Monday Notebook Primestar 500

BOBBY LABONTE NASCAR officials had advised the teams that several cars would be selected from each manufacturer's entries to be used for the test. Following the running of the fourth race of the season, Terry Labonte's No. 5 ...

BOBBY LABONTE NASCAR officials had advised the teams that several cars would be selected from each manufacturer's entries to be used for the test. Following the running of the fourth race of the season, Terry Labonte's No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet (finished 12th) and Jeff Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet (19th), Rusty Wallace's No. 2 Miller Lite Ford (fourth) and Dale Jarrett's No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford (second) and race winner Bobby Labonte's No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac were chosen. "We have no idea what to expect," said Jarrett, who posted his first top-five finish of the season and led 30 laps. "I'm sure they'll tell us before we get to Darlington and we'll ... go on from there." Officials said finishing position was not the only criteria used for selection.

Rules affecting the cars' aerodynamics have changed twice this year and NASCAR continues to evaluate data to maintain a competitive balance.

After four races, Chevrolet (Daytona and Rockingham), Ford (Las Vegas) and Pontiac (Atlanta) have each won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race.

"They've had every kind of car win a race now, so don't know exactly what all the hollering is about," said Jarrett. "Even though Ford has led a lot of laps in a lot of races, we're not winning the races -- we've won one. We've just got a lot of good race teams."

***

Rusty Wallace's phenomenal early season run continued at Atlanta, where he recorded his fourth straight top-five finish and boosted his point lead to 49 over teammate Jeremy Mayfield -- who ended up in the top-five for the third time. Wallace was eighth in the standings after three races in his championship season, 1989, trailing Dale Earnhardt by 136 points. Wallace has led the standings since the second race of the season.

"We've got good season going, but like I say, this is about as even as it's gonna get," said Wallace the politician. "When I looked up and saw that 5 car (Terry Labonte's Chevrolet) running on the rear bumper of those two Fords and the 18 car (race winner Bobby Labonte's Pontiac) I said, 'Man, it's just a mix of everything. Nobody's got any room to bitch.'" ***

Derrike Cope, who crashed his No. 30 Gumout Pontiac in Turn 2 at Atlanta after leading four laps early in the race, was taken by ambulance to Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta. Although a CT scan of his head and X-rays of his chest and stomach were negative, Cope was to remain in the hospital overnight for observation.

Mike Skinner, who crashed his No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet in Turn 4 on lap 18, was transported to Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta after his accident. A CT scan of his head was negative but, since Skinner was briefly unconscious and has a history of neck pain, doctors decided to hospitalize him overnight for observation.

"I was watching Mike and he was running down low," said Skinner's Team Manager David Smith. "The car shot up the track and hit the wall, just like Steve Park's did (on Friday)." ***

Amidst all the griping and complaining and politicking in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage area, team owner Joe Falk shone like a proud beacon after his independent team finished 14th, two laps down to winner Labonte.

"We were the third-best finishing Chevrolet today and I think that's pretty good for a team without a sponsor," said Falk, whose No. 91 Monte Carlo looked like a Team SABCO 'attachment' with a SABCO engine under the hood, First Union writing on the quarter panels and Coors Light decals on the hood. "We're working on a couple things for Darlington. Hopefully we'll get something signed. Kevin (Lepage, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate) is doing his part on the track and we're doing our part in the garage. With the resources we've got we're doing a heck of job." ***

Driver Sterling Marlin's sponsor, Coors Light, might've been on Lepage's car, but Marlin still got some action at Atlanta. Teammate Wally Dallenbach was under the weather and got out of his No. 46 First Union Chevrolet after 100 laps.

"I guess I've got a 24-hour bug," Dallenbach said. "If I can't go out there and run like I should, then somebody else needs to."

The car lasted only 177 laps before its engine failed.

*** Dick Trickle was bound and determined to present veteran car owner Junie Donlavey with a top-five finish as the 73-year-old legend checked into a hospital in Richmond, Va., Monday for heart surgery to replace an aortic valve.

"Just when I got under Rusty and was running fourth it dropped a cylinder, push rod or something like that," said Trickle of his sixth-place finish. "I thought we were going to be OK, but we got passed on the last three laps -- but we had a top-five car. This one's for Junie -- he's back home a little under the weather, but he's one of the best owners in the world."

After the race Trickle said the prognosis for Donlavey's recovery was "very good."

*** Dale Earnhardt, whose fortunes Monday ranged from mediocre to downright awful, was vocal in his call for "rules equity" after the race.

"The Chevrolets don't have what they need to compete -- look at the scoreboard," said Earnhardt, pointing at a pylon that showed the best Monte Carlo in 12th and only six Chevrolets in the top-20.

Earnhardt's crew chief, Larry McReynolds, elaborated a bit after his team's 13th-place finish.

"We asked to be put on the chassis dyno," said McReynolds of the analytical tool NASCAR had available after the race. "We want to see where we're at ... (because) we didn't perform very well on the straightaways today. You don't see a Chevrolet consistently up front ... It's like hitting a perfect setup like Gordon did the last few laps at Rockingham or (Terry) Labonte did today for a while. Did you see a Chevrolet finish in the top-10 today? Rest my case." John Andretti had an opportunity to collect the $76,000 Union 76 Challenge Bonus at Atlanta. The bonus is available to any driver who can win a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race from the pole position. With Andretti's failure to win, the bonus will be $83,600 for the TranSouth Financial 400 on March 22 at Darlington Raceway. ***

Darlington has no less than 12 NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division teams scheduled to test beginning Tuesday at the 1.366-mile oval for the March 21-22 Diamond Hill Plywood 200 and TranSouth Financial 400.

Those scheduled to run include teams for Bobby Hamilton, Earnhardt, Ron Hornaday, Andretti, Jeff Green, Ricky Rudd, Jerry Nadeau, Jeff Burton and Steve Grissom. NASCAR Busch Series teams set to run are those of J.D. Gibbs, Mike McLaughlin and Matt Hutter. Local favorite Ron Barfield of Florence, S.C., tested at the track "Too Tough To Tame" on Monday in Ricky Craven's Chevrolet. ***

Reportedly no less than 15 NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams are scheduled to test at Texas Motor Speedway this Wednesday-Friday in preparation for the April 5 Texas 500, including those of drivers Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Dallenbach, Marlin, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Kenny Irwin, Greg Sacks, Steve Grissom, Ward Burton, Kenny Wallace, Robert Pressley and Nadeau. ***

Wayne Shaw, gasman for Ward Burton's Bill David Racing No. 22 MBNA America Pontiac, was due to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a "bucket" tear he suffered during the Daytona 500. After being replaced by Steve Jarrell, the team's truck driver, for two races, Shaw returned for the Las Vegas 400 and PRIMESTAR 500. Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Derrike Cope , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Dick Trickle , Rusty Wallace , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Robert Pressley , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Mike McLaughlin , Ricky Craven , Steve Grissom , Ron Barfield , David Smith , Greg Sacks , Steve J , Mark Martin