Talladega Saturday Notes

Winston 500 Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 10, 1998) Notes and quotes leading up to Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway: Geoff Bodine will start his 500th NASCAR Winston Cup Series race on Sunday...

Winston 500 Saturday Notebook By Dave Rodman

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 10, 1998) Notes and quotes leading up to Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

Geoff Bodine will start his 500th NASCAR Winston Cup Series race on Sunday under a cloud, after he was involved in a three-car accident with less than 10 minutes remaining in Happy Hour practice on Saturday afternoon.

Bodine spun his Philips Ford coming out of the trioval of the 2.66-mile speedway after getting "tangled up" with Derrike Cope's Gumout Pontiac. He suffered all the damage when Billy Standridge came through the smoke cloud and collided, nose to nose, with his car.

"Well, we wanted to race this car at Daytona anyway -- now we don't have a choice," said Bodine, who actually said the car could have been fixed, but the effort would have been counter-productive. "I had missed everything up to the time Billy Standridge came through the smoke. I was going backwards when he hit me."

Bodine said the car he would race Sunday from the 43rd position, after going to his back-up, had been run four laps at Daytona last week in a two-day test there. Cope, for his part, said Bodine's assessment of blame in the incident was not quite on target.

"I had a run going, and there was a lane open on the bottom," Cope said. "Geoff came down on me going into the trioval and I ran down on the apron to miss him. He kept coming down and I put on the brakes and moved over even more. It must've taken the air off his car because we never touched and he just lost it and spun out."

Cope's car -- which earlier in the day turned in the fastest speed in Bud Beer Second-Round Qualifying -- was unmarked. Standridge's crew, meanwhile, was hacking, grinding and bending the nose of his Team fanscanrace.com Ford Thunderbird to rebuild the car and preserve its 28th starting spot.

Bodine was not the only one in trouble after Happy Hour had concluded. Both the pole-sitting Andy Petree Racing team and the Morgan-McClure Motorsports squads, ironically garaged side-by-side, had to make engine changes after final practice. Bobby Hamilton turned the 21st-best lap of practice, on his 17th lap, in the Morgan-McClure Chevrolet; but Ken Schrader was mired in 29th, and even worse, got only about 10 laps of practice in the Skoal Bandit Chevy.

Schrader could only shake his head as he contemplated the chess game ahead of him Sunday in Talladega's fabled draft.

"You don't talk about that stuff (drafting)," he said. "You already know which ones will hang you and which ones will give you a break if you need it. The faster cars seek out the faster cars. We'll run the first half of the race and you'll know who your car works good around. Unless you're team cars, you don't really talk about that stuff."

Sterling Marlin, who qualified his silver No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet 10th in Bud Pole Qualifying, continued to show Team SABCO's potential by running the fastest time in Happy Hour practice, a 48.783-second, 196.298 mph lap.

The effect of the draft was shown by the membership in the Happy Hour top-five, which included Jerry Nadeau's Cartoon Network Ford (195.668 mph), Brett Bodine's Paychex Ford (195.568), Mark Martin's Valvoline/Cummins Ford (194.685) and Ernie Irvan's Wild Berry Skittles Pontiac (194.523).

Bobby Labonte, who had paced the two previous practice sessions, was 20th-best in Happy Hour.

Labonte continued his stout weekend by turning the fastest lap in Saturday morning practice, when 49 drivers shook their cars down attempting to find the speed to qualify. Labonte was clocked in 48.943 seconds, an average speed of 195.656 mph.

Other consistently fast drivers joined him in the top-five as Terry Labonte, Irvan, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt rounded out the top-five.

Jeff Gordon has the only shot at winning the $50,000 NASCAR Winston Cup leader bonus available from series sponsor R.J. Reynolds if the race winner can also lead the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Gordon is 174 points clear of second place man Mark Martin and could not be overtaken if he starts the Winston 500 on Sunday.

Driver Mark Gibson, an occasional competitor in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where h Gibson suffered only a broken left wrist in the accident, in which his brand new JaniKing Ford struck both the outside and inside walls. Following evaluation at Carraway's Trauma Center, including CT scans, Gibson was to remain in the hospital for a "short stay," where he was listed in stable condition.

Adam Petty will have to wait until next weekend's NASCAR Busch Series Carquest 250 at Gateway International Raceway to get his success ratio back in line. He was involved in an accident while running in the top-10 on the 75th lap of the ARCA event and ended up finishing 29th.

He is set to make his NASCAR Busch Series debut next weekend.

Alec Bell, a three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who lives in Sylvania, Ala., got to visit with his NASCAR hero -- Derrike Cope -- today at Talladega. Bell and his family were treated to a limousine ride to the track by Cope's Bahari' Racing associate sponsor Jimmy Dean Foods, which serves as the national sponsor for United Cerebral Palsy.

Earlier this year Cope donated some autographed caps and sheet metal to a benefit auction for Alec that raised more than $10,000. His condition has improved since he began hyperbaric oxygen treatments enabled by the donations, and Cope was elated to hear the news and to finally get to meet his special fan.

Bahari' Racing owner Chuck Rider continued to drop cryptic hints about the sponsorship future of his team, which is not scheduled to be backed by Gumout beyond the end of this season.

"We're excited about the association with the Sara Lee Corporation and with Bryan Foods," Rider said on Saturday morning at an announcement of a scholarship program backed by his team's associate sponsor. "We're looking ahead to a major announcement. This is not the right time to make it but we're looking ahead to it and we're excited about it."

Talladega will celebrate its 30th season of racing next year with the return of the True Value International Race of Champions after a three-year absence, and the return of a sponsor that made its debut this season.

The True Value IROC Series, which pits the best drivers in the world from all forms of motorsports in identically-prepared racing machines, will race Saturday, April 24, 1999. The IROC Series last raced at the 2.66-mile track in 1996 when Al Unser Jr. edged Robby Gordon by less than a second.

The second part of that day's doubleheader will be the Touchstone Energy 300 for the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. As part of a special 30th anniversary promotion, tickets for April 24 twin-bill are $30 each until March 1, 1999. After March 1, the tickets return to $45.

Schrader is philosophical about his seven-year victory drought in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but he sure isn't happy about it.

"Everybody out there is hungry to win," said the driver of the Skoal Bandit Chevrolet. "I haven't won since forever, and there's a bunch of cats out there who haven't won period or it's been longer. I want to win. I want to win every week. The problem is those other guys want to do the same thing. The fact that you haven't makes you maybe hungrier within yourself, but no hungrier than those other guys."

Schrader is also enthused about getting a teammate for next season.

"I'm very excited about the addition of Kenny Wallace next year in the Square D car," he said. "I've been in the multi-car deals at Hendrick Motorsports for a number of years. I was over there when it worked bad, and I was over there when it worked good. Two drivers and two crew chiefs that get along and work together sends the message down through the whole team as far as how the teams work together. Kenny and I are very good friends. We think a lot alike. I can help him some, and he can help me a lot. I'm very excited about it, plus the resources it'll give Andy Petree Racing."

One of five fans will leave Talladega $1 million richer Sunday after Gordon draws their name in a pre-race ceremony. The drawing is a result of Gordon winning his second Winston No Bull 5 bonu of the year, in the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day Weekend.

The five fans eligible are: Sheila Altmann of Jamesburg, N.J.; Wayne Lechleidner of Moorestown, N.J.; Elizabeth Naylor of Boaz, Ala.; Paige Siker of Montgomery, Ala.; and Carlos Vogel of Beaver Dam, Wis.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Brett Bodine , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Bobby Labonte , Adam Petty , Kenny Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Jerry Nadeau , Al Unser Jr. , Mark Gibson , Andy Petree , Mark Martin