Irwin's Introduction a Rough One

Irwin's introduction a rough one John Crowley - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998) Kenny Irwin came to Daytona International Speedway knowing he couldn't expect to win the Daytona 500. A more reasonable goal, he admitted, ...

Irwin's introduction a rough one John Crowley - NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998)

Kenny Irwin came to Daytona International Speedway knowing he couldn't expect to win the Daytona 500. A more reasonable goal, he admitted, was earning the respect of the veterans and learning about drafting, superspeedways and life at 190 mph.

The report card is still out on his first day in class. But it's safe to say that a peer review would result in a failing grade after his crash took out two other cars, costing one of them a chance to qualify for Sunday's "Great American Race." Irwin finished 25th with a crumpled fender.

Irwin is the most heralded of four Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates. He's also the one who likely will be staring at the ceiling saying, "what gives?" tonight, despite the fact that his No. 28 Robert Yates Racing Taurus will start 38th on Sunday. Irwin was involved in the first crash of the day in the first Gatorade Twin 125 Qualifying Race. And while everyone involved was gracious, you couldn't help but hear a chorus of "I told you so's" rising from the garage.

He wasn't careless. He wasn't foolhardy. What he was - and still is - was young.

On lap 33 of 50, Irwin lost control of his Texaco Havoline Ford and brushed the outside wall on the exit to Turn 2. His car shot back toward the middle of the track, where it made contact with Todd Bodine's No. 35 Tabasco Pontiac. Bodine careened into Dick Trickle, in the No. 90 Heilig-Meyers Ford, and the trio ended up emerging from a cloud of tire smoke, unhurt but unhappy.

"I was having a ball out there until that mishap in Turn 2," Irwin said. "I honestly don't know what happened out there. I can't wait to watch the tape myself. I was just trying to stay in line. I was on the outside and the 35 car was trying to get in, but I don't know if he affected the air and that's what got me in the fence or what. I don't know."

Bodine is a veteran who has been on both sides when it comes to shredded metal and short fuses. This is his first year back on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since being let go by Butch Mock Motorsports following the 1995 season.

He'll have to wait another week to make his 1998 debut, as his 22nd-place finish Thursday, his poor Bud Pole Qualifying speed from Saturday (52nd fastest at 185.033 mph), and lack of owner's provisional points from last year, sent him packing.

"We had a car to race them with," Bodine said. "I had cleared everybody and the next thing you know, we're all turned around there. Somebody got into me, and that's one of those things that can happen."

Trickle, who will start Sunday, took a kinder, gentler approach regarding the driver who is young enough to be his grandson. "Accidents happen" may be a cliche, but it was never more true. "Those things happen when you're racing hard," he said.

Those things happen when you're a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

Courtesy of NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dick Trickle , Todd Bodine
Teams Yates Racing