DAYTONA 500 PRE-RACE NOTES WALTRIP HAS IMPROVED PERFORMANCE ON EVE OF DAYTONA 500 (courtesy of Mike Mooney) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 1996) -- Three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip and his crew have ended a feverish,...
DAYTONA 500 PRE-RACE NOTES
WALTRIP HAS IMPROVED PERFORMANCE ON EVE OF DAYTONA 500 (courtesy of Mike Mooney)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 1996) -- Three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip and his crew have ended a feverish, week-long effort to improve engine performance for the Daytona 500. Waltrip has obtained an engine from Morgan-McClure Motorsports (the engine Sterling Marlin used to qualify for the Daytona 500) to power his No. 17 Western Auto's Parts America Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Waltrip's final practice session with the new powerplant yielded a lap time of 47.20 seconds (190.6 mph running in a draft). The team changed five engines in five days in its elusive search for speed; each change making marginal performance improvements. "We had been struggling all week," Waltrip said. "The problem hasn't been the engine as a whole, it's been from the top of the engine which moves the air through it. Restrictor plates have always been a challenge here, but the change in engine compression ratios has us still looking for answers. Some teams have found the solution, and some haven't. We've been working with our engines all week and have been improving, but not to the point where we need to be for the race." Prior to the last practice session for Sunday's season-opening event, Waltrip's crew put in the Morgan-McClure engine to test. "It was a tough decision to use another engine, but my team is 100 percent behind me," the Owensboro, Ky., native said. "They have worked their hearts out this whole week, and will do what's best for the team." That engine is the ticket," Waltrip said after practice. "We'll be competitive on Sunday and be able to run some cars down. When I put it in high gear and the tach started going up and up, I knew I'd be in good shape. Our engines hadn't done that. Now it comes down to pit stops and the driver because the car is definitely there."
HONORARY OFFICIALS: The National Anthem will be sung by Las Vegas headlining entertainer Engelbert Humperdink. Grand Marshal, presenting the command to start engines, will be John Leach, chairman of the board and CEO of Western Auto Suppply Company. Honorary Starter, waving the initial green flag, will be Lawrence M. Higby, president of the 76 Products Company.
POSTED AWARDS: The largest posted awards in Daytona 500 history -- $3,632,328 -- will be available to competitors in Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series season opener.
TRIPLE THREAT: Dale Earnhardt has an opportunity to equal a feat accomplished only once in the history of Daytona International Speedway. In 1977 Cale Yarborough won the Daytona round of the International Race of Champions, his Gatorade 125-Mile Qualifying Race and the Daytona 500. For the third straight year, Earnhardt has captured the front two-thirds of the trifecta, a feat he also accomplished in 1992...
SPECIAL GUEST: Butch Patrick -- best known as "Eddie Munster" of the 1960's television show "The Munsters" -- will be a guest of Little Caesars in the Kmart/Little Caesars Ford pit on Sunday. It is his first time to attend a race.
BUSCH CLASH TV: Len DeLuca, vice president of programming for CBS Sports, reports that CBS' telecast of last Sunday's Busch Clash of '96 carried a 3.8 rating/12 share. It was the highest-rated afternoon (noon to 6 p.m.) sports program on the four major networks last weekend.
TED MUSGRAVE (No. 16 The Family Channel Ford) -- (Announced co- sponsorship from PRIMESTAR.) We ran good last year -- always respectable and a top five car most of the time. This new partnership will help us to continue that. PRIMESTAR won an Emmy for technical achievement and I don't even have a trophy for anything in Winston Cup racing yet. Maybe together we can win the Daytona 500. (Deal is for one year with an option year, according to Rich Kahn, director of motorsports for PRIMESTAR.) (Musgrave on poor qualifying run.) The car feels real good. We can work our way to the front in the draft and run with the best of them. I'd rather have it that way. You can set up to run fast for two laps (in qualifying) or for 500 miles -- I'd rather run for 500 miles.
CALE YARBOROUGH (Team Owner No. 98 RCA Ford) -- I was pleasantly surprised to become the first driver they've given the award to (on receiving the STP/Richard Petty Achievement Award for outstanding service to Daytona International Speedway Saturday morning). I hope my achievements as a car owner are going to escalate in the near future. It's a good award. The sport's been good to me and I hope I've been good for it.
RICHARD PETTY (On Yarborough winning the STP/Richard Petty Achievement Award) -- Let me put it this way -- Cale was the first Dale Earnhardt. He did back then what Earnhardt's doing today. He ran that thing wide open no matter whether it had two wheels, three wheels, four wheels or bent fenders. It didn't make any difference how far ahead or how far behind he was. He'd always run it as hard as it would go. That made him a very, very fierce competitor. He was always tough here (Daytona). He won four Daytona 500s and a bunch of other stuff (four Daytona 500 poles, six Gatorade 125 Qualifiers, one IROC race, four Pepsi 400s). He always ran good in July and February. No matter when you came to Daytona you had to worry about Cale Yarborough. The last race I won (1984 Pepsi 400) I beat him by what, two feet? You know what I mean? From that standpoint we've had a lot of good races here. A lot of times he blew me away and sometimes I blew him away. He was always a fierce competitor on this race track. Always. (Previous winners of the Award include NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway founder William H.G. France and his wife, Anne; the Reverend Hal Marchman, Daytona International Speedway chaplain; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Racing Director Leo Mehl; and CBS Sports.)
H. LEO MEHL (General Manager of Worldwide Racing for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.) -- (Mehl, who has directed Goodyear's worldwide racing efforts to unprecedented success over the past 22 years, announced this week that he will retire March 1 "in order to enjoy a few weekends without working an auto race for the first time in decades." Stu Grant, the company's current director of racing, will succeed Mehl.