NAPA Auto Parts 300 Notebook Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 1998) Some notes and quotes from the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division at Daytona International Speedway Friday: Normally dominant in the...
NAPA Auto Parts 300 Notebook
Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 1998)
Some notes and quotes from the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division at Daytona International Speedway Friday:
Normally dominant in the NASCAR Busch Series opener at Daytona, NASCAR Winston Cup regulars will have some work to do on Saturday to get to victory lane.
Only two NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars will start Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 from the top 10, or the first five rows. Joe Nemechek, in the No. 87 BellSouth Chevrolet, was the highest-qualifying NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular and will start from the outside of Row 1, alongside Bud Pole Award winner Mike McLaughlin. Ken Schrader qualified sixth.
Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, who won six and two NASCAR Busch Series races, respectively, in 1997, will have to make their way through the field. Burton will start 24th in his No. 9 Track Gear Ford, while Martin will go off from the 26th slot in his No. 60 Winn-Dixie Ford.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars have won 17 of the last 20 NASCAR Busch Series races held at Daytona.
HOPES TO REPEAT: Two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie is looking to join some elite company on Saturday. With a victory in the NAPA Auto Parts 300, the driver of the No. 74 Fina Chevrolet will join a list of five other drivers who have repeated as winner of the NASCAR Busch Series race at Daytona.
LeeRoy Yarbrough was the first to win back-to-back races at Daytona in 1962 and 1963. Bill Dennis won three consecutive races at the 2.5-mile trioval from 1972 to 1974; Darrell Waltrip did it twice (1978-79 and 1983-84); and Dale Earnhardt won five straight NASCAR Busch Series events at DIS from 1990 to 1994.
THE LONG WAY AROUND: Mike Cope has come full circle. A native of Pinellas Park, Fla., Cope has always dreamed of racing at the world famous Daytona International Speedway in his home state, and now his wish is coming true.
Cope, a two-time champion in the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series, will take the green flag in Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 from the inside of Row 10.
Cope cut his teeth on the short tracks of Florida, dreaming of making his way up to the big time. That moment has finally arrived.
"While its only about 150 miles from where I grew up in Pinellas Park, to the Busch garage at Daytona, the road you've got to take to get there is long and winding and it goes through the Carolinas," Cope said. "You've got to go up there and get in the mainstream NASCAR racing establishment and prove yourself.
"Then you can come back here like Rick Wilson and Joe Nemechek did." Cope got a kick out of just testing in January at the 2.5-mile trioval. Racing there will be beyond his wildest dreams.
"My first laps on the track were a big thrill and very special," Cope said. "Then, I got up to speed and drove through Turn 4, where the big word DAYTONA is painted on the outside wall of the track, and I could read each individual letter as I want by at almost 190 mph. As long as it had taken me, and as badly as I had wanted to be at Daytona, that capped it off. I'd made it."
BUMPER ROOKIE CROP: Three Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates will start Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 in the top 10, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who go off from the inside of Row 2 alongside Jeff Purvis. Tony Stewart, the defending Indy Racing League champion in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, will start from the 9th position in his No. 44 Shell Pontiac.
Former World of Outlaws standout Dave Blaney will kick off his initial NASCAR Busch Series season in Bill Davis' No. 93 Amoco Pontiac, and starts alongside Stewart on the outside of Row 5.
Courtesy of NASCAR Online