Teams bear down for restrictor-plate races By Shawn A. Akers TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 8, 1998) Preparing for one restrictor-plate race at Talladega Superspeedway or Daytona International Speedway is challenging enough for a NASCAR Winston Cup...
Teams bear down for restrictor-plate races By Shawn A. Akers
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 8, 1998) Preparing for one restrictor-plate race at Talladega Superspeedway or Daytona International Speedway is challenging enough for a NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. But because nature unleashed its fury on Florida in June and July, teams are now looking at two straight weeks of restrictor-plate racing, something that has never occurred before in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It's a scenario that should make for some very interesting moments for teams over the next two weekends, beginning with this Sunday's Winston 500 at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. "We've tried to be as prepared as we can," said Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford. "The chances are you may need a back-up car to run at Daytona. We've tried to get both teams in our shop (the 99 and the 6) with a good back-up car to take to Daytona as a primary car. It's hard to do, in all honesty. We need to leave Talladega with our cars in one piece to go to Daytona and be competitive." The Winston 500 will be followed by the Pepsi 400 at the 2.5-mile tri-oval of Daytona next Saturday, a race that was postponed until Oct. 17 due to the wild fires in Florida during the week of July 4. The race will be the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series event to be held under the lights at Daytona. Oct. 17 was the only viable date for the race at Daytona to be rescheduled. July 18 was an off-date for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but that still wasn't enough time for things to be ready for the race due to the wildfires. That meant the NASCAR Winston Cup Series would endure a 16-consecutive race schedule to end the season, beginning with the July 26 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono and ending with the Nov. 8 NAPA 500 at Atlanta. "We had to build another car (for the two-week stretch)," said Frank Stoddard, Burton's crew chief. "We're still thinking about the people down in Florida and what they had to go through, but we did have to build a new race car. We built one for the 6 and the 99, a fifth car, so to speak, between the two teams. "If something happens to either one of us in Talladega, then whoever will have the first option on that car for Daytona. Beyond that, we have don't anything (out of the ordinary) except for the fact that I've prayed every night since we left Talladega in April that NASCAR would come through and cut some spoiler off the back of our Ford Taurus." Other teams have been forced to build another car specifically for this two-week stretch of the schedule. "We had to build a third car," said Len Wood, crew chief of the No. 21 Citgo Taurus, driven by Michael Waltrip. "We had two cars that we built last winter. We tore one of them up at Talladega, so we tested again at Daytona and the car was back like it was supposed to be. We were ready for that race, and then it got postponed, so we ended up building a new car. "If they tell us next year that we're gonna run 30 weeks in a row, we'll run 30 weeks in a row. Somehow, you'll manage to do it. This did tighten things up on a restrictor race because it used to be that Talladega and Daytona were three weeks apart in July, and that was close enough. If you tore your car up, you were hurting, so we just built a third car." Having two consecutive restrictor-plate races is something Mark Martin has not looked forward to. But then that's only due to the team's recent performances in such races. Martin finished 38th in the Daytona 500 and 23rd in the Diehard 500 at Talladega earlier this season. Trailing Jeff Gordon by 174 points in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points race with five races left in the season just adds to Martin's concerns. "Well, it's something I dread because my restrictor-plate cars have traditionally been a little slow," said Martin, who may be exaggerating just a bit, since he's won two of the last three Winston 500s. "They've always handled real good. We're gonna try and use great teamwork, great pit strategy, great pit work and make 'em handle and try to be up in that top-five at the end. But it sure would be easier if we had a fast car."
Source: NASCAR Online