Sterling Marlin, Jeff Gordon Lead Tuesday Testing

Marlin, Gordon lead Tuesday testing By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2000) A pair of two-time Daytona 500 winners ended Tuesday atop two different speed charts on the final day of pre-season General Motors NASCAR Winston Cup Series...

Marlin, Gordon lead Tuesday testing By Dave Rodman

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2000) A pair of two-time Daytona 500 winners ended Tuesday atop two different speed charts on the final day of pre-season General Motors NASCAR Winston Cup Series testing at Daytona International Speedway. Sterling Marlin, who won consecutive editions of the "Great American Race" in 1994-95, posted the fastest solo lap run all winter at Daytona when he was clocked at 48.089 seconds, an average speed of 187.153 mph, around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in the Coors Light Chevrolet. Marlin was the only driver to top 187 mph running by himself.

In a more ominous statement, Jeff Gordon topped 190 mph as the fastest driver in a 45-minute drafting session held early Tuesday afternoon -- a day in which the temperature lurched through the 70s under variable cloudiness. Gordon, who was only 13th-best on the combined sheet of single car runs from the morning and afternoon, turned a lap of 47.137 seconds/190.933 mph in the draft. The three-time series champ is the defending winner of the season opener, also winning the event in 1996.

Rounding out the top-5 in solo runs were Bobby Hamilton (186.908 mph), Mike Skinner (186.858) and Andy Hillenburg (186.834) in Chevrolets and three-time Daytona 500 Bud Pole winner Ken Schrader (186.784) in a Pontiac.

"We found a good half a second today," said Marlin, who ended the day pleased with his Team SABCO outfit's progress. "The guys have been working hard on it. You're always going to come back with your best motors, so I think we'll be OK.

"I don't know what the Fords will run, but I think we'll be in good shape. Both of our cars were about the same. We went a little faster in our (Daytona) 500 car. I think the 2000 Monte Carlo has a lot of potential, and I think it's going to be as good as what we had."

Ford teams will complete their Daytona preparations with their two-day "mandatory" test later this week, on Thursday and Friday.

Three Chevrolets and two Pontiacs rounded out the top-10 solo speeds on Tuesday, with Michael Waltrip, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ending up in front of Pontiac drivers John Andretti and Dave Blaney.

Hamilton, driver of Morgan-McClure Motorsports' No. 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet, said his and Marlin's laps were good for one thing.

"It's not a surprise for Sterling to be the fastest," said Hamilton, who drives the car Marlin took to his two big Daytona scores. "At least it gives the Tennessee boys bragging rights right now. That doesn't count much right now, but it's something."

The drafting session was a complete turnaround from the preponderant solo runs. Following Gordon the speed chart was Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teammate Jerry Nadeau (190.909 mph), Geoffrey Bodine in a Chevrolet (190.597), Bobby Labonte in a Pontiac (190.533) and Kenny Wallace in a Chevrolet (190.504).

On Tuesday's combined solo sheet Nadeau was 18th, Bodine was 23rd, Labonte was 14th and Wallace tied for 26th. Marlin said the new mandated shock package had a lot to do with the change in cars' attitudes at this January's tests.

"Used to you'd run fast qualifying and not run as fast drafting," Marlin said. "Now, you're going to qualify a little slower and you're going to race faster because of the draft. We're practicing pit stops, knocking them out. We're ready to go. We've got a little more left, so we'll what happens when we come back."

-nascar.com-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Geoffrey Bodine , Ken Schrader , Kenny Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Jerry Nadeau , Andy Hillenburg , Dave Blaney
Teams Hendrick Motorsports