get off to a solid start, qualify for all the early races and settle in as good teammates for Ward and the #22 team. I'm just hoping for a good safe race on Thursday and to run all the laps next Sunday. The Daytona 500 is not just any other race. It's a great feeling to get off to such a good start."