Dover Friday Notes

MBNA Gold 400 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman DOVER, Del. (Sept. 18, 1998) The following are notes and quotes from Bud Pole Qualifying for the MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway. Derrike Cope continued to bounce back from...

MBNA Gold 400 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman

DOVER, Del. (Sept. 18, 1998) The following are notes and quotes from Bud Pole Qualifying for the MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway.

Derrike Cope continued to bounce back from an absolutely pathetic mid-season stretch that saw the Gumout Pontiac driver fail to qualify twice and take five provisional starts in an eight-race run. Save for a DNQ at the tough Bristol half-mile, Cope has started no worse than 22nd in the last six races after he was third-best in Bud Pole Qualifying at Dover Friday.

"That felt pretty good," said Cope, who added his physical condition was at the root of his surge. "We had run in the .30s in practice, so, I wasn't too surprised that we did what we did. We're using those T&L motors (builders out of Stanfield, N.C.) and we leaned on them pretty hard today and it paid off.

"I know what I need here because I've won here before, now, I've just got to find what I really need. Health-wise, I'm fine. I feel like coming to the race track every day and I do really feel good (Cope was injured earlier in the year in a crash at Texas in April). Now, I feel like I can drive harder and better than I was doing after I got hurt."

The surface of the Dover Downs "Monster Mile" was partially ground down in an attempt to smooth it for an IRL event that was held here in the summer between the MBNA Platinum 400 in May and now. While most drivers praised the effort, which was responsible for noticeably quicker speeds right from the start of practice, Jeff Gordon was particularly singing its praises, with tongue in cheek.

"It's like a new race track," Gordon said. "We need to take a look at all the other tracks that need to be a little smoother and bring IRL in there. It's definitely improved the track."

Bud Pole winner Mark Martin was another who had good things to say about the smoother surface at Dover.

"They've made a significant improvement, particularly on the entrance to Turns 1 and 3," Martin said. "It certainly made my lap times faster, and while they may have toned down the monster a little bit, it's still a challenge -- just maybe not as quite as much as it used to be."

Gordon, who will start sixth, had started third or better in the last seven races at Dover. It is only the second time in the last 17 races in 1998 that he has failed to qualify among the top-five.

Ten drivers will attempt to pull "double duty" this weekend at Dover, entering both Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA Gold 400 and Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division MBNA Gold 200.

The drivers are Rich Bickle (No. 98 Thorn Apple Valley Ford and No. 59 Kingsford/Matchlight Chevy), Todd Bodine (No. 91 Little Joe's Auto Chevrolet and No. 30 Slim Jim Chevrolet), Dale Jarrett (No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford and No. 32 White Rain Ford), Buckshot Jones (No. 00 Realtree Extra Chevrolet and No. 00 Bayer/Alka-Seltzer Pontiac), Matt Kenseth (No. 94 McDonald's Ford and No. 17 Lycos Chevrolet), Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac and No. 44 Shell Oil Pontiac), Kevin Lepage (No. 16 PRIMESTAR Ford and No. 40 ChannelLock Chevrolet), Ken Schrader (No. 33 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet and No. 15 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet), Dick Trickle (No. 90 Heilig-Meyers Ford and No. 64 Schneider National Chevrolet) and Michael Waltrip (No. 21 Citgo Ford and No. 21 Band-Aid Ford).

Dale Earnhardt's assessment of his Bud Pole Qualifying run was pretty succinct on Friday, after he put the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet 41st in the field of 46 cars, with a lap of 152.375 mph.

"That stinks," Earnhardt said. "We picked up a tenth from practice, but that doesn't mean much when you're that slow."

Kyle Petty, a former Dover winner, put his Hot Wheels Pontiac in the field in 22nd, then offered his formula for determining his competitiveness, which was pure Petty.

"It's the same thing we ran in practice," he said. "It's about the third time we've run that same speed, so, I guess that means that's about as fast as I'm gonna go. You know how I judge how well I do in qualifying? It's how well the others slow down from where they were in practice and how much I slowed down to where I was in practice. By doing that, I beat (Bud Pole winner) Mark Martin."

Darrell Waltrip looks like he may escape taking his eighth straight champion's provisional this season to make the field for Sunday's race, if the weather conditions heat up Saturday morning and everyone else's hearts don't last. Waltrip was 33rd best in the Tabasco Pontiac after running 153.368 mph.

"I told them I'm gonna do this thing one time today," Waltrip said. "Don't expect me to do it again. That was a thrill. It was almost like Richmond. You go in there (Turn 1) and get back on the throttle, full-bore, in the middle of (Turns) 1-2 and you're flat out the rest of the way."

Since Dover went from an asphalt surface to a concrete surface in 1995, winners on the concrete have been Petty, Pontiac (Miller 500, 1995); Gordon, Chevrolet (MBNA 500, 1995; Miller 500, 1996; MBNA 500, 1996); Ricky Rudd, Ford (Miller 500, 1997); Martin, Ford (MBNA 400, 1997); and Jarrett, Ford (MBNA Platinum 400, 1998).

Jimmy Makar, crew chief for Labonte in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac, made his debut here as a NASCAR Winston Cup Series crew chief with Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) in September 1990. Makar is a native of New Jersey.

Airport Speedway in New Castle, Del., will play host to a challenge race for crew members from Richard Childress Racing (Nos. 3 and 31 Chevrolet teams) on Saturday night, starting at 6 p.m. EDT. The event will take place during the evening's regularly scheduled program, featuring four classes for Micro-Sprint racing.

The speedway is located on Speedway Drive in New Castle Corporate Commons (Delaware 37), off Delaware 141 (302-328-8302 or 302-654-9155).

Kenny Wallace, driver of the No. 81 Square D Ford, on Dover: "About the only thing I look forward to when I go to Dover is the casino. At least, my luck is better there." He wrecked here in June, cutting down a tire on lap 32 and hitting the Turn 3 wall.

"Even though I don't like Dover, I still drive to win because I enjoy racing," Wallace said. "I haven't had much success here, but I still get myself pumped up to go. I have to, I'm a racer."

Gordon won three straight races here, 1995 MBNA 500 through 1996 MBNA 500, but failed to win the MBNA Platinum 400 here last June, even though he led all but 25 of the race's 400 laps.

"We've won a lot of races we shouldn't have won," said Gordon, who saw Jarrett go on to win the race in the No. 88 Ford. "But, at the same time, we've lost some races we should've won and Dover is one of them. We made the right decision by coming in for fuel. Actually, we didn't have much of a choice. There were only a few cars on the lead lap, so, we weren't going to be giving up very many positions. I wish we could have pulled it off for DuPont (headquartered in Wilmington, Del., about 50 miles north of Dover)."

In 11 starts at Dover, besides the three straight wins, Gordon has two Bud Poles, five top-fives and seven top-10 finishes with an average finish of 9.36 and has led nearly 30 percent of those laps and has led laps in eight of the 11 races.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Rich Bickle , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Dick Trickle , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Kyle Petty , Kenny Wallace , Buckshot Jones , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing