Martinsville Saturday Notes

Goody's 500 Saturday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 18, 1998) Some notes and quotes from Saturday at Martinsville Speedway and the Goody's Headache Powders 500: "Happy Hour," the final practice session for the NASCAR...

Goody's 500 Saturday Notebook By Shawn A. Akers MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 18, 1998) Some notes and quotes from Saturday at Martinsville Speedway and the Goody's Headache Powders 500:

"Happy Hour," the final practice session for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams prior to Sunday's Goody's Headache Powders 500, was extended to over 80 minutes, a decision made by NASCAR officials to help the teams prepare better for Sunday's race.

The session saw John Andretti, driver of the No. 43 STP Pontiac, post the top speed with a fast lap of 93.088 mph. He was the only driver to top the 93 mph mark.

Joe Nemechek, who was fastest in both the earlier Saturday practice sessions, was second best in "Happy Hour" with a fast lap of 92.710 mph. Nemechek was followed by the Roush Racing teammates of Ted Musgrave (92.701) and Mark Martin (92.678), and then Jimmy Spencer (92.651).

Dale Earnhardt, who'll start Sunday's race from the 31st position, continued to struggle and posted only the 28th-fastest time (92.012 mph) in Saturday's final practice session.

The early-season misfortune continued to mount for the No. 46 First Union Chevrolet team and driver Wally Dallenbach on Saturday. Sporadic rain drops forced the cancellation of Bud Second-Round Qualifying for Sunday's race, and Dallenbach's team was one of three who were left out in the cold.

Dallenbach, Dave Marcis and Gary Bradberry all failed to make the field. It's the fourth time this season the team has been sent packing.

Marcis has qualified for only two races this season, as has Bradberry.

Rich Bickle certainly knows his way around Martinsville, as evidenced by his victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at the .526-mile oval last fall. That could give him an advantage on Sunday, when he'll start from the 11th position in the Goody's 500.

Bickle, in his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series start in 1998, is subbing for the injured Greg Sacks in the No. 98 Thorn Apple Valley Ford Taurus.

"This is just like my old race track back home," Bickle said. "Lake Geneva, before they re-did it, had a real long straightaway and real tight corners, so this is what I grew up on. I love going to fast speedways, but short track racing has always been my favorite.

"We went and tested at Greenville (S.C.), and the team was pretty pumped up that we ran good down there. Right now these guys kind of seem like my bunch of guys. You've got to have fun at this deal. This is really a no-pressure situation. I need to show good and this team needs to show good. If we put our efforts together, I think we can have a good weekend.

Jack Roush will be celebrating his 56th birthday on Sunday, and he couldn't think of a much better birthday present than for one of his five teams than to present him with a victory.

Roush has never won on his birthday before, but his odds aren't bad. Musgrave, driver of the No. 16 PRIMESTAR Ford, is the top starter among his teams after qualifying 12th on Friday. Jeff Burton, who won last year at Martinsville last fall, starts 15th, and Martin, who won at Martinsville in 1992, starts 18th.

Johnny Benson and Chad Little were both forced to take provisionals after second-round qualifying was washed out. Benson will start 38th, while Little will start from the 39th spot.

Things have been so bad for Ricky Rudd this season that the driver of the No. 10 Tide Ford is ecstatic about his fourth-place starting position for Sunday's race. A mere 32nd in the standings, Rudd's best starting spot for a race this year was 18th for the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington.

Rudd's best finish in 1998 was 12th at Las Vegas, and he's had three DNFs already this season. He's still searching for his first victory, a win that would extend his streak of winning at least one race per season to 16 years.

"I feel good that our qualifying time (Friday) was almost good enough to win the pole," Rudd said. "We just needed something positive to happen this year, and other than a 12th-place finish at Las Vegas, that's probably the only other really positive thing we've had happen this year.

"It's kind of unfolding like I expected. Bill (Ingle, crew chief) has come on board and it's going to take a little while to get things sorted out and get cars built like he wants them. It's slowly coming around, but what makes me real pleased is that we didn't get a chance to test here."

In contrast, Spencer is on a bit of a roll these days. The driver of the No. 23 Winston/No Bull Ford recorded his fourth top-10 finish of 1998 two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway when he finished seventh in the Texas 500.

Spencer had only four top-10 finished in all of 1997, and has moved up to the 11th spot in the standings.

Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Paychex Ford, and Steve Grissom, driver of the No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet, have also made significant gains in the standings over the last three races.

Bodine has climbed from 26th to 19th following 22nd, 11th and 16th-place finishes at Darlington, Bristol and Texas, respectively.

In those same three races, Grissom has finished 19th, 16th and 10th to move from 28th to 21st in the points. His 10th-place showing in the Texas 500 was his first top-10 of the 1998 season.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Rich Bickle , Brett Bodine , Jeff Burton , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Jimmy Spencer , Joe Nemechek , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Chad Little , Dave Marcis , Steve Grissom , Gary Bradberry , Jack Roush , Greg Sacks , Mark Martin