Wednesday Notes

Daytona 500 Wednesday Notebook John Crowley - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 11, 1998) Five drivers strode confidently into the Benny Kahn Press Center at Daytona International Speedway, contestants for the No Bull 5 Bonus, ...

Daytona 500 Wednesday Notebook

John Crowley - NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 11, 1998)

Five drivers strode confidently into the Benny Kahn Press Center at Daytona International Speedway, contestants for the No Bull 5 Bonus, the pressure of running for a million dollars spread evenly between them.

No Bull? These guys were all bull, and everyone enjoyed a few good laughs as a result.

Compare that to Labor Day Weekend at Darlington Raceway and Jeff Gordon's drive for the Winston Million. Gordon didn't crack under the pressure -- fending off Jeff Burton in a memorable duel that ended in a shower of Winston money -- but he bore the weight of it undeniably.

The No Bull 5 program offers a million dollar bonus. The five qualified by finishing in that order at Talladega Superspeedway last October.

Should one win the Daytona 500, a race which already carries a million dollar winner's purse, another million will be theirs. Capping the drama is the fact that one of five fans will be eligible to cash a million dollar check too, should the driver representing them through a random draw finish first.

Pressure? Hardly.

This crowd -- Terry Labonte, Bobby Labonte, Ken Schrader, John Andretti and Ernie Irvan was as confident as a Wall Street broker with insider trading information.

"There will be five fans to draw for a million dollars. I always thought about it this way," said Andretti with a mischievous smile. "The person that wins the million dollars will probably pass out and the other four will probably kick the hell out of him."

Ernie Irvan took a good-natured poke at Schrader, who at one time was known to trategically drop a few places if a race was unwinnable.

"He would look at the purse and if he was running ninth he would back off because if you finished 10th you could get some contingency money," Irvan said.

"About a thousand dollars," Schrader said proudly.

Brett Bodine is here in Daytona with a new company paying the bills, Paychex, and a new car as well. It seems a simple enough arrangement, without much significance. A new team and a new model.

But Bodine's arrival symbolized the passing of an era. That it coincided with NASCAR's 50th Anniversary season made it all the more poignant.

Bodine purchased the legendary Junior Johnson team at the end of 1995, and with it a fleet of Thunderbirds that had made fans cheer and rival drivers grit their teeth. But with the new Taurus, the old No. 11 that drivers like Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott made famous, will only draw a crowd in a museum.

"They're all gone now," said crew chief Donnie Richeson. "Well, except for one, a backup road car. We've sold every one, or wrecked 'em."

And despite his love of sheet metal and sheer horsepower, Richeson doesn't save any sentiment for the old Johnson warhorses.

"No," he said. "These cars are like beer cans. Once you're done you just crumple them up and throw 'em away."

LJ Racing Chevrolet driver Kevin Lepage will have a little championship experience on his side in the second of Thursday's Gatorade 125-Mile Qualifying Races at Daytona International Speedway.

Two time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie, the winner of last year's NAPA Auto Parts 300 here, is scheduled to serve as the spotter forthe No. 91 Little Joe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"We are using every advantage we can to make the Daytona 500," Lepage said. "Randy has tons of experience with drafting and he won the Busch race here last year. I believe he can help to guide our car to the front by telling me what line to follow and what driver to race with."

Lepage helped Lajoie in January by testing Lajoie's backup car here at Daytona.

Sterling Marlin ended the afternoon practice a few minutes early when a plume of white-gray smoke shot from the rear of his Team SABCO Monte Carlo just before Turn 1. The No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet came to a rest on the backstretch and as the official starter's sand showed red and black flags.

Before the incident, the two-time Daytona 500 champion was 18th fastest in the p.m. session, with a best lap of 188.155 mph.

"We leaked some transmission fluid and the car started smoking. That's all it was," Marlin said. "They thought we might have blown up, but we didn't. We got lucky I guess. The car is fine. We're running good. We're going to let it hang out Thursday."

Billy Standridge's sponsorship package on his No. 47 Thunderbird is Team Fans Can Race. And it's not just paint and decals. Two fans will attend the Daytona 500 courtesy of a promotion with a Standridge associate sponsor, Diabetes Home Care.

Chris Lafferty, of Burlington, N.C. and Tony Swaim of Salisbury, N.C. will arrive on Friday. Lafferty is an honorary pit crew member. He will watch the race from the team's pit box area. Swaim was named the team's fan of the race. His name and photo will be displayed on the car's trunk lid.

Mike Hartman, member of the Wood Brothers Race Team, was admitted to Halifax Hospital on Tuesday morning. Hartman has been with the Wood Brothers for nine years. He went to the infield care center after suffering severe fatigue and shortness of breath. Hartman was then transported to Halifax by ambulance. He was scheduled to undergo several tests and is expected to spend the next few days in the hospital.

Hartman, 61, lives in Findlay, Ill. and is a mechanic on the Wood Brothers road crew. His race day duties include cleaning the windshield and pit utility.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Brett Bodine , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Ernie Irvan , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Ken Schrader , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Junior Johnson , Chris Lafferty