Dave Rodman, NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 1998)Seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt absolutely glows when he talks about conquering another plateau at Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt --...
Dave Rodman, NASCAR Online
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 1998)Seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt absolutely glows when he talks about conquering another plateau at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt -- whose inability to win the Daytona 500 has become almost legendary -- will make the first laps "under the lights" at the 2.5-mile speedway. The inaugural "event" featuring a NASCAR Winston Cup Series stock car in the 3.6 billion watts of candlepower produced by the Musco lighting system that has been installed at the track will take place Feb. 7.
The 40th Pepsi 400, to be run July 4, will be the first night-time stock car race in Daytona's 40-year history.
"Over the last 20 years Daytona has provided a lot of great memories for me," said Earnhardt, the career victories leader at the track. "To be the first driver to take a lap at full speed under the lights is exciting.
"I've won 29 races and have logged thousands of miles around that track. But all of those have been in the daylight. Only one person has the opportunity to be the first to run under the lights and I'm honored that they have asked me to be that person."
Earnhardt and his Richard Childress Racing team will have to juggle a certain amount of logistics -- including a post-Bud Pole Qualifying inspection if he qualifies his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet on the front row -- to make the test session happen. Bud Pole Qualifying for the Feb. 15 Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. EST.
The team also needs to hold one black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet in reserve for the Feb. 8 Bud Shootout -- a special event for the Bud Pole Award winners from the 1997 season as well as the Bud Beer Second-Round Qualifying leaders.
Earnhardt, who won the Bud Pole for the "Great American Race" in 1996 and who has two Pepsi 400 Bud Poles, is a threat to win the Daytona 500 Bud Pole again following a strong performance in pre-season testing.
The lighting test, which is scheduled to go about 20 laps, is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. EST. The public will be admitted free of charge to a section of the grandstands following the completion of Bud Pole Award Qualifying.
The final phase in the construction of the lighting system will not begin until after "Daytona 200 Week 1998" concludes on March 8. The system has been tested and the lighting is sufficient for Earnhardt's test.