Pepsi 400 Friday notebook By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 16, 1998) Notes and quotes Friday leading up to Saturday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway: Only about 17 minutes of a critical ...
Pepsi 400 Friday notebook By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 16, 1998) Notes and quotes Friday leading up to Saturday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway:
Only about 17 minutes of a critical "Happy Hour" final practice, which was actually scheduled for 90 minutes, were run before rain that had dogged the day's activity struck again. Track drying efforts resulted in the practice eventually being resumed just after 10:15 p.m. EDT and running for 20 more minutes -- before the rain hit yet again. The cars of drivers Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd and Kenny Irwin were packed up after the initial session, while the crews Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Ken Schrader and Michael Waltrip used the extended garage time to work on their cars, while not practicing.
Jeremy Mayfield was one driver who returned to the garage area early in the initial Happy Hour session for major adjustments to his Mobil 1 Ford. He didn't even try to wipe the grin off his face, though. "Man, it is awesome out there," he said. "The only problem I can see is a little glare on my (helmet) shield -- I'm using a clear shield. But otherwise I can see fine and it is just great out there."
When Happy Hour resumed, Dale Jarrett's No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Taurus was on jack stands and Jarrett pronounced the Winston 500-winning car ready to race. "We're ready to race tomorrow night right now," Jarrett said, "and there's no need of going out again and taking the chance of getting involved in anything." Jarrett said he used a clear helmet visor and experienced no problems of any sort. "I can actually see better than I can in the daytime," he said, adding that he had experienced no ill effects from shadows, glare or any other aspects of racing at night.
The early Happy Hour session was stopped once when the hood came off Johnny Benson's Betty Crocker Ford. The car was not severely damaged by the incident.
Darrell Waltrip took a past champion's provisional for the 17th time this season, and will line up 43rd Saturday night.
John Graham, president of Daytona International Speedway, provided an update on the upgrades going on at Daytona, including seating additions that will bring the track's capacity to about 150,000 permanent seats by Speedweeks 1999. "We have gotten a lot of input from our fans regarding the upgrades we have made to Daytona International Speedway," Graham said. "We want to see people having a great time. When our race fans go to our facility, we want them to have a great time and have the necessary fan amenities. To that point, we have put in two features... One is our Superstretch Terrace, which is the top nine rows of the Superstretch grandstand. We had about 1500 seats last year, the reception of that was great, so we expanded that from 1500 seats to about 5000 seats, which will be ready in February for Speedweeks 1999. "On the frontstretch, the Winston Tower and the Daytona Club is being expanded. The Daytona Club offers the finest in food and amenities. Fans have in-seat service where they can opt to purchase pre-race pit tours, they have a pavilion that is second to none on the property and they get the best grandstand seats in the house, which of course are in the Winston Tower. We tried that in a fan package last year with about 400 seats, and we've expanded that this year to about 2700 seats. A lot of the new construction that you see going into the Winston Tower is the Daytona Club expansion."
Sarah Gurtis, general manager of DAYTONA USA, "The Ultimate Motorsports Attraction" located outside the fourth turn at Daytona International Speedway, announced Friday that in 1999 DAYTONA USA, the "Official Attraction of NASCAR," would become the official broadcast home of MRN Radio. "DAYTONA USA, as you know, is on a mission to put the NASCAR fan as close to this sport as we possibly can," Gurtis said. "We're actually building a studio in the attraction. On property this weekend we have Sound Deluxe, an Oscar-winning company that won an Oscar for best sound in the movie "Dances With Wolves." They are going to be on property throughout the Pepsi 400 recording what is now known as 3-D sound. A crew has been brought in from the Midwest with equipment that will record activity that goes on around Daytona International Speedway during the Pepsi 400. This will be incorporated in a 3-D sound show in DAYTONA USA. The fans will actually get to step in to a sound booth and hear all the activity with the actual vibration of the race cars all around them. The fans are very excited that they actually get to be a part of the MRN studios inside the attraction. DAYTONA USA has become a big hit with the fans, and we only think it's natural, since we've become the official attraction of NASCAR that we include MRN Studios in DAYTONA USA."
Ernie Irvan, driver of the No. 36 Wild Berry Skittles Pontiac, will not make a decision as to whether to drive in the race until Saturday afternoon. Irvan, who was involved in a crash during last week's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, made a handful of laps in the opening session of "happy hour" practice in order to be eligible for the 400-mile event. Ricky Craven will drive in substitution if Irvan decides not to drive. "Ernie was comfortable -- he had no problems," said crew chief Ryan Pemberton. "He'll get a night's rest and make his decision tomorrow on whether or not he'll run the race."
Due to a recent job change, Jimmy Elledge will serve two roles during the inaugural nighttime running of the Pepsi 400. In his new position, Elledge will serve as crew chief for the No. 55 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet driven by Hut Stricklin -- the car that will be driven with Square D sponsorship next season by Kenny Wallace with Elledge as crew chief. However, while he is determining pit strategy and overseeing pit operations for Stricklin, he will also work for his previous employer, Roush Racing, changing tires on the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford of Mark Martin during the event.
Dwayne Reid completed his formal re-enlistment in the U.S. Navy at the speedway Friday with the help of NASCAR Winston Cup Series competitor Rusty Wallace. The 36-year-old Reid, of Elizabethtown, Ky., is a U.S. Navy E-6 specialist on the submarine USS Wyoming based at King's Bay, Ga.
Only 46 of the 48 cars on hand participated in the Friday afternoon practice session, and when the scheduled 150-minute session was cut at just under two hours by rain, surprising Dan Pardus was at the top of the list in his No. 07 Midwest Transit Chevrolet. Pardus ran a lap of 47.437 seconds, an average speed of 189.725 mph, in the session that was dominated by multi-car drafting runs. Steve Park, who had a qualifying spot locked in, was second-fastest in practice at 189.088 mph, and Kenny Wallace, who was not yet qualified, was third-best at 189.012. Those three were the only drivers who topped 189 mph.
Pardus was nearly beside himself with glee after he fought off the odds and qualified for his firs "We really gambled by going back out," Pardus said. "I didn't want to really go back out, but the owner said he didn't want the same thing to happen to us this week that happened last week (Pardus missed the field at Talladega last week after he stood on his first-round qualifying speed). I think I got mad. I went out there and gave it the hardest two laps that we could do. It really paid off. We turned one heck of a lap, I really don't where it came from." Pardus has had a rough year, crashing cars before Bud Pole Qualifying at Indianapolis and New Hampshire and wrecking another car in testing at Texas. He has a definite plan for Saturday night. "My goal tomorrow night is to stay clean and earn my respect. I want to keep my nose clean, I don't want to have any close calls. This is my first NASCAR Winston Cup race and I know I can turn from a hero into a zero real quick, so I'm going to do everything I can to drive a clean and smart race. It means a lot to me to race here. I sold papers up in those stands when I was 12 years old. I always thought I could race out here some day and today here we are. Starting this race tomorrow night will be the happiest moment of my life. Starting this race here tomorrow will be like winning it for us."
Jeb Bush, former secretary of commerce for the State of Florida, will serve as grand marshal for Saturday's inaugural nighttime running of the Pepsi 400. "I'm looking forward to returning to Daytona and serving as grand marshal of the 1998 Pepsi 400," Bush said. "For 40 years this race has been one of the most prestigious events in motorsports and has held a special place in the hearts of people of Florida and racing fans everywhere. I wish all participants and fans a successful, safe and enjoyable racing weekend."
"America's favorite inspirational singer," Sandi Patty, will sing the National Anthem for "America's Largest Nighttime Sporting Event," the Pepsi 400. Patty's amazing vocal style has earned her 34 Dove Awards, five Grammys, three platinum and five gold albums. Included among her award-winning platinum albums are "Morning Like This," "More Than Wonderful" and "Hymns Just For You."
Source: NASCAR Online