Will set-up race produce upset? By Brett Borden MIAMI (Nov. 13, 1999)Slowly but surely, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams are getting a handle on Homestead-Miami Speedway. The teams are experimenting on the relatively limited information for...
Will set-up race produce upset? By Brett Borden
MIAMI (Nov. 13, 1999)Slowly but surely, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams are getting a handle on Homestead-Miami Speedway. The teams are experimenting on the relatively limited information for this inaugural event, and that could produce what race fans love most -- a down-to-the-wire finish in Sunday's Pennzoil 400 presented by Kmart that could produce an upset. One driver will be the first to unlock the mystery of Miami, and set-up will be the key.
The South Florida weekend has produced a Daytona-like atmosphere, with celebrities popping in and out of the garage area like prairie dogs. That includes big dogs like Jay Leno, who was seen interviewing another stand-up guy, Dale Earnhardt. And sports world celebrities like World Series hero Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Add in the fact that NBC is making its maiden voyage into the world of NASCAR coverage, and the ambience here at Miami is as vibrant as the environment surrounding it.
Drivers young and old agree, when the green flag drops Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET, the fun will just be beginning. The subtropical subplots are many.
"It's going to be interesting," Jeff Gordon said. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet and two-time defending series champion may officially hand over his crown to Dale Jarrett, who can clinch his first championship by finishing eighth or better.
"I asked (Jarrett) yesterday if he was excited or nervous," said Gordon, who will start 10th. "He couldn't decide, but I think he's excited. It couldn't happen to a better guy. Dale is a class act. He'll make a great, great champion for our series and represent everybody well. He's been knocking on the door ... and this is his year."
On the other end of the spectrum is Boris Said. The driver of the No. 14 Federated Auto Parts Ford is making his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series start on an oval track. It's been a long and winding road for the road course ace to get here, and he's almost as anxious as Jarrett to get this race started.
"When we were at Watkins Glen, being on the front row felt like winning there, but making an oval race, for me -- just making the field is like winning," stated Said, who will start 27th. "I probably have less experience here than anybody by a good bit I think, so I'm pretty happy. We did it with a car we built pretty much in-house and our own motors we built in-house. We're kind of a bunch of mutants, though. I don't think anybody expects us to do anything. We're definitely not here by our good looks."
Steve Park has been looking like a top-10 driver the second half of this season. He has moved from 24th to 15th in the standings, and will start 22nd in the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet with the special shark paint scheme. Park could head to the front as if there was blood in the water.
"I think it's going to be a good race Sunday," Park said. "This track has gotten a bad rap in the past. The old configuration tended toward the Indy style. The track did what it needed to do to change the configuration and make it a race track that's good for Winston Cup cars. It's always difficult to put on your first show at a new stadium, but I think NASCAR has really done their homework to have a track where we can race on it with a surface that's going to hold up, a place where the fans can really see a good show."
While Park is an up-and-comer, Rick Mast is a hanging on the ledge with one hand this year. Many times this season his Cale Yarborough-owned team has teetered on the verge of shutting down. But Mast has done a remarkable job of shutting that out and driving the wheels off his No. 98 Team Woody Ford. When the only driver who has escaped the DNF (did not finish) demon this season speaks, it's time to listen.
"The big thing is the race set-up and getting the car handling on race set-up," said Mast, who qualified sixth Friday but will start from the back of the pack after wrecking his primary ride in Saturday's final practice. "The qualifying set-up and the race set-up we've used here so far is pretty different."
Jeremy Mayfield has as much seat time at Miami as almost anybody. He says although qualifying and racing are two different animals, success in one will play a major part in the other.
"I think track position is gonna be everything, as usual, but here especially," said the driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford, who will start eighth. "It's a tight race track, everybody is gonna be on the bottom, and there will be passing but it'll be different."
It will be different, that's for sure. That's about the safest prediction one can make about this race.