Winston 500 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 9, 1998) Notes and quotes following Bud Pole Qualifying Friday for the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway: NASCAR Online has a major addition to its race day...
Winston 500 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 9, 1998) Notes and quotes following Bud Pole Qualifying Friday for the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway: NASCAR Online has a major addition to its race day lineup with the audio interaction between NASCAR Winston Cup point leader Jeff Gordon and his crew chief, Ray Evernham, being added to the lineup fans can listen to from home through its in-car audio feature by MotorTrax Interactive. Web surfers can follow the critical radio communications of 25 top teams live via the Internet during Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. They can access four different in-car audio streams for one low price. Over the last few weeks, thousands of race fans have used their PCs and the Internet to catch all the behind the scenes action of the top teams LIVE during every NASCAR Winston Cup race. Information on accessing this special feature is available on the home page at: www.nascar.com. For the second consecutive year, and only the second time in its 29-year history, Talladega Superspeedway has sold all of its grandstand tickets for its second NASCAR Winston Cup event of the year at the 2.66-mile track. It happened for the first time last year when the DieHard 500 was still the second event of the year at Talladega. This season, the two events were flip-flopped, with the DieHard 500 run in April. Fans began entering Talladega's 212-acre infield, the only vantage point still available, at 4 a.m. Friday. More than a major "whoops" in the body shops of no less than eight NASCAR Winston Cup teams was discovered in initial inspection at Talladega Superspeedway Friday morning. One of the more significant discoveries was that the trunk lid on Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet was about two inches too narrow, in an attempt to tuck the fenders in, thereby reducing drag. The piece was confiscated by NASCAR officials and the team lost valuable practice time on account of the subsequent repairs. Various amounts of practice were lost by the teams of drivers Kevin Lepage, Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, Kenny Irwin, Geoff Bodine, Dick Trickle and Michael Waltrip as varying degrees of different body modifications had to be made before the cars were approved for practice. Bobby Labonte, the defending Bud Pole winner for the fall event at Talladega, was the fastest of the 48 drivers who made it out to practice for qualifying, when he turned a lap in 48.920 seconds, an average speed of 195.748 mph. He was followed by brother Terry Labonte in the Kellogg's Chevrolet at 195.301 mph and, to make it three manufacturers in the top-three, Jeremy Mayfield in the Mobil 1 Ford at 194.804. Rounding out the top-five were a surprising Buckshot Jones in 194.796 in the Aquafresh Chevrolet prepped by the Stavola Brothers racing team and Rusty Wallace at 194.789 in the Miller Lite Ford. The only driver who did not get out to practice, therefore making him ineligible for qualifying, was Bobby Gerhart in his own Chevrolet. Team owner Butch Mock said he "has a deal" for 1999 to drive his No. 75 Ford Tauruses, but he is dealing with the legal issues involved in the proposed driver change and therefore is not in a position to speak any further about it. "We should be ready to talk about it in the next day or so, I hope." Jeremy Mayfield showed up at Talladega with a bleached-blonde hairdo, seeking to change the ill luck that's plagued his Mobil 1 Ford team since it won a breakthrough event at Pocono, Pa. It didn't work in Bud Pole Qualifying when Mayfield ran only one lap, logging the 24th best and wondering what might have been. "I don't know why it did what it did," Mayfield snapped. "Going into turn 1 it just shut off -- it quit and I don't know why. It wasn't running like it did earlier today. When I took off from pit road it didn't feel right." "Some of the guys on the team had done it earlier, to give us good luck and help us win a race," Mayfield said of his move for team unity. "After I won at Pocono I chickened out on 'em, but with a million on the line here (in Winston 'No Bull 5') I didn't want to wake up on Monday being responsible for not winning it, so I'm trying to change our luck." Following Bud Pole Qualifying it seemed better than a 50-50 shot that RJR Reynolds Tobacco might have to pay out another "No Bull 5" million dollar bonus on Sunday. Drivers eligible for the bonus include Dale Jarrett (starts third), Jeff Gordon (sixth), Jeff Burton (ninth), Dale Earnhardt (14th) and Jeremy Mayfield (24th). Gordon has already claimed the million twice this season, at Indianapolis and Darlington on Labor day weekend. Hut Stricklin knows he's got a No. 55 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet out of the Andy Petree Racing shops to use at next Saturday's Pepsi 400 -- but it won't be the car he thought he was going to drive, which was the one he tested prior to this weekend. Ken Schrader said there was no way he would give the car up. "We've got a sh--load of good restrictor plate cars," Schrader said in his post-pole winning comment session. "He'll have a good car." Ken Schrader, more than any other driver in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage, is truly a "racing fool," and he proved it Friday evening when he hauled off from his pole winning press conference to fly to Pevely, Mo., to attend the opening night of a two-night Skoal Bandit World of Outlaws show he's promoting at I-55 Speedway, which is located about 20 minutes outside of St. Louis. Robert Pressley, still recovering from a variety of injuries suffered in a crash at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 12, was grimacing after rough-riding his Jasper Engines Ford into 21st spot in Bud Pole Qualifying -- making a huge gain from his first to his second lap. "We give up a lot on the first lap trying to get the momentum up on the Jasper Engines Ford," Pressley said of his exaggerated high line. "We made it a long race track on the first lap but it paid off with a good second lap." Dale Jarrett was another driver who used a high line on his first qualifying lap. "We'd discussed what we wanted to do on the first lap, and that's what we did," Jarrett said crediting his for the third place effort. "I stayed a little higher, the car was good and all I had to do was hold it straight. These guys have done al l the work. Getting a decent starting spot is the important thing. We need to get back in victory lane because these guys have worked awful hard." Mark Martin is seeking to continue a tremendous late-season surge and he started his weekend with a good qualifying effort that locked him into eighth spot. "It's unbelievable, and a tribute to the hard work and determination by the team, especially the guys in the engine shop. I feel like we sit on the pole today. I knew it was better than it had practiced but I didn't think it was that good. We had to take a provisional here in April, but Tony Lambert, who's been doing the bodies on all these cars, has done a great job. I'm just real happy with that." "I need to start this race, so that IS something to write home about," said Geoff Bodine after he qualified 27th. "It's my 500th race. It isn't the most but it's a milestone for us and we're excited about it. There's actually some Philips Geoff Bodine souvenirs outside for the first times this season so we hope the folks pick some up." Bodine said he would fly to a birthday celebration for good friend Tanya Tucker, who was "Having a 40th birthday party, we're going to go up and sing happy birthday to her." Wally Dallenbach was pretty thrilled after announcing his deal for 1999 with Hendrick Motorsports, but Bud Pole Qualifying was another story. Dallenbach, who had the steering come detached in a practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, had his window net come down on his warm-up lap, causing him to return to pit road. When he went back out to qualify, he took the green flag but slowed on the backstretch, then went straight to the garage area without completing the lap. "It didn't feel right, even when I took off from pit road," Dallenbach said, shaking his head in disgust. "Something happened to the engine and it was skipping and missing. I think it's more than the ignition and we don't have time to fix it, so we'll have to run again tomorrow." Chad Little was one of five drivers who attempted to put a Ford Thunderbird into the Winston 500 field and he heartily succeeded when he ran 193.494 mph in the John Deere Ford. "How about that?" Little said, grinning broadly. "We raced this car at Daytona and in the first race here. It was a car that Jeff Burton used the second half of last year. It was good then and it still is." "It is getting more (fender) clearance so we can travel more and that seems to be the key here," Little said, describing the odd-looking spring and shock packages used for qualifying, which compresses the car to bring it down out of the airflow. "We came here confident that we'd be decent, because the had been decent, but we were concerned about getting it back because it was involved in that wreck at Talladega. It looks like it's even better." The other T-bird drivers had varying results. Robert Pressley's run to 21st was offset by Jimmy Spencer (31st, 192.012 mph), Billy Standridge (33rd, 191.765) and Rich Bickle (47th, 188.082). Rusty Wallace couldn't even begin to mask his distress after he qualified 12th in the Miller Lite Ford. " I'm devastated," Wallace said. "We were expecting to run a 48.90. We should've won the pole but it slowed up and we don't know why." Ward Burton suffered with an engine failure in the MBNA Pontiac early in the morning practice, but recovered to post the 28th-best qualifying lap of 192.262 mph. "We blew a motor this morning and didn't get out to practice until 1:30 or something, and we only got about two laps of practice. It wasn't enough time, but the car will race good Sunday and we'll be OK." Andy Hillenburg was among the Bud Pole Qualifying surprises in Joe Falk's Little Joe's Auto Chevrolet. He qualified 23rd at 192.668 mph. "I've got a two-race deal and I'd like to stay here longer than that," Hillenburg, a two-time winner of the Daytona ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway, the site of the second race of his deal, next weekend, said. "This is a great race team." Mike Skinner downplayed his role in Bud Pole Qualifying but was pretty pleased to end up fifth in the Lowe's Chevrolet. "I don't know how much I did," Skinner said. "The engine shop and the guys who work on the body have done an awful good job, even though we didn't get to test this car. It's an awful good feeling to come in here tomorrow morning and be able to get ready to race and not have to worry about re-qualifying." Dale Earnhardt, per usual, was not thrilled when he failed to win the pole, but was not disgusted to end up 14th in Bud Pole Qualifying. "That's a pretty good lap," he said. "We really got only a few laps in practice. We've been working on it since the spring, doing a lot of the meticulous things you need to do to run fast here. I think we just didn't have enough time and in qualifying we needed a little more air. It's a good race car, but it takes a lot of time -- the more you spend with it, the better off you are. That's proven by the car that's in the museum down at Daytona (Earnhardt's Daytona 500-winning car ensconced in DAYTONA USA). That car had 20 days of testing and four wind tunnel days -- this one has six days of testing and one wind tunnel day." "I wanted a lot more but I didn't think we'd get it," Bobby Hamilton said after qualifying 34th. "I knew we could run a (49.) 95 and just about hit it on the peg (49.944). This is an older car that Sterling (Marlin) used to run and had some success with. It sits up a little higher and won't get down out of the air as much. We elected to run it here and a new car at Daytona." "It's good we could do it when it counted," Steve Grissom said after locking up a rarely-seen in 1998 18th place qualifying effort as his part-time run in the Caterpillar Chevrolet continued. "It's a heckuva lot better to be walking around here in a uniform than in a pair of jeans, I'll tell you that." On the other hand, that was just the scenario faced by state-mate Hut Stricklin, who was pounding the pavement in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage area. Brett Bodine was tickled to qualify 16th, given his recent history at Talladega. "That's pretty darn close to what we ran in practice," Bodine said of his 11th-best practice run. "This was a brand new race car we tested and really weren't too happy with, but the guys went back and did some more work with it. To make the top-25 was our goal. We needed to pick up this part of our program and our engines from Bob Rinaldi and Jack Roush has been a big part of that. "I've forgotten what the green flag looks like here, I've started in the last two rows here so many times (after taking provisionals)."
Source: NASCAR Online