BUSCH: Daytona Qualifying Notes

NAPA Auto Parts 300 Notebook Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 10, 1998) Some notes and quotes from the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division ranks at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday: AIMING HIGH:...

NAPA Auto Parts 300 Notebook Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 10, 1998)

Some notes and quotes from the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division ranks at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday:

AIMING HIGH: He's only had one good qualifying run, but believe it or not, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is already thinking about winning a NASCAR Busch Series championship in 1998.

An idle boast? Not considering how well his predecessors, his father Dale Earnhardt, and Steve Park, have fared in the No. 3 AC Delco Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Sr. The younger Earnhardt turned in the third-fastest lap of the day Tuesday during Bud Pole Qualifying for Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 at 188.139 mph.

"Our lap went real well," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We try to go as fast as we can all the time, so there's no big secret to it. These guys (his crew) made my job real easy. We have a two-year contract for the Busch circuit, and this is a real good way to start out -- on our way to a championship. A top-five season-ending finish is a definite reality."

So our his chances for victory on Saturday. Park finished seventh in his initial race in the No. 3 AC Delco Chevrolet last season. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won seven NASCAR Busch Series races in the car, including five in a row from 1990 to 1994.

SERIES DEBUT: John Andretti's first qualifying effort for a NASCAR Busch Series race was a fairly good one. Andretti, driving his own Big A Auto Parts Chevrolet, turned in the 11th-fastest lap of the day on Tuesday with a lap of 186.335 mph.

"That was a great lap," Andretti said. "It sure wasn't where we were practicing. Honestly, we were hoping for something in the top 25. I guess we got that. I just never thought we would run as quick as we did.

"There isn't a tremendous amount of difference between the Busch cars and the Winston Cup cars. I tested one day at Talladega before we came here, and that was it. (Crew chief) John Birosh and the guys did a great job in getting the Big Auto Parts Chevrolet ready to go."

Andretti will run a select few races in his NASCAR Busch Series car this season. The other races will be run by Mike Stefanik, who won both the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour and the NASCAR Busch North Series championships last season.

SOME WORK TO DO: If Randy LaJoie is going to defend his race championship in the NAPA Auto Parts 300, he and the crew of the No. 74 Fina Chevrolet will have a bit of catching up to do.

LaJoie, the two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series champion, qualified just 22nd on Tuesday for Saturday's race with a fast lap of 184.923 mph.

"A lot of little things add up to your qualifying; and the more little things you do, the more they add up and the faster you go," LaJoie said. "I think we're learning that. We were 36th in practice earlier today, and then ended up qualifying 22nd because of a few changes. But, we still need to go back and do a lot of little things."

A YEAR AGO THE POLE, BUT THIS YEAR: Elliott Sadler's No. 66 Phillips 66 Chevrolet was the 25th and final car to make the field for Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300, but it sure wasn't where Sadler figured he'd end up.

Coming into qualifying, he was hoping to repeat as the Bud Pole winner. He won his first career NASCAR Busch Series pole for the season opener in 1997, but could manage a lap of only 184.831 mph on Tuesday.

"We've been searching for speed ever since we got here and we still haven't found it yet," Sadler said. "Last year we were on the pole. This year we'll have to start further back. That's just the way it is."

NO CUP DOMINANCE: NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars have a history of dominating the NASCAR Busch Series event at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway trioval. On Tuesday, however, there wasn't much to shout about among that group as far as qualifying went.

Joe Nemechek was the only NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular to crack the top 10 in Bud Pole Qualifying on Tuesday, coming in second by Mike McLaughlin. Andretti was 11th, Dick Trickle was 15th, an Jeff Burton was 24th. Those four were the only NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars to make the field on the first day of qualifying.

Mark Martin, who holds the all-time record for the most career NASCAR Busch Series victories, qualified 26th Tuesday in the Winn-Dixie Ford, over 5 mph off the pace set by McLaughlin.

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Dick Trickle , Steve Park , Joe Nemechek , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin