Michigan Sunday notes

Miller Lite 400 Sunday Notebook Shawn A. Akers BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 1998) Some notes and quotes from Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Miller Lite 400 at Michigan Speedway: Dale Earnhardt's afternoon on Sunday got off to a rocket ...

Miller Lite 400 Sunday Notebook Shawn A. Akers

BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 1998) Some notes and quotes from Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Miller Lite 400 at Michigan Speedway:

Dale Earnhardt's afternoon on Sunday got off to a rocket start, but the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion couldn't continue that momentum throughout the 200-lap Miller Lite 400.

Earnhardt, who was forced to go to a backup car after he hit the wall in practice on Saturday following a scrape with Rusty Wallace, started last on the grid Sunday, but shot all the way up to 19th place by the first 50 laps and looked to make a bid for the victory.

Soon after the first pit stop, however, Earnhardt began to fade, and he was eventually lapped by Jeff Gordon on lap 55. He ran steady throughout the remainder of the race, but still finished in 15th place, a lap down to race winner Mark Martin.

"I feel like the other car (his primary car) would have been a top-10 car," Earnhardt said. "We'll get 'em next time. All the guys did a good job. They worked hard as a team and did a good job. Finishing 15th is not that great, but it's better than not racing or not finishing. I really think our primary car was a top-10 car. We've got a good car for next week, so we'll have to try and pick it up. We're headed in the right direction."

Earnhardt is currently 12th in the standings after 14 races this season, 52 points behind 11th-place Bill Elliott and 74 points behind 10th-place Ken Schrader.

Speaking of the standings, it's one of the closest races among the top-five contenders in quite some time. Jeremy Mayfield, who finished fifth on Sunday, continues to lead the points, taking a 26-point edge over Gordon into next week's Pocono 500.

Martin closed his gap on first place considerably, however, after his victory on unday. He's now only two points behind Gordon in third place, and 28 points behind Mayfield. Dale Jarrett is in fourth, 33 points behind Mayfield, and Rusty Wallace is in fifth place, 68 points behind Mayfield.

Even with a new driver in the car on Sunday, the No. 96 Caterpillar Chevrolet couldn't escape the bad luck it has experienced this season. Hut Stricklin, who took over for the fired David Green this week in Buzz McCall's ride, hit the wall on lap 126 of the 200-lap event and wound up finishing 42nd.

Stricklin's was the only accident of the day in a race that saw only two caution flags fly throughout the afternoon.

"It was an unfortunate thing," Stricklin said. "Two or three cars in front of me checked up and a car behind me didn't check up. I was just a victim of circumstance. We were out there running pretty hard in the Cat car, but we didn't have it quite like we needed it."

It wasn't a fond farewell for the Circuit City folks, either, on Sunday. Morgan Shepherd, who was the fastest second-round qualifier for the Miller Lite 400 and started the race in the 26th position in the No. 8 Chevrolet, dropped out of the race after only 66 laps with an electrical problem on the car.

Circuit City announced earlier that they were terminating their sponsorship agreement with the Stavola Brothers team.

Ford drivers Rich Bickle and Lake Speed will be the first to run on the reconfigured Road Atlanta road course on Tuesday in preparation for the SaveMart/Kragan 350 in Sonoma, Calif., on June 28.

Cale Yarborough, owner of the No. 98 Thorn Apple Valley Taurus, organized the test session, which will mark the unveiling of Road Atlanta's new design.

"I didn't know that," said Yarborough, when told his team would be the first to test on the new track. "Rich just needs some practice on a road course and we felt like that would be a good place for him to get accustomed to one in a Winston Cup car."

The State of Michigan issue to commendations on Sunday. A Special Tribute to NASCAR was presented to NASCAR President Bill France Jr., in recognition of the contributions that NASCAR racing has made to the state of Michigan.

Yarborough was also presented with Senate Resolution 203, proclaiming Sunday Cale Yarborough Day. On June 15, 1969, Yarborough drove a 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II to victory in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Michigan Speedway -- the Motor State 500 (the only NASCAR race at Michigan in which drivers raced for more than 400 miles).

Source: NASCAR ONline

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Rich Bickle , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , David Green , Morgan Shepherd , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin