Odds are much better for regulars this year By Brett Borden LAS VEGAS (March 3, 2000) For the regular competitors in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, this year's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is much more inviting...
Odds are much better for regulars this year By Brett Borden
LAS VEGAS (March 3, 2000) For the regular competitors in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, this year's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is much more inviting than last year's. There's still one guy who casts a long shadow, but that's a lot better than it has been.
That guy is Mark Martin, one of only six NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars to crash the Saturday party this year, compared to the 17 who showed up last year.
Only three NASCAR Winston Cup Series guys will start Saturday's race in the top-25. Martin (second), Joe Nemechek (sixth) and Jeff Burton (seventh) are all major contenders for the checkered flag, but there are many more NASCAR Busch Series guys who will look in the mirror Saturday morning and see a guy who can say the same thing. And for those guys, that is a nice feeling.
First and foremost is Bud Pole winner Hank Parker Jr. The driver of the No. 53 Team Marines Chevrolet had his cohorts saying "Semper Fi" (always faithful) to the NASCAR Busch Series cause when he beat out the perceived man to beat -- Martin -- for Bud Pole honors.
"What little Hank did yesterday by beating Mark for the pole, that's awesome," said Randy LaJoie, driver of the No. 1 Bob Evans Chevrolet. LaJoie has been one of the leading advocates for his home series, and he says he was part of a long line of 'Saturday drivers' who congratulated Parker after Thursday's run.
"I know I went up to Hank and said 'Good job'," he said. "It's good to see, you know. One of our own winning the pole. I'm not sure how well we're going to step up to the plate and try and beat (Martin) in the race, though."
David Green, driver of the No. 34 AFG Glass Chevrolet, concurs. Still, he's not sure that fewer NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers in the show will give the NASCAR Busch Series guys a lift Saturday.
"No, not really, because Mark Martin's still in the race," said Green. "And bein' that that's the guy that you have to beat, whether there's Winston Cup guys here or not, I don't think it matters. I look at it as whether they're here or not it's going to be a competitive race. The Busch Series regulars have just as good an opportunity to do well. Our goal, though, is to beat Mark Martin."
The only man faster than Martin on Thursday says he has already got his biggest fear of seeing NASCAR Winston Cup Series guys show up for his event licked.
"The biggest thing that affects me with Winston Cup guys is qualifying," said Parker. "You get so many of these Winston Cup guys and they've all got major backing and they've all got all this experience and they're all really good race car drivers. They send a lot of us home and it's kind of disheartening.
"For the race itself, though, the more the merrier to me. Getting into the race, it makes it tough. But I enjoy racing those guys. And they don't influence me any way mentally. But they usually seem to get their cars pretty good. And we'll just see what we can do with those guys."
Of course, there's always two viewpoints. While the young Parker dreads qualifying against the NASCAR Winston Cup Series guys, crafty veteran Dick Trickle sees it the other way around.
"The Winston Cup guys generally run good, especially in the race," said the driver of the No. 5 Schneider Trucking Chevrolet. "They might qualify inconsistently. In the race, though, they always seem like they run good."
Regardless, with six of them to deal with instead of 17 this year, a lot of NASCAR Busch Series drivers are going to be finishing higher in this year's Sam's Town 300, strictly by virtue of mathematics. And that adds up to a lot of confidence when that green flag drops.