Dover post-race notes

MBNA Platinum 400 Sunday Notebook Dave Rodman and Brett Borden DOVER, Del. (May 31, 1998) Notes following Sunday's MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway: Buckshot Jones was grinning following the MBNA Platinum 400 for ...

MBNA Platinum 400 Sunday Notebook Dave Rodman and Brett Borden

DOVER, Del. (May 31, 1998) Notes following Sunday's MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway:

Buckshot Jones was grinning following the MBNA Platinum 400 for a number of reasons -- but mostly because it was the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race he's finished in his career.

"If you just get me where I'm comfortable, that's all I care about," Jones said.

He was comfortable enough to post an eighth-place finish -- the team's best since former driver Hut Stricklin finished second in the 1996 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

If the team was happy before the race, as crew chief Jim Long put his vote in Buckshot's column for continuing in the seat following the scheduled two-race program that ends at Richmond International Raceway in Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400 -- then team owners Billy and Mickey Stavola might be working even harder this week to keep Jones in the car after his gritty performance.

"We're negotiating," Billy Stavola said before the race. "We're talking with his dad (Billy Jones) about it this week. We'll see how it goes today."

Asked point blank if Jones might occupy the car for the rest of the season, Billy Stavola simply said that "the door is open."

Jones said the only negative was the difference in race distances between the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division that he's used to.

"It wears you out," said Jones, who saved his badly sliding car more than once unday. "When you look up and it's 200 laps (on the scoreboard), I was thinking it was more like 300 or 320 laps. I wish they wouldn't put a scoreboard up. It drove me crazy -- I'd look up and there were 200 more laps to go."

Jones will test his Buckshot Racing Aquafresh Pontiac at Pocono Raceway on Monday and Tuesday.

Stricklin, hot on the heels of signing a deal to get back in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car with Andy Petree Motorsports, will get back in a car even sooner when he travels from Dover to Long Pond, Pa., to run a three-day test beginning Monday with Robert Yates Racing and Raybestos Rookie candidate Kenny Irwin at Pocono.

"Kenny has never raced there," Stricklin said. "We're just going to go there and try to teach him the line around the track. He seems to be doing pretty good. He picks up on these race tracks and he's never raced on a lot of them. He's done a great job, and I don't think he'll have a problem there."

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. will hold a NASCAR Winston Cup Series tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield and Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte scheduled to run laps for the Akron tire manufacturer, which is preparing for the Aug. 1 Brickyard 400.

One of the hottest rivalries in the NASCAR Busch Series spilled over into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Sunday at Dover, though in a roundabout way. Jones started 19th in the race and finished eighth. Randy LaJoie, meanwhile, filled in for Ted Musgrave in the No. 16 PRIMESTAR Ford after Musgrave was involved in a multi-car accident on lap 10. LaJoie finished 22nd in the partially damaged car, which is exactly where the team started.

Musgrave was not injured in the accident, but crew chief James Ince reported that Musgrave was feeling ill and didn't think he could finish the race. LaJoie was available to spell the overheated Musgrave because his own Budweiser Chevrolet was involved in a lap 10 accident and he was officially the first car out of the race.

Jeremy Mayfield continued to show he is a serious contender for this season's NASCAR Winston Cup Series point championship, finishing fifth, his second top-five in the last three races at the "Monster Mile." Mayfield almost ran out of fuel at the end.

"We ran out at the checkered flag, and you can't cut it much closer than that," Mayfield said. "We felt like we had a really good chance on going all the way, but believe me, I was watching the fuel gauge really close there at the end."

After his 25th-place finish at Dover, Dale Earnhardt slipped from the top-10 in the point standings for the first time in 40 races. "The Intimidator" now sits 13th, 52 points out of the top- 10. After the race, Earnhardt blamed the poor finish on himself.

"The car was way off chassis-wise," he said. "It was as much my fault as anybody's. It was what I wanted to run. They adjusted to what I wanted. We all agreed on what we had under it, but we were just way off. We'll get 'em at Richmond."

Kevin Lepage, who won the Bud Pole for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series MBNA Platinum 200, finished 28th in Sunday's race, making him the highest-finishing rookie in five of the last seven NASCAR Winston Cup Series races. He has been the highest-finishing rookie a total of six times now this year, in a car without a primary sponsor that was "plain blue" again Sunday.

Ricky Rudd, the race's defending champion who finished sixth, posted his first top-10 finish since finishing sixth at Dover last fall. It was Rudd's third straight top-10 at the "Monster Mile." Rudd felt relieved after his highest finish of the year.

"Well, we finally finished a race without any problems. We were decent all day, and the last set of tires just seemed to hurt us a little bit. But all in all, it was a good weekend for us. Qualify fifth. Finish sixth."

Rusty Wallace, who sat on the Bud Pole for the Sunday event, extended his winless streak to 41 races when he finished 18th. The losing streak is the longest of his career, but he returns this weekend to the site of his last victory, at Richmond International Raceway on March 2, 1997.

The worst accident of the day happened on lap 10 when Johnny Benson spun heading onto the backstretch, creating a pileup that ended the day for Benson, Kyle Petty and Randy LaJoie's "first ride" of the day. It also involved no fewer than four other cars. Benson pointed the finger at himself afterwards.

"I spun. No doubt about it," he said. "The car was working really good. We were a little bit tight, but I just lost it trying to get underneath the 9. I was doing everything I could to catch it, and then I stayed off the walls and everything. But then everybody started hittin' the Cheerios Taurus."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Kevin Lepage , Buckshot Jones , Hut Stricklin , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Andy Petree , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing