Watkins Glen Friday Notes

Bud at the Glen Friday Notebook Dave Rodman WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 7, 1998) Notes and quotes following Friday's Bud Pole Qualifying for Sunday's Bud at The Glen NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International: ...

Bud at the Glen Friday Notebook Dave Rodman

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 7, 1998) Notes and quotes following Friday's Bud Pole Qualifying for Sunday's Bud at The Glen NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International:

As good as he is, Jeff Gordon, who won the Bud Pole Friday for the Bud at The Glen, still said he might be chasing some other guys on Sunday in the 90-lap race. Specifically he was talking about road racing specialists Ron Fellows, who qualified second, and Boris Said, who was fifth-fastest. Not to mention Jerry Nadeau, who will line up eighth in his best performance of three starts in the Cartoon Network Ford, and Tom Hubert, who is standing-in in the No. 13 FirstPlus Financial Ford.

"Out-qualifying them is one thing...out-racing them is going to be different," Gordon said. "Those guys (Ron Fellows and Boris Said) really know their way around here. Ron did an awesome job in the Busch race (Lysol 200, which he won) here. I watched him really wear them out.

"I think he's a real threat. We've got our work cut out for us. We're racing for a championship and those two guys aren't. They're going out there trying to win the race, and we're going to try to give them a good battle. It's fun racing guys who road race a lot because I can learn things from those guys.

"They just really are able to do a good job braking the cars and they carry a lot of speed through the corners. If I get behind those guys, I might be able to learn a little something from them."

Tommy Kendall just might be having some of the worst luck in racing this season. After running in the top-10 in the 3 1/2-hour practice that preceded qualifying, Kendall lost two gears in the No. 46 The Money Store Chevrolet and limped across the line with the 38th-best effort in Bud Pole Qualifying.

"We got hung in two gears -- it wouldn't come out of fourth gear," Kendall said. "I tried to finish the lap the best I could. It wasn't all that bad. I had a good lap going. Bottom line, we need it not to rain Saturday. We're way back. We were in the top-10 in practice, and it was really close. Everybody thinks they can pick up a couple of 10ths, and I thought we really could. That's ifs and buts, but my whole year has had very few bright spots. It's almost like we got even for last year when I kept saying I couldn't believe our good luck. Now, I can't believe our bad luck."

Darrell Waltrip was uncharacteristically reserved in his lap in the No. 35 Tabasco Chevrolet, and that cost him a DNQ and left him possibly facing another use of a past champion's provisional. He was 37th-fastest.

"I was a little apprehensive and that cost me a little bit," Waltrip said of his run, which he made after Kenny Wallace had a mechanical problem that apparently oiled part of the track, followed by Kenny Irwin sliding off on his warm-up lap. "We made it all the way around and had a smooth lap. We just weren't all that quick. We've got a really good race car. I think we'll be fine come Sunday."

Joe Nemechek was another who was a little disgusted with his effort. His lap in the No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet was 30th best.

"Oh man, that was mean," he said. "We can't figure it out. It's the same car we ran up here last year. It ran good up here. We took it to Sears Point this year and ran terrible with it there. Now we've got it here, and it's not running very good. We've got to do some homework and figure out what's going on. That's the worst I've ever qualified here at Watkins Glen. The car just won't do what I want it to do. My qualifying lap was a handful. I was sideways and all over the place. We'll work on it some more and get back on it Saturday."

Once again, teammates Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner both qualified on the first day, but neither was particularly happy with his effort.

"We just didn't have the grip I had when I did my practice qualifying run," said Earnhardt, who will start 22nd. "We were off in the corners. Whether they put oil on the track or the oil from the other deal made our car too tight, I don't know. We just didn't have the grip I needed. I didn't miss the corners driving-wise, but we just didn't get through them good."

"We lost oil pressure," Skinner, who qualified 23rd, said. "I don't know how much it messed up our lap, but we're trying to figure out what's going on. We got into Turn 1 a little hard, trying to dig too deep. I didn't think we could beat Gordon, but I thought we could run in the top-six or seven. I tried a little bit too hard. I got smooth the rest of the lap, but it was too late then."

Gordon said his first Watkins Glen win, in 1997, has done wonders for him. "This race here last year did a lot for me confidence-wise on the road courses," said the driver who has now won two straight road races. "I didn't know if I was capable of winning on a road course until we won here. I think that transferred to winning at California (in the Save Mart/Kragen 350 in June). "Winning at California has definitely brought some momentum into this race. Right now I'm real happy with this car. I feel pretty good about the package we brought here and our chances of winning. I enjoy the road courses, and Hendrick Motorsports has done well on road courses in the past. Ray Evernham with the IROC cars knows about road racing. We've been able to learn a lot about road racing over the years and grow together. You need to like it and have fun with road racing. You've got to know what you need, gearing, handling and with all the different corners, sometimes that can be pretty tricky."

Bobby Labonte was forced to go to a backup Interstate Batteries Pontiac, the car he used at Sears Point earlier this season, when he destroyed the rear clip of his primary car in an accident late in practice in the final turn. Just prior to the accident, Kyle Petty had a mechanical failure on the Hot Wheels Pontiac and oil-dry was put on the surface. Labonte apparently got into it and backed the car into a foam and tire wall barrier on the outside of the circuit. He drove back to the garage and qualified 35th after having no practice in the second car.

NASCAR Winston West Series regular Larry Gunselman will be facing a tall order on Saturday after his car, owned by Lawrence Johnson, pulled into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage at the end of the day Friday. The transporter broke down three times on its way to WGI, so Gunselman, who has never been to track but who has experience at the West Coast road courses at Sears Point and Portland, will have 90 minutes of practice on Saturday morning to get the Ford Thunderbird up to speed.

Steve Park did an excellent job, considering the circumstances, of qualifying his No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet in his first race at WGI in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car. Park's crew had to change the transmission and the engine in the morning and he had precious little practice time. He timed-in in 22nd.

"We proved at Indy that Steve Park is back," the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate said. "Last week we really answered a lot of questions. It's one thing to get out there and qualify, and another thing to drive well in the race."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Kyle Petty , Boris Said , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Jerry Nadeau , Ron Fellows , Tom Hubert , Larry Gunselman , Ray Evernham , Tommy Kendall
Teams Hendrick Motorsports