'Truckers' went truckin' in NAPA 300 By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2000) If Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway is any indication, the graduates of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series who are running...
'Truckers' went truckin' in NAPA 300 By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2000) If Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway is any indication, the graduates of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series who are running full time in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division this season will certainly have an impact. Journeyman Jay Sauter and youngster Kevin Harvick continued as NASCAR "impact players" by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, after a wild 13-lap run to the checkers. Two-time NCTS champion Ron Hornaday led the most laps of the race before he was eliminated from contention in a multi-car accident just after the halfway mark.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Kenseth gave everyone a lesson on working the draft for his inaugural Daytona victory. That wasn't all the three ex-truckers learned, though.
"That's a pretty intense deal out there," said Harvick, who looked at his first late-race NASCAR Busch Series restart with a chance to win from ninth place, but carrying four fresh tires on his No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet. "I made one wrong move that allowed Matt (Kenseth) to get around me. After that, I just couldn't do anything. If that's the worst move I make all year, we'll be okay. I'll put that in my memory box and I guarantee you'll never see me make the same mistake."
Harvick and Sauter played the late-race drafting game nearly to perfection. Harvick, who clawed his way to the top-3 in just three laps, endured a tap in the back from two-time NAPA 300 winner Randy LaJoie and was ready to tap on leader Terry Labonte with less than two laps to go, before he made his acknowledged miscue.
A real anthill got kicked open and Sauter and Harvick, who also became the leading candidates for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, got a real education in the space of less than five miles. "I had a lot to learn and a short time to do it today," said Sauter, who had an impressive Speedweeks as well. "I tell you what, my crew put some awesome stuff under me today. I'm a rookie here, my first time at Daytona and I made some mistakes."
"My hat's off to these guys," he said of the crew of his Quality Farm & Country Chevrolet. "They did a tremendous job. Brought a rookie here, took a chance and we come home fourth."
The finish left Harvick shaking his head and wondering what could have been, while Sauter was absolutely ecstatic.
"Yeah, fifth is disappointing -- anything but first, when you're that close to winning, is disappointing," Harvick said. "But we are still proud of the precedent set by the handful of rookies that were up front. It's great to race with (Ron) Hornaday and (Jay) Sauter again."
And, he said, it was good to have Richard Childress Racing teammate Mike Dillon in the mix, as well.
"Mike deserves a lot of the credit for our run today," said Harvick of the driver who ended up ninth. "We defined the word 'teammate' this afternoon."
"I guess the biggest thing I needed to learn was when to go," Sauter said of his drafting practice. "Joe (Nemechek) made that move on the inside and I should have went with him. When I was behind him I couldn't pull up with him, but he could have pushed me by there.
"I just didn't want to take the chance. And as it worked out, we finished fourth. I maybe could have finished second. But we'll go home with a top-5 and I'm real happy."
He wasn't the only one in that boat.
"Jay Sauter made it possible for me to win the race," Kenseth said. "He stuck with me through it all in the draft and I really appreciated it."
Hornaday was disappointed, but drew some consolation from his team's strong showing, in which he was a consistent front runner in practice and the race. He led 43 of the 62 laps he raced.
"It's a shame," he said of the pig-pile that involved no less than nine cars. "We got behind on that pit stop. The brakes were dragging and we were slow getting back up to speed. That put us back in the middle of the pack and that's what happens.
"The car was a little bit tight but we made an air pressure adjustment. We had a good car, and a good engine, and just a good package."