Pepsi 400 Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Notes and quotes following Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway: Steve Hmiel was upbeat even as the wrecked remains of ...
Pepsi 400 Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Notes and quotes following Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway:
Steve Hmiel was upbeat even as the wrecked remains of Raybestos Rookie driver Steve Park's Pennzoil Chevrolet were loaded onto the team's transporter, after Park was one of three rookies involved in a multi-car crash on the backstretch on lap 142. Hmiel has been in a general consultant's role for Dale Earnhardt Inc., since he was released by Jack Roush earlier this season. "People don't realize how few NASCAR Winston Cup races this kid has run, and they underestimate how new this team is," Hmiel said. "We will be successful, because the organization is in place, they have the financial package, the equipment, the people and the commitment to make it happen." Chad Little was heading for his second straight creditable run in his venerable John Deere Ford Thunderbird out of the Roush Racing shops, but he was a victim of the three-lap finish when he spun and hit the inside wall coming to take the checkered flag. The 'bird, which team owner Jack Roush had said at Talladega Superspeedway before Little finished eighth in the Winston 500, would not be repaired if it were wrecked, has gone the way of the buffalo as Little absolutely pasted the inside wall past the crossover gate before sliding to a stop in the trioval grass. That final set-to was no less than the second he was involved in. His contact with Raybestos Rookie Kenny Irwin triggered the second multi-car pileup of the night, but Irwin said Little had no blame in the incident, which involved no less than nine cars. "I thought I was clear and when I moved up I didn't give the 97 car (Little) anywhere to go," Irwin said straightforwardly. "I'm sorry for everyone else who got involved but mostly for the guys, because we definitely had a car that was good enough to lead the race. It was fun running at the front, we just need to finish up there." Greg Sacks drove up to Daytona -- about a half-hour from his home in New Smyrna Beach -- to take in the inaugural nighttime Pepsi 400. Sacks, who has been virtually unseen since his accident at Texas Motor Speedway in April, told Sean Kernan of The News-Journal, the local Daytona Beach paper, that he was putting together a deal for 1999 but was not able to say much more about it. Tony Furr, crew chief for driver Wally Dallenbach's Budweiser Chevrolet, was on a private airplane headed back to Charlotte, N.C., well before the end of the Pepsi 400. Dallenbach's car cut a tire early in the race and fell two laps behind -- but it lost even more when Furr apparently fell in the team's pit and broke both the tibia and fibula -- the lower leg bones -- in his right leg. Furr reportedly was to undergo surgery on Sunday to repair the fractures. Dave Marcis, whose 12th-place finish at Bristol was his best since Bristol in 1994, used a Richard Childress engine for the second straight race and parlayed it into a 21st-place finish, one lap down to winner Jeff Gordon. Derrike Cope was disgusted after he slapped the Turn 4 wall and eliminated his Gumout Pontiac from contention, and ultimately from the race, after 67 laps. "We had a car capable of challenging for the win tonight," Cope said ruefully. "We were right on top of it from the start and I was able to pass a bunch of cars to get to the top-five. We were coming out of turn four and a car moved up on me. "I moved up just a touch, but a touch can get you into the wall here. The rear slid into the wall and really tore it up. You can't win races with a wrecked race car...so we decided to park it. We know we'll have a great piece to bring back for the Daytona 500 in February." Another driver using heavy horsepower to good advantage was Daytona Beach resident Dan Pardus, who qualified with a Hendrick Motorsports powerplant and maintained the engine for the race. He said chassis tuning by crew chief John McQueen was the key to gaining all the advantage the engine displayed, but Pardus' NASCAR Winston Cup debut was marred by a pair of accidents, the second a single-car deal in turn two that eliminated him and the Midwest Transit Chevrolet after 99 laps. Dale Earnhardt led 41 laps but his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet slammed an errant tire on pit road and stove in the front air dam on the car. At that, he was lucky to come back for a 10th place finish. "I hit that tire on pit road and that's what cost us," the Daytona 500 winner said. "We had a really good car up to then. The guys worked their tails off to get us back out there and try to do something with 'em, but it just wasn't meant to be." With Gordon's victory in the DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet, Chevy retook the lead in the manufacturer's standings, unofficially by 216-214 over Ford. The victory also marked Gordon's modern era record 17th straight top-five finish, with three races remaining this season. Larry McReynolds said he would work hard for Richard Childress Racing as long as he was there, and Mike Skinner's third place finish certainly proved that. But McReynolds said he still has a dream to own his own NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. "You never say never, but Larry McReynolds' plans are no secret to anybody," he said. "Larry McReynolds' plans are to give this team every ounce of energy and focus I can give it for four more races this year and 30 plus next year. Larry McReynolds along with John Dangler are working very feverishly, with John doing 90 percent of the work right now ... securing the sponsors, building buildings, securing real estate. "We're going to work hard between now and next summer to put this team together for the year 2000. It's not a guarantee. I may be here a year from now and saying it never developed. Then I'll be with Richard Childress another year. Right now, we've got this planned. People ask how I can start another team and give this team enough focus. I can do it. I know I can. I've done it since July. "I've spent a lot of nights on the telephone and my wife sends a lot of faxes and receiving a lot of Federal Express. I think I do a real good job of keeping my priorities in order. Probably the only priority I'm not keeping in order is those three kids. I am battling with that a little bit."
Source: NASCAR Online