Farm Aid on CMT 300 Sunday Notebook By Dave Rodman LOUDON, N.H. (Aug. 30, 1998) Notes and quotes from the $2,299,265 Farm Aid on CMT 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway: Jeff Gordon's victory was his ninth of the season, his fifth...
Farm Aid on CMT 300 Sunday Notebook By Dave Rodman
LOUDON, N.H. (Aug. 30, 1998) Notes and quotes from the $2,299,265 Farm Aid on CMT 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway:
Jeff Gordon's victory was his ninth of the season, his fifth in the last six races and it gave Chevrolet a 12-9 lead over Ford in races won. It also gives Chevrolet an unofficial 179-159 edge over Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series manufacturers' championship standings, with 10 races remaining.
Other Gordon minutiae: The victory was Gordon's 38th in 179 series starts; it was his third in his last six races at NHIS; his fifth top-10 finish in eight races here; he won the NASCAR Winston Cup leader bonus for the seventh time, worth $20,000 here, and has now won $190,000 of the bonus program's money this season; by becoming the first driver to win from the Bud Pole at NHIS, Gordon won the $22,800 76 Racing Challenge; and today's finish was Gordon's series leading 17th top-five of the year and his 10th straight top-five finish, extending a streak that began at Michigan Speedway on June 14 in the Miller Lite 400.
In addition, he led a lap in the 18th of 23 races this season, which leads the series. Gordon has earned a total of 120 bonus points towards the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship by either leading a lap or being the leader of the most laps during races this season.
Dale Earnhardt's won seven championships, but even he can't figure out the Gordon phenomenon. Earnhardt was ninth, his second straight top-10 finish, but he wasn't particularly pleased.
"We had some fun today, but I didn't go anywhere," Earnhardt said. "We were just good enough to stay where we were. We were a little tight in the center turning, though we were pretty good coming off.
"Can you believe that kid won another race? Two tires and away he goes ... I don't know how he does it."
Bobby Hamilton, who struggled to a seven-laps-down 34th-place finish in the Kodak Max Film Chevrolet, had maybe the best postscript to Gordon's win.
"I saw (country singer) Jerry Reed this morning," Hamilton said of the entertainer who was on hand due to CMT's race sponsorship. "What was his big song? 'When you're hot you're hot?'"
Hamilton summed up his rough day saying, "A loose track and a loose car weren't a good combination for us, but we'll keep plugging."
Reed had the day's best line on the MRN Radio broadcast when he quipped, "I'm not too old to cut the mustard, I'm just too tired to spread it around much!"
Steve Park had little reason to celebrate on Sunday despite becoming the first man to drive in all five major NASCAR divisions that compete at NHIS. Park brought out the day's first caution when he slammed the outside wall with the right side of his Pennzoil Chevrolet.
"The car just got loose going into Turn 1 and I got up and popped the wall," Park said as the crew repaired the damage. "One little slip and you get out of the groove and there's no recovery time. You're bound to hit the wall."
Ken Schrader had high hopes coming into the Farm Aid on CMT 300 but it didn't last. Schrader first got together with Raybestos Rookie candidate Kenny Irwin, then was finished off when he and "hometown buddy" Rusty Wallace got together going into the third turn on lap 176.
"Rusty and I got together going into (Turn) 3 and it felt like it cut the left rear tire down, it turned around so quick," Schrader said in disgust. "We were already crippled from that first deal, with Kenny Irwin. He's a good little racer -- he'll figure out the difference between 300 miles and 30 laps pretty soon. He got into me and ruined it for both of us."
Wallace stopped under caution to check on Schrader after the Fenton, Mo., native got out of his car, which was no consolation to the driver who led the race's third lap.
"I just told him to go ahead," Schrader said. "There was nothing he could do about it, then."
Five bonus points were no consolation for Schrader, who said "we weren't as good as Mark Martin or Dale Jarrett today, but we were better than everybody else. I was just trying to stay out of trouble and race 'em at the end."
Irwin, who padded his lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, called the incident with Schrader a "racing deal." As pleased as he was with his 11th-place finish, he wasn't sure how he ended up there in the Texaco/Havoline Ford.
"I would have bet anything we had a top-five car the first half of the race," Irwin said. "But I'm just not making the right decisions in the car throughout the race. I've gotta get better at that, but each week you can see the team is getting better at giving me what I need and this is getting to be a lot of fun."
Jarrett, with his fourth-place finish, worth $78,875, passed the $13 million mark in career winnings on Sunday. Jarrett, who is ninth on the all-time money winners' list, entered the event with $12,970,792 in career earnings.
"We had a good race car and the guys did a good job in the pits," Jarrett said, "but we just couldn't get going on restarts. It took us eight or 10 laps to get going and that really hurt us. We just have to continue to work hard. We had good pit stops and played the right strategy, but once again we lost points so I guess we can't consider it a success."
Dick Trickle came into the race riding an ill streak of three straight DNFs. He came back to finish 19th, the last car on the lead lap. It was his best finish since the Aug. 1 Brickyard 400, when he was 18th on the lead lap.
No. 33 Skoal Bandit Racing team owner and crew chief Andy Petree quantified Ray Evernham's feelings coming off the Hendrick Motorsports' squad's four-straight winning streak. Petree was Harry Gant's pit boss in 1991 when the "Bandit" won four straight in the fall.
"It's like you can't lose at first, then it's like you're waiting for the other shoe to drop," Petree said. "The pressure is terrible. Ray and those guys have been going through this consistently for awhile, so they know how to handle it maybe a little bit better than I did at the time.
"Back then, I didn't sleep. You win one, and it was great. We won at Darlington and then went to Richmond and won back-to-back for the first time. Your heart is beating and you can't hardly sleep. We went to Dover and won again and then we won at Martinsville. It's hard on you. I can see how it's difficult for teams to do that for an extended period of time. It's very, very stressful.
"It's worth it. It's the greatest thing in the world, but at the same time, it's so physically and mentally tough on you. It wears you down. I guess the drivers handle it a little better. I think they handle the pressure a little bit better than the crews, but it's something I'd like to experience again. I was also on a crew that won four in a row with Darrell Waltrip in '81. I changed rear tires. That was a whole lot easier when you weren't the crew chief. It was almost artificial. I was just a small part of the team. I'd go to the race, change tires and go to victory lane. It really didn't mean anything. It meant a lot with Harry ..."
Kenny Wallace's season-best sixth-place finish ended a long string of frustration, as he led his first laps since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Wallace led 30 laps, giving him a total of 57 laps led this season in the Square D Ford. Wallace said the streak of bad luck and mechanical failures -- nine DNFs in 20 starts -- had been trying.
"The way I feel about it is that every time the car has been on the race track it's very competitive and we're in there running in the top-20 every week," Wallace said. "So, I mean, we're as good as half the field I feel. But it's a tough sport ... Just when you think you've got it, you don't. I feel like from the first of the year when we rattled off a couple top-10s in a row we lost something. Now we're trying to go back and get it, but, for the most part, we've broken down too much, too many parts have failed on the car and it's something we had to look at. It's been real frustrating, but the car's been competitive so I'm not ready to slit my wrists yet."
Terry Labonte took a blow in the point standings when the engine in his Kellogg's Chevrolet failed after 249 laps, relegating him to a 39th-place finish.
"I think it broke the camshaft or the timing chain," said Labonte, who was in ninth when his car broke. "Our car ran great and we had a great pit stop so we were in good shape. We'll just go on and try again at Darlington."
Jeff Green suffered one of the biggest hits of the weekend when the brakes apparently failed on the No. 46 The Money Store Chevrolet.
"I had been running hard all day and I guess I wore my brakes out," said Green, who was examined and released from the infield care center. "I went down there (Turn 3) and the pedal went all the way to the firewall. I couldn't slow it down, which really upset me, so I turned it around and before I could get it all the way around I backed it into the wall."
Source: NASCAR Online