Autolite Platinum 250 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 11, 1998) Notes and quotes following Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Autolite Platinum 250 at Richmond International Raceway: ...
Autolite Platinum 250 Friday Notebook By Dave Rodman
RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 11, 1998) Notes and quotes following Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Autolite Platinum 250 at Richmond International Raceway:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed both joy and some remorse in Victory Lane following the Autolite Platinum 250. The joy came from winning his sixth race of the year, the most ever by the unit owned by his father. The sadness in his eyes came from the absence of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt from Victory Lane. "This is No. 6 and that's real important," 'Little E' said. The most this team has ever won is five and that was with my father in '86 or '87. We've topped that and established a goal that we set. I'm just happy to be a part of the team -- happy to be one of several members we have. We make a great unit." The younger Earnhardt was looking to give his father some advice, but the elder, who owns the ACDelco Chevrolet his son has driven to the NASCAR Busch Series point lead, never showed. "We might can give him some setup help for tomorrow," Earnhardt Jr. said, referring to Saturday night's Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400. "I was looking for him to get down here in Victory Lane. We won all this money ($35,600) for him. You'd think he'd run down here and enjoy it with us... He's probably getting some rest for tomorrow."
If Earnhardt Jr. is a seer, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series field may need that rest. Well over 20 NASCAR Busch Series cars had significant crash damage after 250 laps. "The sealer is wearing off the race track and it gets a little slicker the longer we run," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I hate it for them Cup boys tomorrow -- they've got their work cut out for 'em. We just had to be smooth, don't spin the tires or get loose off the corner and just keep the tires on it."
Tony Stewart should be a breath of fresh air when he comes to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series full-time in the Home Depot Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart was out of the race after 185 when he hit the wall in Turn 2, and was blunt in his assessment of the incident. "I crashed because I'm stupid, basically," said the hard-core racer. "It got boring just riding around, but there wasn't anything to be gained by passing those guys... But I guess I'm a race car driver and I started feeling a little racey and couldn't stand to be out there just riding around. I got up on the outside and crashed. I needed to be more patient."
Once again Steve Grissom pinch-hit for Jimmy Spencer in the No. 12 Zippo Chevrolet during this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series competition. But unlike at Bristol, when the former series champ subbed while Spencer recuperated from Brickyard 400 injuries, this time Spencer was healthy -- but elsewhere. "I was testing Wednesday and Thursday at Dover (Downs International Speedway) and I didn't know there was Busch qualifying Thursday (at Richmond)," Spencer said. "My Cup car is more important, so Steve did me a favor." Grissom qualified the car 16th, but Spencer was forced to start last after making the driver switch. "Mr. Excitement" proceeded to make a remarkable run, all the way to third place at the checkered flag.
The raucous goings-on in the Autolite Platinum 250 had Elton Sawyer throwing his hands up and looking to the sky after he was involved in several altercations. The Barbasol Ford ended up behind the wall due to ill handling, relegating it to a 33rd-place finish. "Is there a full moon?" Sawyer said after the first fender-bender. "I had a great car, a really good car. But I got up on the outside of Lyndon Amick and I guess he just didn't see me and he really pinched me up against the wall pretty hard on the front straightaway." Sawyer elected to stay out trying to stay on the lead lap and had a tire deflate, which sent him into the wall again.
Seven brothers -- three Greens, two Sadlers and two Grubbs -- made the field for the Autolite Platinum 250. Kevin and Wayne Grubb, who are both Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders and Richmond-area natives, qualified in 13th and ninth, respectively, but were eliminated in the same multiple-car accident. "There's really not much you can do when something like that happens on a short track," said Kevin, the younger brother who was listed in 38th in the Crestar Bank Chevrolet. "It's really hard to avoid an accident like that."
The three Green brothers once again raced together in the NASCAR Busch Series. Oldest brother David qualified 17th and finished 11th in the Stanley Pontiac; middle brother Mark started 39th and finished 19th in the Timber Wolf Chevrolet and youngest brother Jeff started 26th and finished 18th in the Kraft Chevrolet.
Elliott and Hermie Sadler, the Emporia, Va., natives, had their struggles. Elliott qualified way back in 32nd, though he was able to move up to 13th at the finish in the gold Phillips 66 Chevrolet. Older brother Hermie started 20th and fell to 24th at the finish in the DeWalt Tools Chevrolet. Both brothers maintained their status in the top-10 of the point standings, with Elliott unofficially in seventh and Hermie in 10th.
The NASCAR Busch Series' fuel test nabbed two more victims after Bud Pole Qualifying Thursday when NASCAR Busch Series officials disallowed the times of Mark Green and Mike Dillon because their fuel did not meet specifications, according to NASCAR Director of Operations Kevin Triplett. Green had qualified seventh for the Autolite Platinum 250. As a result of the times being stricken, Tim Fedewa made the top-25 in the Kleenex Chevrolet in 25th starting position. Dillon had posted the 45th fastest time. Both Green and Dillon were forced to take provisional starting positions after they failed to qualify in Bud Second-Round Qualifying. Green's Brewco Motorsports owner Clarence Brewer explained that the fuel, purchased off- site from an "approved fuel supplier," according to a statement from Brewco, should not have provided a performance advantage. "We purchased a 55-gallon drum of the approved unleaded fuel from the authorized distributor in order to have it available at the race shop for weighing and setting up the car prior to arriving to the track," Brewer said. "We followed the proper procedure issued by NASCAR officials to 'clean' the tank of any leaded fuel residue. "This is the same manner in which we have purchased fuel since we joined the series in 1995. I can't stress enough this was not done in an effort to gain an advantage."
Young Casey Atwood, who plans to have a full-season ride in the NASCAR Busch Series in 1999, tried to get some extra seat team in the Washington-Erving Dr Pepper Ford, but the team, which has struggled with a variety of drivers this season, failed to qualify. Brewco Motorsports, which has signed Atwood to a contract for next season, is in the process of building and ordering cars and equipment and assembling a crew for next season, but would like to get Atwood some seat time. Therefore, the deal was struck with Washington-Erving. Atwood did get to run three practice sessions.
Grissom was not the only driver who made a substitute appearance in the NASCAR Busch Series. Ward Burton was inserted into Michael Waltrip's No. 14 Rhodes Furniture Ford for Bud Second-Round Qualifying in an attempt to get the car into the race in sponsor Rhodes' hometown, but he didn't get the car up to speed.
Jason Jarrett stepped into his father's White Rain Ford for Bud Second-Round Qualifying when it became evident the team might need a provisional to make the race, which dad did not have due to his NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standing. Jason Jarrett, who has been on the sidelines after tearing up a few cars earlier this season, stepped up, took a provisional starting position in 41st and finished 17th. "I tell you, getting behind some of those guys like Michael Waltrip and just knowing there's more than one lane out there," Jason Jarrett said. "If your car is maybe tight at one spot on the race track, I moved up behind him a couple times and ran a different line and that seemed to pick my times back up."
Although Earnhardt Jr. is like his father in so many ways, it seems "the old man" has been able to lecture and educate in some of the sport's finer points. "He's tried to teach me to be calm, be patient and form a plan and stick with it," Earnhardt Jr. said after putting the plan into fruition for the sixth time this season. "You gotta stick to ytour game plan, cause if you get out of your game plan, just like in boxing -- you're gonna get stuffed." And, truly sounding like he'd come from a different upbringing, he preached the message of turning the other cheek, and being a nice guy. "If you're mean to all of those other guys, well, you just can't act like that," he said. "If you're nice to 'em, most of 'em, but not all of 'em, will cut you some slack in return." Like Spencer, for instance? "I thought Steve Grissom was in that 12 car for a while," Earnhardt said. "I didn't know it was Spencer, but we were cordial to Spencer at Las Vegas (where he won) and I knew he would return the favor. He raced me clean tonight."
Source: NASCAR Online